The first hole at Pebble Beach isn't the most visually exciting — especially when it is measured against the rest of the course. There's no ocean view, and there's nothing particularly distinguishable about it.
And the first hole isn't the toughest, as pros will hit a 230-yard layup shot in front of a bunker at the end of the dogleg before veering to the right for a 150-yard approach — although the second shot will be from a hanging lie.
"If Pebble had any vocal criticisms, it was over the first few holes, and then Pebble started to build and build and hit you in the face," said RJ Harper, the senior Vice President of Golf for the Pebble Beach Company.
Five of the first seven holes give players the chance to have short irons into the green and set up possible birdies. In the first round of the 1992 U.S. Open, Andy Dillard birdied the first six holes, before the rest of the course slowed him down, resulting in a 4-under 68.
"Ben Hogan was one of those disciples who said that's the way golf courses are supposed to be designed," Harper said. "When ranges weren't necessarily everywhere, everybody didn't have a chance to hit balls, so you should build a golf course that slowly gets you in there, and then starts to beat you, or you beat it.
Of course, this isn't 1919, or 1950.
"But now today, with everybody practicing, everybody working out, you've got to strengthen those softer holes, and that's what we did," Harper said.
A series of pine trees were planted in the right rough to protect the integrity of the dog leg, and the greenside bunker along the left side has been extended the length of the putting surface — although that change is cosmetic as much as anything.
It's debatable whether playing from U.S. Open rough or a bunker is tougher. But Palmer and Harper decided to enlarge the bunker to return it to its original size — something they discovered after looking at photos of the hole from 1929.
Two deep bunkers also armor the right side of the green and catch misses from those hanging lies in the fairway. The green has a false front and slopes from back-to-front, as well as left-to-right, or toward the ocean. Even though the ocean doesn't come into play until No. 4, you can feel its influence in the poa annua greens from the first hole on.
"It's a hard hole, but it's not long," Harper said. "You're not going to make a big number on that hole, but you have to hit a good second shot. That green is always hard to hit. You've got hanging lies, it's a sneaky tough hole."
·Yardage: 380 yards
·What's new: Left greenside bunker extended the length of the putting green