Spyglass Hill

Spyglass-Hill-17th-Hole

Is there a more stirring start to a round than the first five holes at Spyglass Hill?

Another absolute gem in Carmel, albeit somewhat in the shadow of its sister course Pebble Beach, which has been described as the Greatest Meeting of Land and Sea. Perhaps then, Spyglass Hill should be dubbed the Greatest Meeting of Sand and Trees!

Perennially categorized as one of the toughest courses in the US, Spyglass Hill will challenge and thrill you. Designed in 1966 by famed architect Robert Trent Jones Sr., this incredible golfing landscape is tucked into the unique snow-white sand dunes and majestic Monterey Pines of Pebble Beach. Jones Sr. saw a chance to build his own sandy Pine Valley – this one with an exceptional ocean view – for the first five holes, before sending the rest of the course quietly into nature while traversing rolling hummocks and valleys – a lot like Augusta. The defining takeaway at Spyglass Hill is how starkly the first five holes juxtapose the rest of your round. Sweeping ocean views with holes darting though a daring dunescape, give way to the understated natural beauty and brawn of the Del Monte Forest.

Spyglass Hill has been a tournament course since birth. In 1967, Spyglass Hill joined the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am rotation. Mr Crosby was so confident in the championship-calibre of Spyglass Hill that he bet none other than Jack Nicklaus that he wouldn’t break par in his first round there. (Nicklaus shot a 2-under 70 and has a framed $5 bill signed from Crosby to commemorate the occasion). Many agree it is the best course yet to have hosted a Major, some would argue having hosted a US Amateur Championship, it has therefore indeed hosted at golf’s highest level.

The Par 4, 370-yard 4th hole is Robert Trent Jones Sr.’s favourite par-4 he ever designed. One cannot help but admire the wild green sunken between sand dunes. The putting surface is just 10 yards wide at its most forgiving, but some 55 yards deep. As the course transitions from links to soaring majestic pine framed holes, the man who created the modern versions of No. 11 and No. 16 at Augusta National by adding water hazards and beefed up putting surfaces brought that same aesthetic to the back 9 of this masterpiece. It’s hard to identify signature holes amongst this section, for they are all magnificent … but for The Golf Travel Agency team, the closing 3 consecutive Par 4s are memorable for their challenge and beauty.

Pebble Beach Golf Links

Pebble-Beach-Golf-Links

Not just the greatest meeting of land and sea in American golf, but the most extensive one too, with 9 holes perched immediately above the crashing Pacific surf – the 4th through 10th plus the 17th and 18th. Pebble’s 6th through 8th are golf’s real Amen Corner. Any golfer, regardless of their experience and skill level, will be tested rigorously in this famed stretch of holes.

Jack Nicklaus has stated on many occasions that if he had only one round of golf left it would be played at this most iconic of American courses. Perennially ranked in the Top 10 in the US and practically always ranked No 1 in public access, a golfing visit to Carmel must include a round at Pebble Beach, accompanied by a luxurious stay at the famed Pebble Beach Lodge. As a golfer, the tradition of staying at The Lodge while overlooking the most famous finishing hole in the game is a proud rite of passage.

Pebble has hosted multiple US Opens and created many memorable moments, such as Jack Nicklaus’ incredible 1 iron shot in 1972 that collected the flag and finished inches from the hole at No 17 on the way to his 3rd of 4 US Open triumphs. The same hole saw Tom Watson’s dramatic chip in from gnarly green side rough in the 1982 US Open, the momentum gained from this outrageously good shot propelling him to a last hole birdie and a 2-shot victory over Nicklaus himself. In more recent times, in perhaps the greatest stretch of Championship golf ever played, a young Tiger Woods decimated the field with a 15-stroke victory at Pebble. The Open in 2019 saw Gary Woodland produce magic of his own at 17 with a deft chip (played from the putting surface) from one side of the green to the other to help secure victory from Brooks Koepka.

Not unlike a pilgrimage to The Masters at Augusta National, Pebble Beach is the equivalent bucket list of golf playing experiences.