Tiger Woods is coming home. The most dominant golfer ever is returning to the site of his most resounding victory, Pebble Beach, but this time Woods will be leaving a different, more inclusive legacy: his golf course architecture firm, TGR Design, will be redesigning Peter Hay, the beloved par-3 course just up the hill from Pebble Beach’s first tee, adjacent to the practice facility. Peter Hay was named for one of Pebble’s first head pros, a noted champion of junior golf. The sporty little course has long been a portal into the game for kids, beginners and families. For Woods, who grew up on scruffy public courses in Southern California, that is a big part of the appeal of the project.
“Peter Hay’s founding vision for this course aligns perfectly with TGR Design’s ideals—introducing new players to the game, bringing families together, and providing a fun golf experience for players of all abilities,” says Woods, a single father of two tweens.
Kids under 12 have always played for free at Peter Hay and that will continue when the renovation is completed in the autumn of 2020.
“We know this golf course serves many different constituents,” says Pebble Beach Company CEO Bill Perocchi. “Obviously the goal is to attract more resort guests, but Peter Hay will remain the home of junior golf on the Peninsula.”
The reimagined Peter Hay is also an important evolution for Pebble Beach as a golf destination. Competitors like Bandon Dunes and Pinehurst have continuously reinvented themselves with new offerings that include thrilling par-3 courses designed by brand name architects. Pebble Beach had fallen behind, and Peter Hay was symbolic of this neglect—a scruffy collection of rather unimaginative holes, most of them with round, pop-up greens lacking in distinction. Woods’ vision for the course, while still evolving, will inject fun and variety into the layout and take much better advantage of its sweeping vistas. The old Hay played counterclockwise, away from the ocean. Tiger has flipped the routing, leading to what will surely become the signature shot: Peter Hays’ new second hole will be a replica of Pebble Beach’s 7th, playing to the exact same yardage and downhill slope, with the familiar contours of the green framed in the distance by the Pacific Ocean and Point Lobos.
Other surprises abound. The old Hay had a sameness to the shots, but Woods has found a new hole as short as 45 yards and a couple of whimsical green sites with trees that have to be navigated over, under or around. The putting surfaces will ask more interesting questions while still being playable for beginners. The old greens were slow and shaggy, with maintenance an afterthought because Peter Hay was torn up twice a year as a staging ground for AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am infrastructure and corporate entertaining during the Concours d’Elegance car show in August. Going forward, Peter Hay will be maintained with the same care as the big course and be off-limits to anything other than golf. It also figures to become a popular gathering spot for both resort guests and locals, with a 16,000 square foot practice green and a new bar and grill that will have an inviting patio with firepits.
For Woods, teaming with Pebble Beach is a richly symbolic partnership. The last architect to perform significant work on the big course is the man Woods has always measured himself against, Jack Nicklaus, who in 1999 added the new 5th hole on the cliffs above Stillwater Cove. More recent in-house tweaks—like the restoration and expansion of the 13th, 14th and 17th greens—had to be approved by the King himself, the late Arnold Palmer, one of the Pebble Beach Company’s managing partners. Now Woods is the heir apparent to watch over one of the crown jewels of American golf, beginning with a petite but a high-profile commission for his burgeoning design business. Woods has never been a regular at the Pro-Am; he likes to play privately, which is not possible during a celebrity-filled tournament sprawling across three courses. So bringing Woods on board to do Peter Hay is a kind of long-overdue rapprochement.
“We’ve wanted to have a closer relationship with Tiger for a long time,” says a Pebble Beach Company insider who requested anonymity. “This is being looked at as the start of a new chapter.”
Kids, Tiger, a fun new golf course…what more could you want? Giving a tour of the 8-acre property recently, Pebble’s Director of Golf, John Sawin, couldn’t contain his excitement, even as he sloshed through the mud. “The feeling out here is going to be very welcoming, very friendly, very family oriented,” he said. “That’s something we share with Tiger and his design team, this vision to grow the game by lowering the barriers to entry and making it more welcoming. To do that here at Pebble Beach, it’s a very special opportunity. And what a nice legacy for Tiger.”