Samuel Finley Brown Morse moved to California from the east coast in 1916 and became the manager of The Pacific Improvement Company which was charged with liquidating certain assets of “California’s Big Four Families” (Huntington, Stanford, Hopkins, and Crocker) which happened to own the Central Pacific Railroad. One of his earliest assignments was to sell off what is now the City of Alameda, after which he took the railroad to Monterey and encountered for the first time the magnificent Monterey Peninsula. When 7,000 acres became available in 1919 he formed his own company (Del Monte Properties) and purchased property essentially from Asilomar to the Carmel River (near the Mission) including the Monterey County Water Works, for $1.34 Million. His overarching dream was to build a “the greatest park in existence” which was to include home sites and golf courses. Pebble Beach Golf Links was opened in 1919 (Jack Neville and Douglass Grant), MPCC in 1926 (Robert Hunter, Seth Raynor, and Charles Banks), and Cypress Point Club in 1928 (Alistair Mackenzie).
Mr. Morse envisioned a string of shoreline courses and in this vein, in the 1950’s authorized the building of the second MPCC course (Shore) which opened in 1961 (Bob Baldock and Robert Bruce Harris). By this time, golf’s popularity was on the rise and there was a definite need for more “public” starting times. This coincided with the desire of the executive director of the then nascent NCGA, Robert Hanna, for a championship golf course on which many of the tournaments could be contested. SFB Morse had a 200 acre parcel of land which was perfect for both his vision (string of seaside courses) which was called Spyglass Hill, an area between MPCC and Cypress Point Club and that legend held was the stomping grounds for Robert Louis Stevenson and which was the inspiration for his classic TREASURE ISLAND. The two struck a deal in which the NCGA would arrange financing of the course and Morse would provide the land. He knew exactly who he wanted to build the course, the best golf course architect of the day, Robert Trent Jones. Jones called the area a dream site for a golf course yet it would be the greatest challenge of his career in that “the site was overrun by weeds, trees, and brush and although the views were magnificent, the terrain was a neglected mess.”
Pebble Pines was thus conceived. While Jones loved the name, Morse did not and due to many factors such as his firm grasp for the history of the area and ownership of the land, the name was changed in September 1964. The original group headed by Fran Watson (the Club’s first president), Bob Hanna, Bill Power and others had begun to put together individuals who would each contribute $2,500 in order to fund the project, budgeted at $625,000. (included the architect’s fee, course construction, and the three buildings). The Founder’s Club was now born. The members would be granted 9 starting times each weekday morning and 12 on each weekend while the NCGA would have 30 days annually to run its tournaments. This arrangement was to last 55 years (later changed to 50) and the company would have all other starting times which it could sell to the public. Morse would have completed his string. The 258 (250 plus 8 more which would pay for the furnishing of the clubhouse) comprised the original Founders of Spyglass Hill Golf Club and on March 11, 1966, the first shot was struck off of Tee #1 by President Watson.
Mr. Jones had visited the site on many occasions and it was indeed a huge challenge: dozens of bulldozers moving like Arnie’s Army, chain saws, and the like resulting in the removal of towering pines by the hundreds and bushes by the thousands. Many of these were burned at a site which is now the thirteenth fairway. It had to be done carefully and on at least one occasion the fire got out of control prompting a remark later by Jones to the effect that he was extremely stressed by the real possibility that he would burn down the entire Del Monte Forest. He was extremely proud of the final product but also quipped that there is much more to the transformation of raw land to a finished course than the layman realizes. Initial design was 6,972 yards with a par of 72. It was and is very difficult, so much so that quite a few of the original members quit and received their money back.
After the initial wave of defections, essentially no one left for reasons other than death yet today, less than a dozen of the original founders remain. The club has done a masterful job, however, of selecting members who would perpetuate the underpinnings of the initial group resulting in a robust friendly group who very much respect the course, the game and themselves. We meet three times annually for tournaments and enjoy bringing guests to what is a magnificent example of the perfect marriage of great architecture and great agronomy, that is the Spyglass Hill Golf Course.