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OCEAN HOME MAGAZINE – Fairways to heaven

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Perched on the most westerly point of northern California’s Monterey Peninsula, Cypress Point owns Golf Digest’s highest ranking for an oceanfront course in their 2013/2014 America’s Greatest Golf Courses ratings . The course has occupied the list for 49 straight years, placing third overall this year, trailing only inland courses Pine Valley and Augusta National.

Cypress Point has both charmed and vexed pros and amateurs alike since it first opened in 1928. Immediately recognized as a masterpiece by golf’s cognoscenti it has seen its reputation only further burnished throughout the years. Designed by the iconic Alister MacKenzie, the magical property is blessed with unusual natural beauty and routes intrepid golfers through park like woodlands, across undulating natural bunkers, past craggy sand dunes and alongside precipitous drops from cliffs to the Pacific Ocean below.

Frank (Sandy) Tatum, former United States Golf Association president and member of the two-time NCAA Men’s Golf Championship team at Stanford University has belonged to the exclusive club for more than 50 years. Tatum, 93, began a life-long love affair with the course after first playing there as a teen.

“The course and property made quite an impression,” recalled Tatum of his inaugural round, “I was captivated by the beauty, the sheer genius of MaKenzie’s design and the excitement I felt in playing there. There hasn’t been a round I’ve played there since where I didn’t enjoy that same thrill.”

MacKenzie worked his artistry while challenging traditional design elements in place at the time. Three distinctive hole groupings meet the player during his round who is confronted with tall pine and cypress trees in the outward holes, ball welcoming sand dunes in the next grouping of holes and the most notable ocean holes often demanding forced carries on the inward trek.

A Yorkshire man, MacKenzie learned the principles of camouflage while serving in the British Army during the Boer War. He employed these skills along with firm tenets in each of his designs and Cypress Point is no exception.

“The course should be so interesting,” said MacKenzie, “That even the plus man is constantly stimulated to improve his game in attempting shots he has hitherto been unable to play.”

Nowhere is that principle more evident than the 16th hole, perhaps the most famous par three in golf. 200 yards plus from each of the tees, safely reaching the tiny green demands the player navigate swirling winds, carry the water and avoid the fronting rocks and bunkers in order to putt for birdie. Bing Crosby carded one of only a handful of hole-in-ones ever recorded here.

The grand lady has plenty of bite and is one of the most sought after invitations for a round in all of golf. Those lucky enough to be asked by one of the clubs 250 or so members may run into members Clint Eastwood or Charles Schwab on the links. They may also spy former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who’s known to frequently sharpen her game here.

Membership is by invitation according to Tatum and those interested will need sponsorship and considerable support to join the club.

Though long part of the rotation on the PGA tour stop AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (formerly the Crosby Clambake), technological advances in golf equipment and today’s pro game don’t allow the venerable course to shine on that stage any longer. To their credit, the membership has steadfastly held firm against lengthening or redesign.

 

“You don’t remodel the Sistine Chapel,” said Tatum.

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