A rare look at what it's like to live on Pebble Beach Golf Links

A rare look at what it’s like to live on Pebble Beach Golf Links

Patterson and pals enjoying post-round cocktails on his patio.
Robyn Twomey

Standing on his sun-drenched deck, cradling an aged Scotch, lazily eyeing the dreamers on Pebble Beach Golf Links, Cary Patterson breathes in the pine-scented air and states the obvious: “I never get tired of this.” Patterson owns a lovely Spanish-style home that is so close to Pebble’s 12th tee it is sometimes necessary to whisper. The vistas are spectacular, down the 11th fairway to the whitewater on Carmel Beach. And yet Patterson only spends four or five weeks a year here. His home base is a sprawling ranch in his native Texarkana, Texas. That is, when he’s not duck hunting at his lodge in Arkansas. Or fishing out of his spread in Montana. Or relaxing in Mexico.

“We just rent a place when we’re down in Mexico,” Patterson says. “My wife said she’d kill me if I bought another house.” When he gets the itch to play serious golf, Patterson, a 2 handicap, comes to Pebble. Two days ago he and some buddies flew in on Patterson’s Challenger 604 jet, just in time to catch a spell of gorgeous 75-degree weather. Yesterday they enjoyed an epic double-dip at Cypress Point and Monterey Peninsula Country Club, where Patterson is a member. This morning they played Spyglass Hill. Tomorrow they’ll play the course on his doorstep.

It would be easy to hate Patterson if he weren’t such an amiable, down-to-earth fellow. Around Pebble Beach there is a tradition of giving homes precious monikers that tend to invoke sea otters and sunsets. Patterson made his considerable fortune as one of the first litigators to take on Big Tobacco, and thus the cheeky brass plaque on his front gate: LUCKY STRIKE. Patterson, 58, is still a rainmaker at his Texas-based law firm of Nix, Patterson & Roach, but looking toward the future he says, “It will be nice to spend more time here. There is just something magical about this place.”

Patterson’s neighbor on the 12th hole, Sanford Edward, is more expansive. “I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world,” says Edward, a real estate developer based in Southern California, “and I’ve never seen anywhere more beautiful than Pebble Beach. That’s pretty obvious. But the lifestyle is also so inviting. You have an exquisite small-town atmosphere without having to give up the more, shall we say, cultivated pleasures. The dining, the art galleries, the cultural pursuits are what you’d find in a major city.”

The Fortunate 46

The coveted Pebble Beach address comprises all of the homes on and around 17 Mile Drive, but the real exclusivity comes from living on the famous golf course, which is home to only 46 houses. (Edward may wind up increasing that number; two years ago he paid $16 million for a double lot that includes a decrepit old house that once belonged to the Orecks, of the eponymous vacuum cleaners. Edward is going through the permitting process to build a new house for himself and sell the other lot.) As you might imagine, the on-course houses don’t come cheap. Currently for sale behind the 12th green is an 8,300-square-foot estate modeled after the celebrated Dutch country manor Cecil Rhodes, the 19th-century mining magnate, built in South Africa. Yours for only $24 million. On the 18th fairway is an 11,000-square-foot contemporary carrying a price of $29 million. It is being sold as part of high-profile divorce proceedings between Becky and John Moores, during which they’ve also unloaded the San Diego Padres.

The occasional mention in the Moores’ tabloid divorce is one of the few times Pebble Beach real estate occupies a public sphere. “The homeowners here are not a flashy crowd,” says local realtor Peter Butler, who specializes in the Pebble market. “Discretion and privacy is what they value.” The only (barely) bold-faced name living on the course is Charles Schwab, who has a big stone house next to the 5th green. Dedicated readers of the business section will recognize a few other homeowners: Scott McNealy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, who’s on the 16th fairway; Bill Gross, once described by Fortune as “the highest-paid money manager in the world,” who owns a contemporary design on the 14th fairway; and Joe Lacob, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist (and part owner of the Boston Celtics) who lives next door to Gross.

