100 Years of Pebble Beach: Building Spyglass Hill

 By James A. Frank

In 2019, Pebble Beach Golf Links will celebrate its 100th birthday and host its sixth U.S. Open. To commemorate these milestones, each issue of LINKS Magazine and LINKSdigital between now and then will tell the unique story that is Pebble Beach. Those articles will also be shared here on our website.

The opening of Pebble Beach Golf Links in 1919 lit the fuse on an explosion of new courses to meet the demand from people coming to the area on vacation or as homeowners.

Monterey Peninsula Country Club (established in 1926) and Cypress Point Club (1928) were built as, and remain, private clubs. Pacific Grove, a municipal layout just outside Pebble Beach, opened in 1932, and in 1957 they were joined by the nine-hole Peter Hay.

By the early 1960s, another layout was needed, not only for visitors but for the Northern California Golf Association. Working together, the NCGA and Del Monte Properties Company found the land and financing for a new course that Pebble Beach Resorts would own and maintain, and the association could use.

Robert Trent Jones Sr. was given a site that ran from the ocean up into Del Monte Forest. The course he laid out was given the working name Pebble Pines until Samuel F.B. Morse, who ran Del Monte Properties, remembered that the area inspired Robert Louis Stevenson when writing Treasure Island. Morse suggested the name Spyglass Hill.

The course opened in March 1966, to instant acclaim. Bing Crosby was so smitten he immediately made Spyglass Hill one of the three courses hosting his “clambake.” Crosby was also very proud of the challenge Spyglass Hill presented, going so far as to bet Jack Nicklaus that he wouldn’t break par the first time he played it. (Nicklaus shot a 2-under 70 and has a framed $5 bill, signed by Crosby, to commemorate his feat.)

The course Jones designed brings together the peninsula’s most dramatic traits—sand, sea, and trees.

In James R. Hansen’s biography of Jones, A Difficult Par, the architect is quoted describing Spyglass Hill this way: “The first five holes, starting from deep in the woods and heading immediately to the sea, demand target golf through sandy wastes, deliberately reminiscent of Pine Valley, but with water in the background and buffeted by the ocean winds. The rest of the course winds through towering Monterey Pines and cypress in the Del Monte Forest, and is deliberately reminiscent of Augusta National.”

Spyglass Hill will co-host the U.S. Amateur with Pebble Beach Golf Links for a second time in 2018. When it was used during the 1999 U.S. Amateur, no player in the field broke 70—just as Bing would have bet.