Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year in Review

Could there be any bigger highlight than playing a round of golf with your child for the first time? And having that round take place at Pebble Beach's delightful nine-hole Peter Hay GC? I think not!

Prior to turning 40 on April 1st of this year, I fulfilled my goal of losing 25 pounds, getting down to a trim 170 with the hope that less aches and pain would equate to better golf. Unfortunately, it didn't work out as planned, as I struggled with my golf game all year. That said, there is no doubt that 2013 was among the best years I've had both on and off the course.

The Game

I started 2013 with a 3.1 index and I never got on track at any point during the year, ending the season as a 3.9. In fact, for the first time I can recall, my average score for the season was over 80, a good indicator that things simply didn't go well from a scoring perspective.

I did have one notable round early in the season, shooting a one under par 71 at my home club in May but I never challenged par again for the remainder of the year.

I posted 59 scores in 2013 versus 58 in 2012 and had six other rounds where I couldn't post scores due to the format (scramble) or the fact the course didn't have a rating (Ballyneal GC).

Competitively, it was a year to forget, as I lost a bunch of money to buddies in weekly games and generally fared poorly in almost every event I entered.

I flamed out in the first round of the Langley Cup match play competition at my home club in St. Catharines, a full handicap event between 0-7 handicaps. I was only slightly better in the Scratch match play event, losing in the second round after choking away a four-up front nine lead.

I once again played in the three day member-guest tournament at my home club with my usual partner, my wife's uncle Henry. He played with a heavy heart this year, as his son (my wife's cousin) passed away well before his time only four weeks before the tournament. We didn't play well and finished in the middle of the pack but I think it was an important event for Henry to help with the healing process. We'll do it again in 2014, as St. Catharines G&CC always does a great job putting this tournament together.

After taking a year off in 2012 due to a family vacation, I was back in the Club Championships at St. Catharines, once again wimping out and playing in the "A" Flight as opposed to the "Open" Flight and true club championship flight. After opening with an unsightly 83, I had to shoot a 76 in the second round just to make the cut on the number. I followed that up with an 84 to finish last among all of the players in my flight who made the cut. Just not my year.

A notable addition to my competitive calendar was organizing the "Premier League" season-long golf league at my home club. The league ran for 20 weekends during the summer months and the top 10 rounds out of the potential 20, utilizing a modified stableford scoring format, counted for the overall standings. We had two flights, with 15 guys competing from the back tees and 11 competing from one deck forward. With a $2600.00 prize pool, the event was a huge success and the guys who took part seemingly enjoyed having something to play for every Sunday. I hope we can build on it in our second year coming up. I finished 5th out of 15 playing in the "Back Tee" competition but only the top three were paid out.

I did cash in my other organized event, the third annual "Turkey 2 Ball" at my home club. After two years with 24 players and 12 teams, this year we had a spectacular showing with 16 2-man teams. For the first time, I was put in the "B Pool" due to my higher handicap and that allowed me to get paired with Will G, one of the better young players at our club. We'd shoot a best ball score of 70 (-2) on Thanksgiving Monday, losing the overall title by one shot but our tie for second won us $300.00 each plus another $50.00 or so in successful wagers. Not a bad haul! The winners both took home more than a thousand bucks each from the $4000.00 overall prize pool!

That was my last round of the year and as always, it's a great way to finish things off!

I did have one other significant event that I took part in outside of my home club but I'll get to that in the next section.

The Courses

2013 was one of the most prolific years I've had with respect to seeing new courses, with an incredible (for me) 14 first-time visits. Overall, I played 19 different golf courses this year.

I took a 12-day family trip to Northern California in late May, perhaps the best vacation I've ever had in my life. From there, I had three other golf specific trips: a four-day trip in July to Colorado with my buddy Harris, a solo three-day road trip to Westchester County, NY and Connecticut in August and finally a one night, two round impromptu trip to Long Island, NY in early October.

I traveled to San Francisco with my wife and son in late May, spending five days in that world-class city.

San Francisco and their famous cable cars, with Alcatraz looming in the distance

I played one round of golf while there, visiting the beautifully restored California Golf Club of San Francisco south of the city.

