Pebble Beach Golf Links Opened in 1918, Not 1919
The official history of Pebble Beach says that the course opened Feb. 22, 1919, and thus, 2019 was its 100th anniversary. That, happily, coincided with the return of the US Open to Pebble Beach.
Pebble Beach’s official site says: “Pebble Beach Golf LInks officially opened for play on Feb. 22, 1919.”
However, the course actually was officially opened to public play as early as March 1918. Further, Pebble Beach hosted its first tournament April 1, 1918 — not Feb. 22, 1919. By the summer of 1918, the course was relatively well known — and well played.
The 1919 date is a convenient marketing fiction for Pebble Beach and the USGA. But it is the date for the opening of the new lodge, not the golf course.
While searching for information on the opening of Pebble Beach in 1919 — I was hoping to find a photograph — I ran across a curious headline in the February 16, 1919 San Francisco Chronicle: Pebble Beach At Del Monte Is To Reopen.
The article reads:
The reopening next Saturday, Washington’s Birthday of Del Monte’s second championship course at Pebble Beach will be a red-letter event for golfers.San Francisco Chronicle, February 16, 1919
I was struck by the headline “Reopening,” as that implies that Pebble Beach had previously been open. Reading further, my suspicion was confirmed. It reads:
The Pebble Beach links were opened last April, somewhat prematurely, with a tournament which Mike Brady, the Massachusetts champion, won with two rounds of 79 and 75 against the par of 72, his total score being the best by thirteen strokes, but a record for the course of 70 was subsequently established by Harold Sampson, then the resident professional who is now returning to take charge of Pebble Beach.
On March 13, 1918,the San Francisco Examiner announced the opening of a “new golf links” at Pebble Beach:
New Golf Links To Open On March 30San Francisco Examiner, March 13, 1918
Del Monte Course at Pebble Beach Ready for Inspection On That Date
by Jack James
California’s latest offering in the way of championship golf courses, the new Del Monte links at Pebble Beach, will be thrown open for the enjoyment and edification of the golfing public on Saturday, March 30.
No tournament will signalize the opening. It will just be a case of inspection by means of informal and friendly-like competition amongst the golf enthusiasts who care to look over the points of the new links. The real formal opening will not take place until the new Pebble Beach Lodge, which will serve as the clubhouse, is completed and at the present time it looks as if that will not be until on or about July 1.
An follow-up article in the March 26, 1918 San Francisco Examiner says:
Pebble Beach, the second championship course at Del Monte will be thrown open for play Saturday. Though no definite tournament has been scheduled, it is more than probable that some sort of competition will be inaugurated, as a number of golfers from the bay district are planning to go down the coast for opening day.San Francisco Examiner, March 26, 1918.
Already the Pebble Beach course bears a reputation as most tricky and intricate affair, and the golfing population of these parts is interested in finding out b personal experience and contact just what the situation is.
Although the Examiner article said “no definite tournament has been scheduled,” one was in fact actually held (see above), with the Massachusetts champion, Mike Brady, winning.
The March 13, 1918 Examiner article describes a course ready for play — and implies that players had already been out to test it. The course thus had been open prior to March 13.
Players who have been over the Pebble Beach course recently are loud in their praises. Green grass throughout is the rule, grass trees (sic), grass fairways and grass greens. Natural hazards have been utilized where offered and all in all the course demands the best golf of which the player is capable. However, the course is not exclusively for the champion. On nearly every hole there is a “way around” that the less daring player may take by the judicious use of a couple of extra strokes. Part of the course is situated on the sand dunes and cliffs above Monterey bay (sic), making the course very similar to some of the famous links of Scotland.San Francisco Examiner, March 13, 1918
The same March 13 article notes that William Tucker was brought in to put “the finishing touches on the course.”
Not only was the course in playing shape by March 13, but by the end of March 1918, the locker room and pro shop also were open.
