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June 20th, 2010
02:51 PM ET

Golden Pebbles

From Sports Business Analyst Rick Horrow:

Is the PGA Tour's most egalitarian tournament too exclusionary when it’s held in a tiny upscale market like Pebble Beach, where the average hotel room tops $1,445 in a slow season?

In 1919, developer Samuel F.P. Morse decided to build a golf course in order to create more interest around ocean-view property he was trying to sell in Monterey County, California. Over the past century, the Pebble Beach Golf Links has generated more than its share of U.S. Open excitement, from Bobby Jones losing in the first round of the 1929 U.S. Amateur championship to Arnold Palmer’s breakthrough victory in 1960, Tom Watson’s 1982 chip-in, and Tiger Woods’ victory by a record 15 strokes a decade ago.

The U.S. Open returned to Pebble Beach this week for the fifth time in its history. And as the buzz and the spectator capacity has escalated over time, so have the prices.

Hosting the U.S. Open usually brings in $100 million in economic impact to local community, but Bill Perocchi, CEO of the Pebble Beach Company, estimates that visitors during the Open this week will spend $150 million in hotels, restaurants, retail stores and other business venues.

Even during non-Major days, Pebble Beach is not for the faint of heart or slender of wallet. The course’s three infamous “Cliffs of Doom” holes (the 8th, 9th, and 10th) confound even scratch amateurs, as regularly witnessed during the course’s annual AT&T ProAm, and a round there will set you back $495. (Resort guests get a cart thrown in.) Lodging at the Lodge packs a wallop: The least-expensive Garden View rooms go for $695 a night, a view of the Pacific will cost you $965, and suites range from $1,800-$2,250. What’s more, a minimum two-night stay is required to play the Pebble Beach course.

As always during America’s mega-events, local hoteliers take full advantage of sports travelers, and this week on the Monterey Peninsula and beyond is no different. Even lower-end lodging is at a premium, with the modest Knights Inn in Monterey costing $300 per night ($64 on a Thursday night in mid-September), the Holiday Inn Express at Monterey Bay at $437 per night ($97 in Sept.), and the Embassy Suites in Seaside $519 per night now, $161 per night then.

Corporations don’t get off any easier. Alongside returning USGA partners American Express, IBM, Rolex, and RBS, companies entertaining at the U.S. Open purchased almost 100 percent of the hospitality venues available, from $155,000 chalets with seating for 40 to rooms in the world-famous Lodge at Pebble Beach from $195,000 to $350,000.

As’s David Dusek notes: “The official car of the USGA's U.S. Open is, um, not American. It's a Lexus.”

By Sunday, the Open’s leaderboard looked a little more diverse than the typical Pebble Beach patronage, with Dustin Johnson, who attended a small South Carolina school and started his career grinding it out on the Nationwide tour, at the top. Sharing top 10 space were Graeme McDowell from gritty Northern Ireland, unsung Frenchman Gregory Havret, Czech/German Alex Cejka, South Africa’s Tim Clark, and 18-year-old Japanese phenom Ryo Ishikawa. (And yes, a couple of American guys named Tiger and Phil.)

The PGA Tour goes ever more global, and perhaps the USGA has realized the importance of dialing it down a bit during a time of nearly 10 percent unemployment – last week, the organization awarded the 2017 U.S. Open to Erin Hills, a public course 35 miles from Milwaukee, right in the heart of the American Midwest.

Rick Horrow is a Sports Business Analyst and frequent contributor to CNN. He is also co-author of "Beyond the Box Score: An Insider’s Guide to the $750 Billion Business of Sports"

Filed under: CNN Newsroom • Don Lemon
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Barbara Johnson

    And, of course, we should drill off of the California Coast...Who cares it the 'Golden Pebbles' turn black and sticky!!?

    After all...Those share holders might have to give up their 'garden suites' if the oil doesn't keep flowing.


    June 20, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  2. Michael Lemon

    General's Comments:

    In America, it is just not who the president happens to be the serving at the time..IT IS THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCE THAT SOULD BE RESPECTED: at all times by our citisens, the press, yes and even Generals. The General's comments amount to treason. He should be put on trial for as a traitor to America. This is just not acceptal

    June 23, 2010 at 12:13 pm |