You Can Go Home Again
May 1 2001 by John Steinbreder
Size doesn’t matter at all to Stephen Carter when it comes to picking his favorite golf hole. That’s because the one he selects is the shortest you’ll ever find on a championship golf course, the 7th at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. The 7th measures only 107 yards from the back tees. On a windless day this diminutive distance requires no more than a pitching wedge for a reasonably good golfer-and not much else for a mid-handicapper.
But consider, first, the location of the hole, which is right on California’s Monterey Bay. Winds often buffet that spot; players have been known to reach for their three-irons, so strong are the gales that sometimes burst across the bay.
Then there’s the green, just 2,000 square feet in size, only eight yards wide at its narrowest point, surrounded by five bunkers and poking its way into the bay on a small peninsula. Throw all those elements together, and No. 7 can look like the longest and hardest 107 yards in the history of the game, even to a 15-handicapper such as Carter.
“I love No. 7 for that,” says Carter, a native of London who took up the sport after moving to the States years ago. “It looks deceptively easy when you first stand on the tee, slightly downhill and overlooking the water. You’d think it wouldn’t be so bad. But then the wind starts to blow, and you look at the rough around the green and the bunkers, and you know that if you hit a wild one, you’re dead.”
Another thing Carter likes about the hole is its resemblance to his homeland.
“I’ve only played Pebble Beach once,” admits the head of newly formed Cingular Wireless, a $12-billion joint venture between the wireless units of BellSouth and SBC that serves nearly 19 million customers and is now regarded as the second largest wireless operation in the U.S. “But I was instantly taken with how parts of it feel like the British coastline. The weather can be very similar as well, what with all the wind. It’s a special place for me, and almost an emotional experience playing there because of its natural beauty and its similarity to my home. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and a wonderful walk even if you’re not playing.”
The 7th is also a special hole for Carter because he parred it the one and only time he played it. “I hit a pitching wedge and managed to get the ball in the cup in three,” he says. “I don’t know if I’d be able to do that again.”
John Steinbreder is a senior writer for Golf Week magazine and the author of six books, including Golf Courses of the U.S. Open.