Leave the driver home? A guide to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- You think you know Pebble Beach. You've seen it enough on television -- the photogenic seventh hole, the famous 18th, the Pacific Ocean, the sunbathing sea lions. Maybe you've even forked over the the $550 to play it and have the countless photos and even more memories.

But you don't know Pebble Beach Golf Links like Casey Boyns. He grew up in next-door Carmel-by-the-Sea and was raised in -- and on -- Pebble Beach. He's played the course more than 250 times. (By the way, he shot 68, a number every pro would take in advance and spend the week hanging out with former Carmel mayor Clint Eastwood in the The Lodge behind the 18th green). Boyns has caddied, he guesses, about 8,000 loops at Pebble. He knows the place so well the USGA even asked for his help, having him walk the course to offer advice to those charged with the setup for the 2019 U.S. Open, which begins Thursday.

Like everyone, Boyns has heard the concerns. Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy have already weighed in, wondering if the USGA's relentless goal to protect par will cause it to destroy a treasure like Pebble Beach.

"I might eat my words," Boyns, 63, said. "I think 2 under is a safe bet, but I wouldn't be surprised to see 5 or 6 under."

The amateur might take a few holes to get the jitters out, knowing this round is likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The pros, Boyns says, need to get after it early if they are to have any shot here.

"The deal with Pebble Beach is the first seven holes, that's your scoring holes," he said. "Then the next seven are the real tough holes -- I call it the gauntlet. You try to get your round going early, and then you hang on in the middle and then the last four holes, they aren't that long but they are narrow so you have to keep it play and maybe get a birdie in there."

There is likely no better person to guide us around Pebble Beach, to understand its nuances, how the place changes from the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February to a U.S. Open in June, how to enjoy looking at the Pacific Ocean but avoid having your golf ball end up in it.

Note: Statistical comparisons come from 1992, 2000 and 2010 -- the past three occasions on which Pebble Beach hosted both a regular PGA Tour event and the U.S. Open.

Jump to a hole:
No. 1 | No. 2 | No. 3 | No. 4
No. 5 | No. 6 | No. 7 | No. 8
No. 9 | No. 10 | No. 11 | No. 12
No. 13 | No. 14 | No. 15 | No. 16 | No. 17 | No. 18

No. 1: Par 4, 380 Yards

This is the warm-up, the start to what lies ahead. While it can be nerve-wracking for the amateur waiting to start their dream round at Pebble Beach, this is an easy way to open the day for the pros. A soft dogleg right to a slightly raised green gives the players a chance for an opening birdie. It also gives the players a chance to make an early decision: Be aggressive or be safe.

Listen to your caddie
"Most guys are going to hit 4-irons and 5-irons off the tee. It's about to 245 to where they want to go, maybe 235. I got a feeling [two-time defending U.S. Open champion Brooks] Koepka is going to hit it over the corner with a driver. I think these big hitters are going to try it because it opens up. If you pull it, you're dead, because it's in the woods. But you can get away with a push, though, over there by the second tee. Those guys can fly the corner and the worse they'll be is in the right rough and they'll have a 50-, 60-yard pitch into a wide-open green from the angle."

No. 2: Par 4, 516 Yards

An easy par-5 in February during the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and every day an amateur gets to play turns into a long par-4 when the USGA gets its hands on the place. Trouble looms left and right off the tee, with fairway bunkers narrowing the landing area. The green, also framed by bunkers on both sides, is a narrow target. Par is a bad score on nearly any other day but the four in which the U.S. Open is being held. This week, par is just fine.

Listen to your caddie
"I think because this is a par-4, it's really the only hard hole in the first seven. You got bunkers that kind of squeeze you off the tee. The tee shot is a little bit narrow because of the bunkers, then you're going to have a long second shot to a green that's really guarded by bunkers. I think the scoring average will be 4.2 or something like that. There might be a couple birdies, but there are going to be a lot more bogeys than birdies."

