After reading my article on Le Golf National and the danger of abandoning strategic course design in professional golf, a Twitter user named David Knight made a suggestion:
Great idea, I thought, stupidly.
Sometimes you find yourself on the right golf course at the right time.
Early on a clear Sunday morning, my dad and I teed off on the back nine at Pacific Grove Golf Links. We couldn’t see the flights of our initial shots.
But then: light.
In the wake of the 2018 Ryder Cup, commentators pointed to the design and setup of host venue Le Golf National as a crucial factor in the European victory. Le Golf National has long been considered a ball-striker’s paradise, a course where accuracy off the tee and into the greens tends to be more important than raw power. Astutely, in preparing the venue for competition, Ryder Cup Europe grew out the rough and kept the fairways narrow. Team USA found its distance advantage largely neutralized, and Team Europe thrived on the ball-striking prowess of Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari.
Seeing this as a rare triumph of old-school precision over new-school power, some suggested that Le Golf National should be a model for future tour venues. This argument, which I will spend much of this post refuting, stems from a premise that actually I agree with: because of advances in ball, driver, and instructional technology, power off the tee has become a disproportionate advantage in the professional game.
In Southern California, between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, there is a lesser-known region that offers some of the finest affordable golf in the United States. That region is Ventura County, and the courses include Buenaventura, Olivas Links, Rustic Canyon, and Soule Park. Last week, my dad and I played all four of these courses, and not once did we pay a green fee over $35.
First, if I were you, I would go to the Oregon coast instead. But if you have already been to Bandon Dunes, or if you have an “in” at Cypress Point, or if you simply yearn to check Pebble Beach off your bucket list, then come to Monterey. There is plenty of good golf here.
The Gist: Overshadowed by more famous holes on more dramatic sections of the property, the subtle 2nd at Pasatiempo Golf Club may actually be one of the best examples anywhere of Alister MacKenzie’s design philosophy.
Pasatiempo Golf Club (Santa Cruz, CA)
Oh, I can just hear the Twitterati clicking the reply bubble: “Well, sir, the 2nd is not even one of the top five holes at Pasa! What of the 3rd or the 11th? Or the 16th, which was Dr. MacKenzie’s personal favorite par 4?”