Pebble Beach Golf Links is an incredible golf course with some of the best views in the world. However, with so many holes on the course right next to the water, that means there are lots of opportunities to hit a golf ball away from the grass and onto the beach below the cliffs.
Over the years, we've seen lots of bad shots wind up on Pebble Beach. It's a publicly accessible beach, so people are often down at the beach, walking along the water by themselves, with friends or with their dogs. On occasion, though, some golfers have ventured down a slope toward the beach to see if they can hit their golf ball from the beach.
Under the Rules of Golf, a golfer absolutely can hit their golf ball off of a beach if their ball lands on the beach during a round.
While a beach has sand on it, the beach is not considered a bunker or a sand trap. The definition of a bunker is typically left to the golf course itself, and it's typically considered a contained space on the golf course with sand on it. When a player hits off the sand on the beach, it is considered just the same as the ground. A player can ground their club in the sand if they wish, although the best way to hit that shot is to pick it directly off the top of the sand (if possible).
The only situation in which a player is not allowed to hit their golf ball off the beach is if the beach is considered out of bounds to the golf course being played. That's determined by the golf course itself. If the beach is considered out of bounds, then a shot hit onto the beach means a player has no choice but to take a one-stroke penalty and hit the shot again from where it was just played (a "stroke-and-distance" penalty). Of course, the golfer could choose to retrieve their ball from the beach, but it won't count if they play that shot back toward the golf course property.
If the beach is considered a hazard (now known as a penalty area) as part of the golf course, then a player can hit their shot from the beach and not take a one-stroke penalty. If they wish to take relief from the beach, then they can take relief based on whether it is a red-stake penalty area or yellow-stake penalty area.