‘A Paradise Called Pebble Beach’ by Ray A. March

By: Dr. John Wagner

When I received this book, I thought, “Oh, what fun, another book on Pebble. What new can they write?” Well, I was totally taken by it. There are a lot of new things to say about one of most naturally gifted golf destinations in the world.

The book starts out with a geological section on the formation of the Monterey Peninsula, a technique reminiscent of how Michener sets up one of his books. It contains some excellent drawings and pictures of the land that show what is was like millions of years ago. (Thought I saw a Cro-Magnon man hitting a round object with a stick on the ground. Could this have been the true beginnings of the great game of golf?)

We are then taken on a photographic tour of the Peninsula, which covers much more than golf. The next section unearths the history of the area. (No, it didn’t start when Monsignor Arnold Palmer set up a three-hole course behind his church.) Father Junepero Serra arrived around 1770, and then John Fremont and R.L. Stevenson came along and really began to shape Monterey’s history.

The history of Pebble Beach as a golf destination was initiated when Del Monte Holdings was established by the “Big Four,” a group that included Leland Stanford. The company owned a railroad and bought the land upon which the Del Monte Hotel was built in 1880. It wanted people to use the railroad to travel to the area and stay in the hotel.

The real beginnings of Monterey as a golf Mecca occurred through the hard work and foresight of S.F.B. Morse, who transformed the hotel and hired amateur golfer Jack Neville to design and build Pebble Beach Golf Links.

There are many wonderful old pictures of the great golfers and celebrities who visited and played here. The final section devotes a lot of space and pictures to other golf courses in the area.

Overall, the book is one that a golfer and a golf historian would love for Christmas. It’s nicely presented and very informative. I give it four stars.

[March’s tome, however, contains one little incorrect reference. It names Old Del Monte Golf Course, opened in 1897, as the oldest course west of the Mississippi River. According to various sources, Tacoma Country & Golf Club claims that honor, having opened in 1894. Waverly, in Portland, opened in 1896, as did San Diego Country Club. Victoria Golf Club in British Columbia opened in 1893, making it the oldest continually operating North American golf course west of the Mississippi. This is a small quibble for an otherwise wonderful, well-researched book.]

“A Paradise Called Pebble Beach,” by Ray A. March and the Editors of Golf Digest Books, 1993, Published by Golf Digest/Tennis, Inc., ISBN 0-671-77722-X

Dr. John Wagner has been a Seattle dentist for 37 years. He’s been published in several dental journals as well as had several articles appear in the turf magazine for Pacific Northwest golf course superintendents. John has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Washington Business School for several years and as a guest lecturer for several dental societies. Dr. Wagner is the co-designer (with Steve Shea of the Berger Partnership) of a golf course in Japan that cost over $120 million and was built by Wadsworth Golf Construction. He’s a Past President of the Washington State Golf Association and a Trustee of the Pacific Coast Golf Association. John is currently a Member of the USGA Green Section and a Director of the WSGA.