It essentially acted as a temporary bridge to get golfers from the fourth green to the sixth tee, while hitting three shots in between. It was a 166-yard mound of ground under repair.
But in the fall of 1998, the new fifth hole was unveiled, completing a spectacular seven-hole stretch unparalleled in golf, one that hugs the coastline through dramatic elevation changes and stunning views.
Samuel F.B. Morse regrettably sold the oceanfront property where the fifth hole currently sits in 1915, four years before Pebble Beach was built. For the first 80 years of Pebble Beach's existence, golfers were sent on an unsightly inland detour.
The old fifth hole was a drab and blind 166-yard uphill par 3 through a chute of trees that had giant fans buzzing by the green just to keep it alive.
But the new fifth could be a signature hole on just about any other course, a 195-yard par 3 designed by Jack Nicklaus that cost $3 million to reacquire and build.
For the first round of the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, the fifth hole was the toughest on the course, with a stroke average of 3.455. For the tournament, the hole dangling atop windswept cliffs finished as the sixth toughest.
The fifth hole has Nicklaus' stamp on it, as it requires a high fade to stop it on the back-right portion of the green. To the right of the green is the Pacific Ocean.
"Nobody wants to hang it out over the hazard and hook it into the pin," Steve Stricker told Sports Illustrated in 2000. "But if you cut it too much, you're in the hazard, too. You've just got to strap on your helmet, step up on the tee and try to hit a great shot."
For the 2000 U.S. Open, high rough swallowed up what used to be an apron for players to run their shots up if they decided to play away from the ocean and to the front of the green. When players complained about the difficulty of the fifth hole, Nicklaus told the USGA, "It's because you guys won't let it be played the way it was designed."
The USGA has taken a much different approach to this year's U.S. Open, leaving players an opening to run their approaches into many of the greens.
"No. 5 is almost like a reverse Redan green, where it feeds front left to back right," said Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of Rules and Competition. "We have actually opened up six or seven holes in front of the green and eliminated rough just to allow guys to bounce balls on. Holes like Nos. 5, 8, 10 and 11, we've actually widened the area going into the green. In the case of No. 5, if you get it straight downwind, you can now play short left and bounce it on."
The fifth hole can play as long as 211 yards to a back-right pin, thanks to an extended tee box next to the fourth green that sits across a ravine.
"Wind is swirling all the time there," said RJ Harper, the senior Vice President of Golf for the Pebble Beach Company. "It's an intimidating left-to-right shot. It's all based on wind conditions. You never know what you're going to get."
The green is the only one on the course that slopes from front-to-back, instead of back-to-front. The green also swings from left-to-right, and if a ball hits the middle of the green, it can catch a ridge and feed back right.
The green is protected by four bunkers, most prominently one behind the middle of the green and another guarding the front right half of the putting surface.
"The par 3s here play tougher than Augusta National's," said Stricker in 2000. "From the tee, No. 5 looks impossible."
Kevin Merfeld can be reached at 646-4457 and email@example.com.
·Yardage: 195 yards
·What's new: Apron in front of green will stay shaved; in 2000 it was grown out with rough