- Pebble Beach, California
- Dr. Alister Mackenzie and Robert Hunter (1928)
- Renovations: Robert Trent Jones, Sr. (1966), Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (1991)
- Restorations: Jeff Markow (2002-2004), Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (ongoing work)
- 2nd Classic in USA (Golfweek)
I will never argue with someone who says Cypress Point is the best golf course in the world. As Dr. Mackenzie stated, it is the “greatest meeting of land and sea.” That meeting created the most diverse golf course I have every played from a terrain standpoint. Everyone knows about the holes on the cliffs of the Pacific but its the back and forth from the dunes to the forest of Monterey pines that give the routing a truly cohesive feel.
The opening tee shot is blind, over the hedge along 17 Mile Drive. The sole target is a tree to the right, play just to the left of that and you should be in the fairway. The approach is to a green pitched steeply from back to front, the caddies will say “dead red” on just about every putt from above the hole here, but none will be faster than one on the 1st green. The green is magnificently cut into a dune that is also home to the 2nd and 14th tees and the 13th green. The bleeding of the bunker into the dunes to the left is recent work of Coore and Crenshaw. This was done on a few other instances in the layout prior to my last visit in 2016. Dunes again come into play on the diagonal 2nd tee, anything left is in trouble and OB right can sneak up on you. Once in the fairway, the 2nd becomes a birdie opportunity. Longer players can get home in two at 549 yards. Shorter players just have to navigate the bunkers pinching the fairway on either side to set up a wedge into a relatively simple green, for CPC standards. The Par 3 3rd is by far the least talked about on property but it is no pushover. At just 156 yards its not a long shot, but the narrow front portion of the green and neck extending to the back right make some hole locations a challenge. The large dune provides a beautiful back drop and two bunkers 30-40 yards short can throw off your depth perception. The first trek into the forest comes at the 4th, a Par 4 of 393 yards. A large bunker down the left is a decoy because it is only 200 yards to carry from the back tees. This bunker is a great target, anything left of that misses the fairway. For longer hitters, a duo of bunkers can catch tee shots that go a little too far down the right. The approach to the 4th will test your nerves once again. A false front stares you in the face, anything less than 5-6 steps onto the green and you’ll come off the green, but a chip from here is infinitely easier than a putt from above the hole. The 5th is one of the great Par 5s in the game. A large bunker guards the inside of the dogleg left, longer hitters can try to carry this. At only 491 yards, many will try to get home in two, but your second shot will be from a slightly downhill lie to an uphill green with bunkers everywhere. Two sets of bunkers guard the landing areas. The first set is generally not in play but are very much in the minds of players. Being the master of camouflage that Mackenzie was, these bunkers hide the fairway you will try to lay up to if you’re not going for the green in two. The second set will make a third shot very difficult if you get too greedy with your lay up or someone going for the green in two mishits their shot. The green is split into two sections with an upper tier in the back. The second of back-to-back Par 5s is another beauty, this one at 521 yards. The tee shot is in the forest with two directional bunkers down the right center that are only 210 yards from the back tees. Playing over the left edge of these bunkers is best, balls will then kick to the left as well. The longest of hitters could get into the bunker at the inside of the dogleg, roughly 300 yards away. The same dune that served as a backdrop for the 3rd green is where the 6th green is set, a beautiful look down the fairway. The green is very deceptive, it is much flatter than it looks from the fairway and when you are putting. From above the 6th green and in the dunes is the 7th tee. The green is cut into the side of the hill with three bunkers short and right and dunes surrounding the left and behind. The smallest green on the course, at only 19 yards deep, is treacherous to hit, even from just 170 yards. Just as there were back-to-back Par 5s, there are also back-to-back short Par 4s. The 8th and 9th being the best of this stretch anywhere. The tee of the 369 yard 8th is cut into the hillside dunes and is mostly blind over those same dunes. The runout through the fairway on the line of the dunes and grass is only 265 yards, so club selection could be an issue for longer players. Once in the fairway you are faced with an uphill approach with just a sliver of green visible on the front right. Two tiers make up the contour, a small shelf in the back right and a steeper one on the left. The left side of the green is only 11 paces deep and with bunkers and dunes surrounding this side, you better have a short club