How to use the secret weapon of GolfPass: Our extensive guide of golf course pages featuring every course in the world

Analyzing our golf course pages to understand a course's nuances will help every golfer get smarter about golf architecture and shoot lower scores.
The golf course pages in our extensive GolfPass guide share key details about every course in the world, including the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links.

As proud as we are at GolfPass about our vast library of instructional videos and series, it's far from the only resource we have to help enrich your experience in the game.

Alongside our annual Golfers' Choice ratings, taken annually from our 2-million-plus reviews, new U.S. golf resort guide and valuable written golf content, there's something else GolfPass offers that can be easy to overlook.

Our free course database is the internet's bible when it comes to information on virtually every single one of the world's golf courses. There are a handful of other sites/publications out there that claim to offer similar guides of all the world's golf courses, but I guarantee their course pages don't come close to offering the wealth of information available on ours.

I was a casual user of the GolfPass golf course pages for too long not realizing the power at my fingertips. I would write my reviews and stories and move on with my life. I would analyze existing reviews the way most people do, scouting up-to-date course conditions on where I was playing that weekend or seeking out what courses to play if I was headed to a destination with which I wasn't familiar. Those are the most obvious - and valuable - reasons to keep GolfPass bookmarked on your computer.

But there's so much more. Did you know that inside every GolfPass golf course page is a treasure trove of information that can help educate you about the game's trendiest topic - golf course architecture - and help you play better golf, too?

Since we're all so familiar with Pebble Beach Golf Links, I've chosen its course page to explain how golfers can use this information for the betterment of their games:

Where to find the basic details of the course

The golf course page for Pebble Beach Golf Links shares all the most important details about America's most famous course.

Like every other course guide, ours delivers the most basic of details. In the upper right-hand corner of the page, we share photos or videos, address, phone number, clickable course website, plus a clickable Google map to see its location and what other courses and attractions might be nearby. If we have a partnership with that course, there will also be an orange "Book a Tee Time" action button. You can also use the magnifying glass icon (our search icon) just above to type in the names of other courses you want to look up.

In the About section just below our fact box, we note the course's level of accessibility (is it a resort course or private club?) and course style (is it a links or a parkland?), plus the yardage, number of holes, and USGA/R&A slope and rating. The slope and rating are valuable numbers that essentially tell you how hard the course is. If you're an beginner or average golfer who struggles to break 100, it would be wise to avoid courses with a slope above 130.

How to use the Reviews

Reviews like this one help golfers decide whether Pebble Beach is worth the $625 tee time.

Our community of reviewers are the secret weapon for our course pages. They're like an army of golf foot soldiers, reporting back what their golf experiences are like on the ground. How's the course's conditioning? How about pace of play? Is the service good? What's the best food on the menu? They tell us all, the good and the bad. You can - and should - use this information to determine where you play.

While many average golfers aren't very knowledgeable about golf course architecture, most can give you a general sense of the layout. If some reviews note the course is tight or overly hilly or long, it might be best to avoid playing there if you don't like those characteristics. In essence, they're helping you player better by recommending courses to avoid that don't fit your game.

How to unlock the secrets of the Scorecard

Which tees are you playing at Pebble Beach? Word to the wise: Let the weather pick for you.

I'm a big believer in studying scorecards before and after rounds. They tell you so much about your game that average golfers just don't process while in the heat of the moment. I'm a short hitter. I know if I pick the wrong set of tees, I'm automatically doomed to have a bad day. I just can't handle 200 yard approach shots and long carries over water hazards over and over. Put me at 6,300 yards and I'll give anybody a good match. Put me at 6,600 yards and I struggle to break 95. I sometimes create my own combo tees just to make sure I'll have a fun day for my skills. Study those scorecards to find answers to these three key questions:

1) How many par 4s play longer than 400 yards? That's the death knell for mid-handicaps like me. Move up a set of tees if there are too many of these penal holes.

2) Do the tees you want to play offer four different club selections on the par 3s? Hitting a variety of clubs is part of the fun. If a course architect hasn't delivered on that premise, he/she hasn't done the job right.

3) Are there at least 2-3 short par 4s less than 350 yards with some risk-reward options and a chance to make birdie? If not, move up a set of tees or skip the course altogether.

How to study the Satellite Layout like a pro

Ever wondered what Pebble Beach's routing looks like from the air? Check out the satellite view on the GolfPass course page.

The Satellite Layout button is one of the hidden strengths of our course pages I didn't discover until later. It's a huge asset to help you explore the course's routing on a Google map. It's a great resource to study the course's architecture. Golfers can zoom in to see which holes are guarded by water or run along a road or train tracks. How did the architect mold the course into its surroundings? How many holes run along the lake or hop over that winding river or creek? Are there more doglegs left or doglegs right? It's a good bird's eye view that can give you a better understanding of why you play well or don't on a particular layout.

I used these maps to count bunkers on exclusive courses I couldn't get information on for a popular story on the 10 courses with the most bunkers in the world. You, too, can count bunkers or the number of holes with water hazards to determine the difficulty of a course, and if you're up for the challenge.

