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.
There’s so much I love about San Francisco. The food is great, the people are wonderful, the views are impossible to beat, and, most critically, there’s some great golf courses. But sometimes I need a break. The city is, after all, a 7-mile by 7-mile jungle of tech bros, wall-to-wall houses, and streets that smell like porta-potties.
CordeValle is the escape I need. It’s a quiet and secluded resort that’s an hour and a half south of San Francisco but a world away. Instead of 60 degrees and foggy, it gives me 85 and sunny. Instead of car horns and loud neighbors, it gives me peace and quiet.
And, oh yeah, it also has one of the best public golf courses in California. It’s a true championship course that has hosted the PGA Tour’s Frys.com Open in the past, and will host this year’s US Women’s Open three months from now.
It will cost a pretty penny to play at CordeValle, but it’s worth it. Here’s the scoop on my experience…
There’s a saying my mom likes to use: two rights sometimes make a wrong. She is usually making some silly food reference, e.g. chocolate ice cream tastes good and salmon tastes good, but they don’t taste good together. Having played the Old Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links, I can report to my mom that her saying applies to golf courses, as well.
Here’s what I am getting at: The Old Course is located on one of the prettiest stretches of land in the country–the Northern California coast. And the layout is pretty good, as well. The problem is that the location and the layout don’t mix. Instead of making the most of it’s ocean-front real estate, the Old Course is, for the most part, a parkland style course that meanders through some upscale housing. It’s the kind of design you’d expect to see in Scottsdale or Palm Springs, but it’s poorly suited for the Old Course’s coastal location. For one thing, there are no ocean views until the final two holes. More significantly, the course does not accommodate the strong winds that come with being next to the Pacific Ocean. Small greens, massive trees, tight doglegs, and multiple forced-carries can make a course a fun challenge, but when you add in 25 mph winds, it starts to get unreasonable.
Here’s a little bit more about my experience.
After I finished my first ever round at Pasatiempo Golf Club, I got to my car, sat down, took a deep breath, and said “man, that was exhausting.” Not physically, but mentally. I’ve never thought so hard about every shot I took during a round than I did that day.
I mean this all as a compliment to Pasatiempo, not a complaint. Every hole requires some thought to figure out how to play it properly. Long and straight isn’t always the answer. And the greens at Pasatiempo are out-of-this-world, both in their beauty and their difficulty. Any loss of focus will put you at a high risk of bogey or worse.
This can be credited to the great Alister MacKenzie, who designed Pasatiempo in the 1920s during the golden era of golf course design, when golf was meant to be a scenic game of chess, not an artificially difficult game of checkers. It’s a unique challenge that is hard to find anywhere else in the country, even in golf-saturated Northern California.
A little course knowledge will go a long way before you play Pasatiempo for the first time. Here’s what I took away from my experience.
I grew up believing that there was no such thing as a pleasant round of golf at a big-city municipal course. That’s because I’m from Los Angeles County, where six-hour rounds with fivesomes on *meh* courses are the rule, not the exception. If you’ve ever played Rancho Park or Los Verdes, you know what I’m talking about.
It’s a different story in San Francisco, primarily because of the TPC Harding Park. Harding Park is a great layout (contrary to what you might have read elsewhere) that is scenic, well-maintained, and reasonably priced for San Francisco residents like yours truly. It also plays at a good pace. I snuck out there one Friday morning and got in a four-hour round despite playing with two self-proclaimed duffers and a third guy who talked more than Forest Gump.