Golf isn’t always about fairways and greens, birdies and bogeys. Sometimes it’s about friends and memories. And right now, it’s about escape and comfort.
Here’s a personal top five golf courses list for right now that no one in the world would share. It’s a fantasy top five, because (due to COVID-19 restrictions) none of these courses is open and not one of them is accessible to me without a trip.
But I know if I were out there flailing away on any of them, the world would feel a little better. I hope you’ll check out my list, and maybe take a little time this weekend to think about where you’d most like to be playing golf in this crazy spring of 2020.
FIVE GOLF COURSES I’D LIKE TO PLAY RIGHT NOW (listed alphabetically, because there’s no way I could rank them)
Cruden Bay Golf Club (Scotland)
Visually, this course on the rugged eastern coast of Scotland, about two hours north of the more famous courses of St Andrews, reminded me of all the beautiful golf courses I have ever seen, put together. Ever since we played it, on a chilly and rainy day, I’ve dreamt of returning. And I know, of course, that if I were there right now playing it would mean the world was back to normal.
Links at Bodega Harbour (California)
Another seaside course, this one was my favorite escape in my early years of golf because a round here offered a welcome, peaceful contrast to life in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was usually foggy or windy, and I can still hear the seals barking. I married my first husband on the seventh tee, so the memories are vivid. After our marriage ended and he later died, I could never bring myself to play there again. I’d like to now.
Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort (South Carolina)
I’ve only played the Ocean Course as a solo traveler with a caddie, yet I rank it as the course I’d want to play if I had only one round left in me. Notoriously difficult for men to play, the completely exposed layout defers to nature, with holes playing differently depending on whether they are with the wind today or against. Alice Dye’s design from the forward tees retains the course’s character while making it a tad less penal. It’s wild and gorgeous, and it’s in the friendliest state I’ve ever visited.
Pine Ridge Golf Course (Maryland)
In my first job (at the long-gone Baltimore News American), before I ever took a swing at a driving range, I covered a few tournaments at Pine Ridge. Some were regional PGA events, but one was an LPGA tournament that featured the new phenom of the women’s tour. So I think of the big smile of Nancy Lopez whenever I think of this narrow, tree-lined layout neighboring Loch Raven Reservoir. I also think of many rounds later with my parents, who are now in lockdown at a senior community nearby. Dad, 87, doesn’t play golf anymore, but he might ride along to watch me and my mom, 85, play nine there now.
Sharp Park Golf Course (California)
Sharp Park meant Sunday to me during my years between marriages, and that’s saying as much about the friendly people who play and work here as it is about the course itself. Neglected stepchild of San Francisco’s recreation department, the coastal course has no views yet is vulnerable to nature’s whims, with wind and fog frequently in play. More famously, the course bears the signature of Alister MacKenzie, whose better known designs include Augusta National and Cypress Point. Not so famously, my first date here with my second husband was a round of golf here, and I’d like to be teeing off with him there this weekend to inhale the scent of its centuries-old cypress, pine and eucalyptus trees.
Editor’s Note: Women readers, while you’re here, please take a minute to answer the two questions on the survey below about the qualities you value most in a golf course. Your answers will help GottaGoGolf formulate golf course reviews for women. Thanks!