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.
Pasatiempo is a very good course. My expectations were very high going into the course and I was quite disappointed after the front nine. The holes on the front nine are good, not spectacular. The greens on the front nine are world class though. The back nine has much more memorable and unique holes and lives up to the reputation.
This is exactly what everyone’s perfect idea of a golf course should be. It commands your attention immediately with a demanding first hole and does not let up. The first thing you will realize is that great shots will be rewarded handsomely and poor shots will be severely punished. It’s truly a thinking mans course as you have to constantly imagine how to best set up your next shot. With a variety of options and strategies to score well, this course will suit all different games, as long as you bring your absolute best that day. The back nine is inspired in its design and routing. Beautiful vistas combined with jaw dropping bunkering will leave you wondering why anyone wastes time at that silly Pebble Beach course down the road. You could play here day after day for years and not ever get sick of it. When it comes to the history, few places can rival what Pasatiempo has. A look from the sixth fairway will produce the house where Dr. McKenzie spent most of his time designing the revered Augusta National. The feeling you get walking down certain holes (3, 10, 11, 14, and 16 to be specific) is pure magic as the course so many of us get a brief glimpse of on television seems much more imaginable than it did mere hours before. This is truly a masterpiece, a criminally underrated hidden gem due to it’s neighbors, and one of the best days of golf anyone can be so fortunate to experience.
I've been fortunate enough to play Pasatiempo dozens of times over the last several years, and it's one of those courses that you really need to play multiple times to get a full appreciation for it. It's also one of those courses that is more fun the more you play it, and it never gets old. The first time I played Pasa I was a little in awe of the course - you just don't play very many courses like Pasatiempo. From the variety of holes, to the elevation changes, to the bunkering, to the green complexes, it's just a very unique golf experience.
One thing I realized is that you can't play Pasatiempo without a strategy, and expect to play well. The key to scoring here is having the right angles into greens, knowing where the tiers to the greens are, and knowing that you HAVE to keep the ball below the hole on most greens - especially when they're fast. Hitting some fairways are more important than others - #1, #7 and #13 come to mind for various reasons. The general rule of thumb on most of the driving holes is that you can't miss left.
There's a great variety to the Par 3's in particular - ranging between short holes like the 15th to the long par 3 3rd hole, and everything in between.
My favorite hole is probably the par 4 16th. It reminds me of a par 4 version of 13 at Augusta. If you're able to hit a draw off the tee that flies about 250 yards, you'll have a wedge left to a very difficult 3 tiered green, where you have to be precise if you want to score well. If you're on the wrong tier, you can 3-4 putt pretty easily. Just a great challenge from the drive, to the 2nd shot to the green - you can't fall asleep on any of them.
It's a unique/memorable golf experience - every hole has character, and you'll probably remember every hole and every shot on each hole. A must play, no question.
Pasatiempo was the unexpected star of my trip to Monterey earlier this year. A MacKenzie gem. He actually lived on the course at the end of his life. Feels like stepping back in time. Golf course is as good as Pebble. It’s just not on the ocean. An absolute must play.
If you are visiting the area, Pasatiempo is a must. A true MacKenzie masterpiece. Diabolical and mesmerizing greens that will test any golfer. The bunkering on number 3 will stop you in your tracks. Holes 10 and 11 are two of the most difficult back to back holes out there. 16 green is a masterpiece. Stunning barrencas. Incredible bunkering. Majestic. A bucket list course no doubt.
Pasatiempo's bunkering and greens are world class, there is no doubt. The genius of MacKenzie (helped along by Doak's restoration) is on full display when you play the course.
While the front 9 is solid and even a little reminiscent of the recently renovated Cal Club, the back 9 is where it is at. Favorites there have to include the fantastic 10th which tempts players to hit the green but hitting a worm-burner down the right might give you a better option. The 14th hole has a fantastic swale running as a ribbon down the left side. The 15th is as pretty a par 3 as you will see in North America. Finally, the 16th is utterly staggering once you crest the hill and see the audacity of the 16th green and bunker complexes.
Do I wish houses weren't built so close to the fairways at Pasa (nor the 17 freeway)? Could there be a bit of tree thinning especially on 11 and 12? Sure, these are quibbles but minor ones at that. If you are a fan of MacKenzie but can't score an invite to Cypress, Augusta or Crystal (and who can?) then this is definitely the course to check out.
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