The beautiful vista on the 11th hole, with the 18th green also in full view in behind

The Cal Club has the fingerprints of both A. Vernon Macan and Alister MacKenzie on it but it took a wonderfully crafted restoration by Kyle Phillips in 2008 to bring back the wide playing corridors and artistic flair those two men are known for. Phillips also built five new holes and there is no doubt that this course is now among the best that the golf-rich city of San Francisco has to offer.

From there, we drove down the coast and spent another four days in the unspeakably gorgeous Monterey Peninsula. My first round there was at the private Monterey Peninsula Country Club and the Mike Strantz designed Shore Course.

My wife and son enjoying a gorgeous sunset in Monterey on famed 17 Mile Drive - Cypress Point Club, still elusive to the author, is off in the distance

The picture postcard perfect par three 11th hole at the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club

Originally a Robert Baldock and Jack Neville design from 1961, the Shore Course was completely rerouted and redesigned by Strantz, opening to great acclaim in 2004 and eventually becoming part of the PGA Tour's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am rotation. This would be Strantz's crowning achievement in design and he sadly passed away only one year after its opening due to a rare form of tongue cancer. The course sits in lofty territory among the top 100 courses in America and deservedly so.

The next day, I drove back up the coast to Santa Cruz to tackle the challenging Pasatiempo Golf Club.

One of Alister MacKenzie's favourite holes: the 16th at Pasatiempo

Pasatiempo was built in 1929 and the design was strong enough to convince the great Bobby Jones to collaborate with MacKenzie for his own dream course, Augusta National Golf Club. Pasatiempo collectively has perhaps the greatest set of greens that I've ever played and a lot of credit for the "little touches" must go to Tom Doak and his team at Renaissance Golf Design, who completed a long restoration project there in 2007. Pasatiempo is criminally underrated in my opinion and should be on every top 100 list as far as American golf courses are concerned.

The next day would see me tee it up at one of the most iconic golf clubs in the world, Pebble Beach Golf Links!

That's me teeing off the famous par three 7th at Pebble Beach...and no, that's not my cart!

One of the great spots in all of golf - the glorious 7th at Pebble Beach!

My friend Vito putting out on the beautiful 9th hole at Pebble Beach

I had incredibly high expectations for perhaps the most notable public golf course on the planet and I must say that every expectation was EXCEEDED! We had an absolutely perfect day: 65 degrees and glorious sunshine, the course was in superb condition and even the pace of play was decent at a little over five hours. The routing is ingenious, the ocean holes are all off-the-charts spectacular and while the holes away from the ocean suffer in comparison, the "flow" of the round is almost without peer. I played poorly but you couldn't wipe the smile off my face the entire day - it's a place that every avid golfer needs to experience once in their life. I'll have much more on Pebble Beach in my forthcoming profile, coming sometime in January.

I figured playing Pebble would be the highlight of the year but from an emotional standpoint, I likely eclipsed it the next day. I had no prior knowledge of the 9 hole Peter Hay Golf Course that sits near the parking lot at Pebble Beach but I was alerted to its existence when I visited the club the night before playing the big course.

I wanted to move my Pebble Beach tee time up a half hour, just to guarantee that I'd play the famous 18th hole in daylight and once that was accomplished, the wonderful lady in the pro shop looked at my four year old son and asked if he plays golf. When I told her he just started hitting balls this year, she asked if I was going to be taking him to play the Peter Hay Course.

She then gave me the low-down: no charge for Evan to play, kids rental clubs were available, dad has to pay for himself...lets just say she had me at "kids rental clubs"!

The next day, Evan and I, along with family friend Vito and his two boys, Jacob and Andrew, teed off as a fivesome at the Peter Hay Golf Course.

A spectacular setting for Evan's first ever round of golf

Smiles galore for Evan and daddy too at the Peter Hay Golf Course

There is absolutely nothing better than getting the chance to play a game of golf with your child for the first time and for the rest of his life, Evan will be able to proudly say that his first ever round of golf was played at Pebble Beach! What a beautiful experience, one I'll never forget.

In late July, I flew down to Colorado for four days with frequent traveling partner Harris. Our first stop was at the Broadmoor, a five diamond resort in Colorado Springs. The East Course was closed that day due to an event so we played the less-heralded West Course. Ron Forse was brought in to restore some bunker shapes and also to modernize the design. We had a really nice day there but the course isn't that memorable. Hopefully one day I can visit again and see the East.

