Pebble Beach Resorts celebrated its 100th anniversary this year with special vintage wines, food festivals and amazing overnight packages at its Forbes Travel Guide-rated properties — Casa Palmero, The Inn at Spanish Bay and The Lodge at Pebble Beach. Still, its biggest party is being reserved for June 13 to 16, when Pebble Beach Golf Links hosts the prestigious U.S. Open for a sixth time.
Championship director Danny Sink has been preparing for the golf tournament for more than two years. In that span, Sink’s gotten to know the course, the resort and its staff quite well. The same goes for the area’s can’t-miss restaurants, sights and hotels. So, when it was time for Forbes Travel Guide to get the lay of the land with regards to golf and good times, we knew exactly whom we had to talk to.
Pebble Beach is one of the most renowned golf courses in the world.
What makes it, and the rest of the resort, special to you?
My first visit to Pebble Beach was over 25 years ago, and I was immediately struck by the sheer beauty of 17-Mile Drive. I make it a point to drive around at least once a week and, every time I do, I find something new.
I’ve had the opportunity to play all of the courses here, including Pebble Beach, on a few occasions. They are all unique and such great experiences, from the first tee shot to the final putt on 18. Pebble Beach has provided us some office space right off the 10th tee at Spyglass Hill for the last two years. Our office views are amazing. It’s going to be tough to move out of here.
In addition, Pebble Beach employs around 2,000 people, and they are all fantastic to work with. I think they realize how lucky they are to be here in this beautiful place.
What are some aspects of this year’s U.S. Open that you’re excited to show fans?
We’ve really taken focus on Outside the Ropes programs available to fans at the U.S. Open in recent years. As a father of three, I know how important it is when attending an event to have options for children to keep them engaged. The 119th U.S. Open will include free access to the Junior Experience Featuring The First Tee, which includes LPGA*USGA Girls Golf and World Golf Tour [involvement].
Additionally, the ANNIKA Foundation will host a special clinic for select local juniors the Sunday prior to championship week.
Children 12 and under are provided free admission to the championship and those aged 13 to 18 can purchase tickets at a reduced rate.
There will also be interactive activities, including a scavenger hunt around the golf course, golf video game competitions, arts and crafts, chipping and putting games, and prizes.
In addition to these programs, the concession stands on course will feature all the classic offerings as well as regional and local specialties.
The main merchandise tent is over 36,000 square feet and features over 400,000 logoed items. All of the existing gift shops at Pebble Beach will be open during the championship as well as the new Pebble Beach Visitor Center, which showcases the storied history of Pebble Beach and celebrates their 100th anniversary.
For the person who’s visiting Pebble Beach for the first time, what are a few tips for the best viewing experience during the U.S. Open?
Pebble Beach offers views that are unmatched in all of major championship golf. Nine of the 18 holes are located along the scenic Pacific Ocean with views of Stillwater Cove, Carmel Beach and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
Hole 7, the shortest hole in major championship golf and one of the signature holes at Pebble Beach, will be an exciting hole to watch because most players will take dead aim at the pin but par will be a good score if the wind starts blowing. A grandstand located near the seventh green will provide fans with a close-up view of the hole to watch their favorite players come through.
Hole 17, the longest par 3 on the course at over 200 yards, will be a stern test for even the best players in the world. Grandstands located near the tee and green will offer fans a spectacular view of this difficult hole and the Pacific Ocean. No hole at Pebble Beach is more entrenched in U.S. Open lore than No. 17, with Jack Nicklaus’ 1-iron that struck the pin in 1972 to secure his win and Tom Watson’s chip-in, which propelled him to victory in the 1982 U.S. Open.
Hole 18, a risk-reward par 5, dares players to take an aggressive line over the ocean to set up a chance to hit this green in two. Players can make a double bogey just as easily as an eagle on this hole. On Sunday afternoon, there will be no greater spot than on hole 18 with the U.S. Open hanging in the balance.
Crowds are going to be intense during the tournament. Where are some good places to eat away from the resort?
If you’re staying in the area, there are a lot of great places to eat. Holly’s Lighthouse Café is our favorite local breakfast spot in Pacific Grove. We go here with our kids all the time. This area has some of the freshest seafood in the country. One of my favorites, and a legendary locals favorite, is Monterey’s Fish House on Del Monte Avenue. It gets crowded but well worth the wait.
In Carmel, I enjoy the atmosphere and Mediterranean food at Dametra Café. If you can possibly snag a dinner reservation during the Open, you’ll have an amazing time. The entire staff sings and dances with diners a few times each night.
They also have a sister fast-service-style restaurant called Dametra in the Del Monte mall. That is perfect if you’re in a hurry and want some great food. I eat there once a week.
When not prepping for the tournament, most of our onsite staff and our championship director Eric Steimer can be found at Islands Restaurant in that same area. They serve great drinks, and the staff is very friendly and always quick to serve you.
Also in Carmel, you might catch [actor and former Carmel-by-the-Sea mayor] Clint Eastwood at Mission Ranch having dinner with the locals. The views are amazing and they serve great high-end meals as well.
Another must-visit in Carmel is The Cheese Shop. Simply amazing selection for all cheese and wine lovers.
What if you’re inspired to play some golf during your visit?
If you’re bringing your clubs, Poppy Hills is open to the public and has recently undergone an amazing renovation by my great friends Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Bruce Charlton.
Pacific Grove Golf Links has amazing views, is very affordable and is a good time for all skill levels of players.
Del Monte Golf Course hosts the Monterey City Amateur and the Monterey Open Championship each year.
Bayonet and Black Horse are close by as well and are very challenging.
Pasatiempo, in Santa Cruz, is an Alister MacKenzie classic with loads of history.
What do you suggest for non-golfing fun in the area?
There are many wine tours and tasting areas in the area as well. Pebble Beach is right in the middle of the California wine-producing region. Pairing a great seafood lunch or dinner in Cannery Row with the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is a great time as well. Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a great option for those with families.
For kids that need to burn some energy, try the Dennis the Menace Playground in Monterey. I have two young children and they love this place.
Carmel Beach is heaven for dogs and humans of all ages. For a less-crowded option, try Del Monte Beach and Monterey State Beach in Sand City. Point Lobos National State Natural Reserve is south of Carmel and provides a variety of activities, including over a dozen hiking trails in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.
Speaking of the kids, Santa Cruz and its famous boardwalk is less that an hour away and south is Big Sur with the famous seaside cliffs.