Our bucket list: 13 courses our staff can’t wait to play in 2021

Sheep Ranch Golf Course in Oregon.

Christian Hafer

Dear Garden City. And Gamble Sands. And Sheep Ranch. And Lawsonia. And Tobacco Road.

Dear Fishers Island (twice!). And Philadelphia Cricket Club (twice, too!). 

Dear St. Andrews. And Carne Golf Links. 

Dear Grayhawk. And Giants Ridge. And Paso Robles. And last, but certainly not least, at least to this author, Whitnall Park. 

Please tidy up your tee boxes, fairways and greens. (Or, maybe in some cases, please cut those fairways a little wider.) Please plant your flags. (Away from trouble would be nice.) Please keep your beverages cold. (And plentiful.)

We are coming. 


The GOLF staff. 

Our 2020 golf is, sadly, over. Our 2021 golf, happily, starts NOW. Below are the 13 courses our staff can’t wait to play.   

Michael Bamberger: The Tillinghast course of the Philadelphia Cricket Club. I made a double-bogey 6 on 18 in my last full round there of 2020 to foul up a good card. I believe I can do better.

Alan Bastable: Six years ago — feels like 60 — I took a whirlwind tour of Bandon Dunes for a video project I was working on with my colleague, Josh Sens. We didn’t get to play much golf (for shame!), but we did have the pleasure of visiting the mystical Sheep Ranch, which was then a rough-and-tumble, 13-hole routing. (Tee times were secured via a sporting goods shop in town, you generally had the place to yourself, and you could play the “holes” — really, there were only greens — in any sequence you liked.) You didn’t need to be Tom Doak or Gil Hanse to appreciate the mind-bending potential for the site: Clinging to cliffs high above the mighty Pacific, the property was a golf dreamscape. It seemed inconceivable that the land wouldn’t one day be developed into another jewel in the Bandon crown, and sure enough, in 2020, Sheep Ranch became just that. It’s an admittedly lofty goal for 2021, trekking across the country for a return visit to the Ranch (maybe ’22 is more realistic), but the early reviews have me giddy. I can’t wait to see what they did with the place.    

Josh Berhow: My home state, Minnesota, has a lot of great public golf courses I have yet to play, but I’m going to knock out a bunch of them next year. StoneRidge, just east of the Twin Cities, is near the top of that list, but leading it is a trip to Giants Ridge. It’s a golf/ski resort about 90 miles south of Canada, and it’s home to two dynamite golf courses. One, The Quarry, is widely considered the best public course in the state. My first trip there is high on the priority list for 2021.

Garden City Golf Club in New York.

Patrick Koenig

James Colgan: With the release of GOLF’s first “top courses in New York” ranking, fellow Long Islander Tim Reilly and I came to a startling realization: We’ve played hardly ANY of the best courses in our area. Sure, it’s one thing to pine after a Shinnecock tee time, but only four of 30 courses between the two of us? That’s bordering on shameful. In ’21, I’m hoping to knock out a few more of the Long Island giants — The Creek Club, Maidstone, maybe even Piping Rock. If I had to choose just one (an impossible task with Long Island golf), I’d say Garden City is my dream tee time next year. My only ask? That I can bring a friend.

The Fishers Island Club in New York.

Larry Lambrecht

Kevin Cunningham: Fishers Island. I’m not telling the how or what or when, but I may have a connection to get on the famed Seth Raynor design on a tiny island off the coasts of Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. I mostly played munis in 2020, so I think this will be a nice little change of pace. It probably won’t happen, but I assure you everyone will hear about it if it does.

Gamble Sands in Washington.

Brian Oar

Dylan Dethier: Gamble Sands. I moved to Seattle this summer and have already played Chambers Bay a couple times, which means it’s time to check off the next dream course in the state. I eagerly await the pilgrimage to eastern Washington to check out David McKlay Kidd’s epic design, plus a couple others — Wine Valley, Palouse Ridge, Suncadia and others — on the trek to and from. Pacific Northwest adventures await.

The Old Course at St Andrews, in 2019.

Getty Images

Luke Kerr-Dineen: I try to go to England about once a year to visit family. That obviously couldn’t happen this year. I’m desperately hoping — and cautiously optimistic — that it will in 2021. When it does, I’ll drive up to St. Andrews to visit my half-brother. We’ll sneak a round in on the Old Course, and it’ll be worth the wait. 

Jessica Marksbury: My best friend’s wedding was supposed to take place in California wine country in June this year. Because of Covid, it was moved to November and then moved again, to June of 2021. Part of the festivities will include a pre-wedding round of golf at Paso Robles Golf Club. I don’t know anything about the course, but there’s no question that I will love every second, and it’s the round I’m most excited to play.  

Zephyr Melton: Philadelphia Cricket Club. I shared a round there this past fall with GOLF’s very own Michael Bamberger, and I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed a course more than that one. The scene was tranquil, the pace was fast, and the greens were pure. I can’t wait until I can go back.

Whitnall Park Golf Course in Milwaukee.


Nick Piastowski: Whitnall Park Golf Course. Or Currie Park. Or Greenfield Park. I played one, or all three, of those Milwaukee County Parks Golf Courses when I was in high school. In college. Every year after college. Not this year. Sadly. I’m going to play Whitnall in 2022, struggle there like I always do, drink a Miller Lite and eat a hot dog there like I always do, and be really damn happy there, like I always am.  

Tim Reilly: Fishers Island. Let me be clear: I do not have a standing invite to play Fishers Island in 2021. It’s on the top of my bucket list, and something I’m eager to cross off. I’m a Long Island boy, and there’s nothing more Long Island than taking a ferry ride to the course. I’m putting the good vibes out there to anyone with a connection. I look forward to accepting a forthcoming invite. Maybe my colleague Kevin Cunningham will introduce me to his contact. … (Editor’s note: This is truly shameless.)

Josh Sens: Tobacco Road in North Carolina. I’ve had this one on my radar for a long time now. Partly because I’m a big Mike Strantz fan, but also because it’s one of the most polarizing courses in the country. People either seem to think it’s a work of revolutionary genius, or an overcooked disaster. I’m pretty sure I’m going to fall into the former camp, but either way, I’m itching to see it. I was all ready to make a trip there before Covid hit, so it’s at the top of the list when traveling becomes more feasible again. And bonus: It’s in the Pinehurst area, so lots of other places to hit along the way.

Alan Shipnuck: Some friends and I are optimistically planning an Ireland trip for next summer, as a way to celebrate the end of our Covid oppression. There are so many wonderful courses over there, but we’re focused on the wild and woolly northwest corner of the island, and I am particularly excited to finally get to Carne, a mythical place in my mind thanks to the reveries of the poet of the linksland, John Garrity.

Andrew Tursky: Grayhawk in Arizona. I played the Talon course this year, which was a great layout with awesome desert views. With a tee time, they also provided access to the practice range. I hear the Raptor course there is even better, though. I can’t wait to get back and check out the other course.

The Links Course at Lawsonia Links in Wisconsin.

Patrick Koenig

Sean Zak: Lawsonia! I last played their Links course about a decade ago, before people started to really appreciate it. I didn’t appreciate it at all. Need another look — and soon!

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.