Travel Blog

February 28, 2019

World-Class Links at Pasatiempo Golf Club

All Photos by Garrick Ramirez

History and scenery come together at Pasatiempo Golf Club, a renowned, semi-private course tucked into the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Named for the Spanish word for “pastime,” the stunning property was founded in 1929 by amateur golf champion, Marion Hollins. Her masterstroke was recruiting legendary golf architect Alister Mackenzie to design the 18-hole course, one which Mackenzie later confessed was his favorite. Golf Digest ranks it the 18th best public course in the U.S., and top two within California (just behind Pebble Beach). Today, Pasatiempo is the only original Mackenzie course that’s accessible to the public, drawing both professional and amateur players with its complex greens, blufftop scenery, and destination dining.

89 Years & Still Top Rated
Pasatiempo’s legacy is how it has successfully withstood the test of time. The celebrated, 89-year-old course has remained relevant amidst decades of technical advances in the sport. While many courses are extending holes to accommodate new equipment, Pasatiempo sees no need. “We haven’t had to trick up our course,” says General Manager, D. Scott Hoyt. They have Mackenzie’s design to thank. Long after his death in 1934, the lauded architect’s courses are still revered. Case in point: his Augusta National is one of the most famous golf courses in the world, and home to the annual Masters Tournament.

Pasatiempo’s allure is immediate when you step onto the first tee box. Perched on a hill overlooking Monterey Bay, the course abounds with panoramic views. The front nine plays toward the water, while the back nine is immersed in the natural splendor of surrounding hills. “It’s a special piece of land,” comments Hoyt. “Mackenzie took it, and used what was given to him.” The course is dotted with mature cypress and oak trees, and deep arroyos that have been built into play. Holes are noted for their bunkering style as well as green complexes that are difficult to chip and putt into. It’s a challenging course that has held up to the best players and professionals.

Pasatiempo pays great respect to Mackenzie’s original design, having spent considerable time and resources toward maintaining and restoring the course. They’ve even tapped a Mackenzie historian and specialist, Jim Urbina, as the club’s architect of record. Further, as golf courses worldwide struggle with water issues, Pasatiempo has made headlines with its innovative efforts to adapt drought-prone environs, capturing recycled water flowing from Scotts Valley to the bay.

The club is semi-private which means that they offer membership and designated member hours, but the public is welcome to drop in and play accordingly. In addition to the 18-hole course, Pasatiempo offers a chipping green, putting green, and driving range. Caddies are available upon request.

Destination Dining
It’s not just the expert golf that’s drawing visitors up the hill. Pasatiempo’s scenery and historic charm is on full display at Hollins House, the club’s signature restaurant that’s set within the stately, 1920s former home of Marion Hollins. A limited number of tables are spaced throughout the airy, yet intimate living space with picture windows overlooking the front nine with Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay beyond. Chef John Paul Lechtenberg, or “JP” as the staff affectionately refer to him, wows diners with composed plates of international inspired, seasonal dishes—think tender Spanish octopus and savory Pappardelle Bolognese— sourced from produce grown in the nearby garden and local farmers markets. The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday, but frequently hosts private events. Check their Instagram page for weekly hours.

The adjacent Tap Room offers a more relaxed setting with cozy fireside dining, classic cocktails, and a weekday happy hour from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Craving something more casual? MacKenzie Bar & Grill is open daily and serves as the proverbial 19th hole with with sporting events on TV,  a killer salmon BLT, and those same sweeping views overlooking the front nine.