I am about to play the magnificent par-three 16th at Cypress Point.
There is one question that I am always asked, “Bob, what is your favorite golf course?” It’s a question I also often ask others. I suppose that playing “America’s Top 200 Courses,” my answer might be of interest. One of my all-time favorites is the Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach, California. It’s an exceptionally private place though thousands of tourists drive right between the first tee and its fairway when they traverse 17 Mile Drive in the Monterey Forest.
Dubbed “The Sistine Chapel of Golf” by the late Sandy Tatum (also a Cypress Point member), many other well-traveled golfers will likely join me in listing Cypress Point to be their favorite as well. Playing there is like stepping into a treasured painting. The artistry of architect Alister Mackenzie together with an assist from Mother Nature combine for a beauty that is unmatched. The golf is equally exhilarating, yet not overly demanding or tiring. Combining open meadows, dramatic dunes, and a foray into the rolling terrain of the dark Monterey Forest, the course climaxes with its spectacular ocean holes before decompressing with a short tree-ladened uphill short par-four.
Looking from above the 7th green toward the 6th putting surface. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
If you expect long and difficult, Cypress Point will not impress for it’s strictly a “member’s course.” When it comes to Cypress Point will not stress any outstanding golfer from taming par or even blistering par. Indeed my five rounds there ranged from 65 to just 74. That aside, it is one of the absolute best walks in golf. Descending from the clubhouse into the open meadow with the view of the often busy 17 Mile Drive and Pacific Ocean beyond, the course turns inland headed for the Forest. By the fourth hole, you are in the shadows before heading back out into the dunes for the 7th green and 8th tee. For the next few holes, the meadows interspersed with dunes and dramatic bunkering define the challenge along with a visit back into the Monterey Forest. And as you march through the twisted cypresses onto the tee of the short par-three 15th, you know that three of the most photogenic, exciting holes in American golf await. Enough has been said about them elsewhere, but they are perhaps even more breathtaking or impressive in person. And while the two par-threes gain the majority of attention, the par-four 17th with its cliff-side fairway split by a large cypress trees is one of the best shortish two-shotters you will ever encounter. Play aggressively to the ocean side and a neat little pitch approach awaits, but anything left requires a longer approach very possibly contend with the trees.
So why is Cypress Point one of my very favorites? In a fistful of golfing adventures there, I’ve always found it’s very playable, interesting with lots of variety of looks and challenges, a superlative walk, and usually in good condition. It’s fun to play in a variety of conditions and oh, so beautiful – pure golf at its best for most of us!
Virtually all the Club’s members are also members of at least one other club so this is one of their favorite getaways reserved only for their guests. The clubhouse is simple and spartan as golf is the sole attraction here. The golf shop, long the province of the late gentleman, Jim Langley, rivals cross-country Pine Valley as having the most sales per square foot as lucky guests are quick to want to impress their friends with the iconic CPC logo. As with the case of Pine Valley or Augusta National, should you ever get the opportunity to play your first round at Cypress Point, simply do so.
Teeing off on the par-four 13th.