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Northern California: 72 holes in 72 hours

By Mike McAllister

The par four, 418-yard eighth hole of the Pebble Beach Golf Links


Pasatiempo: Yardage/par: 6,439/70. Greens fees: $140-$165 ($20 cart fee). (831) 459-9155.

Spyglass Hill: Yardage/par: 6,862/72. Greens fees: $290 ($25 cart fee). (800) 654-9300.

The Links at Spanish Bay: Yardage/par: 6,821/72. Greens fees: $230 ($25 cart fee). (800) 654-9300.

Pebble Beach: Yardage/par: 6,737/72. Greens fees: $425 ($25 cart fee). (800) 654-9300.

Alternative courses: Presidio, Chardonnay, Carmel Valley, Cinnabar Hills, Wente Vineyards, Half Moon Bay.


Next week we'll travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


San Francisco (California)

(CNN) -- Augusta. St. Andrews. Pebble Beach. For most golfers, those three courses represent the sacred trinity of 18-hole layouts. Play one and consider yourself among the truly fortunate. Play all three? Welcome to duffer nirvana.

So which one fits into our long weekend travel plans? That's easy. Since our focus is public-access courses, that rules out Augusta, a course so private that even Bill Gates had trouble acquiring a membership (although he finally did).

And unless you've managed to procure a Concorde, you're probably not able to skip across the pond to Scotland for a quick visit to the "Home of Golf."

That leaves Pebble Beach, America's premier public course. A two-hour drive from San Francisco, California, (or less if you fly into San Jose), Pebble Beach resort is not exactly a just-around-the-corner trip that we prefer here at 72 in 72. But this is Pebble. We'll make an exception.

Besides, if you also incorporate Pebble's sister courses into your weekend, you'll save yourself the driving time usually required between rounds. You just need to make sure you acquire a tee time -- and that you can afford the take-out-a-loan greens fees.

After flying into San Francisco International or San Jose International airports, here's how we'd play it the rest of the weekend.

Friday afternoon

Pasatiempo: You may not be able to land a tee time at Augusta, but you can play another one of legendary golf architect Alister MacKenzie's layouts. Pasatiempo claims to be MacKenzie's favorite course, and his former home can still be seen on the sixth fairway. Golf Digest ranks this Santa Cruz course -- which is conveniently on the way to Pebble Beach -- as the 31st best public course in the country. Be aware that some holes are being worked on, but the restorations are scheduled to be finished by the end of October.

Saturday morning

Spyglass Hill: Were it not for Pebble Beach, Spyglass might well have been the destination of choice for many golfers headed to the West Coast. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., the course starts off with an ocean view off Monterey Bay, then abruptly U-turns at the sixth hole, with tall pines dominating the elevated views. And in case you didn't know, the course's name comes from the Robert Louis Stevenson novel "Treasure Island." But that doesn't mean you should wear a pirate's eye patch to the first tee.

Saturday afternoon

The Links at Spanish Bay: You can't make a trip to an ocean course and not play at least one Scottish-links track. On its list of the greatest U.S. public courses, Golf Digest lists this Robert Trent Jones Jr./Tom Watson/Sandy Tatum layout at No. 62. Impressed? Well, on this weekend of four courses, it's the lowest-rated one on the list. The course is environmentally protected, meaning a wayward shot might require an unexpected drop. But you'll feel good about doing it.

Sunday morning

Pebble Beach: You've managed to get a tee time. You've shelled out $425 for the greens fees. And now you're here, standing on the first tee. You pinch yourself -- is it really true? A few hours later, still walking on air, you reach the par-3 17th. You wonder if you can hit a one-iron within five inches of the cup -- after hitting the flagstick -- like Jack Nicklaus did in '72. When you reach the green, you try to re-create Watson's chip-in to beat the Golden Bear in '82. Can't be done -- that was a once-in-a-lifetime shot. Just like the round you just played.

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