The more I play Alister MacKenzie golf courses, the more I become a fan of his work, and Pasatiempo was no different in that matter. Through the years, I have only heard great things about Pasatiempo and the fascination that surrounds it. Weaving through the hills of Santa Cruz, the simplicity of this layout is one that still thrives nearly 100 years after its inception. It almost felt like I was traveling back in time to play this golden age design.
You know you’re in for it when you check in for your round at the pro shop, and the club pros tell you to go practice short game instead of heading to the range prior to the round. But as I continue to see Mackenzie courses, I realize that really isn’t something out of the ordinary. With his work that I have seen so far, it always impresses me that his courses never seem to have a strong emphasis on length, but an emphasis on testing you around the greens. If you have the ability to use your imagination to hit shots around the green, then not only is Alister Mackenzie your guy, but Pasatiempo is a must play for you.
One thing that impressed me about Pasatiemp was the demand for accuracy. Not necessarily accuracy in the terms of 13/13 fairways or 18/18 greens, but making sure that you are in the right “spots”, and finding the right “angles.” The greens at Pasa are very undulating, and contain a lot of movement. With that amount of slope means there is plenty of tiers and different levels to each green complex. I believe that is why there is such a high importance of finding the right angle to attach each green from. One of the biggest obstacles I found during my round there was managing proximity to the hole on approach shots. That actually sounded a lot easier said than done, as I was typing it out, but getting the ball close to the hole isn’t all that easy. A good shot on quick greens can catch a false front, slope, or wrong tier and end up much further way than compared to how it was struck, which leaves some long awkward putts, and will make 2-putting a chore. Firm and fast greens running 12-13 on the stimp may cause nightmares for anyone at Pasatiempo.
I couldn’t have been more in awe with all the holes at Pasatiempo, but the par 3’s really stuck out in my mind. Some of the most picturesque layouts without water or ocean views to take your breath away. Each one designed to challenge you with distance, accuracy, and control. One of the advantages of the par 3’s at Pasa is the ability to use greenside slopes and the movement of the land to your advantage. There couldn’t be a higher emphasis on missing in the right spot, or getting your shot to the correct tier. Personally, when I step up on a par 3 I feel the need to go pin seeking just about every time. As a matter of fact, there are not many par 3’s in the world that I wouldn’t take dead aim at off the tee. Although it seems that I’m never aiming for just the middle of the green, there’s always that level of anticipation in attempting to hit a ball to a certain location, and letting the slope of the land take it to the hole. Pasatiempo gives you that opportunity, not only its par 3’s, but many of the holes in general. As a player who has never been the most accurate, I love the fact that this course gives you the opportunity to use the shape of the land to your advantage during play. Sometimes those slopes and undulations may make for an extremely difficult putt on a miss-hit, but it’s all worth the experience at the end of the day.
Pasatiempo is one of the few courses that I have played that didn’t feel like it was from this era. It felt like I was just down the street playing at the local muni that had been there for years. Pasa may be one of my most favorite designs that I have seen, and the vibe surrounding it is so low key that I believe it’s what makes it so much more than just a great golf course. You may not experience some of the pomp and frills like at some of the other great NorCal courses nearby, but you will get all you asked for from the golf course.