in your hand to fire at flags on this shelf. The 9th is one of the most unique holes I’ve seen and it is quite possibly my favorite short Par 4 anywhere. From the tee high above the fairway in the dunes just left of the 8th green you can see the entire hole. You could lay up to roughly 100 yards, only a shot of 180-190 yards or you could try to carry the first dune on the left, about 230 yards to a wider portion of short grass. The other option is to take out the driver and rip it at the green, 278 yards to the front edge. The approach is to another extremely shallow green, 18 yards deep on the right and only 15 on the left. The left side is raised up and you must carry the dune bunker in front and hold the green before bounding into the dunes behind. Holes cut on the right side can use the contour of the green in the middle to funnel balls closer to the hole. Just a few steps off of the back left of the 9th green is the 10th tee, the last of the Par 5s. Perched high above the fairway in the dunes you see a single fairway bunker that is roughly 270 yards out. Finding the fairway should give everyone an opportunity to go for this in two at only 476 yards. Going for the green in two is slightly uphill to a green surrounded with five bunkers but with an ample opening in the front. The only hole where there is very little movement to the terrain, but the 11th doesn’t need anything else to be difficult. Most players will play short of the two fairway bunkers down the right center. The large dune that was first seen at the 3rd once again serves as a the backdrop of this green. Four bunkers wait to catch any misses to a fairly small green for a hole that plays 440 yards and typically into the wind off the Pacific. The 404 yard 12th doglegs to the right, guarded on the right the entire length by dunes. Two bunkers pinch the fairway, one on each the inside and outside of the dogleg. Coore and Crenshaw’s latest work included bleeding the dunes into the bunker on the inside of the dogleg. Finding the fairway is paramount on the 12th because the opening to the green is narrow, guarded by two bunkers left and dunes to the right. The dunes actually wrap almost the entire way around the green to the front left bunker. A diagonal dune separates the tee from the fairway on the 13th. This dune should not be in play for anyone, even playing down the right where the carry over the dunes is longest. This is probably the widest fairway at Cypress Point so there is no reason to miss the short grass on this 366 yard beauty. The approach is to another perfect setting for a green. Bunkers cut into the dunes show the artistic style Mackenzie used so well during his career. If you’re able to wrest your eyes from the beauty of the hole the approach isn’t terribly difficult, just a short iron or wedge to one of the larger green at Cypress Point. Finding the proper position in the fairway of the 393 yard 14th is the only way to have a clear view of the green. The sandy scrub in front of the tee and along 17 Mile Drive were reintroduced by Coore and Crenshaw recently. The approach is quite unique. The green is blind from view in the fairway and you have those two stands of trees that can easily come into play if you’re coming from anywhere but the perfect position. The crossing of 17 Mile Drive is one of the most anticipated walks in the game. You’ll traverse through some ice plant before making a turn to the left and seeing the most beautiful spot in golf. The boomerang 15th green is set along the cliffs but there is no reason to find the ocean as six bunkers should catch any misses. Walking through the grove of cypress trees to the 16th tee should get your nerves going, knowing you’re about to play a 233 yard Par 3 of sheer beauty and terror. There is no bailout here, unless you’re laying up. But if you’re doing that on your first visit, you’re not doing Cypress Point the right way. The only things that can’t be seen from the tee are a bunker just left of the green and a tiny beach that can be played from. The Cape style 17th has a diagonal tee shot with a green surrounded by cliffs and bunkers. The tee shot is very awkward because you can’t just bomb it down the right to leave a shorter approach because a grove of cypress trees with bunkers surrounding it are a horrible place from which to play. Leaving yourself in the perfect position off the tee faces this approach. I’m trying to leave out my own commentary of courses from these reviews but the 18th is such a disliked hole amongst so many who have played it. I am not in that category, I think it is a fun and quirky hole, the type of quirk that so many people love about the classic courses. I can’t speak for everyone who dislikes the 18th, but my feeling is that having followed the best three hole stretch in the world, they are just disappointed in not having another spectacular hole on the cliffs. The tee shot is awkward, with virtually nowhere to hit it. The center of the fairway is the trunk of the tree directly in front of the tee. Similar to the 14th, anything but the perfect tee shot will have tree trouble on the approach.