The next morning we headed back up towards Denver to the town of Parker and Colorado Golf Club.

The cool par three 2nd at Colorado Golf Club

This was my second visit to CGC and the course was in wonderful shape as they prepared to host the Solheim Cup only days after our round. We met up with a bunch of friends for the day at Colorado, which was a precursor to a big event taking part that weekend at Ballyneal, one of my favourite golf courses on the planet. I hope to finally get my course profile of Colorado GC online sometime in the new year.

The wonderful par five 8th hole at Ballyneal, as seen from behind the green

This was my third trip to Ballyneal in four years and it was to take part in a scratch 2-man better ball event called the Rota. There were 12 two-man teams that took part in the inaugural event and while Harris and I acquitted ourselves well, we'd be on the losing end of two very close matches, falling into the consolation bracket.

The field for the inaugural running of the ROTA, with eventual champions John & Dusty conspicuous by their absence

Yours truly ripping it down the first fairway during the first round

Great camaraderie outside the Turtle Bar as Ballyneal glows near sunset. What a place!

Despite falling short, we had a wonderful three days at Ballyneal and I truly hope that the ROTA becomes an annual, must-play event on my calendar. Jim, our great host, has big plans for this coming year and I certainly hope to be a part of it if it all comes together.

Back home, I played four courses other than my own in Ontario. Just after returning from Colorado, I finally got the chance to visit the Devil's Paintbrush in Caledon, generally considered one of the finest modern golf courses in Canada.

The huge double green on the 9th hole at Devil's Paintbrush

We played on a horrific weather day, with lots of rain and wind - I was more than a bit disappointed with the course setup when we played. This course is absolutely revered by many people whose opinions I value and I was shocked by the lack of playability at the Brush. There is no intermediate cut - you go right from fairway to lush, thick, knee-high fescue and if you miss the fairway, you'll be lucky to advance the ball 30 yards...and that's if you're fortunate enough to find the ball! The fine architecture is quite apparent but needless to say, I would like another look at this course just to be sure my eyes didn't deceive me the first time.

I played in a business scramble at Monterra Golf Club at the Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood, Ontario. The course sits at the base of the mountain and like another mountain course I played earlier in the year, the West Course at Broadmoor, Monterra lacks memorability and is just an average design.

Going from average to perhaps the best Canada has to offer, I was fortunate to be invited back to St. George's G&CC in Toronto for a second consecutive year.

Gorgeous St. George's G&CC (Photo courtesy of Clive Barber)

Prior to last year, I had only played St. George's once in my life and that was as a 17-year old in a junior event. As indicated last year, it's truly a world-class design, one that can measure up to the best in all of golf, with as good a finishing stretch as I've ever seen. In my eyes, it's a much better design than The National and is my choice as the best course in Canada.

In late September, I spent a weekend up in Ontario cottage country with my wife and some of her family and while there, I made a return visit to see Ron Garl's Taboo Resort for the third time.

Rock outcroppings galore at picturesque Taboo

Taboo is one of those courses that stuns you with its beauty on your first visit but repeat plays show the hidden warts, so to speak. It's still a good golf course, perhaps around the middle of the pack on a Canadian top 100 list and I enjoyed my day there with the fall colours in abundance.

In mid-August, I hopped in my car and drove almost 700 kilometers to Danbury, Connecticut for two days of incredible golf.

My first day was spent at historic Winged Foot Golf Club just outside of Westchester, NY, where I played all 18 holes on the famed West Course and followed it up with eight holes on the East.

The 9th hole at Winged Foot's famed West Course, with the spectacular clubhouse in the background

The East Course at Winged Foot is no slouch and very worthy of its placement in America's top 100

The West Course has hosted multiple US Opens, most recently the 2006 event won by Geoff Ogilvy after shocking final hole collapses from both Phil Mickleson and Colin Montgomerie. The West has also hosted the PGA Championship in 1997 (won by Davis Love III) and a Walker Cup, among many other notable championships. It's a notoriously difficult course and many of the Opens held there have been notable for the high scoring, with the 1974 "Massacre at Winged Foot" won by Hale Irwin perhaps being the most famous of them all. My round on the West Course was one of those magical days where I stepped up my game to match the occasion, shooting a 78 from the tips with three birdies. We'd later head back out to play eight holes on the soon-to-be-restored East Course (Gil Hanse is doing the work) and finished the night off in style, with gourmet hot dogs on the patio, a few drinks and great conversation. It was one of the great days of my golfing life and I hope to return someday soon!

