Maybe the headline of this entry should have had a qualifier related to DeLaveaga. Those that have never played DeLa may lean in the direction of the iconic Santa Cruz course because of its long storied stature and the fact that she still deserves her reputation and still requires a 1000-rated round to shoot par.
Those that have played DeLa in past Masters Cups or other events may choose to go another way, though. They may remember which of the three other, much newer courses provided the greatest tournament challenge. That remains to be seen, of course, but DeLaBlahg can provide a small bit of insight from the perspective of a local.
First of all, generalizations that hold true for all four courses: The combination of trees, slanted and non-grassy fairways and variable winds adds up to difficult pars if you don’t place your drive where it needs to be. But for the most part, the length of the holes is reasonable- not long just to make the hole a tough par 3 or 4- or 5 (Pinto Lake, Hole 11, 1280 feet). These courses have plenty of other factors adding to the challenge.
Ryan Ranch is so beautiful right now, so dialed in with the sweet teesigns and basket toppers, it reminds us a femme fatale-type assassin. Many of the baskets are close enough to craggy brush and trees that you’ll find yourself straddle-putting often. The winds can get up pretty good since it’s mostly exposed. It’s long enough that if you arm can get fatigued at the end of a long day, you’ll do well to monitor your performance closely and adjust accordingly during the last 9 holes here- just like at the other 27-hole layouts.
The likeliest of the four courses to have wind be a major factor. If the wind is up in a major way, play to minimize the damage. It’s tough because the direction changes so often, with the course being the closest to the Pacific Ocean. But this course isn’t a birdie-fest on the calmest of days, so unless you’re in the Open division and vying for a top spot, lots o’ pars are good here too.
Tom Schot’s attempt to match his achievement at DeLaveaga is mostly successful at Pinto Lake. You may not like a couple of the holes that have thread-narrow dirt roads for part or all of the fairways (we don’t) but they are exacting and everyone has to play them. Most of the holes have yellow OB rope left, right, and in some case behind the pin. Make sure you know where that rope is on every shot. Especially on the meadow (upper) holes, which look so wide-open and innocuous after the first 4 holes, the OB can creep up on you very easily- especially if there is any wind to speak of.
The guess here is that Pinto Lake will stand out from the three courses not called DeLaveaga. It has the significant advantage of being the location for the semi-finals and finals, after all. It’s the only course the top divisions will play more than once. But that’s the only reason we cast our vote for Pinto Lake. The other courses are epic as well, and they’re all tough, technical, long, and a big departure from the courses most competitors play regularly. We like to envision conversations years from now among people who played the 2011 Pro Worlds, spirited debates about which course ended up being pivotal in XXXX XXXXXX being crowned World Champion.
Be aware of the lake on the one hole where it actually comes into play (14).