Over time the different holes at Pebble Beach have developed distinctive real estate profiles. No. 1 has the history: 1940 U.S. Open champ Lawson Little grew up in the sprawling white house near the forward tees, and next door, in a design with Japanese influences, lived Samuel Morse, the godfather of Pebble Beach development. Despite excellent views, the fourth hole is the (comparatively) low-rent district—two of the three houses are future teardowns. The 13th fairway might be Pebble’s most elegant address, with three graceful older homes on big parcels, including Bing Crosby’s old place, a large-scale version of an English countryside manor, complete with gables and an ivy-draped stone façade. The five houses on the 18th hole are a weird mish-mash. There are two love-’em-or-loathe-’em modern designs, two would-be teardowns and, sandwiched in the middle, a cozy home where Bill Clinton once stayed and visitors never fail to mention afterward how small the dining room is.

The Gold Coast

In recent years the 14th hole — the sweeping dogleg-right par-5 with a devilish green — has become Pebble’s gold coast, with a series of $20 million-plus sales. Fourteen has the highest elevations on the course, and thus vast ocean views, and the lots run up to two and a half acres. Above the 14th tee is a three-story, seven-bedroom, eight-bath, 11,483-square-foot home belonging to Dr. William Lewis and his wife, Duncan. Their son Harry describes the design as “Southern colonial”; others liken it to a giant wedding cake. Duncan is a Southern belle, and there have long been whispers that a huge magnolia tree was trucked in to make her feel more at home. Harry chuckles at a recounting of the story, which he claims is fiction. “There are a lot of stories that float around,” he says. “The caddies like to tell people my dad invented the MRI, which is not true either.”

The Lewises are among the handful of full-time residents on the course, but neither play the game. Pebble Beach homeowners are allowed to make tee times up to 30 days in advance — the general public can only do so 24 hours ahead of time without booking a hotel room — but they have to pay the full $495 greens fee. “For my parents, living at Pebble Beach is not about the golf,” Harry Lewis says. “It’s about the lifestyle, the ocean, the views.”

Especially the views. After building their dream house, the Lewises decided to buy the old, squat home just below them, to ensure that no one would tear it down and build a bigger house, thus compromising their view. The old house goes by the name Woods Hole and is rented out to vacationers and for weddings and other special occasions, including the upcoming U.S. Open.

Cary Patterson will be watching the Open from the deck at Lucky Strike. He never misses a big golf event at Pebble, annually playing in what locals still call the Crosby Clambake as well as the pro-am of the Champions Tour’s First Tee Open, held every fall. During tournament weeks various pros have crashed at his guesthouse, including Bo Van Pelt, Bruce Lietzke and Patterson’s old high school golf teammate, Bill Rogers. Among the local golf buddies Patterson has made through the years is comedian George Lopez, who lives in Pebble Beach but not on the golf course. Patterson keeps a special bottle of Don Julio tequila for Lopez, who never fails to request a shot of it upon reaching the 12th tee. Patterson knows how lucky he is to have the ultimate golf crash-pad, and so do his friends. “Anytime he gets a shot airborne we all yell, ‘Great shot, Cary!’ ” says Mike Delaney, relaxing on the deck at Lucky Strike, nursing a beer and trying to spot the dolphins frolicking off Carmel Beach.

Adds Mike Kennedy, who flew into Pebble on Patterson’s private jet: “Hell, today at Spyglass, on the 12th hole, I chipped in for birdie, an unbelievable shot with about eight feet of break. Nobody said a damn word! Then Cary shook in about a four-footer for par and these guys” — Delaney and Stan Stevens — “were like, ‘Great par, Cary!’ Where’s the justice in that?”

Patterson took in the good-natured yapping with a beatific grin. Clearly he’s heard it all before. And like the view from his aerie, he never gets tired of it.