San Francisco city escape: The New Links at Bodega Harbour in Sonoma
BODEGA BAY, Calif. - The winds seldom take an afternoon off around this part of the Sonoma coast, especially when you're perched high above the ocean at The New Links at Bodega Harbour, about 60 miles north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
With the first nine holes opened in 1976, this is one of Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s earliest golf course designs. A second nine holes were added in 1987, and in 2007 Kemper Sports led an extensive renovation, which included rebuilding its 90-plus bunkers, widening fairways and better drainage. The greens were also reseeded from Poa Annua to a smoother Bentgrass. The $1.2 million project was completed this year and substantial enough to warrant a name amendment: The New Links at Bodega Harbour.
From most vantage points on the golf course, the Pacific Ocean is in full view, which leads to some blustery winds coming in off the coastline. Said Jones of his design:
"Keep the ball low and under the wind, but raise your eyes high and see the beauty at Bodega Harbour."
The golf course has links qualities, with firm and rolling turf and the ever-present ocean breeze. Balls that land in the fairway probably aren't going to bounce straight forward, and high fescue grasses surround many holes. It will remind you of a Scottish heathland that plays just off and high above the sea - aside from the numerous holes with housing alongside. The course winds through a 700-plus housing development, and on these holes, you know you're in California holiday country. In a stiff crosswind, you'll be a little nervous about keeping your ball in play.
On the flip side, the holes that have no real estate are dramatic. The first hole to emerge from the houses is the fourth: a long, uphill par 4 with unspoiled valley scenery. When you reach the green, there are panoramic views of the Sonoma Coast.
If you're new to this part of California, as I was, you begin to understand what all the fuss is about.
After a head-scratching par-5 fifth hole that you'll probably want to play conservatively the first time around, two beautiful, back-to-back par 3s await. Both head toward the sea, especially the ultra-challenging sixth, which has a narrow, two-tiered green that can be awfully tough to hit in the wind.
The newer back nine has one of The New Links at Bodega Harbour's more interesting design aspects: after the 15th hole, you're asked to park your golf cart, grab a pull cart and hoof the low-lying 16th and 17th holes, which play lower along the beach. The par-4 16th is a shortie that is drivable from the tee but wraps severely around wetlands. The par-3 17th is also wetlands heavy, with a well guarded green.
The New Links at Bodega Harbour: The verdict
The New Links at Bodega Harbour is a fitting holiday golf course just 60 miles north of the San Francisco Bay Area. At just 6,290 yards from the championship tees, it's a little short, but there are some formidable challenges here, as well as numerous spots with beautiful Pacific Ocean backdrops. Perched above the coastline, there are few calm afternoons here, so bring your low ball.
Green fees range from $60 weekday to $90 on weekends. Sonoma County residents get a discount. There is no driving range, just hitting nets and a small putting green and chipping area. If you're not up for the drive back into the city, there are holiday villas for rent on site.
August 31, 2009