Tale of the Tape - Pebble Beach vs. Sea Island — Golf vacations



Tale of the Tape: Pebble Beach golf vs. Sea Island golf

by Dave Shultz for Traveler.com

Where do you fall on ‘east coast vs. west coast’?  Are you Wall Street, or Sunset Boulevard?  Grapefruit League or Cactus League?  Larry or Magic?  Diddy or Tupac?  ACC or Pac10?  Ebbets Field or Chavez Ravine?

Sea Island, or Pebble Beach?

When it comes to top tier golf resorts, a precious few can combine the luxury, accommodations, natural beauty, history, and course quality found on these prime Georgia coast and Monterey Peninsula locales. But which is the one golf resort to have if you’re not having more than one?



Sea Island

Pebble Beach


Main Course

The best of the Sea Island’s resort courses, Seaside, is challenging, fast, and fun.

Pebble – Holes 4 through 10 and 17-18 are so overwhelmingly spectacular, you can forgive the fact that the inland holes are good-not-great.

Pebble - If you’ve never heard of Pebble Beach Golf Links, please sell your blades to a second-hand store immediately.


The Cloister combines five-star luxury with southern hospitality charm. Completely updated earlier this decade, rooms and suites provide all modern amenities.

The Lodge overlooks the famous 18 green. And many rooms come with a fireplace, spa, or both.

Sea Island – Did I mention the southern hospitality? Splurge for the personal butler and you will not regret it.

So close, but so far…

Ocean Forest, a 1995 Rees Jones ultra-exclusive course is a stone’s throw from the Cloister. But Tom Fazio’s Frederica, which opened in 2005 on nearby St. Simon’s Island, is the pick.

Two words: Cypress Point

Push – Ocean Forest plus Frederica does not equal Cypress, arguably the best course in North America. But let’s face it, you’re not getting on any of them.


Playable golf weather 365 days a year. Though you can expect Mickelson-esque pit stains on your golf shirt during the humid summer months.

Playable golf weather 365 days a year. Except for the 120 days the sun never breaks through the ‘marine layer’, which is nothing more than California-speak for ‘fog’.

Sea Island – Hard to enjoy the views of Carmel Bay from the tee of the par three 7th when you can’t even see the green 100 yards away.

Hometown Heroes

Davis Love III honed his skills as a teen on Sea Island’s courses under the watchful eye of his teaching-pro father, and he still calls the area home.

Most associate Pebble with the Bing Crosby clambake. But it’s been a quarter century since the pro-am went corporate, so the nod goes to 17 Mile resident Clint Eastwood.

Pebble –Dirty Harry by a .38 magnum over DL3.

We talkin bout practice

Not only is the Golf Learning Center a sprawling seaside facility that will fix your swing, fitness, club size, and mind (yes, they have a sports psychologist), but three of the top 50 teaching professionals call the facility home.

Fine facilities. Excellent teachers. But you’re not on Monterey to learn, and they know it.

Sea Island – Better staff, facilities, services, and location. Other than that… 

My wife / husband / child / nanny / administrative assistant doesn’t golf

The newly renovated beach club is amazing. Pool? Beach? Take your pick. The kids will never want to leave.

A small, swank outdoor mall is next door to the lodge, but lovely Carmel with its walkable downtown filled with shops and restaurants is just a few miles away.


Signature Events

The 2001 Walker Cup and the 2004 G8 Summit.

The Clambake. It’s only the most famous pro-am in the world.

Pebble – Hey! Titans of industry, b-list actors and sports personalities are hacks just like the rest of us!

When I’m not playing golf poorly, I like to take care of my body and mind

The 65,000 square foot spa and fitness facility, built a few years ago, is a temple built for those seeking physical and spiritual well-being.

Watch the marine layer recede as you work out in the gym, or enjoy some post-golf therapy at the nearby spa.

Sea Island – Seriously, there may not be a better resort spa in the country.

There’s a hole in my pocket

Most room and golf packages start at a grand a night and go up from there, though off-peak deals can be had.

$495 per round - that’s $5 per shot to you, not counting caddy tip and Pro V1’s lost in Carmel Bay. Rooms go from $600 to $2,500.

Push – Look, if you’re seriously thinking about either resort, you’re adding a couple zeroes to a day trip to the local Six Flags.


All dining options are on campus, except for the KFC on the road between the Cloister and the Lodge. But you don’t get 5 stars by serving lousy grub.

The Tap Room, located in the lodge is a casual post-round atmosphere, ideal for settling nassaus and reliving the three tee shots it took you to reach the fairway on 8. And nearby Carmel offers a fine selection of dining options.

Pebble – The option to test the varied selection of Carmel breaks the tie.

Getting there

Equidistant from Savannah and Jacksonville airports, both about an hour away. But Delta does have flights into nearby Brunswick Airport.

An hour and a half south of San Jose airport. Two and a half from San Francisco.

Push – Both are more than worth the extra effort.


So there you have it. It’s all so simple when you break things down scientifically. When it comes to ultra-exclusive golf destinations, the winner is…..Push?

Well, if you’re looking for a tie-breaker that goes beyond your coastal affiliation, Sea Island cannot be beat if you’ve got the wife and kids in tow. But if your interest starts and ends with the golf, Pebble Beach will always be a must-play for all who have the means.


Pebble Beach photo by Simonds

Sea Island photo by Active Rain