14 AUSTIN - HEALEY
The seventeenth tee was above the bunkers behind the sixteenth green, almost the same walk up from the thirteenth to the fourteenth tee. Old, metal spikes would have helped with traction here. Steps that would have tarnished the crisp, visual lines of the hole and lessened the needed climbing effort would never pass the members’ muster.
It is always surprising how much a view improves and expands with each added bit of elevation. Every foot seems to open up exponentially more horizon. The seventeenth tee was only about ten feet above the sixteenth hole, but they felt like they had just climbed into a crow’s nest amount of new vista. And this was scenery in the round, with tear-inducing views in every direction. First of all, this was the best place, maybe on any golf course anywhere, to see the ocean, which filled about two thirds of their view. Here was the real House of Blues with sky and water providing a deep, vivid palette in that part of the visible light spectrum. Fuji gained market share over Kodak by artificially enhancing colors in their prints. No film could ever gain share over nature herself. White seemed to be the only other color used, and the omnipresent blue was highlighted with clouds, whitecaps and seagulls.
Looking back toward shore, the clubhouse sat prominently on a hill, really the first time they had seen it again since they teed off. The routing did not end there after the front nine, and no other hole came close to it until now. There must be incredible views from the full- length balcony outside the four upstairs bedrooms. And these rooms come with an amazing perk – staying there allowed the occupants to play all day, with or without a member, and not just once before 8:30a.m. Vampires used their beds more than these guests who were either standing outside enjoying the balcony views, or sitting up from excitement to play Cypress all day.
Beneath the clubhouse was the seventeenth. It had a forced carry over a corner of ocean, with a fairway angled right away from them toward a green also set right on the shore. Unlike Pebble Beach, which sits in a protected cove, Cypress Point is nose-out into the sea. However, since fifteen and sixteen are shorter, par three holes, there is only a limited amount of visible shoreline there. A full-bodied coastline is on seventeen, and the crumbling, spiky shore shows the effect of taking many past storms on the chin. Only the toughest, sharpest rocks have survived. This living, Darwinian laboratory stretched south down the coast, but also east – they were on the western most tip of the Monterey Peninsula, and also of the whole continent for any points south.
Of this Holy Trinity of successive Cypress holes, Alister was most proud of seventeen for its strategic options to go along with another platinum-level setting. Besides the angled tee shot, a small grove of Cypress trees in the middle of the fairway filled out the puzzle to solve. Taking the shorter, more direct route right of the trees would provide a significantly shorter second shot on this long par four, but the risk was high of being wet or stymied. It was a fairly easy shot to play left of the trees, but they would then have the challenge of stopping a long iron or fairway wood on a green no longer with a backstop, but only a moat on two sides. The green felt even more castle-like with the stone retaining wall. Not an easy fortress to overthrow.
The younger brother bravely and successfully put one to the right of trees. Knighthood seemed certain. The middle brother was stymied behind the Cypress trees. Mercifully, he would not also have to be hitting out of bunkers that originally surrounded them.
Most people buy a car primarily based on how it looks from the front. Car designers’ first priority is there, and much thought and expense is spent on headlights, front grills, hood lines, and nose shape. A car’s tail is considered next, and the interior typically follows both exterior angles. American car companies had long neglected interiors to their detriment. The best cars, but usually the most expensive, excel in all three places. Some Cypress holes have one preferred viewing angle; most have two. Only the seventeenth has three. It has inspiring views from the tee toward the hole, along the fairway in all directions, and looking back from behind the green. On a course of classic cars, the seventeenth wins best in show for the breadth and quality of its scenery. An Austin-Healey would be proud.
During their walk down the fairway, the views back to the sixteenth green and seventeenth tee were as varied as they were uplifting. The ocean view one way and Cypress tree view the other were just as noteworthy. And reaching the green and then going behind it provided yet another compelling photo op. Though the Cypress trees and seventeenth tee switched places from this vantage point, it was very pleasing and not the least disorienting like driving in Great Britain. This was a Costco-type bundle of scenic moments in one jumbo size hole. They felt well paid back for their annual membership fee.