Spyglass Hill Golf Course: Fallen Stewart helped write latest chapter
Spyglass Hill Golf Course is only 33 years old -- its history is still being played out. But last year during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Head Professional Mark Brenneman witnessed something that will go down in the Spyglass history book.
Payne Stewart, leading the tournament on Saturday at Spyglass, also won the tournament here.
"The weather reports pretty much told us it was going to be washed out on Sunday," Brenneman said. "Stewart came to the 16th, a 464-yard, par-4, hit a drive and 3-iron over the flag to within 20 feet and then drained the putt for a birdie. On the next hole, only 322 yards, he spun the ball off the green and made bogey dropping back in a tie for the lead."
But as Brenneman watched from the rear of the finishing hole in the cold, rain and wind, Stewart drilled his drive on the 407-yard hole, knocked his 5-iron approach to within a foot and made the birdie. That put him at 10-under 206 and gave him a one-stroke lead over Frank Lickliter.
That was it. Sunday was washed out and Stewart won the tournament. Another "Puddle Beach" tournament was in the record books.
"I've been on the short end of the 54-hole stick," Stewart said. "I can't do anything about that."
"Who knows what kind of confidence that gave Stewart," Brenneman said. "He went on to win the U.S. Open that summer at Pinehurst." And, of course, months later Stewart died in a Learjet crash.
Also, ask David Duval about Spyglass. The first competitive round he played after his 59 in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was here. He shot even-par 72.
"This one has got my number," Duval said. "I'm going to shoot 72 every time and it's frustrating. I'm tired of shooting 72 here."
So the history of Spyglass has another chapter.
This Robert Trent Jones layout was finished in 1966 and measures 6,855 yards, par-72. It is continually ranked along with Poppy Hills as the toughest on the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am rotation - that is unless the wind is whipping the flags at Pebble.
Dan Forsman tamed it in 1993 with a course-record 64. But holes 6, 8 and 16 ranked among the toughest holes in golf. The 75.9 scoring average in the AT&T event proves it doesn't reward a semi-good shot, Brenneman said. It is annually ranked around No. 26 of 100 best courses in the nation by Golf Digest.
"The golf course was designed with the first five holes like Pine Valley in New Jersey in mind and the final holes with Augusta National in mind," Brenneman said. "The first five holes are so demanding that it throws your game off for the rest of the day. Most get off to a bad start and then there is no place to catch up - it is grueling."
During the U.S. Amateur qualifying this year the stroke average was 79 and that was with 156 of the best amateurs in USA playing.
"We didn't narrow any fairways or make any changes at all," he said. "In fact, the course was shortened, just like it is during the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The Spyglass name was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Treasure Island" and all the holes have names brought to life by the book. It was imagined Stevenson used a spyglass to view the spectacular ocean scenery from atop Spyglass Hill.
The first five holes give you a view of the Pacific, but there's trouble in the form of sand dunes, ice plant and narrow landing areas. No. 2, named Billy Bones, is 351 yards, a dogleg right with an approach to an elevated green with lots of sand.
No. 4, a short 370-yard, par-4, features a huge elongated green and is one of the most famous holes. The tee shot requires finding a target and even with a good drive the second is to a skinny, hard-to-hit green surrounded by sand mounds and ice plant. You have to be precise or say howdy to a bogey.
No. 8, the No. 1 handicap hole, is 396 from the back and the right side of the green is guarded by a high-lip bunkers.
Long John Silver, the 14th is a double-dogleg par-5 and Black Dog is the infamous par-4 16th, 464 yards. It's just long and mean.
"I was pleasantly surprised about my experience at Spyglass. One might think that Spyglass is less of an experience and a bit of a sham as compared to Pebble and to a certain extent Spanish Bay," said Chip Royce. "I was totally impressed by the quality of this course from both its aesthetics as well as its course design. Although Pebble is extraordinary due to the real estate it occupies, Spyglass, is a more consistent and interesting layout that challenges golfers through all 18 holes. The only disappointment is that the course goes inland after the first 4 holes and has a Pinehurst feel to it."
So is Spyglass worth the $225+ green fee? What do you think? You be the judge. In many parts of the world that would pay rent for a month. Spyglass is very interesting through the first four holes, but then it's pretty traditional. If you love traditional courses, then you will like it.
There's also a chance you will be behind some corporate outing with someone who has hired a caddy and wants to act like a pro for the day. The group plays "huddle" golf. The foursome and the caddy all move to one ball and talk about it. Then the huddle moves to the next ball, etc.
But for the guy who is going down the list playing all the top-ranked layouts on the most-wanted list, once is enough.
For seniors and women: You will like the par-3s because they are short and fun (all are under 150 yards). No. 3 is 131 from the white and 92 from the red. The 15th is only 99 from the white and 84 from the red. On the long par-4s just keep hitting it down the middle and rely on your short game. If you want to score don't go long. Keep the ball below the hole.
Chip Shots: In the 1967 Crosby, the first year Spyglass was in the rotation, Bing Crosby felt confident the tough new layout would befuddle the greatest golfers. Bing bet Jack Nicklaus he would not break par his first try at the layout. Bing lost. Jack shot a 1-under-par 71.
Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Stevenson Drive and Spyglass Hill
Pebble Beach, 93953
Pro Shop: 831-625-8563
Directions: From Highway 1, take the Pebble Beach exit and drive to the Pebble Beach gate for instructions and a map.
No. 3 by Golf Digest: Top 75 Upscale Courses 1996
No. 4 by GOLF Magazine: Top 100 Courses You Can Play In the US 1996
No. 5 by Golf Digest: America's Top State Golf Courses 1997-98
No. 6 by Golf Digest: Top 75 Resort Courses 1992
No. 7 by Golf Digest: America's Top State Golf Courses 1995-96
No. 12 by GolfWeek: America's 100 Best Modern Courses 1997
No. 27 by Golf Digest: America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses 1997-98
No. 34 by Golf Digest: America's 100 Greatest Courses 1995
No. 34 by Golf Digest: America's 100 Greatest Courses 1996
No. 54 by GOLF Magazine: 100 Greatest Courses in the U.S. 1995
No. 93 by GOLF Magazine: 100 Greatest Courses in the World 1995-1996
Photos courtesy Spyglass Hill Golf Course