Whoever wins the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links will have to be a great short-iron player. At an average of 3,500 square feet in size, these are the smallest putting surfaces in championship golf and thus demand precise approaches.
Incoming shots that might otherwise find the putting surface on larger greens will end up here in steep bunkers or gnarly surrounding grass. That places a demand on imaginative recovery. And the need to hot controlled approaches also has a back-up effect on drives, since players know that missing a fairway will make it harder to control an approach shot from the rough.
The smallest green out there is at the par-4 11th hole, a minuscule 2,200 sq. ft. The largest is at the par-3 17th, where the figure-eight putting surface is a relatively expansive 5,123 sq. ft, though it effectively functions as two greens since it’s girdled down at the middle.
When the course was built in 1919, greens generally had a lot of slope to create surface drainage. Over the years, as mowing heights came down and green spends went up, those old surfaces began to lose hole locations. Case in point: Pebble Beach's 14th hole, a par-5 that by the 2010 U.S. Open only offered hole placements in the top-left quadrant all four days. In 2016 the green was expanded by 25 percent to 3,755 square feet. It was also softened along the back and now provides for usable spots for holes along a wider swath, including a front center position just above the false front.