March 4, 2016
Farewell and Thanks to Members of the Spyglass Founders Club
One of the greatest chapters in the history of the Northern California Golf Association has come to an end.
On March 10, the lease agreement between the Spyglass Founders Club and the Pebble Beach Company expired, which means the club’s headquarters—Spyglass Hill’s original clubhouse( and former home of the NCGA) that overlooks the 10th tee and green on No.9—was turned over to the Pebble Beach Company.
Fifty years after the official opening of Spyglass Hill Golf Course on March 10, 1966, the Spyglass Founders Club has ceased to exist.
And that’s a big deal, because it was with the help of the members of the Spyglass Founders Club that Spyglass Hill was created in the first place.
“It’s nostalgic,” said Rod Stofle, one of the original club members. “It’s sad and I’ll miss it, but it’s been a great run. We all knew the end would come.”
So what exactly was the Spyglass Founders Club, and how exactly did we get to this point? Well, that brings us to the NCGA’s role in the creation of Spyglass Hill.
Around six years before Spyglass Hill opened, the NCGA, which at the time was headquartered in San Francisco, had swelled to almost 100,000 members from 200 different clubs.
With a demand for tournament venues, NCGA executive director Bob Hanna and then-president Fran Watson began exploring the possibility of the NCGA owning its own course. With their sights set on Pebble Beach, Hanna and Watson initiated discussions with Samuel F.B. Morse, the founder of Pebble Beach Company and owner of Del Monte Properties.
Turned out, talks went so well that by early 1963, a lease and management agreement was formed between the two parties: Morse would supply the land, and the NCGA would finance the construction of the course.
And that’s right where the Spyglass Founders Club enters the picture.
As part of the agreement, 250 Founders would each pay $2,500 as members (with annual dues of $50) for a total of $625,000– the estimated cost to design and build the new course.
One of those around at the time was architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., who worked for his father, Robert Trent Jones, on the construction of the new course.
“The NCGA said they would pay for the course, and the way they did it was the Founders Club,” said Jones, who became an original member thanks to some financial assistance from his father.
A year later in 1964, Morse’s Del Monte Properties agreed to a lease from Spyglass Hill to the NCGA to begin building the course.
As part of that agreement, a sum of $100,000 was negotiated for the construction of NCGA offices and a clubhouse at Spyglass Hill.
During the 1964 discussions, however, there were still some things to be worked out. To make things even more interesting, as Jones noted, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy “there wasn’t much of any business.”
The biggest problem? The total number of Spyglass Founders Club members had not yet reached 250.
The brilliant Morse, however, came up with a solution. He would underwrite the remaining Founders Club memberships (around 65) himself until they were eventually sold.
“Morse was a big hero in this thing, along with Hanna and Watson,” Jones said.
And that, in a nutshell, is how Spyglass Hill came to be.
The cost of building the course would eventually be $487,000. An original name for the course was Pebble Pines, but Morse did not want to take anything away from Pebble Beach.
Jones notes that the ocean-side holes (No.1 through No.5) were based on Pine Valley. The last 13 holes were based on Augusta National.
Less than a year after opening, Spyglass Hill joined the course rotation for the annual Bing Crosby National Pro-Am (today the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am), replacing Monterey Peninsula Country Club. It’s been there ever since. In the meantime, Spyglass Hill has hosted hundreds of NCGA competitions, produced six decades worth of amateur champions and established itself as one of the great venues in the game. In 2018, Spyglass Hill will co-host the U.S. Amateur Championship. The NCGA still has four events scheduled at the course in 2016: NCGA Four-Ball Championship, NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship (including Seniors and Super Seniors), the Zone Championship and the Associate Club Championship.
“Without Morse’s help, there is no Spyglass Hill,” Jones said. “Without the Founders Club, the NCGA would not be the most progressive golf association in the nation and true pioneers in eventually owning their own course.”
So here’s a “goodbye” and a big “thank you” to the Spyglass Founders Club.
Indeed, it was a great run.