The next day, I was able to get in 36 holes, playing in two states. First up was The Course at Yale, unquestionably the best university course in America.

The Biarritz hole at Yale - that's me STANDING in the 5 foot deep swale!

I had the distinct pleasure of playing with 11-time Yale club champion and highly decorated amateur Reverend Bill Lee and his good friend Gerry. The scale at Yale is pretty much unlike any course I've seen in my life - MASSIVE doesn't even begin to tell the story. I understand the club is working hard on their conditioning issues and it's necessary, as the stately trees are keeping the much needed sunlight from hitting the turf, with many patchy areas throughout the course. There is so much potential here...I think this is a potential top 100 WORLD golf course if the proper work is conducted. Just sensational architecture and a real treat to play.

After my round, I hopped in the car and drove back into Westchester to play the understated Fenway GC, an A.W. Tillinghast design.

The par three 17th hole at Fenway GC

Gil Hanse has led a restoration effort at Fenway and despite being very much under the radar, it's a classy club and a treat to play. I whipped around as a single with a caddy in about two hours and it was a great experience and a lovely course.

My second trip to New York was an impromptu affair in early October, where I flew in to LaGuardia one morning, played famed Shinnecock Hills GC later that afternoon, the highly underrated Maidstone Club the next morning and flew home later that day. Talk about a whirlwind!

The incredible par five 16th hole at Shinnecock Hills, one of the great golf courses in the world

Shinnecock is a beautiful brute and very well may be the best and most difficult golf course I've ever had the pleasure of playing. Rated 5th in the world by Golf Magazine, this William Flynn masterpiece features incredible land, strategic play at every turn and a truly wonderful set of green complexes. Like Oakmont, another famously difficult golf course that has hosted major events, Shinnecock is eminently fair, with plenty of width but is completely exposed to the elements, with wind especially being a major factor. The day I played, we enjoyed a spectacular sunny autumn day, with temperatures around 24 degrees celsius and an incredibly FUN 3-club wind!

The day was topped off with dinner in Southampton with a number of fellow GCA'ers and architecture aficionados. Simply put, it was a perfect day.

The world-class par three 14th hole at Maidstone Club in East Hampton, NY

Most of my friends have no knowledge of Maidstone and despite the fact that it sits 67th on the most recent Golf Magazine world list, I'd say it's quite underappreciated by the public at large, likely due to its exclusivity. It's a course I could play every day for the rest of my life and never tire of its pleasures. It's an absolute joy to play and at less than 6500 yards from the tips, an enjoyable experience for any level of player.

I think I may be the luckiest guy in the world. What a year!

Looking Ahead

I haven't booked anything for 2014 as of this writing but I do know where I'll be in early April during the year's first major...

That's because I was one of the lucky winners in the practice round lottery for The Masters! I will have two tickets for the practice round on Monday so my tentative plans are to head down south perhaps on the Thursday before, play golf on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, head to Augusta on Monday, take a million pictures, eat some pimento cheese sandwiches and soak everything in before returning home the next day.

I'll need to find a travel partner for the trip, something I didn't think would be difficult but is proving to be more challenging than anticipated. Once that's settled, it will be time to book some golf courses! I can see playing anywhere from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia or even Alabama or Tennessee. Lots of options! Needless to say, I couldn't be more excited to see Augusta National Golf Club in all her glory for the first time in person.

Otherwise, my schedule is wide open for golf in 2014. I doubt I'll travel quite as much as I did this year but I can certainly see a couple of road trips in my future once again, in addition to one significant, week-long golf trip.

Either way, I'm sure I'll have something to write about again at this time next year!

As for the blog, I plan on making some cosmetic changes in early January, most notably increasing the size of the viewing panel. To accomplish this, I'll likely be eliminating the side navigation panel in favour of a navigation bar just below the header and that will allow me to have larger pictures showing throughout the site. By doing this, I will not be able to utilize Blogger's "widgets" and that could become an issue with my blog links and my archives pages but I'm working on a solution for both of those potential issues.

