In its early days, the ninth hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links actually used a double fairway.

The hole is now played along the old left fairway, an evolution that took the ocean out of play off the tee.

But when Mike Davis, who is in charge of setting up Pebble Beach for the United States Golf Association, was scouting the course for this year's U.S. Open, he considered bringing back the ninth hole's double fairway.

"We actually talked about that, but there's no irrigation down there right now," said Davis of the giant peninsula that juts out to the right of the current fairway. "It is kind of intriguing when you look at that, if you were to have fairway down way to the right, it's a much easier angle into the green, but it's a longer shot.

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Instead, Davis added a tee box that backs up the downhill par 4 to 505 yards.

That's 49 yards longer than it was for the 2000 U.S. Open, when it was the toughest hole in the championship with a scoring average of 4.557.

"We really wanted to put drivers back in their hands," Davis said. "The thing you have to remember is in June, it should play straight downwind to a very firm fairway."

That might be true, but the reason No. 9 was so tough in 2000 — and why it is always so tough — is the green is set at the edge of a cliff. The green is just 24 paces deep, and it can look even smaller because the left half of it is guarded by one of the deepest and most intimidating bunkers on the course.


The green also progressively narrows the deeper you go, as the cliffs above Carmel Beach creep into play. So your choices are to either fly the bunker on the left, or try to play it up the tiny runway of fairway to the right edge of the green.

If you could play your shot from what used to be the right fairway, the bunker and the cliffs wouldn't be as directly in play, and the throat of the green would be an easier target to hit.

But if there is a consolation to adding 49 yards to the hole, the fairway has been widened.

"We're keeping that fairway wide," said RJ Harper, the senior Vice President of Golf for the Pebble Beach Company. "It's not like we're saying, 'It's the toughest hole out there, plus we're going to narrow it to 23 yards, plus we're going to mow everything hard right, plus we're going to make the green as hard as a rock, and rough around the green penal.'"

From the new tee, it's 300 yards to reach the plateau in the fairway. From there, the fairway drops down like a roller coaster and banks hard from left-to-right and toward the ocean. The fairway has been widened at the bottom of the hill, so shots that leak off to the right don't trickle into the rough, like they did in 2000.

But if those shots leak a little too far right, and get past the peninsula that held the old double fairway, then they can find the water.

So the choice is to either play a tee shot to the top of the plateau and have a relatively flat lie from 200 yards out, or blast a driver down the left side of the fairway at the risk of catching a hanging downhill lie — or worse, running off a cliff.

"You can hit it to the bottom of the hill and virtually have a wedge or a 9-iron left," Davis said. "However, you can also hit it to the bottom of the hill and knock it into the ocean now. Again, it's this concept of making a choice off the tee, a little risk-reward. If you pull it off, you're definitely rewarded. If you don't, you're going to be penalized."

Kevin Merfeld can be reached at 646-5547 and

No. 9
·Yardage: 505 yards
·Par: 4
·What's new: A new tee box adds 49 yards to the hole