The fog got thicker on their drive from the hotel to Cypress, already a confusing trip since the 17 Mile Drive did not seem to have one straight stretch of road, and the road signs were hard to see and decipher in clear weather. Their mood lightened when they avoided the stiff fee to enter the Drive by saying they were playing Cypress, and then showed the invite for corroboration. Likely just their imagination, they thought they detected an admiring look from the guard, which would have quickly left as he saw their minivan. These were not former Secretaries of State or blockbuster movie stars, nor their friends.
The homes sprinkled along the way from the Drive’s gate to Cypress rank up there with the Hamptons, Nantucket, or Aspen. If these were second homes, primary would be the wrong word for the owners’ main residences. Those were graduate level estates, deserving a masters or doctorate in double-digit bathrooms or an acre of indoor living space. The Cypress Point Club would be in wonderful contrast to these billboards of wealth.
The club’s entrance sign set the tone – a small, green piece of wood with plain white lettering of a homemade font. Placed among thick trees on a bend in the road, it was easy to miss, which was the point. There was not an entry gate or guard, and the clubhouse was just a short driveway away. They parked in one of the perhaps ten parking spots in the whole lot. This was not a place ever expecting large crowds.
Barely out of their minivan, they were surprised to be so warmly greeted by caddies, who quickly directed them to the locker room so they did not change shoes in the parking lot, a muni course sin not to be committed here. Looking around, the main clubhouse was small; the locker room and pro shop were tiny. A small membership did not need large structures, but these felt too small – the clubhouse only had four bedrooms, and each half-sized locker was shared. While the members surely did not want to risk an unsightly addition to these historic buildings, let alone replace them, they probably just preferred a club of human scale, and also did not want to draw attention to their wealth and status. Most people who really spend their days in the spotlight want to spend their off-hours in candlelight.
Randomly hanging on the walls in mismatched frames, the dated and poor quality photos in the locker room foyer matched the rustic, summer cabin feel of the place. The locker room and bathroom felt like a summer camp. Each locker nameplate with two names was hand written in uneven, slanted block letters. And there was the distinct but pleasant smell of age and ocean air. This was a place that gave little thought about how it looked, a welcome refuge from the designers and decorators and endless decisions in the members’ everyday lives. And, of course, the main objective of any visit was to spend as little time indoors as possible – no one wanted to look at heaven through windows and doors.
It was refreshing, even inspiring, to contemplate what they could have built there, what others in their social circle would have built, and what was actually there. Modesty and understatement are rarely found today apart from strict zoning codes or environmental restrictions. And who wants to think they were really just too pigheaded and tightfisted to agree on what to do and how to pay for it? While experience would suggest this view, the physical evidence was persuasive for the former.
There were several nice prints on the locker room walls, mostly of the sixteenth hole in various styles. The largest work was a map of the course done in an antique style, like a treasure map. They would learn there should be X’s on every hole. Leaving their street shoes on the floor in the locker room, they then went out to hit a few putts on the little putting green right out the door. In perfect condition but bite size, this was the filet mignon of practice greens.
There was also a mini driving range where about four golfers could hit shots along the first fairway, but this was for members only. Their first tee shot would be more challenging than most without any real warm up. Moreover, there would be a crowd as all unaccompanied guests had to tee off before 8:30 a.m., and the only place to wait was near the first tee box. While this crowd would not laugh at a bad shot, their silence would be more painful – it would not be from empathy, but instead show concern about poor golfers ahead of them. The foursome would give half their kingdom for a tee shot that found the short grass.
The fog was still heavy when they stepped up to the plate. While they could not see a hundred yards ahead of them, the low visibility was also somewhat calming since no one would see where their tee shots went. So after they did hit poor shots - anxiety always wreaks havoc with timing and tempo - they quickly scampered out of view, across 17 Mile Drive and down the hill. Despite a protective hedge, many cars must have been hit over the years when they unfortunately would cross the first fairway during the most pressure-packed tee shot these golfers might ever hit. Hopefully, the caddies would not black list anyone who connects for the delay they caused, adding insult to injury for those already mortally wounded in self-esteem.
While hardly a life-long dream to play Cypress, the good luck of an invitation coupled with the hours of practice required to play this course created a moment of unique heft. Only in the moment do these feelings come; logistics and worry occupy too much mind share before. These were not then followed by a subsequent crash like the relief sleep that comes after successfully catching a plane, but instead came a double dose of adrenaline far stronger than any energy drink. And there was just something to feeling a bit special, somehow being selected out from the great mass of humanity to have this very uncommon experience. These were wonderful, strong feelings rarely found outside meaningful events like births and baptisms. However, most men ranked these alongside those others. Another knock against their gender’s tarnished and shallow character.
The next moment would not be any better as they then wanted to blurt out as they walked along hallowed ground, like they had just body surfed to the shore. Checking themselves was difficult, and a few swallowed bursts did still escape. Yet while they largely maintained control and decorum, they would be tested again later during the backswings of potentially winning putts or tee shots of the leaders. It probably made sense to skip their typical four-ball match that day.