I'm more motivated to write than I've been in a number of years - I feel very fortunate to have met so many incredible people through this site and almost feel like I'm letting people down when I post as infrequently as I do. There's no reason why I can't get at least a couple posts per month up and continue to work on my course profiles, something I've fallen way behind on.

My next profile will be on the spectacular Pebble Beach - it was a "Chamber of Commerce" day when we played and I was fortunate to get many great pictures. I plan on having the blog's "new look" in place by the time I post that writeup in order to display those photos in the best way possible.

Thank you to all my readers for visiting in 2013 and I hope my writing keeps you interested enough to come back once in a while.

To everyone who hosted me last year...to those I was fortunate enough to play with in 2013...to everyone who visits this site...Happy New Year and here's to a healthy and prosperous 2014 both on the course and off!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pasatiempo Golf Club

*** Now on the Tee has MOVED to our own domain!!! ***


Pasatiempo Golf Club
Santa Cruz, California, USA

6521 YARDS (PAR 70)
COURSE ARCHITECT: Alister MacKenzie (1929)
COURSE WEBSITE: http://pasatiempo.com/
LAST PLAYED: May 29, 2013.
LOW SCORE: 81 (+11)

- Golf Digest Second 100 in America 2015: #111
- Golf Digest Top 100 Public in America 2015: #21
- Golf Magazine Top 100 Golf Courses in America 2015: #53
- Golf Magazine Top 100 Courses You Can Play 2014: #15
- Golfweek Best Classic Courses 2016: #34

"A really great golf course must be a constant source of pleasure to the greatest possible number of players. It must require strategy in the playing as well as skill. It must give the average player a fair chance and at the same time, it must require the utmost from the expert. All natural beauty should be preserved, natural hazards should be utilized and artificiality should be minimized."
Alister MacKenzie, Course Architect, Pasatiempo Golf Club

Marion Hollins was a world-class athlete and noted entrepreneur, a rarity for a female in the 1920s. The US Women's Amateur golf champion in 1921 and a famed equestrian, Hollins was an integral part of the development of one of the great golf courses in the world, Cypress Point, where she collaborated with architect Alister MacKenzie for the first time.

Hollins had a dream of building her own great club and she once again enlisted MacKenzie to build on a dramatic piece of property in the hills near Santa Cruz, just north of Monterey Bay. The land was perfect, with rolling topography and a sandy base and on September 8, 1929, Pasatiempo was unveiled to the world, with Hollins, golfing great Bobby Jones, current US Women's Amateur Champion Glenna Collett and current British Amateur Champion Cyril Tolley making up the opening foursome.

Pasatiempo garnered instant acclaim and evidently, Jones was so enamoured with MacKenzie's work that he invited him to collaborate on his dream course, which of course turned out to be Augusta National Golf Club. MacKenzie himself thought so much of his design work at Pasatiempo that he would eventually settle down in a home just off the 6th fairway, a house that remains there to this day.

A monument sits just off the 6th fairway where Alister MacKenzie's former home still stands

MacKenzie's house

The first hole starts with an inviting downhill tee shot but it's perhaps not as wide a target as you'd hope for on your first shot of the day. From there, you have a very challenging uphill approach with a long iron or fairway metal to a green that is open on the front left but protected by bunkers on the front right. A tough opener that sets the stage nicely for the rest of the day.

The second is a partially blind downhill tee shot to a fairway that slopes sharply to the left. Again, you'll be faced with a long approach to a green that slopes similarly from right to left and features a very narrow opening.

The third is an uphill 235 yard par three and if you didn't feel it already, you'll definitely know that you're playing a MacKenzie course when you reach this tee! Tom Doak restored one of MacKenzie's beautiful bunkers about halfway down the length of the hole, one that shouldn't come into play for most players but adds just the right touch of visual intimidation. The green is set at a diagonal and accepts a fade approach best - a par here will bring a smile to the face to the most accomplished of players.

The fourth hole is a 378 yard par four with ample room off the tee but again, it's near the green where things get challenging. The fifth hole, a delightful 190 yard par three, features a prominent front centre bunker that dictates the strategy from the tee regardless of hole location. The cleverly sloped putting surface will allow balls to be played both left and right of that bunker and allow the players the option to go in both directions to feed the ball to centre hole locations.

