Every true golfer would love to play Cypress Point, but the reality of the matter is that unless you are in the know, only a lucky few will ever get the chance to tee it up on the 1st. Folklore has it that J.F. Kennedy was once refused entry to the restaurant and, with only 250 members, mere mortals find it hard to get a game.
Cypress Point Club is set at the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains on the very tip of the Monterey Peninsula and the cliff top terrain is varied and thrilling. Almost as many superlatives have been used to describe the beauty of the location as the course itself.
Masa Nishijima, co-author of Tom Doak’s Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, commented as follows: “Seth Raynor was under contract to do the course, but Raynor passed away in 1926 before the start of construction, and Robert Hunter managed to convince the client to let Dr. MacKenzie have a look at the course when he made his first visit to California later that year.”
“The best 17-hole course in the world” is how Cypress Point has been described. The closing hole is considered by some to be little more than a route back to the clubhouse and perhaps the 16th hole is a weakness too, especially if you can’t carry the ball more than 200 yards into the prevailing wind. The Pacific is the ultimate water hazard on this 231-yard one-shot hole. It’s considered the best golf hole in the world or the worst if you dump your third tee shot into the sea.
David commented on our Cypress Point article. We feel his points are valid and worthy of sharing:
“While most of your course intros seem ok, this one is really off. It was one guy, Jimmy Demaret that called Cypress Point the best 17-hole course he's ever played. He was a great pro, but not an expert in golf course architecture by any means. Granted the 18th might be a little strange, but it's a great hole in its own right. At most courses maybe even their signature hole. A blind tee shot over Cypress Trees to a narrow fairway the dog legs steep up a hill to a green sloping form back to front with a huge cypress tree blocking out the entire left side of the green requiring a perfect drive to have a chance at the green with a shaped approach from an uneven lie. Land it too deep above the hole and you’re faced with a treacherous putt, miss right while shaping your shot and you are in one of the bunkers guarding the green. Does that sound at all like a weak hole?
Also the 16th is not properly described. In typical MacKenzie fashion this hole can be played many ways. He always leaves a way for weaker golfers. The 16th is no different. If the carry is impossible for your ability level you can play left requiring a carry of around or less than 100 yards to a partially hidden fairway and play this hole as a par 4. Any level can do this. I watched a 92 year old man par the hole with no problem in that fashion. So I'd argue this is not my opinion even, it's just plain fact which makes the intro you have incorrect and a bit unfair to Cypress Point and to MacKenzie.”
Recently I was fortunate to receive the invite to play Cypress. Needless to say I was pretty excited and it lived up to expectations.
A few points noted during play:
- Routing - What a neat routing Cypress has. The round takes you across multiple landscapes - from cypress groves to Monterey pines to dunes to rugged cliffside ocean. MacKenzie uses the central dune magnificently. Never is the green to tee walk long, except where it should be. The long walk from 14 green to 15 is one of the best transitions in golf. It creates a tremendous sense of anticipation. You stroll through the cypress trees then cross 17 mile drive. The sound of the crashing waves becomes louder. Finally you round the bend and see the beautiful 15th hole, with bunkering even better than you imagined.
- Tie-ins - the melding of the course and the natural environment is so well done. Everything seems at one with the landscape and feels natural. The course is very well manicured but it still melds well with the rugged nature of the property.
- Green complexes - they sit so well into their natural environments. Cypress has some of the most interesting green complexes I have ever played. I do think the greens were running too fast for the slopes. It could be due to the time of year when our caddies said the course is at its firmest. I don’t believe MacKenzie would have not designed such slopes for greens running 12 on the stimp.
- Turf - the turf is firm underfoot and plays firm and fast. A run up shot is eminently possible at CP. It's as close to perfection as you can get on a non-links course.
Holes I most enjoyed are: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17. You really could list them all. The green complex on 1 is really good. The tie-ins on 3 are really well done. 5 is a beautiful three shot hole with layered bunkering. 8-9 on the central dune are are some of the most unique holes you’ll ever play. 11 with its central hazard is a challenging yet fun long par 4 into the prevailing wind. The artistic bunkering on 13 has to be seen in person. Everyone knows about the finishing four holes so no point in elaborating on them. 6 balls truly undersells the magnificence of Cypress Point. It’s a special experience.
