Pasatiempo was the vision of expert horsewoman, lady golfer and entrepreneur Marion Hollins – the only woman in America with a men’s polo handicap. The great Alister MacKenzie designed the course and it opened for play in 1929 with a mixed exhibition foursome between Marion Hollins, Bobby Jones, Glenna Collett and Cyril Tolley.
The course is set on the rolling southern hills near Monterey Bay and it’s these slopes that provide much of the Pasatiempo drama. Pasatiempo has a number of Spanish meanings including, “hobby”, “pastime” or a “relaxed passage of time.” Certainly the front nine is a relaxed affair that offers straight tree-lined fairways, but the back nine is a monumental challenge with deep intimidating ravines – known as barrancas in Spanish – which cut across the fairways and greens.
In the early 1990s, club historian Robert Beck discovered many old course photographs and so Pasatiempo embarked on a lengthy restoration programme. The club entrusted Tom Doak with the task. Doak is an admirer of MacKenzie’s work and was therefore the perfect man for the job. The restoration of Pasatiempo completed in 2007 and Doak commented as follows:
“The restoration project was unusual in that we did the work over a period of years in order to keep the course in play throughout. We had the challenge of working with several green committees through the process, but their vision was always clear and consistent — to restore MacKenzie's design as closely as possible. Moreover, I would like to thank the three men who were a part of the project from beginning to end — club historian Bob Beck, who kept digging throughout the project for more photos to help us get things right; superintendent Dean Gump, who kept us organized and got us whatever we needed; and my lead associate Jim Urbina, who managed to keep finding time to get back to Pasatiempo in between building some great new courses for us. Dr. MacKenzie would be proud of them all.”
Undeniably, Pasatiempo is an entertaining course that holds the attention from the opening drive to the last putt. This semi-private club is one of the greatest public access courses in America and, in this day of so many closed and private Top 100 Golf Clubs, we raise our glasses to Pasatiempo.
This is a beautiful, fun challenging course that everyone should take the opportunity to play. I can't imagine that there is a much better daily fee course in American other than Bethpage Black. As the home course and favorite child of Alister MacKenzie this is an outstanding course that showcases many of the elements of design that MacKenzie brought to his layouts.
The course is set on fairly hilly terrain, however I walked the entire 18 without any problems. The front nine starts with two excellent downhill par 4's. The first hole is defined by the wonderful green complex which widens out in the back from a narrow entrance. There must be a half dozen or more excellent pin placements on this green alone. We played to a front pin and I thought I hit a solid bunker shot from the right of the green only to watch helplessly as my ball rolled down the slope and nearly off the green!
Three and Five are two excellent par 3's on the front. Both play over 200 yards and slightly uphill to well protected greens. As good as the front nine is however, it is the back nine that really excites. 10 is a beautiful long par 4 over a hill to a narrow green protected by a harrowing bunker to the left. 11 is pure genius. The drive is uphill and then you have to cross a barranca to a well protected and elevated green. 16 was apparently MacKenzie's favorite, although Tom Doak is more of a fan of the preceeding 15th. Both are excellent par fours requiring thought and precision off the drive. The 16th green has multiple tiers and woe to the player on the wrong tier. The par 3 18th is a bit of an anticlimax but this really does nothing to take away from the overall experience.
The greens and the greenside bunkering are as good as any course I have ever played. The greens are sloped and angled in every way possible, but none of them seem contrived or unfair. I would submit that it would be architecture malpractice to design a golf course without playing here. This is fun golf on a famous golf that all can enjoy. The course has done a tremendous job of restoring many of the original playing and visual characteristics of the course and photographs of the original course and the restored version are available in the restrooms on the course. I certainly enjoyed my round here and would love to go back.
My favorite course of all time. A MacKenzie gem that luckily is public. The front 9 is good but the back 9 is brilliantly routed across several barancas. My favorite is the par 4 11th.
Pasatiempo Golf Club opened for play in 1929 and was designed by the legendary Alister Mackenzie, Mackenzie called Pasatiempo Golf Club his greatest creation even ahead of Augusta and Cypress Point Club. The course is located in Santa Cruz, California on what was a old farm site owned by Marion Hollins the creator of Cypress Point Club 40 miles to the south on Monterrey peninsula. Originally she wanted to use the land as a horse training facility but Mackenzie convinced here otherwise and Pasatiempo Golf Club became a reality. Pasatiempo Golf Club is where the idea for Augusta National was born, on the way to the US Amateur in Pebble Beach Bobby Jones stopped here and visited with Alister Mackenzie about the idea of creating a world class golf course and the rest is history. Mackenzie lived on the six hole at Pasatiempo right up until his passing in 1934, you can see his house as you walk towards the green you can miss it, its the house with the green shutters.
The course itself is very technical and requires solid course management skills and shot making to score well, the fairways are generous at Pasatiempo, its the second shot where the course really shows its teeth. The good doctor would get the ideas for is bunker shapes from cloud formations in sky and thus no two bunkers are the same shape here. The greens at Pasatiempo have some incredible slopes to them, if you don't put you ball in the correct spots you can end up a lot further from the hole from where you shot landed and have a very difficult putt back to the pin. The holes wind their way up and down hills here and extra clubs are needed on a good majority of the holes. Julie Inkster grew up playing Pasatiempo as a child and if you get a chance to play here you can see why she turned into the star she is on the LPGA tour.
