Journey to Augusta – Spyglass Hill GC – 8/21/2015
Welcome me back to the blog after my 11-month hiatus. This is what happens when you have a job that requires constant West Coast travel as well as a now 19-month-old boy, Luke. But rest assured, I haven’t had a chance to play any Top 100 courses in that time. However, I do have quite the schedule coming up: Oakland Hills (both courses), Olympia Fields (North), Butler National GC (still organizing), and The Preserve GC. That itinerary will bring my total to 16, possibly 17, of the Top 100 played. Not too shabby.
Let’s get into the current Top 100, Spyglass Hill GC. After learning that I’d be out in San Francisco this past week, and we weren’t able to work until Tuesday, I ensured I had the early flight and called down to Pebble Beach. To my dismay, Pebble had just aerated 5 days earlier and wasn’t worth the $100 discount they were offering. So I went to the second most famous, and by all discussion, better golf course – Spyglass Hill…
Spyglass Hill Golf Course
#48: America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses (Golf Digest 2013-2014)
NR for World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses (Golf Digest 2013-2014)
I landed in San Francisco a little before 9 am and had the lovely drive down to Pebble Beach through traffic (knowing it would be especially bad on the return) to make my 1:30 pm tee time. I arrived in plenty of time to have some lunch and then work on the range (nothing special to show you at this point). It was a typical mid-summer day on the Monterey Peninsula, and little to my knowledge (I’m not the most skilled cameraman), my son had changed the settings on my iPhone, so hopefully, you’ll dig the 1970’s vibe of these pictures. Around rolled 1:30, I met my caddy, told him I was playing the tips (6,960 yards, 75.5/144) and if he let me know the course would be playing closer to 7,400 with the current wind and conditions. Off we went to the first tee.
I couldn’t have played the first hole any worse (triple bogey), but it eventually offered up the first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.
After our death march across the road and uphill, we arrived at the short 2nd hole. Simply a gorgeous tee shot playing amongst the dunes for the first few holes. And also not a bad hole for my first birdie of the round after knocking a 50o wedge to about 8 feet.
After a short wait on the 3rd tee (no concern of mine when this is the backdrop)
We picked a club and went for the tucked back left pin. The PW felt good, and it was tracking, and I blamed my caddy for telling me 150 versus 149.75 (I need more precise yardages).
Alas, not my first ever hole-in-one, but another very simple tap in birdie. Slowly making my way back into things at 1-over.
We had another wait on the 4th tee (slow play is perfectly cool with me at this point), so we managed to get a picture to capture the moment. Pacific Ocean to my back, Cypress Point (one day I’ll get there!) over my right shoulder. Simply gorgeous.
Proceeding downwind, finally, back over the dunes on the 4th hole
My approach left me with a short wedge to one of the most insane green complexes I’ve ever seen.
My caddie called it a bacon strip and with the pin tucked way in the back, I couldn’t see much of the portion of the green where I needed to land my short wedge. So we got a good distance, and a good line, and I delivered a beauty that landed pin high to the left, leaving myself a straight uphill putt for my third birdie in a row! Crazy, yes! But even sadder was how it just brought me back to EVEN on the day.
The Par 3 5th hole would be our last hole amongst the dunes. As sad as I was about leaving the ocean, I was very excited to be heading into the forest and walk the fairways that I’ve heard called “as close to Augusta as it gets.” I just BARELY left a 5 iron short of the pin, and flubbed my first chip. Then, as the day would have it, I nearly chipped in for par. Silly.
We then made the turn away from the ocean and into the forest. Walking up the fairways of #6, I knew it was going to be a fantastic final 13 holes.
After a couple poor bunkers shot on 6, I got the stroke back on the par 5 7th hole, knocking a 5 iron pin-high in two. Alas, my fourth and final birdie of the round, but I was STILL at 1-over par for the day.
Approaching the 8th hole, I had been asked what the #1 handicap hole was a couple holes back by some jackass (cough, the owner of this blog, cough) and so I looked. So of course, it was in my head on this all uphill monster that was also into the wind.
A mighty lash (duck hook), a huge swing out of the rough, and a 5 iron on left me with a 60 foot par putt that I promptly 3 putted. Lovely. You can now guarantee Mr. Wangrychts invite to play with me next time will be properly “lost in the mail.”
No crying over spilled milk though, because I had the gorgeous 9th forthcoming.
A beautiful strike through the trees left me in perfect position dead center of the fairway.
As the day would prove, it would lead to another bogey to close out a hilarious front nine 40.
Thankfully the short, downhill 10th was next up, and lucky for me, the pin was tucked way over on the right. It was amazing to me just how small these greens actually were, especially taking into account the contours. Just absolutely phenomenal.
A par 5 was next up and my caddy ran up to forecaddie the hole. That left me a pretty straight drive and time to peacefully meander up the 11th fairway. It was here that I encountered my first family of black-tailed deer:
They barely batted an eye and just continued eating. The babies were resting comfortably. WHAT. A. LIFE. I can tell you one thing, if I ever come back to this Earth reincarnated as an animal, I’m finding my way out to the Monterey Peninsula, rest assured.
Back to the golf. Here’s a fun question: Where did my 3-wood end up from this position?
If you guessed in the bunkers on the right where I was told not to hit it, you’d be absolutely correct! Luckily, my short game was occasionally working for me and I managed to escape with a par from some deep, nasty bunker (I honestly don’t even remember which one I managed to find). My caddy told me he had a woman hit into the first one in the fairway, then into the middle, then into the greenside one twice before finally giving up. Needless to say, at that point, she should help rake…
Does the next hole look a bit like it’s right out of Augusta to you?
Just simply gorgeous, and pretty fun hitting into the back bunker and somehow escaping a downhill lie in the bunker to a green sloping severely into the lake and making the comebacker for par.
More deer. Counted 17 of them. And one guy playing from the trees…
How about a slightly altered version of Augusta’s famous par 3, just tilted to the opposite side? Luckily, this hole played a bit more normal with an easy par. The beauty of the par 3 holes on the back nine are just phenomenal. I can’t imagine this place without some of the water restrictions California is currently under as well…
The crazy green complex on the 17th was my last good chance at birdie. We hit a phenomenal fairway bunker shot with a 50o degree wedge. It bounced to the top of the ridge where the pin was, before somehow sucking back another 20 feet. Alas, it was at least nice to be making more consistent pars on the back side…
Like all good things, the day had to end on the tight 18th hole.
A good drive, a 7 iron that I couldn’t get to draw into the wind, and almost my last miracle chip-in of the day, resulted in the end. Simply phenomenal. My caddy couldn’t have been better and I look forward to seeing him the next time I’m out at Pebble (or for that matter, just possibly during the Stocker Cup if I can arrange it). Spyglass Hill didn’t win completely though.
So the final tally, with a crazy up and down day, was 79. Pretty amazing all things considered, but not exactly what you are looking to shoot with FOUR birdies! All things considered, it was a phenomenal day and made the drive back to San Francisco doable. (it’s almost 3 hours through traffic).
If you want a true test of golf, Spyglass Hill GC is a definite must play. Yes, it’s expensive, and yes, chalk up the money to walk with a caddy. But, it’s an experience that is meant to be had at the very least once in your life. I’m looking forward to spending more time on the Monterey Peninsula as soon as possible, and I have decided Pebble Beach is going to be an experience I first share with my son. It’s a phenomenal place and I hope you have enjoyed living vicariously through me for the day.
Next Up: Oakland Hills (South) – a Donald Ross gem at #17 in the US and I get to play it twice!
As always, if you need a playing partner at your Top 100 course. I’m just an e-mail and plane ride away! Cheers!