My only wish is that more golfers could experience it to see just how good golf architecture can be. MacKenzie was a genius and Cypress is an extra level above the other excellent MacKenzie courses I've played. 6 balls is underselling this course. Cypress Point is proof of how good golf can be. I feel privileged to have played there. October, 2020
The greens were in terrible shape. I am sure it was quite temporary and everything is back in order now. Could be the best course I have ever played. The last four holes are perhaps the best in all of golf.
"The last four holes are perhaps the best in all of golf." Seriously? Much has been rightly written on the merits of the 15th thru the 17th. The 18th is hardly worthy of global acclaim. Nothing sum this up better than the quote from Jimmy Demarest about Cypress Point -- "was the best 17-hole course he had played." I don't know of any person who would include the 18th at the same level as the three holes that precede it. If I'm wrong -- then likely those who see it the same way as you -- can weigh in with their rationale.
M James Ward, I must confess I haven't played the course (I'm a mere mortal...) but as you can see in the end of the intro, this statement by this 'great pro but not an architecture expert' can in fact divide opinions and should not be considered an undeniable truth. I can only dream about following up on this comment with my own thoughts one day after having played CP!
I found your comments to be interesting if somewhat misplaced. You frankly admit you've never been to Cypress Point so therefore you have no way in personally knowing if the original statement about the final four holes being "the best in all of golf" is remotely accurate.
I, along with others on this site and no doubt elsewhere -- have played the course on more than one occasion.
You do call into question my referencing comments from Jimmy Demaret (three-time Masters champ I might add). OK -- fair enough. How about the comments of Tom Doak -- an active architect of the first order -- how would you assess his credentials?
In his original Confidential Guide book he sad the following :
"... even though the 18th hole is about as anti-climatic as the credit reel of a movie."
The 18th is not as bad as the harshest of critics would state, however, the original stated assertion that the 18th is in the same league with the preceding three holes is simply preposterous.
M. James - In my view your “I’ve played it several times and you haven’t” argument/comment is interesting but I feel somewhat misplaced.
After all, Kurt’s played the course too - and it reads to me that, rather than disagreeing with you, Maarten was merely drawing attention to the fact that in the above course intro, “David” gives a reasonable account of why he feels 18 at CP is a good hole.
Therefore it’s not an undeniable truth that it is a bad hole (i.e. Maarten’s comment is fair) - even if it’s not at the same level as the 3 that precede it
The Monterey Peninsula in California is home to many wonderful golf courses, including the renowned Pebble Beach almost next door on the rugged Monterey coastline. But whereas Pebble Beach is a public course, and home to many events including the US Open, Cypress Point remains a very private and exclusive club.
It is a charming combination of exclusivity, the most spectacular of sites, and wonderful design. McKenzie is famous for his bunkering, and Cypress Point has sandy hazards at every turn- strategically positioned, with wonderful wild shaping, and at times providing a level of intimidation. In my view the bunkering defines the course at Cypress as much as the spectacular setting...
Our day started with an oddity! Our host proceeded to hit his opening tee shot into a hedge crossing the fairway- what a disappointing start to a day with such promise! No matter, he quickly declared 'breakfast ball', pulled out a new ball and parred the hole.. That was an education for the uninitiated, and something we have seen many times since with our friends from the states.
After the first hole the course turns inland through pine forests, and the bunkering is sublime.. My memory of holes 4 & 5 is dominated by acres of sand- strategically placed, artfully designed and totally 'in synch' with the surroundings. There are some wonderful runs of holes here- I particularly I liked the back to back shorter par four 8th and 9th holes.
And I think that the run of the 15th, 16th, and 17th is the most exciting golf I have ever played. When you walk from 14 green to 15 tee along the coast you turn the bend and the sound hits you in the solar plexus- a cacophony of waves hitting the rocks, the calls of the wild- seals and sea birds... and then you turn again and confront the most beautiful short par 3 possible. Overwhelmed you putt out on 15 and proceed around the point.
You need to adjust again to the sound of the pounding sea overpowered by the pounding of your heart as you approach the most famous par 3 in the world - the par 3 200metre 16th hole with ocean carry from tee to green. It is a tad overwhelming!.. but completely awesome!
