(Getty Images photo)
By John Strege
The first time Jack Nicklaus played Spyglass Hill Golf Course, in 1967, Bing Crosby bet him $5 that he wouldn't break par. Nicklaus shot a one-under par 71. "I've got a nice five-dollar bill at home, signed by Bing," Nicklaus said.
Crosby made his point nonetheless. From day one, Spyglass Hill, part of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am rotation since 1967, has been a formidable test. In Golf Digest's ranking of America's 75 Toughest Courses two years ago, it came in fourth, behind the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Pine Valley and Oakmont.
The question, then, is this: Should Spyglass Hill, 48th in Golf Digest's most recent ranking of America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses, be considered for a major championship?
"That's a very good question," said Robert Trent Jones II, a renowned course architect whose father, Robert Trent Jones, designed Spyglass Hill. "It actually has been considered from time to time. I think it should. That would be a great idea.
"Pebble Beach would love to have another major championship, even Arnold Palmer [among the Pebble Beach Company owners]. The ownership would be for it. They would welcome it."
The U.S. Open is out; Pebble Beach Golf Links has hosted the Open five times and it returns there in 2019. But Spyglass Hill would seem an attractive venue for the PGA of America to consider when awarding courses for a PGA Championship for a couple of reasons.
One, it's on the West Coast, where major championship venue options are limited. Moreover, playing a major in the Pacific time zone enables the tournament to end in television prime time in the east.
Then there's this: Jones said it is "a commonly held view" of many tour players that Spyglass Hill, if not as historic or scenic, is actually a better course than Pebble Beach, certainly more challenging.