Unaccompanied at Cypress Point

Inside the ropes at golf's Sistine Chapel

All of the world’s great wonders share the capacity to warp our sense of scale. The Mona Lisa towers above her peers, yet the painting is less than 3 feet tall. Rarely do you feel as close to the people around you than when staring into the impossible vastness of the Grand Canyon. How can Fenway Park get so loud on a crisp, fall night? There’s an energy around these rare places that poets spend their life trying to bottle and cameras never adequately capture. For golfers, Cypress Point is on that list.

It begins with an unassuming entrance, a small parking lot, and a modest one-level clubhouse. The pro shop is no bigger than a Brooklyn studio apartment, and the locker room looks as if it hasn’t been touched for half a century. The range is small and shaggy, where the occasional duck hook will end up on the first fairway. The practice green offers no more space or variety than the San Clemente muni. But the scale of the coastline which it hugs, the genius of its design, and the weight of golf history at every turn makes it feel very much like the game’s Sistine Chapel.

At first glance, the stretch of Nos. 15, 16 and 17 appears as a mirage—a hazy illusion of grey, green and blue blurred together to create a visual that many Northern Californians who lived through the 1960s and 70s would tell you is psychedelic by definition. The rarely-seen front nine is an entirely different trip. Scrubby sand dunes and towering pines weave inland before spitting you out on the Monterey Peninsula. It all works together to make for an unparalleled golf walk.

The lucky few who have taken that stroll understand this feeling intimately. And for those who haven’t yet experienced the wonder of Cypress, we hope you enjoy this unaccompanied visit.

“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.”

Alister MacKenzie

“I love the ambience of the club and the course….The cypresses. Watching the tide and the surf. I love the exciting use of the natural terrain. Those tight tee shots on the eighth and ninth. Coming around the corner on the 12th and feeling the wind in your face. The diversity of the scenery, the quietness, and, it goes without saying, the seals, the sea, the otters, the deer, the birds. You’re in a world apart.”

Lewis A. Lapham

“When you hit 15, 16 and 17, it carries you to the ocean. It’s not like you’re walking on solid ground. You’re walking on air.”

Ray Sterbick

“Gentlemen, I suggest that we pause for a moment, admire the beautiful view and count our blessings. Very few of us are privileged to pass this way.”

Clarke W. Bearden