Harold Sampson, the professional, will be installed in his new shop by the end of the month and locker accommodations for both men and women and caddy service will be available by the opening date .San Francisco Chronicle, March 13, 1918.
An April 1, 1918 article in the San Francisco Chronicle notes that penalties on the new course were “severe on players.” It also called March 31, 1918 the course’s “christening.”
New Golf Course At Pebble Beach Attracts CrowdSan Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 1918
Course Is Standard Championship One
Penalties Severe on Players
Del Monte, March 31 — The new Pebble Beach links attracted a big field of golfers for its christening ceremonies today but very few of the amateurs played around the course, though many of them galleried for the professionals.
There were no sensational scores turned in and the eighty mark did not receive a scratch. Four ball foursomes were the order of the day, the most interesting being one in which Jack Neville and Fred Reilly were opposed to Mike Brady, the famous Boston Professional and Tom McQuarree of Rock Island.
The Amateurs won by a margin of 4 – 3 …
In addition to noting the results of the foursomes, the article comments on the course design:
The general layout of the course reflects much credit on the architect responsible for its creation and several of the holes, in particular, surpass anything on the Pacific Coast. Natural hazards abound and the ocean hazards, while not difficult will be the real mental hazards for all challengers of “Mr. Par.” …San Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 1918
Finally, the article (Dateline March 31, 1918) notes that an “Open tournament over thirty six holes, medal play, has been arranged for tomorrow on the new course.”
Thus, the first Open Tournament at Pebble Beach was held on April 1, 1918. On April 2, 1918, the San Francisco Examiner reported:
Mike Brady Sets Low Record at Pebble BeachSan Francisco Examiner April 2, 1918
Del Monte, April 1 – Mike Brady, of Boston, who recently captured the Southern California open championship from John Black, walked away with the honors in the open tournament on the new Pebble Beach course today, defeating his nearest opponent, Harold Sampson, by a margin of thirteen strokes …
Here are the eleven best scores
M. J. Brady 79-75 — 154
Harold Sampson 88-79 — 167
J.F. Neville (amateur) 85-83 – 168
D. P Fredericks (amateur) 87-81 – 168
Tom Hughes 85-85 — 170
John Black 80 – 83 — 172
Tom McQuarrce 84-88 – 172
Harold Clark 86-88 – 174
William Kamena 92-84 – 176
Robert Clark 86-91 – 177
Peter Hay 91-91 – 182
Brady’s record did not last long. In the May 2, 1918 San Francisco Examiner, an article reported that Sampson had set a new club record for Pebble Beach.
Sampson Cuts Mark of Brady 3 StrokesSan Francisco Examiner, May 2, 1918
Pebble Beach Professional Sets New Record of 72 for Championship Course
By Jack James
Harold Sampson, formerly of Del Monte, now professional at the Pebble Beach championship course, has finally come into his own by surpassing Mike Brady’s record for the difficult Pebble Beach eighteenth … recently, Sampson, who is a California bred “pro” through and through, went out with his tools and a lot of determination and came back with a sweet 72.
Later in the article, James writes:
To the golfer who has labored over the difficulties of Pebble Beach at the expense of numerous lost balls and lost temper, Sampson’s feat will appear almost miraculous. Here is the card:San Francisco Examiner, May 2, 1918
3 3 3 3 3 5 3 3 3 – Out in 35
4 4 4 5 4 5 4 3 6 – In in 37 – Total 72
A July 13, 1918 San Francisco Chronicle cartoon references Pebble Beach. The caption was “Pebble Beach is a great little place to lose golf balls” and shows a man hitting a ball off a cliff on a hole that looks for all the world like the ninth.
The cartoon reinforces the impressions of players noted in articles from earlier in the year — that is a difficult course and players can expect to lose a lot of balls .
There’s also a separate illustration that references the Del Monte, the other course at the resort at the time. That the Pebble Beach reference is separate and shows a seaside links, indicates that the artist knew (and assumed that everyone else knew) that there were two courses. Del Monte is quite a ways inland and has no holes on a cliff overlooking the sea.
