SPYGLASS HILL GOLF COURSE
Course Architect(s): Robert Trent Jones Sr (1966), Tom Fazio (renovation
and redesign work on holes 11 and 16), Pebble Beach
Company (renovation work over the years).
Year Opened: March 11, 1966
Location: Pebble Beach, California
Slope: 147. Rating: 75.5
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 5 595 Yds 10 - Par 4 407 Yds
2 - Par 4 349 Yds 11 - Par 5 528 Yds
3 - Par 3 165 Yds 12 - Par 3 178 Yds
4 - Par 4 370 Yds 13 - Par 4 460 Yds
5 - Par 3 197 Yds 14 - Par 5 560 Yds
6 - Par 4 446 Yds 15 - Par 3 130 Yds
7 - Par 5 529 Yds 16 - Par 4 476 Yds
8 - Par 4 399 Yds 17 - Par 4 325 Yds
9 - Par 4 431 Yds 18 - Par 4 408 Yds
Par 36 3,481 Yds Par 36 3,472 Yds
Awards Won: America's 100 Greatest Public Courses - by Golf Digest (2009-10),
America's 100 Greatest Courses (#51) - by Golf Digest (2009-10),
Ranked 8th by Golfweek - Best Resort Courses (2011),
#2 by Golf.com - Best Public Courses in California (2010),
#6 by Golfweek - Best Tour Courses You Can Play (2010),
Reader's Choice Awards - GolfWorld Magazine (2010),
#14 by Golfweek - Best Modern Courses (2010),
Top 100 Courses in the World - Golf Magazine (2009),
#11 by Golf Digest - America's 100 Greatest Public (2009-10),
Top 50 Resort Golf Courses - GolfWorld Magazine (2009),
100 Best Golf Shops by GolfWorld (2009),
#24 Toughest Golf Courses in U.S. by Golf Digest (2009-10),
Top 100 America's Best Modern Courses by Golfweek (2008),
Top 100 Golf Resorts in the World - Conde Nast Traveler (2008),
Five Stars by Golf Digest - Best Places to Play.
Key Events Held: Bing Crosby National Pro-Am (1967-76, 1978-85),
Trans-Mississippi Championship (1971),
Spalding Invitational (1979-80, 1990),
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (1986-present),
Ben Hogan Invitational (1991-92),
Pebble Beach Invitational (1992-96),
Callaway Golf Pebble Beach Invitational (1997-present),
U.S. Amateur Championship (1999),
California State Amateur Championship.
Course Record: 62 (Phil Mickelson, 2005; Luke Donald, 2006).
HISTORY: The credit has to go to Bob Hanna, but the inspiration and design
certainly goes to legendary architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
The master designer, who passed away six days shy of his 94th birthday in
2000, crafted and redesigned over 475 courses around the world, including
top-100 layouts such as Peachtree (GA) Golf Club, Eugene (OR) Country Club and
Hazeltine National (MN). Some of his most beautiful work around the world
includes Mauna Kea Beach (HI), Valderrama (Spain) and Chateau Whistler
(Canada), but none hold a candle to what some believe was his finest work,
Hanna, then Executive Director of the Northern California Golf Association,
was seeking new avenues to host tournaments in the region. Hanna enlisted
Jones to build that such venue, as long as land was available. Not an easy
task, especially in the rich, landscaped area of Monterrey. After reaching out
to Samuel F.B. Morse, the Pebble Beach founder in 1963, a deal was struck.
The parcel of property selected was as good as Jones would ever get, and for a
fee of $650,000, work would soon begin.
Next up was a name, and the original moniker was Pebble Pines Golf Course.
That didn't last long, as Morse discarded that designation quickly.
Local lore has it that Robert Louis Stevenson's inspiration for "Treasure
Island" emanated from his time on the Monterrey Peninsula, so Morse and Hanna
bought into the name: Spyglass Hill. Although no one can put a stamp on who
came up with the title, it was Hanna who did his due diligence to name each
hole after the famed story.
Just one year after opening, legendary crooner Bing Crosby asked to include
Spyglass Hill into the rotation of courses for his annual PGA Tour event, a
spot it has held every year except one (1977).
Wet, soft fairways were always an issue during the early months and in 1996,
the Pebble Beach Company invested $2 million to revamp the entire drainage
system, a problem that has been completely resolved.
