Thursday, January 5, 2012

Round #1: California: Pebble Beach Golf Links

It was an easy decision to start my year of golf in the Southwest when we were already in San Francisco. Matt & Max drove us to the San Francisco airport late Monday morning where we picked up a rental car. It is always hard to leave the grand kids behind, but the cold season made it a little easier this time. I think Julie started to slide downhill first and by the time we left on Monday the house had 4 adults and 2 kids suffering from cold symptoms.
We departed San Francisco and drove 125 miles to Monterey, CA. By the time we arrived it was difficult for me to get out of the car. My back locks up from time to time and I had wrenched it slightly that morning picking up Max. If I am at risk of not accomplishing my year of golf, it likely be back problems. I see that as a bigger issue than running out of time. An evening of rest and stretching was enough to prepare me for my first round of golf by Tuesday morning.

Hotel in Monterey

I forgot to mention that even though I played golf in San Francisco on 1 Jan, I counted that round as a warm-up. To be more specific, my goal is to play a top-rated golf course in all 50 states. I use the Golf Digest 2011 Best-in-State listing to target the courses I will play. 
One of the attractions in Monterey is Cannery Row. Several sardine fish canning operations used to line it’s water front, the remnants of which are now serving as restaurants, shops and tourist attractions. The Great Depression helped lead to the demise of the fish canning industry when the desire to create jobs lead to large scale production of fish meal for use as a fertilizer. Monterey processed two-thirds of a billion edible sardines per year into fish meal during the 1930’s decade. We ate a late lunch in a sports bar appropriately named the Cannery Row Brewing Company where a selection of 73 beers  on tap, large screen TV’s and “Blue Pig” hamburgers provided an enjoyable location to watch the Rose Bowl football game.
Apparently there are still sardines to be found in the ocean at Monterey. While I was playing golf, Julie walked along the ocean to a quilt shop. Her walked coincided with the tide receding which trapped fish in small pools of water along the rocky shoreline. The harbor seals and sea gulls were quick to take advantage of the situation. Unfortunately, the camera was with me on the golf course.

A short drive from Cannery Row is the Pebble Beach Golf Links. This famous course was my selection for kicking off a year golf. I played the course one time previously on 30 October 1997. I shot a 99 (27 over par) and was told that most players do not score below 100. The course has small, fast-putting greens protected by deep sand bunkers. In addition, the ocean winds play havoc with a golf ball. I set out to see if I could improve upon my previous round.

Round: #1
Location: Pebble Beach, CA
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #2
Date: 3 Jan, tee off at 11:00 AM 
Conditions: sunny skies, 5 mph winds, 54 degrees
Yardage: 6,445
Lost balls: 1
Score: 86 on a par 72
As you can see, I beat by former score by 13 strokes. In 1997, the weather had been absolutely perfect when I played. When I showed up on Tuesday under sunny skies I was told how lucky I was since the previous day had been cold and overcast. I was teamed up with a father/son twosome and by the 4th hole it felt like 70 degrees and we were playing in short sleeve shirts. Even though the winds were calm, the surf was kicking up waves that came crashing into shore in spectacular fashion. The scenery was breathtaking to say the least. Our luck with the weather ran out after 13 holes. A fog rolled in, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees in a matter of minutes. The 14th hole par 5 became a difficult obstacle playing into the wind. Luckily the conditions subsequently improved but it remained cool for the remainder of our round.

My luck extended beyond the weather as I shot a 3 over par 39 on the front 9 holes. The round started off rough with a 2 over par double bogey on #1 and #2 before I settled down and started to par some holes. My tee shots were finding the middle of the fairways and my putts were dropping in the hole, including a 25 foot downhill putt on #9. I shot par on 5 of the first 9 holes. It was an eagle on the #5 par 3 that enabled me to offset the two double bogeys and one bogey from the front nine. For you non-golfers, an eagle is a score of 2 under par; which on a par 3 means I shot a hole-in-one! 

Jarod Frost (New York City), Jim,  & Steve Frost (Chicago) 

142 yard par 3 hole #5 (view from the tee)

To put this in perspective, the vast majority of golfers play a lifetime without shooting a hole-in-one. The golf pro at Pebble Beach told me that they have 45-50 in a year (90% of which occur on hole #7) but that is with 60,000 rounds of golf played on their course. While it is possible for some long ball hitters to reach a par 4 green in one stroke, it would be very rare to ever record a hole-in-one on any hole aside from a par 3. With four par 3 holes on the course, the odds of a hole-in-one are roughly 50 out of 240,000. The pro also told me that I was the first person to score a hole-in-one at Pebble Beach in 2012. That doesn’t seem like much since I played the course on 3 January, until you learn that the 2nd hole-in-one was recorded minutes later by a player in the group directly in front of us minutes on hole #7.

Hole #7

This was the 2nd time I shot a hole-in-one. My first hole-in-one occurred on the #8 hole at Sunnyside Country Club in Waterloo, Iowa while I was playing by myself. Some people (notably my son, Jack) have questioned my integrity since there were no witnesses to verify it happened. I have that base covered this time - - - the father/son twosome I was playing with both had caddies so four people witnessed the event. Pebble Beach records it on a signed certificate, the original is placed in their record books and a copy was provided to me. This is for you, Jack!

Last note: you likely noticed that my whiskers are missing in the above pictures. I shaved them off on I January which happened to be excellent timing. My cold caused me to go through a box of tissues during my round of golf at Pebble Beach. I was glad to have a smooth shaven face; I am hoping that it does clear up quickly.

Hole #18 - the finishing hole @ Pebble Beach
I ended the round with a par on this challenging par 5 hole.


  1. Congratulations!! I am so impressed. You are really off to a great start. It is great that you are doing this blog.

  2. Awesome! A hole-in-one at Pebble Beach --what a way to begin your year in golf! Love the blog.

  3. I didn't realize we had a "pro" in the family! Being a golfer, and having seen Pebble Beach with Mom driving the 17 mile drive, I am TOTALLY impressed!

  4. Congrats Jim! What an awesome start to the trip!