Many people criticize the 6th and 7th holes as being inferior to the rest at Pasatiempo, as they are very tightly routed on a narrow portion of the property along with the par three 8th hole. That said, the drive at the par five 6th is very interesting, with land tumbling sharply from right to left and you can't discount the notable fact that Alister MacKenzie's longtime home is just left of the fairway near the approach area. The 348 yard par four 7th features an unattractive but likely necessary row of tall trees bordering both sides of the fairway, tightening the driving zone to almost claustrophobic effect. Again, the 6th and 8th holes run parallel to the 7th and I'd imagine that there would be plenty of liability issues if all of those trees were chopped down. Despite all that, I think the 7th green is well-sited and features more of the interesting contours that are customary at Pasatiempo.

The predominant feature on the 176 yard par three 8th hole is the steeply pitched green that slopes almost impossibly from back to front. We played to a back hole location and you needed a full hip turn to get the ball to that back tier! The par five ninth offers a decent birdie opportunity to close the front nine, with a large green that sits elevated from the approach area and one that is protected by a very large bunker in front.

Many course critics feel that Pasatiempo's back nine is one of the best in all of golf and this author wouldn't disagree, with as many as eight incredibly unique and complex holes and perhaps only one relatively plain hole.

The 10th will make your hair stand up on end, with a thrilling tee shot over a barranca to an elevated fairway. The approach is just as stunning: downhill to a green that accepts a running shot toward the right side but balls hit left will end up in one of the cavernous bunkers set well below the putting surface.

The 11th is even better and position is critical off the tee, as the barranca runs all the way down the left hand side of the fairway. You will need to carry that considerable hazard on your approach shot to the awe-inspiring green location, set at a diagonal to play, with a fade approach the recommended play. Even the green is diabolical, with a wonderful knob in the front left that will propel balls down the hill if they are hit just short and allowing for myriad short game options around the green. One of the great holes in golf, in my humble opinion.

The 373 yard par four 12th offers a bit of a breather off the tee, as only a fairway metal or long iron is needed but the green is tucked over a depression area and requires a draw approach to hit the narrow target. The par five 13th occupies some of the most interesting land on the course, with rolls upon rolls in the fairway ending with a visually stunning approach to a green surrounded by huge bunkers.

The 14th, a 429 yard par four, features an incredibly unique "trench" in the middle of the fairway that's around five or six feet deep. If you land in there, as my playing partner did (see photo below), you're left with a challenging shot from an uneven lie but perhaps the best angle into the green. A very interesting strategic hole. The par three 15th is the shortest hole at Pasatiempo at only 141 yards and is very picturesque.

The 16th hole is one of MacKenzie's favourites - it's only 387 yards and a fairway metal is usually enough to reach the desired landing area on the crowned fairway. Once you crest the hill, you finally get exposed to one of the most famous green sites in golf, with the newly restored front right bunker and a green that features slopes that you wouldn't believe! The 16th green may be one of the best I've ever seen in my life and the hole location on the day we played, middle left tucked behind a bunker, may be the cruelest I've ever seen as well! Tremendous!

The 17th is perhaps the only "plain" hole on the back nine at Pasatiempo, a straight-away par four back up the hill to a bunkerless green. However, you finish with appropriate style on the par three 18th hole, a 169 yarder over the barranca to a wide but shallow target that is protected in front and in back by huge bunkers. A very worthy closer.

There is no mistaking the fact that you're playing a MacKenzie course when at Pasatiempo, with the dramatic bunkering style prevalent throughout the walk. There is so much flair to this design, with all of the little touches done just right, like having no rough in between fairways/greens and the bunkers, meaning that wayward shots will roll freely into the hazards, a really cool design feature.

The front nine routing is quite compact and I can understand an argument that one may have about it being detrimental to the overall design but I still feel that the much-criticized 6th and 7th holes contain many redeeming qualities on their own. The back nine is played over much more dramatic land, with the barranca being used brilliantly on multiple occasions.

Conditioning was much better than I expected - this is a semi-private facility that likely gets a lot of public play but balls were rolling out beautifully throughout the fairways and greens were appropriately slick.

And oh...those greens!

