By Matthew Rudy
Playing Pebble Beach is bucket list stuff, to be sure, but I have a confession: I've done it twice, and solving the 106-yard wind riddle that is No. 7 and replicating Tom Watson's chip from the rough on No. 17 are great fun. But the rest? Pick it up and move it inland five miles and it's a nice $100 daily fee course.
Truth is, history is what makes Pebble. I was there a few weeks ago for a piece on consumer drones that will appear in the upcoming issue -- the one with Jimmy Fallon on the cover. Our mission was to fly a Frisbee-sized quad-rotor copter around the 7th hole and get dramatic pictures with one of golf's most famous backgrounds.
The schedule (and weather) prevented us from playing any golf, but I didn't miss spending my $495 for a walk around the five-time U.S. Open site. Because you can experience all of the history, glamour and natural spectacle that is Pebble with a $50 lunch in the Lodge, at the Tap Room.
The Lodge sits adjacent to Pebble's 18th green, perched on the top of the cliff that drops down to Stillwater Cove. The Tap Room's real estate inside the Lodge isn't prime—it sits on the opposite side of the building from the water, with a small entrance near an access road that leads to some modest villas. Sit in the bar and you have to crane your neck backward to catch a glimpse of the water through the Stillwater Grill across the hall.
Save the water gawking for later. Order a dry martini and enjoy your time at what Dan Jenkins called "headquarters" for his five Pebble U.S. Opens (and three dozen Crosby pro-ams). Before press rooms and prepared remarks, players, celebrities and sportswriters mingled in the Tap Room before, during and after play. The black and white photographs on the walls are testament to that era—Crosby, Hope, Palmer and Nicklaus, dressed in what would qualify as church attire today. The design motif is early 20th-century English private club, with dark panelling, leather chairs and polished wood. The folks who drank here in 1919, when it opened, wouldn't feel out of place today.
Just like everything else inside the confines of the Del Monte Forest, prices come with a side of gouge. But spending $10 for a beer is a little easier to swallow when you can enjoy steaming crocks of crab dip or prime rib chili. The steaks are lovely but come straight from central casting. The Kobe burger (with brie, not Bryant) is a more inspired lunchtime choice. It's accessorized with fried onion straws and horseradish, and comes with a stack of truffle fries. Our party of three had lunch and two drinks apiece and the bill was $155. I'm not suggesting you skip the actual Pebble Beach golf experience, especially if you've never played it. But the path to an Instagrammed selfie with your caddie on the 8th tee promontory and deluxe commemorative bag tag is paved with a lot of $100 bills.