Golf

Making the rounds: An era ends at Spyglass Hill

A buck runs behind a marshal on the sixth fairway at Spyglass Hill during the 2014 Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
A buck runs behind a marshal on the sixth fairway at Spyglass Hill during the 2014 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Associated Press file

The days of playing Spyglass Hill “free” as a founding member or for a relative pittance as one of its lucky guests are over.

Perhaps the greatest deal in golf history ended last week when the 50-year lease between the Spyglass Founders Club and the Pebble Beach Company expired.

The deal raised money for Spyglass Hill to be built in 1966, then provided access to thousands of players at rates that made grown golfers cry – in joy.

It was the best deal in the whole world. We could take buddies and it wasn’t expensive for them to play one of the finest and toughest courses in the world.

Jim McMurtrey, member of Spyglass Hill’s Founders Club

“An unbelievable program,” said Sacramento’s Tom Harvey, a Founders Club member since 1995. “No other situation throughout the United States like it.”

The deal started in the early 1960s when 250 golfers agreed to pay $2,500 with annual dues of $50 to raise the $625,000 to design and build Spyglass in Pebble Beach on behalf of the Northern California Golf Association. In return, the founding members were given a daily block of premium tee times at no charge for one of the most iconic golf courses in the world. Their guests initially paid $10.

During the 50-year agreement, 400 new Founders Club members promising to live more than 50 miles from Spyglass were admitted. On weekdays, member tee times were 8:30 to 10 a.m. On weekends, they stretched to 10:30 a.m.

Members continued to play free and the guest fee crept up to $15, where it remained until Thursday, when the Pebble Beach Company, which owns the land, took over the club’s headquarters overlooking the ninth green, and the Founders Club, essentially a private club at a public course, ceased to exist.

Sacramento’s Jim McMurtrey joined in 1985. As Founders Club member No. 433, he won the Spyglass club championship six times.

His initiation fee was $5,000 and his annual dues were just $250 to start and $400 at the end. For perspective, one round at Spyglass now would cost him $395.

“It was the best deal in the whole world,” McMurtrey said. “We could take buddies and it wasn’t expensive for them to play one of the finest and toughest courses in the world.”

Harvey, member No. 525, paid $10,000 to join in 1995. The initiation fee grew as high as $15,000, he said.

“I had 20 more years when I joined and I thought that was forever,” Harvey said. “All of a sudden it just showed up and here we are.”

Dozens of Founders Club members lived in Sacramento. Like many, Harvey and McMurtrey stepped up their pilgrimages as the deadline approached.

McMurtrey partnered with Peter Ross, one of the four founding members still alive, in the club’s final member-member tournament that concluded March 1. McMurtrey, 83, played what he said is likely his final round at Spyglass on March 9, going out in 40 and coming home in par 36.

An unbelievable program. No other situation throughout the United States like it.

Tom Harvey, member of Spyglass Hill’s Founders Club

“That will always be a memory for me,” he said.

Aerification update

Completed: Morgan Creek (Feb. 29), Cherry Island (March 7), Davis (March 15), Lincoln Hills-Orchard (March 15), Haggin Oaks-MacKenzie (March 15-16), Wild Wings (March 16).

Postponed with new date: Timber Creek (March 21), Haggin Oaks-Arcade (April 29-30).

Et cetera

▪ In The Sacramento Bee’s most recent hole-in-one listings, five of eight were at Cameron Park.

Bradshaw or Antelope Greens? Wouldn’t bat an eye. But Cameron Park?

A call to the pro shop confirmed there is no funny business, especially not John Stripe’s 217-yard 2-hybrid from the tips on No. 8.

▪ Jeff Wilson and Jason Anthony (65-63-128) teamed to win the Granite Bay Four-Ball on Monday. Joey Ferrari and Mitch Harrison (70-66-136) won the senior division.

▪ Troon has been selected to manage Winchester Country Club. Troon also manages El Macero and Yocha Dehe.

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526, @Steve_Pajak

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