Looking for the golf holiday of a lifetime? Look no further than Pebble Beach, the pinnacle of golf in California
By Michael McEwan
Here's the deal. Money's no object and you've got one whole week to invest in the golf holiday of a lifetime. Where are you going to go?
For golfers outside the UK, the answer is pretty straightforward: St Andrews, right?
However, for those of us fortunate enough to live either in or on the doorstep of the game's birthplace, the world is our oyster and the choice is considerable. Even so, there's typically one place right at the top of most people's lists - Pebble Beach.
Situated on the Monterey Peninsula in California, Pebble Beach is golfing paradise - simple as that. Bordered by Carmel to the south, Pacific Grove to the north, Monterey to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, it is home to not only a huge collection of courses but some of the world's best, too.
There's the eponymous Pebble Beach Golf Links itself - a five-time host of the US Open - as well as the likes of The Links at Spanish Bay, Cypress Point, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills. And that's just for starters.
Any visit to Pebble Beach typically starts on 17-Mile Drive, a picturesque road that largely hugs the Pacific coastline and passes most of the top courses and attractions, including the Lone Cypress tree, Bird Rick and the Del Monte Forest. It's a stunning introduction to the area and sets the tone for the treats that lie in wait.
Naturally, Pebble Beach Golf Links is the main attraction. It's a public course, so anybody can play. It's not particularly cheap - a round there will cost you around £340 in British money - but it is absolutely worth every penny.
Also, if you're booking more than two days in advance, the best way to guarantee your tee time is to stay in one of the three Pebble Beach properties: The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay and Casa Palmero. Guests enjoy special booking privileges for golf reservations when arranging accommodation.
But don't just take our word for it. Consider what some of the world's greatest golfers have had to say about the course. Jack Nicklaus once called it 'possibly the best in the world', adding: "If I had only one more round to play, I'd choose to play it at Pebble Beach."
Tom Watson added: "Ask any golfer around the world to name a golf course in the US and Pebble Beach will be the first thing they say", whilst two-time US Open champion Ernie Els once said: "I don't think you can get a better venue any place in the world."
These are the four courses operated by Pebble Beach Resorts. There are, naturally, others which you might be interested in, such as Cypress Point. It's a private course and, therefore, a little harder to get on but it can be done.
Its 16th is arguably the toughest par-3 in golf, playing around 200 yards directly over water and into the prevailing wind. Never mind making par, simply hitting the green is considered a boast-worthy achievement.
Poppy Hills, meanwhile, is the newest course in Pebble Beach (it opened in 1986) and has undergone an extensive renovation in recent years. Unlike its neighbours, it plays completely within a forest and has no rough. It's a gem.
With great restaurants and bars included as standard, there's plenty for you to enjoy when the sun has gone down without the need to leave the resort. We recommend the Calamari and a glass of the Arnold Palmer red wine.
If you are keen on a little exploring and sightseeing, there is plenty to do, from whale-watching, to cycling, to boutique shopping. You don't need to be a golfer to enjoy it.
For more information, log-on to pebblebeach.com
Photo © Bart Keagy