No. 3: Par 4, 404 Yards

Just like No. 1, it's decision time off the tee. Safe or aggressive? From the elevated tee, the players will have a choice: be aggressive over the corner and have a shorter approach and a better angle, or play back a little and leave and uphill shot over a difficult front-right bunker. These are scoring chances, so it might be worth taking the risk.

Listen to your caddie
"It's kind of tricky because it doglegs left pretty sharp and the bailout is to the right. They have to hit a high draw if they're going to hit driver -- or even if they hit 3-wood -- to keep it in that fairway. You cannot hit a high cut to go over the corner; you have to hit a draw. I think you'll see a lot of guys just hit 250, 260 out to the right, that probably leaves 150, 160 into the green. That bunker in the front right means they are going to have to be pretty precise with their second shot. The guys that can hit a high draw or get over those trees, they are going to have just a wedge or chip shot. It's a tough driving hole, in my opinion."

No. 4: Par 4, 331 Yards

The big hitters can give it a go and try to reach the green at the uphill par-4. After the tee shot, the walk up to the approach brings the Pacific Ocean into view for the first time. Standing in the fairway, a look off to the right offers the first glimpse of the water and the breadth of the property. On a course with small greens, the fourth is one of the smallest and it is protected by bunkers all around. That is the deterrent for the players to give it a go off the tee.

Listen to your caddie
"That's the hole [the USGA] is going to make driveable one day. They are going to put the tee up. Most of the time, [players] are going to hit middle iron and just get it over the fairway bunker and then hit a wedge on the green and not take any chances. The day they put the tee up, you'll have a lot of guys going for it. I think in the last Open, Dustin Johnson hit a 3-iron on the green. I've also seen 8-iron, gap wedge. So there's two ways to go about it."

No. 5: Par 3, 195 Yards

The first break from the series of par-4s to start the day. This one has Jack Nicklaus' fingerprints all over it -- after all, he did redesign the hole in 1998. This is one of the holes that changes entirely from February, when the AT&T is held, to a U.S. Open in June. The firmness, a USGA trademark, will force adjustments.

Listen to your caddie
"The green is so rock-hard. It's probably the only green out here that slopes front to back. If it's firm, they are going to land it 5, 10, 20 yards short because there is a downslope there. If you land on the green, you're going over. If the pin is behind the bunker, you still need to play it to the left and just use the slope of the green to get it within, say, 10 or 20 feet. One day, they'll put the tee way up and it'll play 135 and they'll tuck the pin behind the bunker and you still won't be able to get it close.

No. 6: Par 5, 523 Yards

This is the stretch during which Pebble Beach truly begins to show off its beauty. "When I get up on No. 6 green, I call it the Mount Everest of Pebble Beach," Boyns said. "When I get up there, I tell the guys, 'Look around. This is the best view you're going to get.'" The fairway narrows the farther the player hits it off the tee -- bunkers left and the Pacific Ocean right start pinching in at about 300 yards. It's a par-5, but you might not see too many drivers.

Listen to your caddie
"Lot of guys are going to laying back. You're going to even see some irons off that tee. It should still roll out pretty good and they'll still be able to get on the green in two. Last Open, Mickelson hit 4-iron off that tee. You won't see too many drivers there. The further you hit it, the more narrow it gets. You hit it too far, you're in the rough or in the bunker. You push it, you're in the ocean.

No. 7: Par 3, 107 Yards

There might not be a more awe-inspiring sight in golf than the view from the tee at No. 7. Framed by the Pacific on all sides, the short par-3 sits on an unprotected tip of the property. "You have the bay, the mountains on the other side, this little green down there in front of you. It's pretty cool," Boyns said. So while it is a bucket-list hole to play, if the wind blows, it'll rip the players' eyes out. A player can hit anything from wedge to ... well, watch Tony Finau in 2017.

