Top U.S. golf course you can play: Pebble Beach or Pacific Dunes?
Pacific Dunes (part of the Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon) again edged out Pebble Beach Golf Links as premier public-access course in the USA in the biannual “Top 100 You can play” ranking published by Golf Magazine. Both courses are arguably the top 2 tracks in the country accessible to the public (if you can afford the $495 green fee at Pebble Beach, I should add) – so the question is, which one is the best?
Before I give you my two cents, I would like to start with a basic comparison. While the two courses are similar they also have a lot of things in common. Both are located right on the Pacific Ocean and are part of the (in my opinion) two best golf resorts in the country (possibly in the world). Pacific Dunes was laid out by Tom Doak in 2001 while Pebble Beach was designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant in 1919 (numerous changes were made to the course over the years, most notably by Chandler Egan, Dr. Alister MacKenzie, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer). Pebble Beach has the history and the big tournaments that Pacific Dunes lacks. A tee-time can be hard to get at Pebble Beach while visitors at Pacific Dunes are welcomed with open arms.
Pebble Beach has the better “signature holes” (7, 8 and 18). Pacific Dunes has no weak hole (I am not a big fan of no. 6 at Pebble and don’t like the 14th and 17th greens). Pacific Dunes is “golf as it was meant to be,” while Pebble Beach can be a six-hour round (not that I would mind – there are worse places to be than at Pebble).
My conclusion: If I had to say which one is “better” I would have to give the nod to Pebble! I am a big fan of Tom Doak and Pacific Dunes. I have played the course several times and I would play it every year if I had the time! But there is just something about Pebble that can’t be beat. Not only does it have the history, the AT&T National Pro-Am, the U.S. Opens and the “ghosts of legends” (Tiger, Nicklaus, Palmer, you name it – they’ve all played there). It also has holes 7, 8 and 18 that are all among the most spectacular on the planet. It’s hard to beat playing the oceanfront stretch on the front side on a clear and sunny day at Stillwater Cove while seeing whales swim in the distance! And is there a better finishing hole anywhere than number 18 at Pebble Beach?
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