The seventeenth tee sits on a point nearly surrounded by ocean. Your tee shot must carry the ocean and coastal rocks which run at a diagonal to your line of play. Of course the safe line away from the sea requires less carry but leaves a longer approach over a pine tree, whereas a longer or more daring tee shot hugging the coastline will leave a shorter approach from a better angle. You choose!
The closing hole is nice, but is perhaps the weakest hole on the course- an uphill par 4 through the trees. Originally MacKenzie had suggested the tee be positioned on a rock off the coast (which was to be reached by a swing bridge). Now that would have been a memorable finish!
CPC has that perfect combination of great strategic design, wonderful variety of golfing terrain (through sand dunes, pine forest, and along the coast), and gorgeous ocean backdrops
In my opinion it ranks with Pine Valley as the best two courses in the world- but CPC is the one I would play over and over- it is just that good.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Cypress Point is the perfect golf course. Every hole is memorable each improving slightly from the previous and cumulating at the 17th. Like most of the top courses, the greens at Cypress Point are unique to the course. Amazing MacKenzie greens. Multi-tiered, multi breakers and massive fun! I wish I could be more articulate but Honestly the course left me speechless. If you can only play one round this is it!!
i am sitting here by MYSELF,socially distancing, living vicariously through your review. Put a good word in for me, I am ready, willing and able.
Good health to all
When you can play badly and walk off and have had fun then that is a brilliant course. CP must be one of the best places to be a Member on the planet. Definitely a Top 10. The 10th and 18th let it down badly but there is no purer start on the planet than the first 6 holes. And 13-17 simply amazing. Shot value, shot choice and the journey from sand to forest to sea is amazing.
The quote from Bobby Jones when assessing the character of Pebble Beach and Cypress Point is the most accurate and cryptic of them all. Jones stated Pebble was "more difficult" but Cypress was "more fun." That is the core of what makes Cypress Point so enchanting.
For me -- Cypress is the quintessential member's course. The reputation of the layout embodies the central philosophy of Alister MacKenzie from start to finish. The intersection with Mother Nature is also central to the round of golf and the good Doctor was wise enough to not attempt any heavy handed insertions.
The nuts and bolts of the course have been accurately mentioned by earlier reviewers. To give the course the maximum six stars is truly short-changing this work of art. I've been quite fortunate to have played the course in different times of the year with varying degrees of weather -- from ample blue sky with light winds to more challenging with high winds and a spritzing of off and on rain showers.
Although most golfers are thoroughly aware of the final few holes along the Pacific, it is the interior holes which are quite extraordinary. The land for these holes provides a range of different "looks." MacKenzie weaved a brilliant array of different holes. There are moments where the bold play is invited but at no time is the course a one-way oriented venture. There are clear choices -- strategies to be constantly weighed.
The location of the course is clearly one of the most powerful features. I have always opined that land is no less than 60% of the equation when weighing the merits of any course. While not all grand locations will yield an equally grand course, I do believe when you have great land and can intersect that with a riveting routing you have the formula for a tour de force result. That is what Cypress Point has in spades.
There are a number of all-world holes. I have always liked the nature of the short par-4's at the 8th and 9th respectively. They are simply spellbinding for their innate beauty and they are also within the domain of most golfers.
The layout possesses a wonderful array of different two-shot holes. The opening hole is often not mentioned but it's a fine starting hole. The qualities of the 11th and 12th in succession are quite demanding when played into the wind coming off the Pacific. I believe the 14th is usually forgotten given the run of holes to follow. The par-4 isn't long -- just under 400 yards -- but it yields to nothing but first rate executions.
The genius of MacKenzie hits an even higher note with what three of the final four holes provide. The 15th plays roughly 135 yards but it takes a special effort to nestle an approach near to the hole. The virtues of the 16th are beyond my ability to form words to sufficiently highlight what is present.
I can remember vividly my first time and I was utterly mesmerized. The pounding of the waves along the shore -- the yelping of the sea lions basking in the sun along the rocks and the green stationed on the other side with the Pacific Ocean standing in one's way in much the same manner as a sentinel on guard. There is a bailout area to the left for those who cannot summon the guts to fire across and attempt to reach the holy grail of a putting surface. But, anyone who comes to Cypress Point had best give it a try -- you can never be sure if your visit will permit and encore situation. What's amazing about the hole is that the legendary Bing Crosby made a hole-in-one here -- one of only two ever to do so.