Pasatiempo may collectively have one of the best sets of greens in all of golf - seemingly larger surfaces than I'd normally see with an infinite amount of intriguing hole locations. On the day I played, I must have seen most of the tough ones, that's for sure! Despite only being about 6500 yards from the back tees, this par 70 will make even the most skilled of players tremble with fear! Among the toughest courses I've ever played, without question.

Pasatiempo is quite well-regarded, especially by the folks at Golf Magazine but generally speaking, I think that the course is criminally underrated. In my opinion, Pasatiempo is one of the greatest public courses in America and unquestionably worthy of placement within the top 100 courses in the country and perhaps even the world. If you find yourself in Northern California, you can't miss out on the experience of playing this golf course - it's simply superb.

Pasatiempo's clubhouse just to the right of the first tee

The clubhouse has many displays that honour Alister MacKenzie's work at Pasatiempo

The long, straight-away par four opener plays from an elevated tee

Just in front of the first green

Looking back down the first hole from behind the green

The 437 yard par four second hole

Near a fairway bunker down the right side of the 2nd hole

The narrow and undulating 2nd green

A look from just behind the second green; note how there is no rough between the green and the bunkers, a cool design feature

MacKenzie's attractive bunkering was restored by Tom Doak's Renaissance Golf team, with his work at the par three 3rd a particular highlight

The usually out of play "fairway" bunker on the par three 3rd

Looking down at the third green from up the hill on the left

The mid-length par four 4th hole

Approach to the 4th hole

Just in front of the 4th green

The front bunker dominates strategy on the par three 5th hole

Shots coming up short face a steep pitch over the yawning hazard

A cool shot looking back from behind the 5th green, with the 4th hole in the background to the left

A tight and slightly uncomfortable drive awaits on the par five 6th hole

The landing area on the 6th propels balls back to the left side of the fairway

Near the layup area on the par five sixth hole

A little wedge approach is required from this position down the right side of the 6th hole

Yes, this drive is as tight as it appears! Two rows of tall trees line both sides of the short par four 7th hole, protecting players on the surrounding holes

The middle of the fairway on the 7th hole

Another challenging green awaits at the 7th

Another good look at the narrow targets at Pasatiempo, with slight misses easily rolling into the bunkers

The slightly downhill par three 8th hole

Just in front of the 8th green

There is no way to appreciate the incredibly dramatic back-to-front slope on Pasatiempo's 8th green in photos alone - it is practically impossible to get to this pin location!

Time to dial up a fade on the par five 9th hole!

The landing area on the 9th hole

The approach shot on the 9th is played well uphill to a well-protected green

A closer look at the huge bunker in front of the 9th green

Looking back down the fairway from behind the 9th green

The exhilarating tee shot over a barranca on the 10th hole

The approach shot is hit downhill to a green that is very well-protected in the front left by a cluster of deep bunkers

A slightly closer look at the approach to #10

Looking back down the fairway from the back right of the 10th green

The incredible mid-length par four 11th hole

A very challenging diagonal approach over the barranca awaits at the world-class 11th hole

My ball came to rest just short left and I had a challenging knob to overcome on my third shot - do I putt this, bump it into the slope or pitch it up top to a pin cut just on the other side of the slope? Every option is available!

A last look back down the 11th hole from behind - spectacular!

A reprieve! A relatively routine downhill tee shot awaits at the 12th

The approach into the par four 12th hole

A very cool green site at the 12th

The par five 13th features a tee shot that looks tighter than it actually is

Things open up considerably in the tumbling fairway

Pasatiempo features great land...

...and look at those bunkers!

A shot from behind the 13th green

The tee shot on the 429 yard par four 14th doesn't look like anything special...

...but look at this fairway! Truly unique!

You get a sense of the scale on the 14th with my playing partner Tom in the "trench" - he'll have a tough approach with his feet well above the ball

Looking back down the 14th from behind the green

The lovely par three 15th hole, the shortest on the course at only 141 yards

Just in front of the 15th green

A crowned fairway awaits at the famous 16th hole...

...but it's the green site that's truly spectacular! Look at that diabolical pin position too - we had plenty of tough ones on this day!

The absolutely awesome 16th green

A cruel, cruel hole location!

Perhaps the only plain hole on the world-class back nine as we hit the 17th tee

The very long 17th green from behind

The famous par three 18th over the barranca

A last look at the 18th at Pasatiempo from behind the green