Climbing out of bed at 6:30am, it was hard to know which was the bigger surprise: the fact that I woke up so early without the aid of an alarm clock, or that I managed to fall asleep at all. There's four excruciatingly long hours to go before my tee time at Pebble Beach Golf Links, and I'm already pacing around both mentally and physically like a father awaiting the arrival of his first child. Today, I'm scratching off the #1 slot on my travel bucket list, not to mention living every golfer's fantasy, but first I must survive the longest four hours of my life.
|Recreating a famous photo of Jack Nicklaus|
With the better part of 3 hours still to go, MJ kicked me out of the room, fed up with my spastic fidgeting. I visited the Market for an iced coffee and donut, browsed through more shirts in the golf shop, and with 2 hours still remaining, decided to head to the locker room to start warming up.
|I went ahead and borrowed this....It's not like he'll be needing it...|
It was a little surreal changing my shoes on a bench surrounded by lockers with names like Woods, Watson, Palmer, Nicklaus, and even Eastwood - yes, that Eastwood. After hitting a few uninspired putts on the practice green, it was time to get the hard part over with...I went inside to pay. Swallowing hard as the pen scribbled across the receipt, the voice in my head added insult to injury... "You better not shoot 100."
|The pro shop...|
By now, I desperately needed to burn off some nervous energy, and a trip to the driving range was the perfect solution. Real estate is so scarce at Pebble Beach, that the range is actually located a mile or so away from the course, and a fleet of Lexus courtesy cars shuttle golfers back and forth. Because we can't have unsightly golf carts on the 17 Mile Drive now can we?
|Surprised they haven't sold this property and switched to a virtual range...|
After fumbling my way through a bucket of balls, I was a lot more relaxed and my breathing no longer resembled that of a panting dog. The relief turned out to be short lived... As I walked up to #1 tee, there sat my beat up 15 year old golf bag, surrounded by others with the logos of Pine Valley, Cypress Point, and Seminole; some of the most prestigious and exclusive clubs in the world. "What am I doing here?"
|"Umm....excuse me. Would you guys mind facing the other way while I hit?"|
Just as my heart started to jump out of my chest, the starter introduced me to my caddie...Big Tony. Soon I was surrounded by the starter, Tony, and a couple other staff members, and they all seemed intrigued by my golf clubs. I play with a classic set of copper Ping Eye 2's that are about 25 years old, which seemed to impress this group that I'm sure has seen it all working at Pebble. Suddenly, I no longer felt like the Top Flite kid (If you don't understand this reference, see me after the show)...
|"Do you need some oxygen?"..."Nope, I'm good....I think..."|
The starter went through the pleasantries of introducing my fellow golfers, and asked each of us which tees we intended to play. When I indicated that I wished to play the back tees, he asked me for my current handicap.
"About a 7 or 8," I said. To which he replied...
"Oh you're a 5? (wink) Excellent, then you're more than welcome to play the back tees."
Note to future golfers: If you want to play the blue tees, remember, you're a 5...
Tony and I walked back to the tee, where he offered some tips on the first shot, but more importantly, gave a few words of encouragement in an attempt to calm me down. This was the most nervous I've ever been for a single shot in golf, and I wanted more than anything to hit a good one. "For the love of all that is good in the world, do not top it off the first tee of Pebble Beach."
|Success! Right down the middle...|
As much as I would love to provide you with a shot by shot recap of my round, the story of Pebble Beach is best told by the pictures. Not to worry, I'll give you some juicy details at the end...
|Where that tee shot wound up...|
|#3...Unfortunately my drive found the brown hay...|
|A bridge on #4 which lead to....|
|The setting for my 3rd shot on #6. I went on to make birdie (and skipped to the hole)|
|#7...106 yards of pure insanity|
|#8 - I hit the shot of my life here. 4 iron from 205 yards to 15 feet.|
|Cut things a little close on #9. Part of me really wanted to hit one from the beach.|
|Looking down on #8 green and Carmel|
|A bunker added to #15 by Arnold Palmer. Completely out of character with the others|
|The famed 17th green|
|Straight down the middle on #18|
|"Aim just to the right of the TV tower." Definitely the only time I'll hear those words.|
- Not passing out on #1 tee
- Making birdie on #6
- Hitting the shot of my life on #8
- 4 Double-bogeys
- Plugging it in the bunker short of #7 green
- Losing a ball on #18...In a tree....
|OK, so I'm a little proud of this shot from off the cliff on #8|
Well, I didn't go left. Instead, I blasted the ball straight into the famous cypress tree which stands in the middle of the fairway, never to be seen again. In a lifetime of playing the game, I have never once had a ball get stuck in a tree. Naturally, the golf gods decided that now - on perhaps the most famous hole in the world - was the perfect time to have a little fun.
|Somewhere in that cypress tree resides this Pro-V1x|
In contrast to my run in with the cypress tree, there was another first which happened at Pebble Beach which I thoroughly enjoyed...having a caddie. Big Tony was the kind of guy that I should have invited out for a few beers after the round. We talked life, travel, and golf, and having him there kept me grounded which is no easy task especially at Pebble Beach. In addition, I know his advice saved me at least a half dozen strokes during the round. Of course, he claimed to have cost me just as many, but I think that's a caddie taking the fall.
|If you're heading to Pebble, ask for Big Tony...|
Since I've returned from Pebble Beach, everyone that I've encountered has asked the same question... Is it worth it? The answer is simple...Absolutely 100% Yes. So many times, places like Pebble Beach fail to live up to their own hype. From the introduction to your caddie on #1 tee, to the breathtaking finish of #18, Pebble Beach not only lives up to the hype, it surpasses it.
|Tapping in to end an incredible day...|
The phrase "once in a lifetime" is often tossed around when golfers talk about Pebble Beach. This mind-numbingly beautiful piece of real estate sees countless dreams come true each and every day. I'm here to tell you, however, that a round at Pebble Beach doesn't make a golfer's dream a reality, it simply replaces one dream with another...
The dream to return...
If you go...
- Get a caddie...Trust me, it's worth the extra money
- Play early or sleep in
- Avoid the tree on #18