Local duffers have always known that Northern California is the center of the golf universe, but recently the game’s governing bodies have made it official, locking in an unprecedented 15-year slate of big-time tournaments in Pebble Beach and San Francisco. It begins in August 2018 with the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach Golf Links and then the hits just keep on coming. Here’s what we have to look forward to:
- 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach
- 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park
- 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at the Olympic Club
- 2023 U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach
- 2025 Presidents Cup at Harding Park
- 2027 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach
- 2028 PGA Championship at the Olympic Club
- 2032 Ryder Cup at the Olympic Club
Of course, all of this is in addition to annual tournaments like the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Champions players at the Pure Insurance Championship at Pebble and the LPGA’s springtime tournament in San Francisco.
Besides the quality of the courses, which is self-evident, what is driving this new golden age of golf in these parts? There are a number of factors: Guilt. There hasn’t been a Ryder Cup on the West Coast since 1959. There has only been one domestic Presidents Cup west of the Mississippi. It was long overdue for these events to be played in Northern California. More than a decade ago, the USGA promised to bring a Women’s Open to Pebble Beach; in the interim, the Women’s British Open has visited classic courses like Royal Birkdale, Carnoustie and the Old Course, outshining our national championship.
“We are incredibly proud to bring the U.S. Women’s Open to Pebble Beach for the first time,” says Diana Murphy, president of the USGA. “The USGA is committed to bringing our championships to golf’s greatest venues and the opportunity to have the best players in the world, female and male, compete at this iconic course will provide a fantastic showcase of the game.”
Backlash. Two of the last three U.S. Opens (at Chambers Bay and Erin Hills) have been experiments conducted on new, untested courses. To say the least, they were not rousing successes. Players, fans and reporters made it plain that they prefer the U.S. Open to be played on old, classic courses, which helped bring the tournament back to Pebble a mere eight years after the 2019 edition. Meanwhile, recent Ryder Cup host venues have been deeply uninspiring, the courses chosen more for financial and logistical reasons than the quality of the playing field.
The Olympic Club will offer a course that is equal to the status of the Ryder Cup. “Olympic is without a doubt one of the toughest courses on the planet,” says Olin Browne, a vice captain for the U.S. team at the 2008 Ryder Cup. “That will only add to the theater. Not only do [the players] have to battle each other in match play, they have to take on a monster of a course. There’s going to be some carnage.”
Television. With the Tiger-era TV contracts expiring amidst this cord-cutting epoch, getting more eyeballs on the pricey golf telecasts is an imperative. Northern California championships can be broadcast in prime time to the eastern U.S., greatly increasing the potential audience. Additionally, in 2019, the PGA Tour is going to a shorter, rejiggered schedule, largely to avoid having to compete with football in the fall. The PGA Championship, which has traditionally been played in August, is moving to May and there are widespread concerns that many eastern and northern courses will no longer be able to host the event, as turf conditions will be substandard coming hard on the heels of the winter months. There are no such concerns about San Francisco.
So, while this has never been a more felicitous time to be a Northern California golf fan, plenty of insiders are rejoicing, too.
Says veteran pro Paul Goydos, “If you’re a golf writer, why would you possibly live anywhere else?”