I have had the opportunity to play Spyglass Hill on a number of occasions over the years and my earliest opinion still holds. I shake my head at a routing that offered the best visual and strategic holes at the beginning -- rather than at the end. As others have opined -- I concur the first five holes get the golfer's blood flowing and you feel the wind and see the Pacific in the nearby distance.
There's little question Spyglass provides a demanding test as you make your way away from the coastal area into the interior of the Del Monte Forest. The uphill nature of a number of the holes later in the round put a maximum premium on being able to carry the ball sufficient distance in order to gain a better angle for one's approach.
Spyglass is the epitome of Robert Trent Jones, Sr. core design philosophy of "tough par / easy bogey" mantra. The course showcases his style -- the massive putting greens with flanking large bunkers. The primary claim too fame is how demanding the course can play because of the terrain that follows for the final 2/3's of the round.
What would have been interesting to have seen is if the routing was reversed so that the ending climax comes from being nearer to the coastline as the first five holes show. In so many ways -- once you have played the opening salvo of holes you are stoked for more -- and then you realize quickly on that the best of what you have played is now over.
I am a big time fan of the par-4 4th hole. One of the most difficult holes to design is a par-4 that is more than 350 but less than 400 yards. The 4th is brilliantly done -- using the terrain so well and the approach shot is one of the finest you play among all the courses in the Pebble Beach area. I really like how the menacing ice plant becomes more and more of an issue when the pin placement is in the deep rear area of the green.
In many ways Spyglass gets a clear boost in being in the same area as such heavyweights as Pebble Beach and Cypress Point. It's too bad on "what might have been" if a better overall routing was carried forward at the inception. Spyglass is clearly rigorous but the bulk of the architecture after the first few holes simply becomes a recipe for demanding golf -- not compelling architecture of the first order.
by M. James Ward
Date: July 28, 2017