Play Your Best: StrategyJune 17, 2014

Pick Your Route Before You Start

The 18th hole at Pebble Beach is decision central

Here's one of the most famous holes in golf on one of my favorite courses. The 18th at Pebble Beach is a great example of a classic risk-reward par 5. I've designed a number of holes that require the same kind of strategy—sweeping doglegs with water entirely up one side of the fairway—and I suspect you've had the opportunity to play similar holes. In Pebble's case, the water is on the left side, and there's out-of-bounds on the right, but that could be reversed and the same strategy would apply. There's also a tree in the general landing area of the tee shot and a difficult bunker fronting the green. That's why you should think through your game plan before teeing off.

Pebble Beach No. 18

WHY I LOVE THIS HOLE

Jack Nicklaus

Drama to the very end

In the 1972 U.S. Open, with a three-shot lead (after hitting the pin on 17 for a tap-in birdie), I played the last hole at Pebble Beach with a 1-iron, 1-iron, wedge. Today's professionals might hit a pair of hybrids and a sand wedge. In the 2000 U.S. Open, I took the challenge and knocked it on in two at age 60. With tears in my eyes—I knew it was my last Open there—I three-putted for par.