In addition, famed architect Tom Fazio was brought in to redesign and renovate
holes 11 and 16. With the pond being removed on the par-5 11th, Fazio created
a bunker complex short of the green to keep players on their toes, and on the
16th he adjusted the green size.
Spyglass Hill has always been one of the most difficult courses on the west
coast, featuring a rating of 75.5 and a slope of 147. In fact, during the 2010
PGA season, Spyglass Hill, outside of the Major Championship venues, was one
of the most difficult courses on Tour with a scoring average of 71.603. The
16th hole played to a 4.263 average, yielding only 12 birdies in 156 rounds.
"We are at sea level, so the ball does not travel very far here in the
Monterrey Peninsula," commented head professional Jin Park. "Plus with the
rolling hills and elevation changes, the course plays a lot longer, more like
7,100 yards, sometimes longer, depending upon the weather."
To further illustrate the difficulty of the course, Spyglass Hill was used as
one of the stroke-play courses during the 1999 U.S. Amateur Championship. The
players, which included Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar, Lucas Glover, Jonathan
Byrd, Ben Curtis, Hunter Haas and Camilo Villegas -- all standout PGA Tour
winners -- could only muster a scoring average of just under 80! In addition,
not one player shot in the 60s, with Justin Bolli's round of 70 the lowest
scoring by any of the 312 competitors.
Park added, "When the course is set up in tournament conditions, it certainly
has a bite to it. My best score here is 67, and it easily could have been 64,
but a couple of mental mistakes led to bogeys. That's what Spyglass can do to
you. Then again, it could have been 74."
Since its inception, Spyglass Hill continues to be ranked as one of the
top-100 courses in the United States, including its latest rating of 51st and
second only to Pebble Beach Golf Links among the best courses one can play in
"The characteristics that Robert Trent Jones Sr wanted to display when he
built Spyglass was the Pine Valley feel on the opening holes and then Augusta
National feel through the forest holes," continued Park. "Of all the courses
that I have played, Spyglass is one of those courses that just challenges you
and makes you want more."
HOLE BY HOLE ANALYSIS: With holes that are named Treasure Island, Billy Bones,
Skeleton Island, Long John Silver and Black Dog, to name a few, you know this
course must be intriguing.
So let's start out with Treasure Island, the first hole at Spyglass, a
sweeping, downhill, dogleg left par five that stretches 595 yards from the
back markers. The beauty behind the opener is certainly right in front of you,
as you gaze down the fairway with the Santa Cruz mountains and Monterey Bay in
the distance. Trees line both side of the landing area, but with the hole
moving to the left, start your tee ball down the right, with a draw towards
the center. This will leave a relatively simple layup as you gaze into the
Pacific Ocean. Favor the right side of the fairway, as this will leave a more
direct approach to a fairly large green. The putting surface is virtually
surrounded by sand and falls off sharply in the rear. How's that for an
Billy Bones is the second, a simple (on paper) par four of just 349 yards.
Just a fairway metal off the tee is the smart play to a very accommodating
fairway. This will leave an uphill approach to a blind putting surface. Make
sure you take an extra stick, otherwise you'll roll back down the fairway. The
green is pretty simple, unless you miss right, as the fall off is devastating.
One of my favorite holes is the third, where the earth, wind and sea come
together. Just a little downhill par three with the ocean as a backdrop. This
will no doubt serve as a Kodak moment for most. Picking the right club to use
is of utmost importance, as the green is just 26 paces deep with thick rough,
sand and ice plants all around. To make matters worse, the wind will wreak
havoc, no matter what club you choose.
You'll be praying the whole time you're playing the fourth, aptly named Blind
Pew because you can't see the green. It runs north along the ocean and was
Robert Trent Jones, Sr.'s favorite par four. It's only 370 yards in length, so
a long iron or fairway metal is the play off the tee towards the right side of
the fairway and away from the sandy waste area to the left. The green sits
below the fairway, tucked behind a sand dune, ice plants and mounding, and
it's almost impossible to attack, even with a wedge in hand. The putting
surface is 50 paces long and just a breath of wind wide, so precision is a
must. Plus, the green rolls away towards the ocean, making it the most
diabolical green on the course. Just a word of caution...try to avoid the
bunker to the right of the green, as you'll have to be lucky or just really
good to get up and down. I was neither and needed a six-footer just to save my
The final of the ocean holes, the fifth is a slightly uphill par three that
can be expanded to as much as 210 yards. Three disastrous pot bunkers front
the wide putting surface that slopes from left to right and back to front.
