Monterey, Day 3: Santa Cruzin’

When you hear “golf” and “Santa Cruz” in the same sentence, the obvious thought is Pasatiempo. It’s one of my favorite all time courses and I look forward to coming back and playing it again someday.

But as you know, I’m always on the quest to explore new courses, so I checked out the “other” tracks in that area…

Seascape Golf Club • Aptos, CA • 11/23/13

My friend and I headed up here early in the morning to get Saturday started. I had booked a 6:20 tee time, but we weren’t even sure if it would be light by then. When we got there, the place was a ghost town. I saw a handful of maintenance workers around the clubhouse, but the doors were locked and most lights were still out.

Ultimately, someone did open the door and we were able to wait inside (by the fireplace). It was another cold morning, so that was nice. Ultimately, someone opened the pro shop for us, but didn’t check us in. I guess the regular lady was running late, so they told us to head out to the course and come pay at the turn.

So that’s what we did.

It was around 6:40 by the time we teed off, which was nicer because there was a little more daylight to work with by then and this is a course where it helps to be able to see where you need to hit. We paid at the turn ($56.49) and otherwise set a nice quick pace as the lead group out. For a Saturday morning, I would have expected to see more local “regulars” lined up for dawn patrol, but I guess they knew better!

Overall, this is a very fun course. There are very few flat lies on the entire course as it winds its way through a sleepy seaside neighborhood. There are a lot of hills and a lot of trees, so the holes are framed nicely from tee to green. I ended up liking the back nine more than the front, but both sides were solid.

Some fairways are quite forgiving like the par-5 10th that plays down in a narrow little gully. The sidewalls will kick just about any shot back into the center, so you can get away with slightly stray shots. On the other hand, there are a number of side-slanted fairways that are not quite so forgiving. On these, you should always aim to the high side in order to keep the ball on the fairway at all.

Most of the greens are elevated and protected by some bunkering. The greens themselves feature a lot of slope, so it pays to be below the hole when you can. Even while wet in the morning, these greens were pretty quick, so putting was definitely an adventure here.

The course is close to the ocean, but the only real “seascape” is a view from the back of the clubhouse overlooking the 9th green. In the distance, you get a little window of water beyond the rows of eucalyptus trees.

This course can be fun and frustrating at the same time. It’s definitely a more target style layout, and if you miss your targets you can have a hard time saving your score. Yet, if you hit your targets, you’ll be looking at some good birdie opportunities.

The course was in pretty good shape for this time of year. The tee boxes and fairways mostly good. The fairways definitely looked better from afar, but I generally had good fluffy lies. The rough was inconsistent and patchy, but you deserve what you get. I was in a couple bunkers and they were great. The greens were also in nice shape—very soft and receptive, but rolling quick and smooth.

I wouldn’t go too far out of my way to play Seascape again, but it’s a solid mid-price option while in the area. Not a destination course, but definitely a big step above a locals “muni” course.

Some pictures from Seascape Golf Club (11/23/13):

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From Aptos, we headed just a bit north and into Santa Cruz…

DeLaveaga Golf Course • Santa Cruz, CA • 11/23/13

I’ve heard it called the “poor man’s Pasatiempo,” but that’s not a fair comparison—no more than calling Pacific Grove the “poor man’s Pebble Beach.” In both cases, the designs aren’t really that comparable and nor is the overall experience.

Still, DeLaveaga is known to have a pretty good reputation and it’s a course I’ve been looking forward to playing. We had a 12:07 time and had some time to kill, so we ate breakfast in the restaurant above the pro shop. It was fine, but nothing to write home about.

This was the second half of our Costco deal that included the round we played at Rancho Cañada on Friday. That made DeLaveaga about $35, which is a great price compared to their normal $75 weekend rates.

This course opened in the 1970s and definitely has the feel of an older course with a pretty classic design and nothing too over-the-top about it. It really feels naturally built into the parkland landscape. No homes surround the course and you can tell the designers laid out the course seamlessly amongst the hills, trees and ravines. Not one hole really jumps out at you, but all look nice and offer a unique set of challenges.

DeLaveaga won’t “wow” you at any point, yet it’s a pleasant setting and a very good overall course. As a fade hitter, I will say there are many holes here that favor a left-to-right shot shape. But still, there is a good mix of hole lengths and designs that will require every shot in your bag. Like most of the courses we played on this trip, it’s also not super long (just over 6,100 yards from the blue tees) and plays more like a “target” style course. With the right positioning, a good score is easily achieved. With poor positioning, you’ll find yourself scrambling.

It was a big theme this weekend to like the back nine more than the front, and DeLaveaga was no exception. Overall, I found the back nine to be a tad more memorable than the front.

There are some tricky green complexes here, but they were rolling quite slow for us Saturday and we definitely didn’t get the full DeLaveaga putting experience. One of the course workers played with us for a few holes on the front nine and showed us how diabolical some of the greens can be when firm and fast in the summer.

The course was just in okay shape. The fairways and tee boxes were mostly decent, but a lot of soft muddy spots in fairways (most shaded areas) and some thin/dry spots (most exposed spots). The main cut of rough was pretty good and thick. The further you stray from the fairways, the more ugly things get. The bunkers were very good. The greens were quite beat up, though. The practice green looked and rolled great (a little slow), but many greens on the course had some little dead patches and most greens were pretty bumpy and slow in the afternoon. They were very soft, so that led to lots of ball mark damage. For winter, though, it still wasn’t too bad.

If you are playing golf in Santa Cruz, then shelling out the money to play Pasatiempo is highly recommended. It’s a course you won’t soon forget. Otherwise, DeLaveaga is a very good course at a much more affordable price, so it’s not to be overlooked while visiting this town more known for its surf than its golf.

Some pictures from DeLaveaga Golf Course (11/23/13):

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