In the last few years Pasatiempo has been under a water restriction as a result of prolonged drought in California, the greens and surrounding area are watered as well as the tee boxes, but the fairways receive minimal watering making it play fairly hard and fast.
Thank you Pasatiempo for opening your Dr. Alister MacKenzie Design to the public. Had to play this course that was the inspiration for Bobby Jones to ask Dr. Mackenzie to design his Augusta National. The design was excellent and the bunkering around the greens was outstanding. The undulating greens had character and the course blends in naturally with the sand hills that overlook Monterey Bay. The condition of the course was outstanding and enjoyed every minute of my two rounds here. Pasatiempo is now one of my all time favorites that I have played. I can see why Mackenzie lived here until his death (his ashes were spread on the course) and as he said "I have always wanted to live where one could practice shots in one's pajamas before breakfast." Great job Dr. Mackenzie and thanks Pasatiempo for restoring the course to the original design.
The first 2 holes are downhill solid par 4s that measure 457 and 437 yards. The third is a slightly uphill 235 yard par 3 that is protected by 5 bunkers and is a true test. The fourth is a slightly downhill 378 yard par 4 with a long narrow green again protected by 5 well placed bunkers. The fifth is another solid 190 yard slightly downhill par 3 that is again protected by 5 bunkers. The sixth is an uphill 567 yard par 5 with Dr. Mackenzie's home on the left side of the fairway. This is a good birdie opportunity with the green surrounded by 3 snakelike bunkers. The seventh is an uphill 348 yard par 4 with trees framing the fairway and a long narrow green protected by 3 bunkers. The eighth is a downhill 176 yard par 3 that I thought was the easiest of the par 3s on the front nine. The green was one of the largest on the course protected by 4 bunkers. The ninth is a 500 yard par 5 that goes back to the clubhouse and is a slight dogleg to the right and another good birdie opportunity to this elevated green.
The back nine starts out with a strong 440 yard par 4 with a large almost square green and a unique design of 6 bunkers short left of the green and a single bunker over the green. The eleventh is an uphill 392 yard par 4 that I thought was the most difficult par 4 on the back. The downhill twelfth is a reasonably easy 373 yard dogleg left par 4 with the green shaped like a bell and protected by 3 bunkers. The thirteenth is a slight dogleg left 531 yard par 5 with 5 large bunkers protecting the green. The green was one of the most interesting on the course and the greens crew could have a lot of interesting pin placements. The fourteenth is a 429 yard par four with a long narrow green protected by 3 bunkers. The fifteenth is a nice short 141 yard par 3 with a large bunker protecting the back of this long narrow green. The front was protected by another 4 bunkers that just seemed to fit in so naturally with the terrain. The 387 yard par 4 16th was one of my favorites on the course. The tee shot was the only blind tee shot of the day and getting to the top of the hill was one of the most outstanding green complexes I have ever seen. The three tiered green is protected by a large bunker to the right of the green and another short left. The uphill 371 yard par 4 seventeenth was relatively easy with the long narrow green the only on the course without any bunkers. The round finishes with a downhill 169 yard par 3 where accuracy is key. A canyon is in front of the green as well as 2 bunkers in the front and 2 bunkers over the green.
Would highly recommend Pasatiempo to any golfers that want to play a classic Dr. Alister MacKenzie Design. A truly enjoyable experience that may be as close as I will get to playing Augusta National.
Click to see a You Tube slideshow of some pictures I took during my visit. Jim Brady
In 2011 I came by accident to this course and was marvelled by its beauty and challenge. Last week I had the chance to play it twice in 5 days and all I need to say it that I´m in deep love with this place and course. I was really looking forward to the replay and when I arrived to my first round it was like the first time taking many pics of the Club House and of course from this very well designed layout. The second day we played sun came out during nthe round and got some fantastic shots from the last holes, specially 16 and 18 maybe the best 2 holes on the back 9.
This course offers both beauty and challenge, specially around the greens and when putting. I got beaten both times not being able to score but all the same it was a fantastic time, It is a must play if you come here. And there are many holes which from the tee feel short or easy but when you play them you see the challenge is very big.
One last recommendation: if you come to the area, play it twice!!
In 1993, Pasatiempo was rated No. 100 on the list. Would it still be on next year, or the next? I wondered. Was it worth the chance that it might drop off? An unusual combination of public and private, it’s not cheap to join but allows public play. It’s located in Santa Cruz, California, about 50 miles up the coast from the more famous Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Cypress Point. I was in the vicinity, so I decided to play it. Am I glad I did! I’ve been back twice and would play it again in an instant.
Holes Number 1 and 2 work their way downhill toward the pacific, framing the ocean with Cypress trees the entire way…
As you walk up the 6th fairway, approximately 100 yards from the green, you see the home in which MacKenzie once lived, a fitting shrine for the world’s greatest golf course architect. Number 16 was MacKenzie’s favorite hole in golf, which is saying something since he designed some of the most famous par 3’s in existence. “The 16th green is a garden spot,” he once said. “After playing a drive over the point of the hill, you hesitate to spoil the delightful quiet of this grassy velvet nestling in the trees. It is indeed a beautiful par 4.”
None of the other courses MacKenzie designed are public. So if you get a chance to play Pasatiempo, don’t hesitate! Larry Berle.