Wind will certainly come into play, making club selection once again a real
chore. Overlook your approach and you'll be swallowed up by ice plants and or
Moving away from the ocean is disappointing, but more challenges await as the
course now changes its personality. The first of six par fours over 400 yards
in length, the sixth plays much longer than the yardage indicates, as it
climbs uphill and to the right towards the green. From the back markers,
you'll need a blast of over 280 to carry the dogleg, so for all intents and
purposes, just play towards the center of the fairway. Now you're faced with
an uphill approach to a tight target fronted by sand. Again, take enough club,
as this blind approach might require to extra clubs. During the 2007 AT&T Pro-
Am, the sixth was the fifth most difficult hole on Tour, with a stroke average
of 4.531 and only six birdies made.
Carved into the Del Monte forest, the par-five, dogleg-right seventh is
reachable, especially from the elevated tee box. The landing area is tight
with two bunkers left, trees right and the fairway tilting towards the left.
If laying up, make sure you lay back to an appropriate yardage, as the fairway
tightens from 100 yards and in. Oh, by the way, a pond 88 yards from the green
is the reason behind the slim chute to the green. This, and the shaved bank
left of the putting surface, might deter many players from reaching this green
in two. The green is straightforward and easy to read, so birdies are a
The eighth is under 400 yards and ranked as the most difficult on the course,
uh oh. Uphill from tee to green, the fairway is as tight as a drum and tilts
to the right. Your approach to the putting surface requires at least one extra
club -- maybe two -- and your view of the surface is limited. A deep bunker
towards the right of the green sits well below, making for a difficult chance
at saving par. One final note - the green slopes hard towards the front, so
try not to miss short.
The closing hole on the front side plays uphill and slightly to the right, as
you head back towards the clubhouse. A 40-yard bunker squeezes the fairway,
not to mention the tall trees on either side. A medium to long iron remains to
one of the bigger targets on the course, but also one of the quickest. Three
bunkers guard the skull-shaped green that runs hard from back to front.
One of six par fours over 400 yards, the 10th slings from right to left and
plays downhill towards the green. Avoid the fairway bunker on the right, but
don't try to cut the corner, as a tall tree might block your approach. The
green, which is just 28 paces in length, is guarded nicely by four deep
bunkers and runs from back to front. Miss the putting surface long and you'll
be faced with a difficult, uphill recovery.
The shortest of the par fives, the 11th is a sharp, dogleg right that reaches
528 yards in length. It can be had, but only if you cover the corner of the
fairway, thus leaving a reasonable approach to the green. Trees engulf both
sides of the landing area off the tee, so if it's birdie or better you seek,
then you better split the fairway. If you're going for the green in two, then
blast away. Just avoid the "death" traps down the right side, short of the
green. The layup on the other hand can be tricky. Originally, a man-made pond
was short of the green, forcing most players to layup; however, this was
replaced due to poor drainage. So now what confronts the golfer is a deep
swale and sand. The layup should be at the 110-yard mark, taking the bunker on
the right and the thin neck of a fairway out of play. Even a wedge in the
hands of a higher handicap can most times negotiate this distance. The putting
surface is narrow, but quite wide, making for interesting pin positions.
Another signature hole at Spyglass comes in the form of the first par three on
the back nine, the beautiful 12th. Downhill from the tee, this gem can be
stretched to nearly 200 yards. The green stretches diagonally from right to
left with water covering the entire left side. A shaved bank provides further
consternation, and when the pin is back-left, "forget about it." Three bunkers
rarely come into play on the right and rear, but it's the trees that surround
the hole which play havoc on your tee shot, as swirling winds threaten your
approach. Two balls in the pond was enough for me.
The second longest par four on the course, No. 13 is one of the most difficult
holes on the course. If the length doesn't get you, then the tight fairway,
with three pinching bunkers certainly will, not to mention the tree-lined
landing area. Even with a successful drive, you'll have a medium-to-long iron
remaining to a very long and slightly elevated green. Sand on either side of
the putting surface sits well below the hole, making for a devilish up and
Aptly named Long John Silver, the par-five 14th is the longest hole on the
course and is widely considered one of Spyglass' finest. There's no fairway
bunkers to contend with, but it has a tree-lined fairway. The serpentine hole
is highlighted by a pond the guards the right side of the green, so going for
the putting surface in two is really not an option. Laying up down the right
side is your best approach to attack the hole, but beware, as any shot short
will come tumbling down into the water. The elevated green is 40 paces wide,
but just 28 steps deep, so choose the right stick, as long is no bargain
either. Seven is not a lucky number in golf.
