Pasatiempo Golf Club signs historic 30-year water agreement to fend off the California drought

The future of Pasatiempo Golf Club -- one of the game's treasured Alister MacKenzie courses -- has been secured, at least for the next three decades.

The club, located in Santa Cruz, Calif., recently signed a 30-year agreement with the neighboring community of Scotts Valley for the rights to use recycled city water previously pumped into the ocean. Pasatiempo General Manager Scott Hoyt says the club has been working on the proposal for 30 years.

"It is an absolute historic event for Pasatiempo," Hoyt says. "It is a huge celebration for us. We don't know of any other courses that have three water sources like us. This started out as water security. It turned out to be beneficial cost-wise.

"The biggest variable in golf -- especially in California -- is water, whether you can get it and what the cost is."

Hoyt says the financial implications of the deal will be difficult on the club in the short term. He says Pasatiempo will pay for the entire cost of the water up front -- $1.6 million spread over the next five years -- leaving no payments the final 25 years of the agreement. The club has also taken out a loan to pay for a $9-million project to build a 500,000-gallon storage tank and its own pumping and filtration station. Ground will be broken May 17 with scheduled completion in May 2017.

Hoyt indicated the storage tank will be 85 percent buried behind Pasatiempo's 13th green and will be mostly covered by landscaping. No holes will close during construction.

The deal comes of the heels of a difficult 2014 golf season when the city of Santa Cruz cut Pasatiempo's fresh-water irrigation supply by 50 percent due to the ongoing California drought. The subsequent brownout brought scathing online reviews, which scared away some customers.

The club responded by digging a well, which Hoyt says will be more useful once the storage tank is in place. Drawing from Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and the well, Pasatiempo now has all the water it needs, no matter how little rain Mother Nature brings.

"No matter what the golf industry says, firm and fast and brown isn't good. It didn't work," Hoyt says. "We only had enough water for tees and greens. It cost us a boatload of money. If we had to do that every three or four years, it would be financially crippling for us. The customer had no idea what to expect from us (condition-wise) year to year. Now they do.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Pasatiempo Golf Club signs historic 30-year water agreement to fend off the California drought
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