Without questions, the 16th demonstrates the validity of the long par-3 in golf. There's an escape route but anyone taking on the carry and exiting with a par can rightly say you've been "blessed by an even higher authority."
The 17th provides visual stimuli in harmony with the 16th. When you stand on the rearmost tea box you see the wondrous intersection of land and water. The par-4 is beautifully framed with a cluster of cypress trees in the drive zone and they can insert themselves for those failing to respect their location -- both from the tee and with the approach.
The concluding hole at Cypress Point has been bandied about by many, many people with camps of supporters and detractors in equal measure. Jimmy Demarest, the famed golfer and holder of three Masters titles, said Cypress Point is the best 17-hole course in the world. Clearly, the Texan was speaking with the 18th in mind.
The hole is not an easy one per se, but after such a string of stellar holes it would be near impossible to do so with a finishing one that works its direction away from the water and near to the clubhouse.
Frank "Sandy" Tatum, the former USGA president and long time member called Cypress Point "the Sistine Chapel in golf" and there really is no better correlation. Cypress Point shows that the "fun" dimension is what makes golf so grand a game. The juxtaposition with Pebble Beach so nearby makes for a dynamic duo of the highest order.
Cypress Point is akin to what Orson Welles created with the cinema giant, "Citizen Kane." Like the movie -- every frame of Cypress Point is accounted for by MacKenzie. Those who have the opportunity to play this masterpiece will never forget one's time there.
by M. James Ward
It's almost 20 years to the day since I last played Cypress Point. This review sums up my feelings, but few commentators say things so succinctly as Tom Doak, who wrote the following in his Little Red Book.
Why Cypress Point is so Good
Nearly everyone walks off the 18th at Cypress Point thinking he left some shots out there. That's the reason it's such a good course, whether or not long hitters think it's too short. And more importantly, it drives home the point that a course does not have to be super-hard to leave you with the feeling you could have done better.
For many score is way too important -- they can't understand that most people are out there to have fun, and that fun can be more about the beauty of Nature, than about your score.
This review really seems to capture the spirit of the place. I have been questing to play CPC for many a year and the reason is that the course seems to blend strategy and scenery into a fun golf experience that few other courses can come close to matching. This review only make me want to play there more, great job MJW!
I've been fortunate to have played Cypress Point a few times back in the early nineties. I've got a couple of friends who are members there and they're both very generous characters who often brought guests there. The first time we played there was the best, as I always welcome "weather" when playing on the peninsula. It was a typically foggy/misty/rainy day with a little wind and the course was playing its best that day. We were having a grand time and by about the 14th hole, it was raining for real, but it was nowhere near unplayable. We hardly noticed though, and our game continued on. On fifteen, our host says, "how's everyone doing? Should we pack it in?" I said, "what!? Pack it in!? What are you talking about "pack it in!?". He says, "yeah, the caddies are done...they're going in". I'd say that was about the most shocked moment of my life. That's right, the caddies were done. We cajoled them into continuing until 16, where they dropped our bags and headed in. I was a "professional" caddy only 10 years earlier and if I'd ever pulled that stunt, I'd have been banned for life. But, there it was, and our caddies were gone. So much for the ultra rich treating the "help" poorly. BTW, it was still the best day of golf ever. BTW, in those days, guests weren't allowed to purchase anything in the pro shop....no hats, towels...nothing...members only. A book of matches was about all you could take with you.
I recently got the opportunity to play Cypress Point, and the course lived up to every expectation that I had knowing it was regarded as the best course in the world.
The first tee shot was one of the most intimidating shots of my life as the tee box is right next to the clubhouse and all of the members waiting to tee off, as well as the caddies all watch. The tee shot goes over a hedge that protects the road in front of the tee box, so a mishit could lead to an embarrassing moment to start the round. After the first shot the 1st hole plays as one of the hardest holes on the course as it is one of the longer par 4s on the course and as you approach the green there is a large uphill. The green is massive and has a large back to front slope so if you find yourself far from the pin, it makes for a difficult two putt.
