If you have made the journey to Pebble Beach, then you have surely made the car ride down the historic 17-mile drive. You peer over to your left and you’re surrounded by some of the best golf the world has to offer. A quick glance back to your right, and you’re surrounded by some of the best ocean views that your eyes can see. A truly one of a kind journey to golf’s grandest destination.
Traveling on Christmas day wasn’t ideal, but when you have a 7:30 am tee time at Cypress the morning after… you make the proper arrangements. The harsh Indiana winter seemed miles away as we drove along the ocean, but that morning in Monterey wasn’t much kinder to us. At tee time, it was merely 43 degrees, with 10-15 mile per hour winds. The ocean waves in the distance were crashing much louder on this chilly morning.
The mystique of Cypress Point appears so simple. The entrance sits just off the side of the road, and no fancy sign or long private drive showcase the club or hide it away from the world. You can see holes, the club house, and even the small driving range on your drive in. It’s not gated, or made exclusively for the eyes of those playing there to see. It’s the most private, non-private looking golf club I have ever seen. Not many of the great golf courses of the world can you catch a glimpse of by just driving right by.
I first heard of Cypress Point through a book my Grandma bought me for Christmas one year called, “The Match.” The book depicts an impromptu match game thrown together by the likes of Eddie Lowery (famous caddie of Francis Ouimet), that featured golf professionals Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson versus amateurs Ken Venturi and Harvey Ward. The book talked about each player and their lives as golfers, as well as the match itself, but it also spent time talking about Cypress and why it was so special. Having never heard of the course before, I picked up my iPod Touch to look up photos on Google Images. Not only had I heard how beautiful this course was described in the story, but the pictures just blew me away. I thought, “what is this place and why have I never heard of it.” Without question, Cypress Point immediately became my aspiration in the golfing world.
Like many others, stepping on to the first tee at Cypress was a like a dream. The pro shop is just steps away, and for that moment, all eyes are on you. If you didn’t already have nerves for playing one of the greatest golf courses in the world, then they sure sneak up on you fast here. Hitting over the road and through the chute of trees in 43 degree weather the day after Christmas, wasn’t exactly how I imagined my first swing at Cypress, but nonetheless, this was going to be a beautiful day.
I’ve told people since my visit, that the first few holes build you up for what is to come. When you think of Cypress Point, you think of the great ocean holes, and those are the ones that stick out in your memory. Rarely would you find yourself looking at the inland hole photos online or in books, but the great views of the ocean holes are what you would see. It’s hard not to get ahead of yourself when those holes are lurking in the distance, but some best holes Cypress has are right there in front of you.
Starting with Hole 1, the inland holes at Cypress are special for all the right reasons. A lot of the fine intricacies at Cypress don’t seem to pop out to the naked eye, but instead are hidden subtleties that work against you. Bunkers that line each fairway and approach that appear visually deceptive, and tease you from both tee to green. False fronts that don’t look like they even exist, and small tiers on the greens that will send your short game array. Holes that you have never seen shaped like that before, and greenside bunkers that would give your local 10 handicapper the shakes. It’s golf architecture at its finest, and it doesn’t care what technology you have in your bag. It’s built to test you. No matter what era you’re playing in.
Cypress creates a great demand off the tee in terms of placement. One thing I loved about Cypress is that technology isn’t going to gain you an advantage. The course was routed and shaped with a specific plan in mind. A plan to test the golfer from all angles. At first glance, you might not see the great demand off the tee. You might be able to use slope and a speed slot or two, to your advantage on a firm day, but what you don’t see from the fairway, lays ahead on the greens, which are the courses’ defense. The greens at Cypress are the reason your shot off the tee is such an important one, because it’s going to determine the difficulty of your approach into green complexes that are very tricky. I didn’t find that the greens were difficult to read, but difficult to put yourself on the right tier and position. It’s difficult to find a proper landing area where your ball is not going to find a slope, and roll away from you. When playing Cypress, it’s of very high importance to leave yourself comfortable yardages and great angles. It’s easy to fall for a trick of the eye off the tee, and attempt to cut a little off, only to have your approach blocked out from the green or hitting in to the wrong side of a slope.
My cousin is a Division 1 assistant golf coach, and his team played in a tournament earlier this year at Cypress. Hole 9 is a barely 300 yard par 4. Its fairway is a slim sliver of grass that is surrounded by sand, and home to one of the most insane greens one will play. During the time of the tournament, my cousin spoke of how the greens were running around 12 or so (any faster and they may become completely unfair). For a college golfer, hole 9 appears like an easy birdie. A simple pitch and putt for the long hitters of today… but if it were only that simple. In the match play style event, bogeys and double bogeys were casually the winning score on hole 9. He spoke of members sitting above the 9th green watching groups come through and just chuckling to themselves on how much havoc the green was wrecking on the players. Something they knew all too well from experience. Not too bad for a short par 4, right? No matter the length, if a hole is properly designed, then it will challenge even your best of players. Cypress embodies that from its start to finish.
I’ve been lucky enough to play some great ocean holes in my life, but none of them compared to walking out of the trees to holes 15 and 16 at Cypress Point. There’s a certain magic in the view when playing a hole along an ocean, and a certain freedom that comes to the mind when looking out over the vast distance. It’s beautiful, but what makes it even better to the ardent golfer, is that there’s a golf hole in between you and that never ending horizon.
15 and 16 were all that I dreamed of them to be. I had seen the holes in photos for what felt like a million or so times. I had used them as the wallpaper on my computer and phone, but none of that did any justice for the real thing. 15, a short par 3 guarded by extravagant bunkering and echoes the sounds of crashing waves at your feet. 16, a long intimidating par 3 to a near island green in the middle of the ocean. Neither hole will offer you solace in your golf game, but both will offer you the appreciation of the moment you so desired on your quest to Cypress Point.
What is it about the game of golf that keeps us all coming back? Is it playing a round with our friends, the sites we see along the way, or the challenge of attempting to play an imperfect game perfectly? I believe it’s the chase for all of us. Whether it be chasing a win, a beer with a buddy, your lowest score, your first birdie, a paycheck, or a new view, it’s about all those moments we’ll never forget. A moment that you will tell a story about. A moment that will always be remembered. Thank you Cypress Point, for my moment.