Review: Pasatiempo Golf Course, Santa Cruz, CA

18 Signature Holes
Almost every golf course has that one hole they are known for, that one hole that is most photographed, and that one hole known as their “signature hole”.  Sometimes that signature hole is enough to bring golfers in, only to be disappointed by the other 17 holes.
Sometimes a good course has multiple holes that could be their signature hole, but Pasatiempo is the first course I’ve ever played that I would say any one of their 18 holes could be the signature hole.  I’ve played over 300 different courses and Pasatiempo might be the best designed 18 holes I’ve ever played.  Every single one of the 18 holes was memorable.  I think I commented during the round how cool and unique each hole was.  Alister MacKenzie knocked it out of the park with this course.  You might know some of his other famous courses like Augusta National and Cypress Point.  This was him home course, owning a house on hole #6.  If you are in the area for any reason, this is a must play, especially if you are heading to the Monterrey Peninsula to play the greats there.

I’m not going to walk you through every hole, because it would be a really long review, because each hole is awesome and unique.  Instead I’ll walk you though the experience at Pasatiempo.  It is semi-public course set in a hillside neighborhood in Santa Cruz, CA; which means they allow public play, but don’t have wide open tee sheet to the public.  The clubhouse is at the top of the hill and the course plays below it and back up to it.  The Pro Shop and Clubhouse are relatively unassuming.  It has a great restaurant and plenty of space to host a party, but feels more public than private.  The staff is really nice and gets you ready for your round.  You can hit some balls on a simple fenced in range off to the side of hole 1 and you can get ready for the wild greens on the hilltop putting green.  It is a walkable course, but the hills can get taxing if you aren’t a serious walker so carts aren’t a bad idea here.  The front 9 is on one side of the road, while the back 9 is on the other side.  Because of the hilly terrain and the sea-side air, everything seemed about a 1/2 club shorter.  (I was warned before I got there so it really helped even on hole 1)  The front 9 is mixed with everything you want, short and long par 4s, 3 very different par 3s and a couple par 5s that will test your game.  It is a par 35 and but plays plenty long and certainly isn’t easy.  Putting is key to low scores here, the greens are very undulated, but fair.
As you drive by the snack house and cross the street to the back 9 you immediately get a sense of the different terrain for holes 10-18.  There is a rugged ravine that winds through these holes and comes into play on a number of them as you shoot over it or have to keep it in mind on one side or the other of the fairway.  I thought both 9s are great, but I would give a slight edge to the back 9 as the better of the two.  The rugged ravine is really picturesque and challenging.  There are a couple holes that are jaw-dropping interesting.  Often times courses have 3 great holes that string together, but as I thought about which three on the back 9 of Pasatiempo it is hard to pick which 3.  10-12 are amazing, 13-15 are well designed and 16-18 are so unique, I really couldn’t pick.  This 9 is so well designed also at a par 35, this time with only one par 5 and two par 3s and the rest par 4s.  Iron accuracy is going to be key to a good score on the back 9.

Pasatiempo is one of the best designed 18 holes of golf I have ever played.  It has lots of sand, it is visually stunning and it is even more fun to play.  If you play from the back tees, bring you A-game.  On paper it didn’t look that long as a par 70 and under 7000 yards, but there are some long par 4s and challenging par 3s, you’ll need to take advantage of the shorter par 5s. (by today’s standards) The conditions were excellent when I played there on a normal weekday afternoon.  I would guess the only thing holding it back from even higher ratings in other publications are the houses bordering some of the holes and the entirely inland layout (although in the distance on some holes you can see the ocean).  Pasatiempo is really one of the best courses I have ever played.  I couldn’t even pick a favorite hole, it really is a collection of 18 signature holes.

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Quick Hits
+18 Signature holes
+Excellent Conditions
+Will test your entire game
+Fun and wild greens
+Played for all abilities
+Open to the public