From the longest to the shortest, as the 15th is just 130 yards long and plays
straight downhill. This time, the pond is on the right side of the green.
Regardless, a wedge should suffice, but when the wind is blowing, you'd better
be careful. Traps in the rear of the putting surface see plenty of action, not
to mention the water when the pin is back-right. This started my string of
four consecutive pars.
Rated the second most difficult hole on the course, the 16th is a monster par
four of 476 yards from the tips. Once again, trees guard both sides of the
fairway, as the hole doglegs sharply to the right. Cutting the corner may be
the only option, as even a straight drive will run through the fairway. Your
approach to the green will most likely be from a downhill lie, not the easiest
of situations, especially with a medium-to-long iron. The large traps guard
either side of the putting surface, making it slightly easier for a run-up
shot. The green is 40 paces in length and runs from back to front. I made par
on the two hardest holes on the course. It's too bad the rest of the course
kicked my butt.
One of the easiest holes on the course, the 17th gives the player a realistic
chance of getting one back. This par four is just 325 yards long and bends
slightly to the left. Lay back off the tee and you'll be faced with a slightly
uphill short iron to a well-guarded green. Take out the big stick and shape
your shot from right to left, skipping past the four fairway bunkers, and
you'll have just a short pitch. The real challenge here is the putting
surface. Just 20 paces in depth, it runs hard from back to front with plenty
of undulation. Plus, the handful of bunkers around the green are no picnic.
The closing hole is long, straight and narrow, as you head for home. Trees
flank the entire left side of this medium-lengthed par four. Avoid the bunker
down the right and filter your tee shot past the crest of the hill in the
fairway and you're almost there. Next is an uphill approach to a long,
elevated putting surface guarded on both sides by sand. Sloping from back to
front, stay below the hole for your best chance at birdie. Miss the green
entirely and you'll be hard-pressed to make par.
FINAL WORD: To say that Spyglass Hill is unique would be an understatement. A
contrast in design, if you will.
"It has two distinct styles," added Park. "The ocean holes (1-5) and holes
6-18 feature forest views and tree-lined fairways, which makes it a contrast
of styles from the other courses in Monterrey since those other venues are
either along the ocean or in the forest, and we have a combination of the
Certainly not long by today's standards at under 7,000 yards, Spyglass plays
much longer than the yardage indicates. One reason is its location at sea
level. Another could be its rolling dunes or the tight, tree-lined fairways
or maybe the incredible elevation changes.
To me, the rise and fall of the golf course is the big difference. Park
"For example, the first hole drops 120 feet from the tee box to the green and
the second goes back up again. On the third hole, the championship tee box
down to the green drops almost 100 feet. When you get into the forest holes,
from number six through, everything feels like you're going uphill, so your
second shot plays a lot longer than the yardage indicates. You can hit
anywhere from a club or two clubs more for your approach shots."
When you step on the first tee and you peek around the corner of the dogleg,
the ocean opens your eyes and your heart to what's in store.
Every hole at Spyglass Hole is a treat unto itself. Unique, distinct,
What makes the course even more attractive, is that it's not just a tournament
There are four sets of tee markers, ranging from as little as 5,379 yards to
the blue markers at 6,953. So all skill levels can experience this truly
Definitely not a bombers paradise, but you'll need length. Certainly not a
target-style layout, but you'll need to be accurate. In addition, you'll need
to plot your course of action through each and every hole, as Spyglass Hill
requires a strategic approach.
That's what makes Spyglass a blast to play. It's a challenge. It's beautifully
landscaped. It's aesthetically easy on the eyes.
The only place it's not so easy is in your wallet, as you'll be hit with a
$350 green fee, plus a cart charge. Not Pebble numbers ($495), but certainly
costly. For the occasional player it's a big number, but for us golf geeks,
it's worth the price of admission.
For a man who's played around the globe, Park puts it into perspective.
"The area itself is so majestic that it's difficult to leave, and being the
head professional at Spyglass is the icing on the cake. It's really a dream
job. I'm here to stay."
Can you imagine living in the Monterrey area? Waking up every day to the
sounds of the Pacific Ocean and working at one of the finest courses in the
No, but at least I got the opportunity to stroll the sensational grounds of
Spyglass Hill. A real "Treasure."