Review: Pasatiempo Golf Club

Information

  • Santa Cruz, California
  • Alister Mackenzie (1929)
  • 103rd in the US (Golf Digest)

In April of 2018, I embarked on a journey from Arizona, up the California coast starting at Santa Barbara, ending in Great Falls, Montana. I had five rounds planned in the week, with the first one being Pasatiempo.

Pictures do not really do the place justice (one of the many golf-review clichés, but is definitely true here), as it is significantly hiller than you’d think. The course only plays to an insignificant 6521 yards, but as the starter said, it plays 400 (or more) yards longer than the yardage.

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You get a sense of the bunkering style near the green on the 1st

The course starts with a pretty benign par 4, measuring 457 yards from the back tees, but plays straight downhill with no trouble off the tee. I’m not really up to date on Pasa’s history, but this hole seems like it would’ve played as a par 5 when it opened in 1929 as a “half-par” hole.

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The tee shot at the opening par 4 at Pasatiempo, with the Pacific Ocean in the background

The second is a really difficult hole, mostly due to the blind tee shot. The green is also pretty wild (a pretty common trait of the complexes as Pasa). The third, a beast on the card at 235 yards uphill (add 400 yards), feels very much like a Stanley Thompson hole. Bunkers are everywhere, and for us Canadians and those who have played Jasper Park Lodge, mirrors the 4th hole at JPL.

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The par 3, 3rd at Pasatiempo

Hole 4 is a pretty simple par 4 with awesome bunkering and a nice green complex. The best play is up the left side so you have a good angle into every pin, but the left is blind from the bunker, while the right gives you a view but a bad angle. The fifth, the second par 3 on the course, has the coolest green complex I have ever seen, featuring a front left tongue, a back left tongue, and a huge front right tongue.

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Pro tip: hit the green at the 190 yard par 3 5th

While I like the 6th-9th, the 10th is the next “wow” hole. The previous stretch is still very good, but feels constrained by trees now, especially on the 6th and 7th. One can only dream what it was like in the 30’s!

The 10th, a beast at 440 yards, features a slightly blind tee shot. When you get to the fairway, the view is spectacular and treacherous, for different reasons. Below is a view of the approach, and the bunker ditch that’s green-side. The similarities between how this hole and the 11th at Augusta feel evident. A kicker slope front right to help the ball work towards the green, with a hazard short left (bunker at Pasa, water at ANGC), and a downhill approach (as well as a similar yardage to the original hole at Augusta) definitely makes this a great hole.

After the 10th, you get to Dr. Mackenzie’s prized 11th hole. A beauty sub-400 yard short hole, the player hits something less than 265 yards in the left side of the fairway, and then has the difficult, uphill approach over the barranca to a green guarded by three bunkers and a very undulated putting surface. Throw in a golf bridge for good measure and you have a picturesque hole.

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My favorite part of the course was for sure the bunkering. Mackenzie’s style is artistic and flamboyant, and while it might not always come into play, like the par 5, 13th, it certainly is a memorable part of the golf course and a cut-above other courses.

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The bunkering at the 13th is en fuego

The final four holes at Pasatiempo are certainly interesting. Starting at the 15th, there’s 2 par 3’s and two short par 4’s to finish the round. The 15th is the shortest 3 on the course, measuring only 141 yards, but is certainly no pushover with bunkering bleeding into the barranca (which we will see later as well) and a green complex with many tongues, shelves and ridges.

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The par 3, 15th

We then arrive at the all-world par 4, 16th, which is controversial for a few reasons. The 387 yard, par 4 features a blind tee shot with the barranca/hazard left, and no real clear aiming point. The green has some 6 or 7 feet of elevation change from front to back, and the short right bunker is absolute death.

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After the 17th, which I felt like was the weakest hole on the course, we arrive at the 18th tee, which, surprise, surprise, is a par 3! Measuring 169 yards from the tips, is a dramatic downhill par 3 over the barranca one last time and more bunkering that bleeds into the barranca.

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Overall, Pasatiempo is a heck of a golf course and should be on anyones bucket list. A rare public Dr. Mackenzie design, Pasa encompasses everything classic golf architecture should be: greens with lots of undulation and movement, strategic use of the land and natural surroundings, walkable, and above all, fun. A return trip to Pasatiempo is on my mind, even only two or so weeks after the round!

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