Pebble Beach, California
Par/length: 72/6,509 yards
TEL: 001 831 624 6444
GREEN FEE: Members only
DESIGNER: Alister MacKenzie (1928)
DESCRIPTION: Jutting out into the boiling Pacific, the par-3 16th hole at Cypress is one of the most photographed in golf. It’s also one of the most exclusive clubs in golf. Bob Hope, a doyen of the California golf circuit, once quipped: “One year they had a big membership drive at Cypress. They drove out 40 members.”
The first question is never how was it? Or how did you play? Or even what did you shoot on 16? It’s how the hell did you manage that? Usually followed by expletives and teeth gnashing. Fort Knox, it seems, is only marginally more inaccessible than this legendary layout.
But getting on Cypress Point is only half the fun. The course is as sensational, as intoxicating as you hope it will be, with towering trees giving way to mammoth dunes and, then, finally, the crashing ocean and a stretch of holes that has no equal in the world.
The back-to-back par 5s (five and six) are exquisite, but for sheer drama, 15 and 16 take some beating. Two more spectacular par 3s you couldn’t find in world golf. If you think the 1st at St Andrews is nerve-wracking, try facing a 200-yard carry over the Pacific. Words, even pictures, can’t convey its majesty.
But as memorable as MacKenzie’s Monterey masterpiece is, it’s the experience of simply being there that defines any visit. Like so many great courses, it’s a low-key affair. No Ferraris in the car park, no armed guards outside, no towering fences, no grandiose clubhouse... just a quiet little place with a few hundred members and a course to die for. From the rather spartan changing rooms to the quaint lunch room with a small serving hatch and simple menu, everything is understated.
Perhaps surprisingly, I couldn’t have been made more welcome. At this club, guests are treated as such.
The May afternoon I spent there was a little glimpse of paradise and one I‘ll never forget. Under a clear sky and gentle sun our group (five golfers, five caddies, one dog) was, quite literally, the only one on the course. After a shaky start I even managed to play well on the back nine, parring four of the last six holes - alas not the 16th - and capped it all by holing out from off the green at the last. The perfect end to a perfect day on a course that is, quite simply, perfect. – Richard Green
Find the best hotels close to this stunning course here.