I’ve lacked the inspiration to put together a review of the Links at Bodega Harbour, mainly because it’s an uninspiring course. The course has some great views of Bodega Bay and the Sonoma County coast, but otherwise it’s an average course with some unmemorable holes. It’s the kind of course I’d play if I was already visiting the Sonoma area and found a good rate, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to play there.
Bodega Harbour is a public course about 70 miles north of San Francisco on the Sonoma County coast. A tee time costs 60 dollars during the week and 90 dollars on the weekend, but online discounts are out there to be had. Me and some buddies paid around 40 bucks on a Saturday last summer.
The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. It originally opened in 1978. In 2008, it underwent extensive renovations to become the course it is today. There’s no driving range at Bodega Harbour, and only a small putting green.
What’s good about Bodega Harbour?
The views: The Northern California coastline is stunning, and Bodega Harbour has nice views of it on several holes.
The location: Sonoma County is a popular spot to visit on any trip to California, and for good reason. The wine is amazing, the food is delicious, and there are some spectacular places to hike. If you’re someone who feels the urge to sneak in a round of golf while in Sonoma County, Bodega Harbour is a good option.
What’s bad about Bodega Harbour?
The layout: There are a couple of good holes at Bodega Harbour, but for the most part, it’s an underwhelming layout. Most holes weave through an upscale housing development, and you get the feeling that the designer was more concerned with giving the homeowners good views of a golf course than with providing an interesting layout. The course is also short, it plays less than 6,300 yards from the tips.
Pace of play: I played Bodega Harbour on a Saturday. My round took over five hours. There are lots of casual golfers at the course and lots of places to lose balls. Also, golfers are required to walk holes 16 and 17 because they are on the other side of a marsh. It’s probably for environmental reasons. This causes play to get held up on those two holes. I think it took me an hour to plays those two holes and the 18th.
The weather: Like anywhere on the Northern California coast, it can get incredibly cold and windy at Bodega Harbour. But the course isn’t really designed to handle the wind. There are several tight holes with houses all around and a fair number of forced carries.
Here are some thoughts on specific holes. All yardages are from the 6,290 yard black tees (Par 70, 71.6/132).
Fourth hole, 405 yards: The fourth might be the toughest hole at Bodega Harbour. It’s an uphill par-4 with a fairway that slopes severely from right to left. I hit my drive into the hill right of the fairway and it bounced back down into the middle of the fairway. Any shot on the wrong side of the cart path on the left will probably never be seen again.
Fifth hole, 506 yards: The par-5 fifth is the signature hole at Bodega Harbour and easily the best hole on the course. The hole starts from one of the highest points on the property. At a bout 200 yards, the fairway ends with a steep drop off to the second part of the fairway. From there, the green sits about 200 yards on the other side of a hazard and several bunkers, with the fairway curving around to the right and up to the green. It’s a fun hole and best to play as a three-shotter.
6th hole, 158 yards: The elevated tee on this short par-3 provides and exhilarating tee shot and some nice views of the bay. When the wind is blowing, it’s really tough to judge the proper distance. It’s always best to shoot for the middle of the green.
16th hole, 318 yards (not pictured): Bodega Harbour takes pride in its final three holes, which run right next to the coastline. But I was not impressed. As I mentioned before, they play incredibly slow. The holes were on the “meh” side, as well. The short par-4 16th has a cool tee shot over the aforementioned marsh with views out toward the ocean. But I found the hole to be a bit awkward. The fairway runs almost perpendicular to the tee to the left and, unless you intend to drive the green, you can tee off with something like a 7-iron and still have a wedge into the green.
17th hole, 188 yards: The par-3 17th requires a big carry over the marsh to reach the green. The green is fortified with a huge greenside bunker on the left and a steep hill with some native area on the right. If you want to bail out, the safe play is short and right of the green.
18th hole, 461 yards: This hearty par-4 finisher is more goofy than good. The tee shot is to a narrow and undulating fairway with trouble both left and right. The approach shot is severely downhill with the green framed by a great view of the Pacific Ocean in the background. Make sure to take at least one less club on the approach. I clubbed down and still hit my approach into a bunker behind the green.
Miscellaneous thoughts – Sonoma wines
Napa gets all the notariety for California wines, but Sonoma County is just as good as Napa, if not better. One of my favorite places is Lynmar Estate in Sebastopol, which makes an awesome Pinot Noir and a great Chardonnay. They are very thoughtful wines. For a smaller producer, try Calstar Cellars. It’s literally a one-man operation with a guy named Rick Davis. Good wines and a good price.
I wanted to like Bodega Harbour more than I did. But it’s just an underwhelming course. I doubt I will be back there unless I’m already in the area and find a good rate.
Design: C. Layout leaves a lot to be desired outside of a few fun holes.
Condition: B+. Well maintained, even in the middle of summer.
Enjoyability: C. Great views but way too slow.
Value: B-. Not that expensive, but not cheap enough for me to play regularly.
Overall grade: B-.