After the first hole, you make your way towards and then through the California pines. My favorite holes in this stretch were the 2nd and the 5th, the two par 5s. The 2nd hole provides a fun tee shot as there is a bunker that protects the start of the fairway which you can carry as much or as little of as you want. The second shot is also tricky as there are two bunkers that make accuracy critical otherwise you will find yourself hitting your approach shot from a bunker. I found myself in one of the bunkers with my second on the second day, and I had to struggle to make a bogey.
The 5th hole is one of the most unique holes that I have ever played as it has two large uphill slopes, one about 175 yards from the hole and one that elevates the green. The hole is not extremely difficult, but if you don't get your second shot up the first hill, the big number comes into play.
Some of the other notable other holes in the front 9 were the 7th, a par 3 over the 6th green where if you don't hit your tee shot on or around the green, an up and down is nearly impossible. The 8th hole is notable because I thought it was the hardest hole on the course with the blind tee shot and the green is protected by a bunker and an errant shot to the left almost certainly will result in an unplayable.
I also loved the 12th and 13th holes with their elevated tees providing stunning views of the course and distant views of the ocean. After walking off the 14th green, you cross a street and then go along a path, which provided a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean as you approach the 15th tee. The first day I played, it was so foggy that you could barely see the green from the tee. This made for a very interesting shot, and I hit it long into the back bunker and made a bogey. On the 16th, I had to hit it to the right as I could not carry it to the green, and hit a solid shot and had a 50 yard chip in. I made a fairly average bogey with a chip and two putts.
The 17th tee is probably the coolest tee in golf as it has the best view of the Ocean on the course and you can see the beautiful 17th hole as well as the 16th. The trees in the middle of the fairway make the approach shot very tricky as it can be an obstacle to carry your approach shot over and sometimes cover your view of the pin. As for the 18th, I actually loved it. I would not agree with the statement that Cypress is the best 17 hole course in the world. The tee shot is very tricky as you must carry a tree, and an errant shot to the right likely means punching out and trying to hit your third shot to the green.
Overall, Cypress for sure held up as the best course in the world. It was in pristine shape, and every single hole was unique and fantastic in its own way.
Cypress Point is a special day and, for me, the epitome of golf course design. The course is all of strategic, challenging, thrilling, fun, playable, and memorable. Dr. MacKenzie’s distinct bunkering and camouflage elements are spellbinding. Following the good Doctor’s guiding principles, the course is attractive to look at all the way around. The place would be a great walk even if there were no golf course there. And then you cross the street, walk under the canopy of trees and the 8th wonder of the golfing world unfolds before your eyes on 15 and 16. To top it off, the place has a cool vibe. Overall, a transcendental experience. For yours truly, it gets no better where the surf meets the turf. - Jake Starr
5 years ago, I broke off my engagement for a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to play Cypress Point…best decision I ever made. Not to mention the best day of golf I’ve ever had on what for me is the #1 course in the world. A chance to revisit this wonderful place I really couldn’t have dreamed up, yet there I was on another absolutely perfect October day. Warm with a light breeze and beautiful sunshine. What I really noticed this time around was how much of the course I missed in the first go. Most likely due to being so overwhelmed at the experience. The greens were running pretty fast this time given we played a morning round and that emphasized the danger of ending up above the hole. A mistake I would make a few times in the beginning of the round which makes for quite a few sideways putts to try and let them trickle down to the hole without rolling right off the green.
At Cypress Point it always seems to be the ocean holes that receive all the love but the fact is it’s not always being placed as the #1 or #2 course in the world simply because of these holes. At Cypress Point there are 18 wonderful golf holes that are totally different and make the very best possible use of a great property. Every hole is completely unique, the first 6 winding their way up into the coastal pine forest followed by 6 holes running through the dunes and finally the last 6 holes where ocean views and drama reign supreme. There is a wonderful mix of short and long holes, reachable par 5’s and heroic carries that always offer a safer way to play for lesser, shorter or senior players. Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that Cypress Point is the ultimate members course and this additional fact is for me what makes it the best course in the world – the best of Alister MacKenzie on the ultimate property for golf.
There can be no greater experience in golf than a round at Cypress Point on a perfect day (or perhaps any day for that matter).