Which local golf course haven't you played yet?

Until golf travel returns, now is the time to make a "local bucket list" of courses to pursue.
A view of a green flanked by sand traps from The Links At Bodega Harbour

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. They never seem to last more than a month or two.

But I am big - and you should be, too - on setting golf goals for the year. Most people set these goals based on improvement milestones - for example, breaking 80 for the first time.

This year, I'm setting a unique goal I've never considered before: Playing all the best local courses within a 200-mile radius. Obviously, the pandemic continues and that leaves golf travel off-limits for many of us. The current COVID-19 surge in California requires anyone who travels outside of 200 miles from where they live in the Bay Area to quarantine for at least 10 days when they return.

I'm turning what feels like a restrictive prison sentence into what I hope is a golf-a-thon. We all have courses on our "local bucket list". It's time to check them off.

What is a local bucket list?

We all want to get back to life back to normal, but for now, that means staying close to home and making the best of it. Why not turn "golf travel" into a local scavenger hunt?

Day trips to play "local bucket list" courses were a regular thing when I lived in Michigan. Turns out, the longest one I ever attempted mirrored the parameters set by the pandemic - 205 miles each way from my Belleville home in metro Detroit to Roscommon's Forest Dunes Golf Club in northern Michigan. I remember it being the perfect day of golf, despite the 2 hours and 45 minutes on the road before and after the round.

Maybe this December 2020 review of Mill Quarter Plantation Country Club in Virginia will inspire you to seek what you haven't seen. The Golf Advisor user asked the poignant question in the title: "Wow ... why did we wait 25 years?" to play this particular course.

"Having moved to RVA in the 90's, we've played nearly every public and most privates nearby. Today we shot 89 & 93 from 6,943 (yards) at Mill Quarter and Loved It! Ault/Clark Designs always created playable layouts and the land chosen for this course is some of the quietest & prettiest in Central VA. Recent Bermuda green overseeding yields the nicest, pitchmark-free greens available. Bernard and team were very helpful and accommodating; distinguishingly so! Cheers!"

- Golf Advisor review, December 20th

Maybe you can make a similarly thrilling discovery by moving outside your comfort zone. I don't know about you, but I generally have a four-course rotation near my home and stick to it. Usually it's price or distance that keeps most golfers from expanding their footprint. That needs to change.

If you're keen to branch out like me, I recommend checking the course website, and probably even calling ahead before booking an online tee time, just to make sure they're open to non-local players. You never know what sort of restrictions a course outside your immediate area may have that you're not aware of.

My to-do list

Pacific Grove's 13th hole: View from above green at dusk

I've only lived in San Jose for five years, so I've got a dozen or more nice public courses I still haven't seen. Top of the list are Pacific Grove Golf Links, the "Poor Man's Pebble Beach" on the Monterey Peninsula, and the Links at Bodega Harbour and Sea Ranch Golf Links, both in Sonoma County north of the Golden Gate Bridge. All three feature great views of the Pacific Ocean. Northwood Golf Club, a nine-hole Alister MacKenzie design among the redwoods in Monte Rio, is another interesting option.

Pacific Grove, California
Bodega Bay, California
Monte Rio, California
Livermore, California
Livermore, California
Carmel, California
Sea Ranch, California
Sea Ranch, California
Napa, California

Much to my wife's chagrin, we've never spent any time in the wine country of Napa or Livermore, either playing golf or savoring the tastings. In Napa County, Eagle Vines and Chardonnay Golf Club are the top public courses. Livermore in the "East Bay" boasts a nice 1-2 punch in Greg Norman's Wente Vineyards and Poppy Ridge, the 27-hole facility owned by the Northern California Golf Association.

And how can I forget Carmel Valley Ranch, the only Pete Dye design in northern California? That's a busy schedule for the next six months until, hopefully, the vaccine opens things up again.

What local public course have you wanted to play, but for some reasons haven't yet? Let us know in the comments below.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 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 Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Which local golf course haven't you played yet?