“Pebble Beach is so over-rated,” grouses a reader from Ft. Meade, Fla., dissing our ninth-ranked course. Another reader insists that sixth-ranked Augusta National is “a lot of fancy grass and prom corsages masquerading as a golf course.”
It would be easy to dismiss these comments as the ravings of unschooled dolts, but the Top 50 doesn’t operate that way. We investigate such claims. We put all our resources to the task. We even make calls.
To placate the Ft. Meade correspondent, we sent chief course rater Gary Van Sickle to Monterey to see if the iconic California layout had deteriorated since we last played it. Gary immediately wired back that it had not. “PEBBLE BEACH REMAINS THE GREATEST GOLFING EXPERIENCE IN THE WORLD STOP SEND EXPENSE MONEY STOP.”
He filed the rest of his report in the form of a GOLF.com article from which we quote to the full extent of the fair-use provisions of the Copyright Act:
Purists like to rate golf courses based on absolutes like shot values, relation to par and other inside-golf things. I’ve read those who say Pebble has 10 great holes and eight mediocre ones, and that it’s grossly overrated. I wish one of those critics could have been out on the peninsula with my group Sunday afternoon, basking in the early-evening golden light with postcard views in every direction, hearing the crashing of the waves, the squawk of the gulls and smelling the scent of the sea. Race the sun to the finish, like we did (although it was a very slowwww race), and try to play the 18th hole in the dark when you could no longer see the ball at your feet, and tell me Pebble Beach is overrated.
It isn’t. It’s an experience you can’t put a price on. You would pay just to walk this hallowed green and savor the dramatic meeting between land and sea. It’s special.
After playing Pebble, Gary visited the previously unranked Casserly Par-3 Golf Course in Watsonville, just up the coast. Finding it to be “better than a pleasant surprise” at $9 per round, he called our attention to Casserly’s signature hole, the 112-yard seventh, which calls for a carry over a ravine and a 60-foot pine that blocks the green. “I COULDN’T SEE THE PIN BEHIND THE PINE STOP VERY COOL STOP”
Gary’s enthusiasm for Casserly was almost as great as his enthusiasm for Pebble, so we have tentatively installed the Par-3 at No. 49, displacing Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s CordeValle Resort course, site of the PGA Tour’s Frys.com Open.
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the U.S. Open is being played on the famous Lake Course at San Francisco’s Olympic Club, currently ranked No. 51. Further west, in Japan, they’re still agonizing over the abysmal attendance, in late May, at the Diamond Cup at the Country Club of Japan in the Tokyo suburbs. “Miserable results,” writes Duke Ishikawa, our chief Asian correspondent. “The four-day total was 6,839. Same week as Colonial. Thursday was only a thousand.”
There are several reasons for Japan’s attendance slump, but Duke says it’s mostly the fans’ infatuation with young Ryo Ishikawa (no relation), who is playing more American events. “I have suggested in my articles that Ryo play more in the U.S. because it’s the world’s strongest tour,” he writes, “and especially the Memorial, because that’s Jack’s tournament. But Katsuji Ebisawa, our tour’s new chairman, sent an official letter to Ryo entreating ‘please don’t forget the Japanese Tour.’
Duke continues: “The New York Times said ‘One Star Between Two Tours,’ but I don’t think Ryo is a star. He is just an idol, a gallery’s pet. Or a pin-up boy. But he still influences the sports show in Japan. To stay on the U.S. Tour or not, that is Ryo’s question.”
Pressed for another reason why fans might shun the Japanese tournaments, Duke mentions the high prices at concession stands. “At Japan Open my friends paid US $11 for a piece of sausage and a coke.”