Eight-hundred miles later, a West Coast cycle-and-golf odyssey concludes

May 22, 2017

Pete Phipps isn’t sure he’d want to do it again.
But he’s sure glad he did it.
“It” being the epic golf-and-bike trip that he and his buddy Luke Davis recently completed, a two-week, 800-mile pedal-and-peg it from Southern Oregon to Monterey, Calif., along scenic Highway 1.
They called their pilgrimage Portland to Pebble.

You could also think of it as a coastal golf junket, with the risk of cardiac arrest.
“It’s definitely not a trip for everyone,” Phipps said Thursday. He was back home in Raleigh, N.C., weighing 10 pounds less than he did before the trip.
“There are a lot of hills out there, and they’re not easy climbs when you’re hauling 80 pounds of gear.”
Added Davis, “We were pumping out 70-plus miles most days, or six to eight hours in the saddle, with pretty crazy terrain. … Comfort is put on the backburner: no sleeping bag pads, showers were few and far between, laundry was done once.”  
Not that there wasn’t lots of pleasure with the pain.

An adventure that began in Corvallis, Ore., with nine holes at Trysting Tree, the home course of the Oregon State University golf team, and continued with three rounds at Bandon Dunes Resort, just kept on keeping on as the two friends rolled south into the Golden State.
Their mode of transport had it benefits. “Taking the coastline at 10 mph allows you to soak in every ounce of nature,” Davis says. “There’s a lot that you miss when zooming through at 60 mph.”
The glories of golf in Northern California can be described in two words: Alister Mackenzie. Phipps and Davis played three public courses by the architect best known for his work at Augusta National and Cypress Point.
The first of the good doctor’s open-to-all designs was Northwood, a nine-hole sleeper cut through towering redwoods in Sonoma County. The second was Sharp Park, a delightful coastal muni just south of San Francisco. And the third was a Pasatiempo, a bucket-lister in the Santa Cruz mountains that Mackenzie loved so much that he kept a home alongside the sixth hole.
Along the way, there were other sweet stops, including a quickie at the par-3 Cliffs Course at the Olympic Club, and an even briefer visit to Lincoln Park, an historic city-run track in San Francisco where George  Archer honed his famous putting skills.
Here, Phipps and Davis took just one swing each: a tee shot on the par-three 17th, which cuts so close to the Golden Gate Bridge that it looks as if it’s posing for a postcard.
They say you can learn a lot about a person by playing golf with them.
You can also pick up plenty by drinking beer with them.
Aside from the exhaustion and the exhilaration, what sticks with Phipps and Davis are the warm welcomes they received from regulars kicking back at the bar after their rounds. 
Two sweaty guys on bikes, pulling up to a course with their clubs in tow on trailers, tend to draw a lot of questions, like, “What the heck are you doing?” And, “Are you crazy?”
But mostly fellow golfers expressed admiration.
The scene at Sharp Park was especially lively.
“It was a great, eclectic crowd, totally down to earth, with a real cool woman working the bar,” Phipps says. “We just hung out there, talking with great people, with a Mackenzie course sitting there right outside by the ocean.”
As their trip unfolded, Phipps and Davis attracted their share of media attention, so by the time they hit the home stretch, word of their travels was outpacing them.
“The staff at Pacific Grove (Golf Links) was pretty much expecting us,” Phipps says of the great unassuming muni, just north Monterey, which he and Davis chose as their final stop. “They made sure there was a slot for open so we could slip out on the back nine.”
That nine runs along the water, and has a rollicking, linksy feel that has earned the course the nickname the Poor Man’s Pebble.
As for Pebble itself, Phipps and Davis didn’t play it. That’s for another trip.
And chances are, they’ll drive.

For more coverage of Phipps and Davis’s excellent adventure, check out Davis’s site, Lie + Loft. For drone footage of the trip, go here.