The LPGA has a power-packed 2023 summer schedule. Starting two weeks ago at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, four major championships will be contested in eight weeks and the second site we visit on this major tour is none other than iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links. One of American golf’s most famous venues, they have hosted 13 USGA Championships since opening in 1919.
The USGA first visited Pebble Beach in 1929 for the U.S. Amateur, and since then, Pebble Beach has hosted six U.S. Opens, four more U.S. Amateurs and two U.S. Women’s Amateurs. In 2023, Pebble Beach is the only venue to host the PGA TOUR, the LPGA Tour and the PGA TOUR Champions. Players and fans have been anxiously awaiting this week since it was announced in 2019.
Major championship venues have been increasingly elevated over the past couple of years in the women’s game. Just two weeks ago, they played Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower Course and now the oldest women’s major championship comes to Pebble Beach for the 78th U.S. Women’s Open. The field of 156 players will compete in pursuit of history on the same course that crowned Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods champions.
Set alongside the Pacific coast, the figure eight layout takes full advantage of the serene setting. Nine holes are played alongside the ocean while the remaining nine take you on an inland adventure. The field will play a par-72 layout covering 6,505 yards of elevation changes, coastline, bunkers and perfectly-placed green complexes.
Starting from the fairway, our winner will need be sharp with their approach shots as Pebble Beach has some of the smallest greens in the country. They average 3,500 sq/ft and many of those mini targets are placed right next to the Pacific Ocean. With four par 5s and eight of the 10 par 4s coming in at under 400 yards, the players will have a scoring iron in their hand for 13 of the 18 approaches into the green.
The top 60 and ties will successfully navigate through to the weekend. Great approach players like KPMG winner Ruoning Yin, Jin Young Ko, Ashleigh Buhai, Hyo Joo Kim and defending champion Minjee Lee should all have an advantage if they play the weekend based upon their excellent iron game.
Even these awesome approach players will miss some greens. Pebble Beach is remembered in major championships for so many sensational recovery shots. Watch this weekend as Leona Maguire, Rose Zhang, Celine Boutier, Danielle Kang and Cheyenne Knight dazzle us with their wedges from close range. Pebble Beach is covered in 116 bunkers and that only adds to the around-the-green test. But those mentioned will keep their championship hopes alive with amazing up and downs.
The field will be examined in a different way than two weeks ago on the greens. Baltusrol challenged the field with small subtleties. At Pebble, nuance gives way to severe slopes alongside the sea and their greens are pitched and easier to read. Just because you can see the break, doesn’t always mean you can hole the putt. Great putters such as Atthaya Thitikul, Hye Jin Choi, Ayaka Furue and The Chevron Championship winner Lilia Vu can fuel a run to the top of the leaderboard with their flatstick.
Another advantage comes in the form of regional bias. Zhang went to Stanford and holds the Pebble Beach course record (63) but that’s not where this is going. Rather, the 2021 US Women’s Open was played 120 miles away along the Pacific Coast at the Olympic Club. Yuka Saso was your winner in a playoff over Nasa Hataoka. Megan Khang, Ko, Xiyu Lin and Brooke Henderson all finished in the top 10 as well, a good omen as that championship venue calls for a very similar skill set to Pebble Beach.
Baltusrol was a ball strikers paradise. Writing history at Pebble Beach will take some serious accuracy acumen as well and as outlined above, the best players on approach and around the green can create an advantage. Will Ruoning Yin continue her amazing play and win two major championships in three weeks? Tradition tells us no, but the winner on the West Coast will have been in the top 10 two weeks ago on the East Coast.
On a week where we celebrate history, get excited about the future. For the first time ever, Pebble Beach is about to celebrate a woman as our national champion.
Keith Stewart is an award-winning PGA Professional. He covers the LPGA and PGA Tour for Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, LPGA, and PGA TOUR. If you are looking to raise your golf acumen and love inside information about the game, check out his weekly newsletter called Read The Line.