Punch Shot: Old Course vs. Pebble Beach, which are you playing?

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The European Tour is competing this week in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which includes a trio of courses highlighted by the Old Course at St. Andrews. The PGA Tour Champions is playing the Pure Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach. And so we asked our writers:

You’ve got one round to play, on the Old Course or at Pebble Beach Golf Links, which are you choosing?

REX HOGGARD: They say you appreciate the Old Course more each time you play it, but for most (including your scribe) it only took one lap around the ancient links to bring it to the front of any list, including a head-to-head with Pebble Beach.

Pebble Beach is an idyllic stroll, but nothing compares to the simplistic brilliance of the Old Course. “Just hit it left,” your caddie will tell you; but there’s so much more. From the wicked grandeur of the Principal’s Nose bunker to the unique challenges of the Road Hole, the Old Course is memorable for all the right reasons.

And then there’s the history. Every step on the bouncy turf is a step into the game’s past, and the aura of the Auld Grey Toon, which has been beckoning golfers since the 1400s, is impossible to ignore.

It’s always going to be a round on the Old Course before Pebble Beach or anywhere else.


RYAN LAVNER: It’s 65 degrees, cloudless, no humidity, with a gentle surf crashing onto the rocks at Stillwater Cove.

Seriously: Find me a better spot on the planet than Pebble Beach.

If you could only play one – and what an unfortunate proposition that’d be – then give me the most famous course in America. Though it might not be the Home of Golf, Pebble offers the opportunity for everyday hacks to hit those iconic shots into Nos. 6, 7, 8, 9, 17 and 18 – all while strolling the most picturesque holes in golf, the perfect course for this Instagram era.

And if you only get one crack at it, why not do it right? Take a caddie. Grab a beer and a burger and relive your heroics around a firepit at The Bench. And then crash for the night at the luxurious Lodge.

Oh, it’ll cost you, all right – but for this bucket-list experience, it’s worth every penny.


WILL GRAY: In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve had the privilege of playing the Old Course while my next shot from the pristine grass at Pebble Beach will be my first. But I still stand by my vote for Scottish links over California coast, as the natural beauty of the Monterey Peninsula is no match for the mysticism of St. Andrews. While the highs at Pebble are unrivaled – there might not be a more scenic stroll than Nos. 4-10 along the cliffs – the spirit of the game isn’t felt with each footstep like it is on the Old Course, where every great player with the exception of Ben Hogan has teed it up.

From the double greens to the Road Hole to the tight-knit town that envelops the sacred grounds, St. Andrews has the edge. Throw in the fact that Pebble might not be the best course in a 5-mile radius and the Old Course wins this match, 3 and 2.


NICK MENTA: I’m going with St. Andrews strictly in terms of the level of enjoyment I’d have playing each course.

As a left-hander who hits a hard draw on a good day and a rope hook on most days, I wouldn’t be taking in views of the Pacific, because I’d be physically in the Pacific. I’ll sign right now for a 7* on Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. (“Yeah, yeah, got off to a rough start on the front but really cleaned it up on the back.”)

Whereas, I can aim 40 yards left on Nos. 1 and 18 at the Old Course and still be in the fairway. Let’s also not overlook the size of the putting surfaces and the variety of shots you can play on each layout.

I’d rather scrape it around to a respectable score at St. Andrews and enjoy a scotch at the Jigger Inn than get my ass kicked at Pebble and go problem drink inside the Tap Room. One experience would remind why I enjoy the game and the other would get me to quit the game.