Restoration of Pasatiempo Complete

The restoration of Alister MacKenzie's home course in Santa Cruz, Calif., Northern Pasatiempo Golf Club, is now complete. The restoration of the course, designed by Mackenzie in 1929, has been a 10-year, multi-million-dollar effort led by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina of Renaissance Golf.

Doak's team overhauled Pasatiempo's 18 holes, relying on hundreds of old photographs and drawings to bring back original MacKenzie bunkering, green complexes and tees that had been lost for decades. Though MacKenzie designed a number of other highly acclaimed courses, including Cypress Point, Augusta National, and Royal Melbourne, he often described Pasatiempo as his favorite. Mackenzie made his home at Pasatiempo, living along the 6th hole of the course until his death in 1934.

Built in 1929, the course opened with a highly publicized match involving Bobby Jones, Pasatiempo founder and U.S. Amateur champion Marion Hollins, Glenna Collett (U.S. Women's Amateur champion) and Cyril Tolley (British Amateur champion). Over 2,000 spectators gathered for the grand opening and followed this world-class foursome around the course. Pasatiempo was widely hailed as one of the finest courses in the West, and MacKenzie noted proudly that its back nine was "the finest in existence."

After this auspicious start, the club, like courses around the world, struggled financially through the Great Depression and the war years. In the 1930s and '40s, few had the time or money for golf and course maintenance was reduced to a minimum. During this period, bunkers were eliminated or altered, greens were shrunk, and tees moved, all to reduce costs. Throughout the rest of the century, Pasatiempo was widely recognized as one of the top courses in the nation, and even the world; still, few appreciated the impact that the alterations of the 1930s and 1940s had made on MacKenzie's gem.

The Pasatiempo restoration effort began in the early 1990s when Pasatiempo club historian Robert Beck uncovered a trove of old and decaying slides, many by famed photographer Julian Graham, that showed details of both Cypress Point Golf course (another MacKenzie design located an hour south of Pasatiempo) and Pasatiempo Golf Club, not seen in decades. These images spurred the club to take on the challenge of restoring MacKenzie's home course, and after a long and thorough search, settled on Doak to lead the effort.

A longtime admirer of MacKenzie and co-author of "The Life and Work of Dr. Alister MacKenzie," Doak was the perfect choice for the job. While working on the restoration, Doak and his team were also responsible for the design of some of the world's finest courses - including four courses widely recognized as among the "Top 100 in the World": Pacific Dunes, Barnbougle Dunes, Cape Kidnappers and Ballyneal. Doak always recognized the importance of the Pasatiempo restoration project and spent many days on-site directly overseeing the work.

From Doak's master plan: "Before we dare make any suggestion on the design of Pasatiempo we must first recognize that it is a special place with a unique history. Pasatiempo is ranked among the 100 greatest courses in America, but its significance outweighs even that lofty status. Whereas MacKenzie never saw the finished versions of Augusta National, Royal Melbourne or Crystal Downs, he lived the last four years of his life at Pasatiempo. Nor can the contribution of Pasatiempo's founder, Miss Marion Hollins (a champion golfer herself), be understated, having his respect and attention as a keen observer of golf course design.

"With a course of such historic significance and recognized quality of design, our mission in formulating a master plan is simple: to preserve the MacKenzie legacy as well as possible, considering the modern realities of golf. Our guiding principles have been, first, to add nothing foreign to the original design, and, second, to enhance the 'pleasurable excitement' that the architect sought to provide."

The restoration was conducted in phases, with the final, recently completed phase covering six holes on Pasatiempo's back nine, including the famed 16th that MacKenzie described as the "best two shot hole [par-4] I know." The 16th green complex, with its notoriously steep three-tiered putting surface, got a complete facelift, with an enlarged green and an extension of the hole's dramatic bunkering down near the arroyo that winds through the course's back nine, all as MacKenzie had originally designed. The 17th was lengthened, with the green complex extended 45 feet back to its original place against the edge of arroyo. The 18th, a long par-3 requiring a demanding shot over the same hazard, returns a dramatic bunker guarding the green which extends deep into the arroyo itself.

Before-and-after photographs of these holes, as well as other holes throughout the course, are available on     

Even before the restoration was completed, earlier phases of the restoration covering the first 12 holes of the course were recognized as a success, and the work has enhanced Pasatiempo's standing as one of the nation's top courses. As the restoration progressed, Pasatiempo's standing in Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses in the United States has steadily risen from No. 83 in 2003 to No. 71 in 2005 and No. 55 in 2007 (the 2007 ranking was released before the final phase of restoration was begun).

The restoration has been a particular joy for Juli Inkster, LPGA champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member. Inkster grew up on the course, playing it as a junior champion, and she remains closely tied to the course today as its touring professional. Inkster recently noted that, "I have played Pasatiempo all my golfing life. The restoration of Pasatiempo has recreated an exciting golf experience. Playing an authentic Alister MacKenzie course is very rare. Take the opportunity and you will be challenged as well as having some great memories of golf as it should be played."

At the conclusion of the restoration, Urbina noted that he and the restoration team "have faithfully tried to restore the golf course as it would have appeared back in the 1930s before Alister MacKenzie's death. We simply took the evidence afforded us and directed the work to emulate his dream back in 1929. I hope that we have succeeded and that the good 'Doctor' would approve of the work that we have done."

Few courses in the United States enjoy a history as rich as Pasatiempo. In addition to MacKenzie and Inkster, Hollins has a special place in golf's history. She was the U.S. Women's Amateur champion in 1921, and is widely recognized as pioneer of international women's sports at a time when sports were considered primarily a male activity. Hollins was an expert equestrian rider and swimmer, and the only woman in America with a men's handicap in polo. In naming her the "leading sportswoman in America," the Chicago Tribune stated that Ms. Hollins was "in a class by herself." She was also a female entrepreneur in a man's world, a dreamer and a doer, a business associate of the rich and famous, and a person who made and lost fortunes.

While working for Samuel B. Morse at the Pebble Beach Company, Hollins was responsible for the development of the Cypress Point Golf Club. A great student of the game, she brought the teaching pro, Ernest Jones, to America and MacKenzie to Cypress Point. MacKenzie gives her credit for the location of the 16th hole at Cypress. She teed up a ball and drove to the middle site for the suggested green, convincing MacKenzie to change the 16th from a par-4 to a par-3. Today, the 16th is widely recognized as one of the finest holes in golf. Shortly thereafter Hollins began work on Pasatiempo, with the stated intent of building the finest golf course west of the Mississippi.

For more information about the rich history of Pasatiempo and its founders, Pasatiempo recommends "The Pasatiempo Story" by Marion Koch, and "A Champion in a Man's World," a Marion Hollins' biography by David Outerbridge.