The famed 7th hole at Pebble Beach is a paradox by nature. Perhaps the most photographed hole in the game also happens to be the shortest in major championship golf. The insanely beautiful setting on a jagged cliff along the Pacific Ocean, lulls players into a trance while subconsciously striking terror deep into their supply of extra Titleists. Legend has it that in the early days, one pro went with the safest club in his bag off the tee -- the putter -- while another famously recorded an ace with a beautifully struck 3-iron.
From 106 yards.
As I stood on the driving range preparing for my dream round of golf at Pebble Beach, the faint sound of a siren's song could be heard coming from the 7th tee. I pounded out one 3/4 sand wedge after another, completely oblivious to the other 80 or so shots -- golf gods willing -- that the round would likely require. The effort was an exercise in futility, because practicing for the 7th is sort of like preparing for a hot air balloon ride. It all depends on the wind.
When the moment of truth finally arrived, I took a seat on the log bench behind the tee box to marvel at this wonder of the golfing world. The indescribable beauty of the moment was a given, however I found myself equally awestruck by the foresight of an architect to transform this rugged piece of rock into the shrine that it is today. The 7th had cast her spell, but the tap of a rubber grip against my arm quickly brought me back to reality.
There was no better time to have to hit the most anticipated shot of my life. The sun had broken its way through the clouds, the wind was calm, and a birdie on the hole before had my confidence at an all time high.
And then my playing partner shanked two into the Pacific.
The last word any golfer should have in their brain on the 7th at Pebble Beach is "shank," but now this curse swirled through my head like the hole's notorious wind. I took one final glance at the green below, tried in vain to block out the daunting Pacific, and brought the 56-degree back to shoulder height.
Clean contact, but high on the face. Bunker.
At the local Muni, a shot this poor would likely have been met with a few mutterings from my golfer's vocabulary, but here it was regarded as a semi-victory. This lack of concern over a bad shot caused the receptors in my brain to misfire, and every ounce of focus flowed out of me as we walked down the hill. I climbed into the bunker, hacked it out toward the back of the green, and three-putted my way to a double-bogey. A lifetime of dreaming and months of anticipation was over in a matter of minutes and five lackadaisical shots.
It wasn't until a few holes later that I realized I'd been conned by the most beautiful hole in the game. She gave me the only thing I wanted -- a tee shot that found anywhere but the bottom of the Pacific -- but what she took in return was a double bogey on the shortest hole in major championship golf. The best and worst memory from my dream round at Pebble Beach combined into one. A paradox which, like the 7th itself, I won't soon forget.