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II: Cypress Point Club

It would be fair to say that taking the drive along 17 Mile Drive and up the driveway of Cypress Point Club was not on my lifetime bingo card, never mind on this trip. This was a place that had occupied real estate in my head for a long time, captivating images of its routing traversing the pine forest and making it’s way out to the craggy coastline of the Monterey Bay appeared from time to time- lingering much longer than they should have.

 

Through a member’s incredible generosity we were presented with golf’s golden ticket- a loop of the most incredible golf course on the planet, and one of the only places which would have me divert a flight to the UK through the US.

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17 Mile Drive winds past the 13th green & 14th tee of CPC

Cypress Point, home to around 300 members, is another Alister MacKenzie design which opened for play to much acclaim in 1928. MacKenzie pre-empted its success, stating; "I do not expect anyone will ever have the opportunity of constructing another course like Cypress Point, as I do not suppose anywhere in the world is there such a glorious combination of rocky coast, sand dunes, pine woods and cypress trees.”

 

Before seeing the course I hadn’t heard a bad word said Cypress Point, and after experiencing its brilliance I don’t believe I ever will.

The 6:30am drive up to Cypress Point was one of the most beautiful, yet uncomfortable of my life, and as we pulled into the carpark a cocktail of excitement, nervousness and fear that CPC wouldn’t live up to expectations bubbled away. An introduction to Ray Sterbick quickly eased these concerns….

Ray was introduced as our caddie within 10 minutes of arriving on property. Something of a Cypress Point icon, Ray has been caddying there for 47 years, spending nine months in 1982 living in a shack in the bushes behind the iconic 16th tee, unbeknownst to the club. Ray was exactly what I didn’t expect to find here at Cypress Point- a free-living, free-speaking, story-telling, beauty of a human being with a razor sharp sense of humour. With his tales and humour, Ray became the epicentre of our day walking his home- a human being we will remember forever.

The iconic entrance: A sign I never thought I would see beyond

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The man, myth and legend: Caddie Ray Sterbick was an absolute joy

Escaping the first tee unscathed, we then began what can only be described as the greatest walk in the world of golf! There has never been a better router of golf courses, and MacKenzie’s design seamlessly weaved us through majestic corridors of pines, out to the coast intermittently before diving back into the forest and finishing with on the coastline. To me, the loop felt exactly like how I would hike the property – magical every step of the way!

It's no secret that visually Cypress Point is the most beautiful in the world, artistic bunkers, beautiful shapes and mounding, wonderfully natural green sites featuring some of the most incredible backdrops in golf, and of course the rocky coastline being pounded by waves on the home stretch of holes.

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The green sites at 7 & 13 are two of the most spectacular on the property

I have never experienced a golf course which comes close to touching the variety of holes which Cypress Point boasts - each asks a completely different question, demands a different shot and yet they all effortlessly connect. Strategy and options over every shot, the layout is a puzzle without a defined pathway to success, every shot as thrilling as the last.

Nobody has built better short par fours than MacKenzie and the back to back 8th and 9th are a fascinating illustration. The 8th bends sharply to the right, a large dune obscuring the fairway and putting surface, leaving an uphill approach to a wild three-level green. The elevated 9th tee is a magical spot, with 9 holes and the ocean all in view. Although driveable, the green smothered by deep bunkers and a false-front makes it a risky play! These two holes encapsulate the brilliance of CPC’s routing- no rules considered with back to back par 3s, par 5s and short par 4s.

The slightly uphill 9th is one of the world's great short par 4s

Ray described the stretch of 13-17 along the coast as the best run of holes in the world- shit it’s hard to disagree. The fascinating strategy and gorgeous bunkering of the 13th, the precise uphill approach required at 14, the short par 3 15th- the most beautiful hole in the world, the puckering of the 16th tee shot- the greatest hole in the world, and hero carry on the 17th tee. This stretch lands punch after punch, no two hits the same and perfectly encapsulates CPC’s variation. The images will never ever be able to encapsulate the drama or sensory overload  of these holes deliver.

The short 15th: The most beautiful hole in the world

The white-knuckle tee shot into the 220 yard 16th

Walking off the 18th green was a strange sensation. I had experienced likely the greatest golf course in my lifetime but would likely never make the walk again and yet the first tee was just there, open and ready to go. Cypress Point was now the stick which all further rounds would be measured against- it’s exhilarating highs along the coastline have been heavily covered and rightly so, however the greatest takeaway was that the quality is maintained throughout the holes amongst the pines- there are no lows.

Seaside drama from the 17th tee

This was a day which would be etched in my brain forever. Cypress Point Club – the greatest walk in golf and one which I will always be grateful for the opportunity to make.

Wheels up to Ireland!

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