An ad in the Los Angles Times on February 19, 1919 suggests that it was the Lodge and Clubhouse that had the Grand Opening February 22 1919, not the golf course. The course gets a mention as “the second course at Pebble Beach,” but the lodge is the attraction.
Similarly, a short article in the Oakland Tribune on Feb 20, 1919 mentions the commemoration of the lodge opening, but not of the course. The Oregon Daily Journal on Feb 8, 1919 wrote that a polo tournament “will be held in connection with the holiday golf play to commemorate the re-opening of the No. 2 golf course at Pebble beach and the formal opening of the new lodge and Clubhouse in Del Monte forest.”
Again, it seems to have been widely accepted that the course was re-opening, not “opening.”
Another interesting note. Both the Oakland Tribune and Oregon Daily Journal article don’t talk about the ocean, but the “Del Monte Forest.”
The new Pebble Beach Lodge was necessary because the original building — dating to 1909 — burned in December 1917, just before the opening of the golf course.
The actual date of the opening of the Pebble Beach Lodge is another matter. Again, the official date was 1919, but articles in early 1918 suggested it would be open by July 1, 1918.
An article in the San Francisco Examiner on April 7, 1918 offers a drawing of the planned lodge, along with the note that construction will begin soon.
New Lodge On 17-Mile Drive To Be Built Soon
Pebble Beach Resort, Soon to Be Erected Near Monterey Has Been Planned on Novel Lines
Architect Hobart’s Plans Call for Roomy Two-Story Structure With Comfort As Chief Aim
As soon as the contracts are awarded, construction will begin on “The Lodge” at Pebble Beach
The Pacific Improvement Company, which is behind this latest development on Seventeen Mile Drive out of Monterey, expects to spend about $90,000 is creating one of the ideal rural resort hotels in California. There is to be nothing elaborate about it.
The article goes on to describe “glass on every front” a prominent lobby and a nine foot terrace. It notes that: “The tee of the first hole and the green of the eighteenth hole of the golf links are hard by.
I think they had a different definition of “elaborate” than I do.
While the timeline seems very short for such an elaborate building, there is good reason to think that some sort of Pebble Beach Lodge was open to the public in the summer of 1918.
An article in the Examiner on July 16, 1918 bemoans the fact that the bar at the Pebble Beach Lodge was closed (along with all other saloons in Monterey) by order of the war department. The Pebble Beach Lodge is mentioned specifically and separately from the Hotel Del Monte
Del Monte Bar Closed By US OrderSan Francisco Examiner, July 16, 1918
Saloons in Monterey and in 5-Mile Zone of Army Post Affected; SF Officers get instructions.
Two separate blows were dealt liquor yesterday in California, Monterey and San Francisco are the cities directly affected.
United States Commissioner Silas Mack of Monterey ordered the bar of the Hotel Del Monte, of Pebble Beach Lodge and all saloons in Monterey, on account of their proximity to the Monterey Presidio, to close.
The closings of the bars were quite the event and was reported in both San Francisco papers, as well as papers in Salinas, Oakland and Santa Cruz. All of them reference the “Pebble Beach Lodge”
The bars were reopened by the end of July when the War Department (now the Department of Defense) Adjutant General ruled that the dry zone order did not apply to the Del Monte and the Pebble Beach Lodge.
There also is a bit of confusion over the name of the lodge. The Los Angeles Times ad and the Pebble Beach website says that the building was originally known as The Del Monte Lodge. Another February 24, 1919 article the website references seems to conform this. However, it is referred to as The Lodge at Pebble Beach in the April, 1918 article and in the articles on the bar closings.
Regardless of when the Lodge At Pebble Beach opened (and what its name actually was), however, it is clear that regular play at the Pebble Beach Golf Links was well underway by the summer of 1918. The first tournament was April 1918. That makes 2018 the 100th anniversary of Pebble Beach Golf Links — and this year, its 101st.