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Monday, December 22, 2014

Spanish Bay Shines Among the Stars

Links at Spanish Bay #17
The Links at Spanish Bay is the "bargain" course among those operated by the Pebble Beach Resorts (not counting Del Monte), but there's nothing cut-rate about the golf to be played there. It's long enough (6,821 yards from the tips), tough enough (74.0 rating and 140 slope), and scenic enough to warrant a trip for its own sake. Spanish Bay is like the youngest sibling in a family whose two older brothers were star athletes before him in school. If they hadn't been born, he'd have all the raves to himself.

Spanish Bay has a links look with wind-swept fairways, tough waste areas and dunes to punish wayward drives, and greens that often invite a bump and run approach, although the turf is a little lush to rely on a ground game the way you would on a real links course.  Surf and sand are the dominant themes of the front nine, where you can practically walk in the water when playing the delightful par 3 eighth hole.

Enjoy the scenery and make your pars and birdies on the front side while you can, though.  The back nine is miles tougher.  Tough, but fun. From the gold tees, the front is par 35 at 3,042 yards whereas the back stretches to 3,379 and plays to par 37. The first three holes are birdie opportunities on the front, as is the 367-yard ninth hole. Even though the back offers three par fives, birdies are much harder to come by. The tenth hole, par five at 477 yards, looks like easy pickings but the relentless bunkers splitting the fairway on the second leg of the double dog leg say otherwise. The eighteenth, 524 yards, challenges you on every single shot. There are forced carries on the first and third and a major risk/reward decision on your second.

Three architects are credited with the design of Spanish Bay. Tom Watson, Sandy Tatum, and Robert Trent Jones, Jr., all are listed, although I suspect the latter did most of the heavy lifting when the course was built in 1987.  Regardless of who gets the lion's share of the credit, the trio designed a fine, worthwhile must-play course for anyone visiting Pebble Beach.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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