Pasatiempo Golf Club
If Alister MacKenzie were alive today, he would still live at Pasatiempo. Nothing has transpired there in the past 70 years that would have made him move (other than during the bleak period around WWII). Yes, the use of a chainsaw would do wonders, but overall, the course remains as he intended: open to the public and a challenge for the very best.
Imagine MacKenzie’s excitement when he first saw the property: gently rolling hills bisected in spots by sandy ravines, a large barranca and a stream. Stately oaks dotted the landscape, and there were views from the course out to the shimmering blue Monterey Bay. In addition, MacKenzie would be working for Marion Hollins and her only mission statement to him was to build a course equal to any in the country – and she had the money to help.
12th hole, 375 yards: All together a more cheerful sight from the tee than its two predecessors, this hole parallels the 11th back down the hill. The tee shot very much has an elevated feel to it, much more so than the approach to the 11th. The golfer thus begins to appreciate why his approach shot fell so far short on the 11th. The intricate rolls to this green are another Mackenzie masterpiece.
14th hole, 425 yards: This hole has received recognition to be included in the world’s best eighteen holes, leaving the authors somewhat puzzled. A valley seems to arbitrarily meander through the left side of the fairway and rough. This is unfortunately the preferred side of the fairway as the green is set at a 45 degree angle going away from the golfer to the right and has a long serpentine bunker down its right side. A high fade is the ideal approach.
16th hole, 395 yards: Inland golf’s answer to the 8th hole at Pebble. People read so much about this hole being MacKenzie’s favourite hole in golf that they can be justifiably disappointed on the tee, just as with the 8th at Pebble (whose green, incidentally, is MacKenzie’s work). The tee shot is a blind shot over a ridge yet cannot be treated lightly. The player is tempted to play down the right side since that side looks less threatening, but after having just played from the nearby 15th tee, the observant player will have noticed the sharp slope in the right side of the fairway that will send ‘safe’ tee shots considerably farther from the hole. A prime example of a blind shot that works quite well as the player has the landing area before reaching the tee. However, any disappointment from the tee is quickly forgotten when the golfer passes over the brow of the hill. Ahead of him some 180 yards is a monstrously big green, placed on the far side of a ravine. The green is in three sections, with a dramatic false front as the first, a middle shelf that has a spine in its left third, and finally the back portion. A judicious tree cutting program has opened the green back up and three bunkers set it off. The hole packs a lot of excitement for a hole under 400 yards, a Mackenzie trademark to be sure.
18th hole, 175 yards: Like the Cascades, Garden City and Congressional, this classic course ends with a par three. The ravine isn’t the real problem for the better golfer; the wicked left to right and back to front cant of the green is. Worse than a three putt can occur (in a friendly match, one author missed the green and made 4 to win the hole from his opponent who had found the green from the tee). Like the par three holes at Pine Valley, the hole was even more dramatic in the early days when the ravine was more sandy in nature and the trees didn’t serve to frame the hole. Regardless, it remains the finest finishing par three of which the authors are aware.
In recent times, Pasatiempo Golf Club has undertaken a bunker restoration and a much needed tree removal program. Visually, the white sand against the dark fir trees is quite striking. Even though the course is far more verdant and less sandy (the par three 3rd hole once had 13 bunkers on it), Marion Hollins would be proud of the appearance of the course today. She loved trees and the logo with a man underneath a tree ‘passing the time’ would please her. She and her dog Carlos would still enjoy their walks across the property as much as they did sixty years ago.
Just as golfers try to return to Pebble Beach every few years, so should they here. Any traveller from the San Francisco airport who hurries past this course to Spyglass Hill or Spanish Bay ought to think twice. Once on the inviting first tee in front of the Hollins house looking out toward the bay and its sailboats, he will know he has chosen wisely.