Spyglass Hill Golf Course: Better than Pebble Beach?
There are few golf resorts in the world, if any, that are as renowned as Pebble Beach.
Whether it’s the history of the PGA Tour, the incredible setting right on the Monterey Peninsula, or the phenomenal golf – there’s no denying there’s an incredible allure about the place.
Pebble Beach Golf Links is obviously one of the most famous golf courses in the world, so it’s no surprise that the other courses at the resort can tend to be overlooked.
Widely regarded as the “next best” course at Pebble is Spyglass Hill.
But what’s it like to play the course? Is it on the same level as a Pebble or the courses at Bandon Dunes? Let’s take a look.
Just the Facts: Spyglass Hill Golf Course
- Designer: Robert Trent Jones Sr.
- Built-in: 1966
- Distance: 7,025 yards from tips
- #10 – Golf Digest Top 100 Public
- #51 – Golf Digest Top 100 in America
- #30 – Golf Magazine Top 100 Public
- #70 – Breking Eighty Top 100
- Location: Pebble Beach, California
- Greens fees: $435
- Caddie Fee: $150 for single bag caddie. $50 for cart.
- Website: https://www.pebblebeach.com/golf/spyglass-hill-golf-course/
First Impressions of Spyglass Hill
Pebble Beach resort is similar to Bandon Dunes in the fact that the order you play the courses in for the first time can have an impact on how you feel about them.
If you play Pebble one day with its dramatic cliffside golf holes, and then go play Spyglass the next, you might find yourself feeling a little disappointed as much of Spyglass is away from the ocean in the forest.
Unlike Bandon, where all of the courses are situated within the same property. The four courses (5 including The Hay par 3 course), aren’t far away from each other, but they’re spread out among 17 Mile Drive.
It’s just under a 10-minute drive to Spyglass Hill from The Inn at Spanish Bay or quick 5-minute commute from the Lodge at Pebble Beach.
The pro shop is perched atop a hill and feels very understated (in a good way) given the prestige of the club.
It’s nestled up among the cypress trees, and there’s a solid range at the course for getting a good warm-up.
All it takes is one look at the tee box on the opening hole to see that Spyglass Hill is impeccably maintained. This should be expected for a round of golf that costs upwards of $500 – but regardless of the time of year you play, you won’t be disappointed in the conditioning.
The First 5 Holes at Spyglass Hill
When you step up to the first tee you’re treated to a dogleg left par 5, that sweeps dramatically down the hill and out towards the ocean.
This is where Spyglass Hill lures you into a bit of a trap.
The first 5 holes on the course are phenomenal, and world-class.
The second is a shorter par 4 that gives you a variety of options for what to hit off the tee.
Hit a good shot, and it may even lead to a free club twirl lesson:
The 3rd is a short downhill par 3 with insane water views. It’s one of the most fun shots on the Peninsula, and no matter how many times I play it, it’s still a hole I look forward to.
It’s also one that leaves me wanting, as this is the one spot on the course where you can look off in the distance and be reminded of the fact you never scored that Cypress Point invite for your trip 🙂
The 4th hole is the most iconic on the course.
It’s a par 4 with one of the most unique greens in golf.
It’s set perpendicular to the fairway and is only 10 paces wide, but is over 100 feet long.
It can lead to some insane putts, or in our case, some insane putting contests:
This is followed up by the par 3 5th hole, which is a slightly uphill shot aimed back out towards the water.
I want to be friends with whoever owns the house perched up behind this green.
Ok let’s be real, I’ll be friends with anyone who has a house anywhere in this area.
The first 5 holes at Spyglass are fun, wonderful, and varied.
There’s just one problem…
After this, the course heads inland and you’ll be in the trees for the rest of the round.
It’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde vibe.
On the one hand, it makes for two really unique experiences: down in the dunes with water views and meandering through the beautiful Del Monte forest.
The Other 13 Holes at Spyglass Hill
Let’s be clear, Spyglass Hill is a wonderful golf course.
In fact, I’ve talked to not just a few, but many people who prefer it to Pebble Beach.
Do you know who those people almost always are?
Like really good golfers.
Spyglass Hill is the most challenging course at Pebble Beach and you really start to feel why after you leave those first 5 holes.
Like all the courses at Pebble, Spyglass Hill isn’t a particularly long course by modern standards, measuring just over 7,000 yards from the tips.
But it demands accuracy. While the fairways are relatively generous, most of the course is in the forest, so if you aren’t able to keep the ball straight, it’ll be a long day for you.
Compared to Pebble Beach and Spanish Bay, my main critique about Spyglass is that it can start to blend together after a while.
Some of the holes through the forest can feel slightly repetitive, and 3 of the 4 par 3s on the course are short to mid-length downhill shots.
That said, I’ve played Spyglass 3 times now, and I’ve “gotten it” more with each round.
Each round I’ve enjoyed more than the previous, and with each play I begin to understand what makes it so special and unique.
One nice thing about the courses at Pebble Beach resort is that they are each very different and unique experiences.
None of the courses feel the same.
More importantly, none of the courses feel like any other course I’ve played, and this holds true for Spyglass Hill Golf Course.
One of the things I’ve said I love about Bandon Trails is the fact you wind through 3 distinct landscapes: dunes, meadows, and forest.
While Spyglass looks and feels nothing like Bandon Trails, I do enjoy the two different settings the course provides.
Sure I think there are some anticlimactic holes (such as both 9 and 18), but it also has some really fun risk-reward holes like the par 5, 14th.
Shoutout to Hannah Gregg who I watched hole out from 70 yards on this hole last time I played.
Final Thoughts on Spyglass Hill
Is a round at Spyglass Hill expensive?
Is it as dramatic as Pebble Beach?
Does it occasionally feel repetitive?
Is it a little sad walking up 6 fairway knowing the best stretch of holes are behind you?
A little bit.
BUT, and this is a very big but, for those minor critiques, Spyglass Hill offers so much more than most golf courses.
First off, it does have those first 5 holes. They’re wonderful.
The setting is gorgeous. Thinking back to standing on the first tee of a sunny 60-degree day at Spyglass? Honestly, it brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.
It’s a wonderful compliment to Pebble Beach in that it offers a completely different playing experience.
It has PGA pedigree as it’s part of the AT&T Pro-Am every year.
And even if it might beat you up a bit as a higher handicap (or a lower one for that matter), it’s impossible not to be smiling from ear to ear throughout the entire round.
I mean how often do you get to tee it up on the Monterey Peninsula?
And if you’ve never played it and you’re concerned about the cost? It’s worth it.
The whole Pebble Beach resort experience is very worth it.
At least once.
After that, you may decide you don’t need to pony up the big bucks to do it again.
But one thing’s for sure, it’s a golf trip and a golf experience you’ll never forget.