Portland to Pebble update: 500 miles (and several IPAs) down in the golf trip of a lifetime

Monday May 8th, 2017
"It’s a completely different experience than you get in a car," says Luke Davis, left, with Pete Phipps on the Oregon coast.
Luke Davis

It’s time to check in on the progress of Luke Davis and Pete Phipps, avid golfers in the midst of a pain-meets-pleasure journey: They’re bicycling 900 miles along the Pacific Coast, from southern Oregon to the Monterey Peninsula, with plenty of stops to peg it along the way.
 
When we last caught up with them, they were just about to head out on their expedition, boarding road bikes by the ocean, west of Portland, and pedaling south on Highway 1, their golf clubs hitched to trailers just behind them.
 
That was nine days, 500-plus miles and many rounds ago.
 
The duo has now made it to Northern California, and a ribbon of coastal highway that spills through giant redwoods.

 
“Riding bikes along this route instead of driving is kind of like walking a golf course instead of taking a cart,” Davis says. “Everything slows down. There’s more time to take in the scenery and get lost in your thoughts. You’re looking up at these ancient trees. Birds are flying by right above you, checking out what you’re up to. It’s a completely different experience than what you get in a car.”
 
This stretch of California is known as the Lost Coast. But there’s golf to be found, if you know where to look.

The finishing hole at the Little River Inn in Northern California.
Luke Davis


 
In Arcada, Phipps and Davis played 18 at Baywood Golf and Country Club, which has a tightly tree-lined track and a time-capsule clubhouse. 
 
“Very Mad Men,” Phipps says. “A really cool throwback look and feel.”
 
Some 80 miles south, in Benbow, they came upon a nifty nine-hole layout that curls across a private campground. When the course operators learned what the pair was up to, they were happy to let them whip around.
 
“That’s another thing you’re reminded of on a trip like this,” Phipps says. “Just how generous and open people in the golf industry are.”

Killing time at the campsite.
Luke Davis


 
Not all of their stops have been at sleeper courses. At the outset of their ride, in Corvalis, Ore., Phipps and Davis took their hacks at Trysting Tree, a Ted Robinson Sr. design that serves as the home course for the Oregon State golf team.
 
Then came Sand Pines, a Rees Jones layout in Florence, Ore., that has two distinct nines: one rolls inland, the other cuts along the coast.
 
“It’s like playing nine holes at Bandon Trail, and nine holes at Bandon Dunes,” Davis says.
 
Speaking of Bandon Dunes, Phipps and Davis played there, too. Three times, in fact. That’s also where they showered for the first time on their trip. But maybe that’s more detail than you need to know.

Davis, left, and Phipps soak up the grandeur of Bandon Dunes.
Luke Davis


 
The point is that this isn’t pampered travel.
 
Phipps, 34, and Davis, 28, are riding up to 75 miles a day, hauling 80 pounds of gear. They’re bedding down in sleeping bags under the stars, then getting up at daybreak and pressing repeat.
 
“There’s some hard work involved,” Phipps says. “It’s not exactly a golf trip for everyone.”
 
Then again, they’re not asking for sympathy.

A quick pit stop to do laundry for the first time in seven days.
Luke Davis


 
What looked on paper like a golf and bike excursion has turned into a kind of triathlon: pedaling, playing golf, and drinking IPAs.
 
“It’s not a bad way to go after a long day,” Davis says. “There are plenty of breweries along the way.”
 
As of Monday morning, the two were wrapping up a stay near the Little River Inn, in Mendocino, a rustic-chic retreat with a nine-hole course that gazes out at the Pacific. They were on their way to Sea Ranch, a scenic coastal enclave with its own seaside layout, which they hoped to play on Monday afternoon.
 
More great golf awaits, including Northwood Golf Club, in Sonoma County, an Alister Mackenzie-built nine-holer shaded by towering redwoods; and the Cliffs Course at the Olympic Club, a nine-hole par-3 course that ranks as a true San Francisco treat.
 
Then they’ll face a final push toward Monterey.
 
Though the two have billed their adventure as “Portland to Pebble,” they won’t be wrapping up at Pebble Beach itself. They plan to play their final round at Pacific Grove Golf Links, a low-key but character-rich municipal course that feels very much in keeping with the ethos of the trip.
 
“The whole idea behind this is to get at what the spirit of golf is supposed to be,” Davis says. 
 
Adds Phipps: “We’re not keeping score. We’re not spending a lot of time reading putts. We’re giving each other a lot of four footers. It’s golf as recreation. We’re enjoying the courses, the people we meet, and the scenery as it passes by.”

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