This cadence was about to jump into double-time. The short walk from the seventh green to the eighth tee, on a course where short is the only accurate adjective except for one glorious exception, gave a hint of what lay ahead. This teeing ground was at the right corner of the interior dune ridge, and the drive was another blind shot out over the north dunes bordering the course. However,unlike the first two blind ones earlier, they now had to completely fly by instruments and could only rely on their caddies – there were no visual clues or targets. Tension came knocking.
But so did wonder. Home movies taken when they were children required large floodlights, which made them squint and shield their eyes when coming on screen. Light seemed to become a tangible force that would bend their heads down and tilt their spines. Rounding the corner of the dune on the eighth, a dogleg right, and entering the Sahara of Cypress was a floodlight experience. Seeing this hole from above, as the middle brother had months earlier, provided some preparation for this, along with some hints from the tee. But walking on the fairway was something else, like the difference between visiting an aquarium and going scuba diving, or attending a US Open and watching outside the ropes, and going to a US Amateur and walking alongside the players.
Inside the ropes was a nice place to be. They first noticed the north dunes were massive, a hundred feet tall or more. They barely saw them earlier looking across from the second fairway due to the fog, so their size did not register. It did now. Next, they could see the ocean again, and feel an ocean breeze. Getting closer to the eighth green, a pretty good climb from the fairway, and the thirteenth green set into a semi-circle of dunes then came into view. They felt like they were scouting out pioneers that had circled their wagons for the night.
The eighth green was sprocket-shaped, with one leg being in front, and two additional legs to each side. It also had multiple tiers with a high back-to-front slope. Their caddies told them to putt at a ninety-degree angle to the hole from the upper left section to the front. They still left the ball below the hole. The caddies further demonstrated a completely different route that would have worked too. Not many holes, let alone greens, provide multiple options to play them. The best ones do.
One reason Yosemite is so popular is there are many sites and splendors within a small valley. High goose bump return on travel time investment. Cypress Point is in that league. And the ninth tee is its Glacier Point, with the ninth hole its Half Dome. While the view back toward the ocean is broad and sweeping, the view inland is dominated by one feature – the half dune behind the ninth green. The double fairway of the eighth and ninth holes lay x-shaped across acres of sand, and the ninth green is framed by a deep, yawning bunker-slash-dune in front, and the mountain-like crest of another in back. The green is a thin sliver that angles back and up from right to left. Ascending ten flights of stairs would not have left them more breathless. This was hard drugs for golfers – thrilling, addictive, and frankly hallucinogenic. They barely understood what their caddies told them to hit, and where to hit it. It did not matter. This was quite a high.
Until they had to record their scores. It was impossible for them to drive the green, or to hit it from the front hazard, and not much easier from the only landing area in front of it. Lob shots from sand or tight lies were not their specialty. A back pin placement further increased the degree of difficulty, especially when the right putting line, near or far, defied geometry. While a double or above is never particularly pleasant, looking back from the ninth green offered more than adequate solace. And prompted a sincere thought - how could the final ocean holes top this?