The tee shot on the 16th at Cypress Point may be the most thrilling single shot in golf. You stand on the tee with the waves breaking below you against the cliff. You can hear the seals below and the cry of the gulls and the sound of the wind in the trees behind. The wind is usually coming into your face. The green sits out on a gorgeous point on land with only the ocean between.
From the tee, all carry, the layup is the left edge of the photo
Your ego tells you to give it a go regardless of the weather or practicality of playing at the green. The tee shot at the green demands perfection. The ball must carry approximately 210 yards to clear the ocean, and any shot leaking to the right ids lost too. The back of the green is framed by bunkers and “ice plant” a nasty succulent that will not let a club get through the ball. Although I must say that the ice plant offers an exotic accent to the green adding color and beauty to the incredible backdrop. You can’t miss left since the cliffs cut in sending another near miss to the beach or ocean 20 feet below. Knowing all this from the tee you realize that you need to be perfect to have a memory of a lifetime. And that sums up the shot perfectly, whether you succeed or not, Alister Mackenzie and Marion Hollins have given you a memory of a lifetime.
The story goes that Mackenzie was worried that the carry was too long to be reasonable and was looking at a short par four for the same general area. Marion Hollins, an exceptional player, promptly teed one up and knocked it across and onto the green site and the hole was born. The artistry of Mackenzie added minor finishing touches to what was almost already all there.
What makes the hole the hole memorable is the heroic carry and the opportunity to do something spectacular? What makes the hole even more brilliant is the option from the tee. There is more than one way to make a par on this hole. Most players will instinctively try to make the carry, even in really poor weather. As shown by the aerial, there is plenty of room left off the tee to lay-up and then pitch the ball into the bowl like green on the other side. The greatness of the hole is the heroic option is not the only choice, there is a route for all classes of player to enjoy the hole.
The pitch shot to the green from a lay-up
Footnote: The only time Dad and I played the hole was into a howling wind. We both lay up and Dad promptly made the putt for par. He said it that was more satisfying than making the carry would have been.
The 5th at Pine Valley: http://thecaddyshack.blogspot.com/2006/12/5th-at-pine-valley.html