By: Charlene S. Mixa
Whether seeking the nostalgia of historic Santa Cruz or the new charms of a vibrant seaside town with magnificent views of Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean, visitors will find it all in Santa Cruz. The rich history of Spanish settlers, the Mission Santa Cruz, a century old boardwalk and a well know surfing location creates a special aura with numerous activities such as hiking, surfing, shopping, sightseeing, and golf all readily available. Located 75 miles south of San Francisco and on the northern end of Monterey Bay Santa Cruz offers much more than just a place for sun and surf.
The Coastal towns of California continue to amaze and surprise us. Each town has its very own personality, uniqueness and allure. Traveling US 1 around Monterey Bay, we see the landscape change from the huge dunes along Seaside to expansive fields of artichokes and strawberries. As the highway approaches Santa Cruz nestled between the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay, the scene is one of busy seaside towns of Capitola and Santa Cruz. Golf is first on the agenda for today, as we take 17 North toward the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Avid golfers, we love playing the well-known courses around the country. From Pinehurst to Bandon Dunes each course brings a special experience. Yet, private courses such as Cypress Point and Augusta National, designed by world-renowned golf architect Alister MacKenzie, are exclusive and require special “connections” to play. We are excited that Pasatiempo Golf Club, also designed by MacKenzie, is a semi-private club. So we are off to play this historical top 100 course located just outside of Santa Cruz.
The road winds up the hillside to the clubhouse offering a great view of picturesque Monterey Bay. Taking the shuttle to the practice area, our driver educates us on Pasatiempo’s rich history. Not only did Alister MacKenzie design the course but it was his favorite course. In fact MacKenzie made his American home here and it is located on the No. 6 fairway. We learn Pasatiempo was the vision of Marion Hollins, the US Women’s Amateur Champion in 1921 and the only woman in America with a men’s handicap in polo. An astute business woman in a man’s world, she developed Pasatiempo as a real estate development with a golf course, clubhouse, a steeplechase course and bridal paths. Bobby Jones, missed the cut in a Pebble Beach event, so Marion invited him to play in the opening foursome of Pasatiempo. At the event, Bobby Jones meets Alister MacKenzie and the relationship developed that results in MacKenzie designing Augusta National. The Senior LPGA will be held at Pasatiempo this year and fine tuning is taking place gearing up for the event. On the rides to and from the practice area we appreciate the pride the drivers’ have in Pasatiempo.
From the No. 1 tee the view down the tree-lined fairway is scenic with Monterey Bay visible in the background. The Starter greets us and gives everyone a complimentary Pasatiempo towel and yardage book. The course has dramatic elevation changes and natural hazards in addition to parallel and tree lined fairways. Numerous large fairway bunkers and greenside bunkers quickly snatch misplaced shots. Each hole offers its own challenge with hillside fairways, ravines to carry, and either large undulating or sloping greens. Putting is a major challenge! The greens are fast and we consistently misread and misjudge. No one in our foursome mastered them. The No. 11 fairway is divided by a ravine, creating decisions regarding club selection. No. 18 is a fun finishing hole of a par 3 over a deep gorge to a green surrounded by bunkers nestled in the hillside. Pasatiempo is a must play for golfers in the Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay area!
Afterwards we celebrate with drinks and a late lunch at Hollis House Restaurant, the former home of Marion Hollins. Sitting on the patio of Hollins House we have a fantastic view of the golf coursePasatiempo, Monterey Bay and the Monterey Peninsula. The food is terrific! The view is awesome! We toast this exciting and demanding Alister Mackenzie golf course and Marion Hollins vision and entrepreneurial spirit.
Using our GPS we locate the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites Santa Cruz East on Ocean Street. The hotel is relatively new having opened in April 2009. It still has that fresh new feel. Plus it is conveniently located near Highway 17 and Highway 1. The staff is extremely helpful and we appreciate the underground parking. Our room is bright and comfortable with several modern touches to the décor including the complimentary wireless internet access and flat screen LCD TVs.
We freshen up and are off to explore Santa Cruz. With map in hand and our GPS, we learn preplanning can be important with the town’s one-way streets and winding streets. It is fun driving the busy town and finding our way around. Santa Cruz has a feeling of a seaside town where everyone was trying to find a spot of land near the water. Houses are jammed along streets and roads. Getting to Monterey Bay, we drive and park on the Wharf. Walking along the Wharf we find several restaurants, but even better are great views toward West Cliff Drive, the lighthouse and a terrific view of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. With the large roller coaster and many rides, the Boardwalk could easily be a full day event. We next head east to locate the Crowe’s Nest Restaurant. The restaurant has good seafood and spectacular waterfront views on the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. We enjoy a leisurely dinner with the scenery of Monterey Bay and a wonderful sunset.
The complimentary continental breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express starts our day. The weather is overcast as we drive to West Cliff Drive. Strolling the walkway along the drive, we are amazed at the number of surfers in the water. We watch as one climbs down steps built into the cliffs to a rocky shore, gingerly walking on the rocks to the water with his surf board. All wearing wet suites and waiting to catch a wave, we count over thirty surfers in one spot and just as many further down the cliff walk. A great ride! A surfer catches a wave and rides it all the way in! We walk up to the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse which is currently home to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum.
With possible rain looming, we drive through downtown, Santa Cruz with its Clock Tower and tree-lined street. Its early morning but with the numerous restaurants and eateries lining the street, this would be a great downtown for shopping and dining. We’ve toured many of the California Missions and want to visit Mission Santa Cruz. Sitting on a bluff, the Holy Cross Church was constructed over the site of the original Franciscan mission. Walking around the church we locate the Plexiglas protecting the only remaining portion of original wall of the adobe mission founded in 1791. Two earthquakes and a severe storm eventually destroyed the remains of the Franciscan mission. Across the street we tour the ½ scale replica of Mission Santa Cruz, built in 1931. We grasp the detail to recapture the essence of the original mission. As light rain starts as we depart Santa Cruz. Before leaving, we make a quick loop through Capitola, another beachside town. It has a quainter more compact feel with shops and eateries along the streets near the beach and wharf.
Our visit to Santa Cruz has been fun with great golf, good food and learning more about this quintessential town. Santa Cruz is a fun coast town for any visitors its varied activities and appeal.
If you go:
Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council, 303 Water Street, Suite 100, Santa Cruz, CA 95060