Listen to your caddie
"Normally, it's downwind. They're just going to be chipping. In the mornings, there is hardly any wind at all. As the day progresses, the wind picks up a little bit. I don't see anybody ever hitting more than wedge ... unless the wind comes up from the south. It comes from the south, it gets strong. That's when you see 6-irons. I've seen 3-iron there, when it's really blowing and rainy."

No. 8: Par 4, 428 Yards

Sometimes in golf, when standing over a shot, you'll feel like the drop is so severe you're falling off a cliff. Well, on No. 8, you are falling off a cliff. "It's probably the best hole out there, for the wow factor," Boyns said. "Nicklaus calls it the greatest second shot in golf. It is pretty spectacular." After hitting iron off the tee, the players will feel like they are standing on the edge of the world. The second shot, across the chasm to yet another small, narrow green, feels like it's in the air forever -- think a punter counting out the hang time. But don't be fooled, it just looks downhill. It doesn't actually play downhill.

Listen to your caddie
"With that drop-off, the difference is only about 4 yards. People do not believe that. The USGA had the surveyors out there and it's only about a 12-foot drop, so a 4-yard downhill. Half the time there's a crosswind and you don't even play the downhill. I usually tell people full yardage, and a lot of times it actually even plays a little bit longer."

No. 9: Par 4, 526 Yards

The USGA added a new tee box -- and some distance -- to the ninth, stretching it out to the longest par-4 on the course. The fairway slopes hard toward Carmel Beach and the Pacific Ocean down the right side. The second shot again requires a carry of a front bunker. If an approach leans too far right, the player could be asking for some help finding the ball from the people walking their dogs on the beach.

Listen to your caddie
"The prevailing wind is going to help them. Those big guys are still going to hit it to the bottom of the hill and have a wedge. The super-big guys can actually get unlucky and have the ball roll into the water down there on the right. The average guy is going to be standing on top of the hill there and having 200 yards in."

No. 10: Par 4, 495 Yards

The back nine starts much the same way the front nine ends. A long par 4, with the ocean and the beach looming the entire way down the right side. It'll look scenic -- the dogs running along the beach, the people wading ankle-deep in the water -- but it's going to be a lot of work for the players.

Listen to your caddie
"Same thing as No. 9. That tee is way back there. It's 300 yards just to reach the bunker. They are all going to have long clubs in there. But 10, the second shot will bounce in there. So they can lay back off the tee then bounce one in there with a long club. They can make it work."

No. 11: Par 4, 390 Yards

The players now make their move away from the ocean for a bit. A quick look at the scorecard suggests No. 11 is a break, an straightaway, attackable par-4. Well, hang on. Sure, the USGA made it a little easier this year with the fairway veering more left than in the past. But up ahead is perhaps the most severe, unforgiving green on the golf course.

Listen to your caddie
"This is going to be the first really tough green. If you are above the hole, watch out. There are limited hole locations on 11. It's not that long a hole. This year, they moved the fairway to the left, which makes the approach better. It's a better angle and you can have more accessibility to the hole locations. Last time they had the Open, they had the fairway to the right and it was pretty tough. I think they made it a little easier this time. But above the hole ... look out."

No. 12: Par 3, 202 Yards

It doesn't look like much from the tee, just a long par-3 with some bunkering in front and to the side. It's also listed as the second-easiest hole on the course, carrying the No. 17 handicap. But with a mid-to-long iron in hand, the players have some serious work in front of them.

Listen to your caddie
"It's the hardest 17-handicap hole in the world. It's 202 from the back tee; they have one more tee where they can get it to 210. The green will not hold. The guys are going to have to shoot to the right front and maybe even short and have it bounce on. Maybe 6-irons from the back tee, maybe 7-irons for the really big hitter, but I doubt it. A 7-iron might hold that green, but 4-irons and 5-irons aren't going to hold that green."

No. 13: Par 4, 445 Yards

One of the rare occasions around Pebble Beach on which the players will need to pull driver out of the bag. "There won't be too many drivers during the rough, but you pretty much have to hit driver here," Boyns said. An uphill second shot awaits, to a green that now gives the USGA more options.