What important Course Details matter to your game

Hard as it is to believe, Pebble Beach has been worked on by nearly a dozen golf course architects.

As we move down the page, the Course Details section might seem like just a collection of boring details, but savvy golfers can read between the lines to glean valuable information about how the course plays.

Year Built and Architect are the two categories where everyday golfers can brush up on their course architecture chops. In Pebble Beach's case, the long list of architects involved over the years tells a story about how it the course has evolved into the one golfers know and love now.

As a quick rule of thumb, anything built from the early 1900s until 1930ish is considered the Golden Age of golf course architecture, while many courses post-1999 fall into the modern minimalist movement. The courses built in these eras are generally fun, playable and walkable, especially if they're built by the most famous architects of their time (MacKenzie, Ross, Tillinghast, Banks, etc. a century ago and Doak, Coore & Crenshaw, Hanse, McLay Kidd, etc. today).

If you want to learn more about an individual architect, click on their name to go to their individual page, where you'll find a list of other courses they've designed, photos and brief introductions to their work and life.

Grass type is also an insider nugget of information that will tell you how the greens and rough will be presented. Bentgrass greens are the gold standard for a pure, fast roll, while Bermuda greens have some grain and can be harder to read and putt. Bermuda grass provides the gnarliest, most unpredictable rough, but fescue, zoysia and kikuyu are no bargain, either.

When you click the Show More button, you'll unlock all the gritty details of the facility: Is there a driving range, a restaurant, a place to stay? It's all there.

How to interpret the Accolades

Good reviews have helped Pebble Beach Golf Links earn accolades from GolfPass, despite the high green fees.

A list of Accolades can be a great gauge of how everyday players feel about a particular course. I like to describe the Golfers' Choice rankings as the ultimate litmus test of what a course delivers compared to what it costs. Golfers ultimately are the ones who decide: "Is playing this course worth the money?"

If a course tends to get low ratings, golfers are sending the message that something didn't go perfect, or went wrong, during their day. There will usually be written reviews noting the hiccup. Savvy course operators spend time reading GolfPass reviews of their courses, and those of their peers, to make improvements to the experience.

Even seemingly average golf courses can get five-star ratings if they over-deliver on service, amenities, course conditions and more for what the customer paid. Pebble Beach is no doubt one of the top three public courses in America, but even so, some reviewers can't justify the cost. That's why it doesn't rank among the top courses nationally or even within the state of California in Golfers' Choice every year.

Why scrolling the Reviewer Photos is important

For several years, I was the guy sorting through the thousands of golf course photos submitted to GolfPass by golfers with their reviews to determine our Photos of the Month honors. The task, while tedious, actually increased my bucket list by about 200 courses worldwide. Suddenly, I was transported to an obscure course in Minnesota or England or Maine that I had never heard of, but the image was so beautiful and intriguing that I had to learn more.

The lesson I learned? Make sure you scroll the Reviewer Photos on the course page to get a true sense of what the course looks like day to day from a ground-level view. Fancy drone photography or doctored-up marketing photos can be very deceiving. These reviewer-generated photos could bump the course onto your personal bucket list, or take it off, too. There's no spin involved.

How to comparison shop at Nearby Courses

The 'nearby courses' closest to Pebble Beach Golf Links include a short course (The Hay), a public course (Poppy Hills), a resort course (Spyglass Hill) and a private club (Monterey Peninsula Country Club).

Last but certainly not least, if a course boasts a lot of reviews, it can sometimes feel like a pain to drag your browser to the last section on the page to find the list of Nearby Courses. But trust me, it's worth it.

Seeing what courses are nearby is so educational. It gives you a sense of the area's golf scene as a whole. Is there a variety of courses nearby - private clubs, resort courses, municipals, daily fees? Is there a multitude of styles in the destination - links, parkland, mountain, desert, lakeside, oceanfront? Is there a mix of value plays and high-end experiences? This is all vital information, especially if you're a traveling golfer looking to mix and match experiences on your golf getaway. It's also valuable for locals: If you haven't played all the courses near you, it's time to click that "Book a Tee Time" button.

April 17, 2019
Join our community of golfers by rating a golf course you've played. Select from our global golf course database of over 38,000 golf courses in more than 200 countries. You can review with a simple star rating or rate up to seven categories and add photos and videos to your review. Need some help getting started? Check out these tips.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
Commented on

Interesting, thorough, and perceptive article---and one of the most important that I've read on this site.

It provides, just as the GolfPass database does, ample evidence showing why (beyond a shadow of a doubt) reading reviews here can indeed be a "secret weapon." I found out just how effective a close look at reviews can be when I planned a golf trip to Pennsylvania four years ago, which worked out to be both excellent and affordable because of this 'insiders' advice and other content. The typical course guide pales by comparison to reviews done by your subscribers, since, by comparison, a course guide is far more general, most frequently resorting to a canned approach, with predictable and recycled descriptions that lack concrete particulars.

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How to use the secret weapon of GolfPass: Our extensive guide of golf course pages featuring every course in the world