Listen to your caddie
"It's really long. Most guys will hit a cut there; a guy that hooks the ball is going to have a draw in his tree there off the tee. Pretty much have to hit driver there. Second shot plays long. They have some new hole locations on the right after they fixed that green. It's one of those holes, just make par and get out of there. This is still the tough section of the course, in my opinion."

No. 14: Par 5, 580 Yards

Let's be clear: The players used to hate this hole, primarily because of the green. "It's like trying to stop a pitching wedge on a moving school bus," Paul Goydos said in 2010. But the green has been altered since, so maybe there won't be as many complaints this time around? "They fixed the green," Boyns said. "There won't be any issues with the green."

Listen to your caddie
"I didn't have any issues when they played the Open here last time. If you hit in the right place, which wasn't really that hard to do, you'd have a shot that would hold that green. But they flattened out that right side [since then] -- so you have a back right, kind of a back center, then they'll have a back left. As long as you don't put it too close to the front, you won't have any issues there."

No. 15: Par 4, 397 Yards

See if this stirs any memories:

That doesn't mean this hole is easy. Remember, in 2000, Tiger Woods made everything look easy. And with the way the USGA will set up this hole, with a surprisingly narrow landing area off the tee, a premium on accuracy will be rewarded.

Listen to your caddie
"That's probably the narrowest fairway of all of them. That's the biggest thing. The players are all going to lay back. There is a bunker in the middle of the fairway, way down there at about 300. I think it's 2-iron, 3-iron, 4-iron, then it's just a little wedge in. That green holds hold pretty good, even in a U.S. Open. The gauntlet is over after 14, but you have to hit it straight on 15. You do that, you have a birdie opportunity."

No. 16: Par 4, 403 Yards

A tricky little hole because of a sloping fairway and a sloping green up ahead. Again, few players will put driver in their hands off the tee here; an iron will leave another short club for the downhill approach to a green that falls off hard from right to left.

Listen to your caddie
"It's another layup off the tee. You hit it to the top of the plateau, you have 130, 140 in. It's pretty basic."

No. 17: Par 3, 208 Yards

Perhaps the two most famous closing holes in all of professional golf begin at No. 17. A long par-3 with a narrow green, this hole owns some of the most significant moments in U.S. Open history. Stand and stare at that back left pin, which looks impossible to hit a shot near; that's where Nicklaus knocked a 1-iron off the pin to seal victory in 1972. Look over there, to the left of the green -- that's where Tom Watson chipped in during the final round in 1982 in a duel with Nicklaus. But if you're looking for a spot on the property which might raise the players' ire more than others, this iconic place could be the spot.

Listen to your caddie
"But the U.S. Open, getting that back tee, where Nicklaus hit that 1-iron, that's where I had an issue in the last Open. I thought that was really unfair. The last Open, guys were just trying to hit it in the front bunker and get it up and down. That was the plan. That's not right. You should be able to hit a really good shot, land it where you need to land it and have the ball stay on the green. I just got a feeling it's still going to be firm and the result is going to the same. I think there will be a few more balls that stay on the green than the last Open with that left hole location, but I think you're going to see a lot of guys not happy."

No. 18: Par 5, 543 Yards

The Pacific Ocean all the way up the left side. The waves crashing against the wall. The tree in the right-center of the fairway. This is perhaps the most recognizable finishing hole in the world. "I think the tension level rises when you get on that tee," Boyns said. "It's actually a pretty easy hole, but you got the ocean left and some bunkers right. More balls [by amateurs] are in the right bunkers or [out of bounds] right than in the ocean. They always want to shy away from the ocean."

Listen to your caddie
"The big hitters are going to hit it past the tree and go for the green. Then they'll have hybrid or 3-, 4-, 5-iron. They'll go for the opening in front and bounce it in. Even if you hit it over the greenside bunker and it bounces over the green, it's not that bad a play. I always tell people long is not bad."