Our favorite public courses we finally played in 2021

Pasatiempo at sunset is one of the best golf walks on earth.

Sean Zak

At GOLF.com, our hobby is also our job. That means, just like you, we spend much of the year teeing it up high, swinging hard and trying to avoid double bogeys. But some courses we stumble upon are simply more memorable than others. Here is a breakdown of our favorite public courses our staff played over the past 12 months.

For some of us, it was a lovely walk through the tall trees in California. For others, it was a delightful romp on a par-69 in Maine. And of course, for the lucky bunch, the best that Bandon Dunes and Pinehurst have to offer. Here are the places that stood out to us in 2021.

TPC Harding Park, California

Northern California’s Bay Area is chock full of quality golf. Private courses like Olympic Club, San Francisco Golf Club and Cal Club highlight the menu, but there are plenty of high-caliber public tracks as well.

Presidio Golf Course, Sharp Park and (if you venture a little further south) Pasatiempo are all solid public-access tracks that should be on your radar if you’re in the area. But after receiving a facelift and hosting several big-time events over the last 20 years, TPC Harding Park might be the most well-known. – Zephyr Melton

Read more here.

Saratoga National, New York

Yes, we’d had a few close calls, but through some amalgam of skill, mental endurance and good fortune, Dad had always managed to wind up on top. And, as most good dads do, he never let me forget it.

“Oh, who’s the best golfer in the family?” He’d say to no one in particular. “Well, let me check the scorecard … Oh! That’s right. Me.” – James Colgan

Read more here.

Bandon Dunes, Oregon

Trapped in a bunker, I was thrown a lifeline. Or, in this case, a more-lofted sand wedge.

Over Labor Day weekend, I was fortunate enough to have made my first trip to Bandon Dunes, and over three days, I was fortunate enough to have played five of the six courses on the Bandon, Oregon property. (I missed just Old Macdonald.) And fortunately for me, Tyson was along for the ride. Especially deep into the back nine, and deep in the sand, at Bandon Trails.

“Here, use this,” Tyson said, handing me a wedge. – Nick Piastowski

Read more here.

Pasatiempo Golf Club, California

As with most courses that hold plenty of fanfare online, I held some skepticism about Pasatiempo. But when Alister MacKenzie calls it his best layout, well, you have to take the man at his word. It must be pretty good.

On paper, it might not wow you. Your view off the 1st tee offers a tattered driving range along the left side and a brutally long par-4 that slaps you from the jump; hope you’re ready. It plays just 6,450 yards from the tips and is priced at $325 during prime season, encouraging numerous golf buddies of mine to ask if Pasatiempo is worth extending their Bay Area or Monterey Peninsula golf trips. The answer is yes, every single time. Because at Pasatiempo you’ll pay a pricey rate but receive a 200-level class in course design. Thanks, Prof MacKenzie. – Sean Zak

Read more here.

Pinehurst No. 2, North Carolina

Pinehurst Resort is a bucket-list golf destination, and for good reason. There are nine courses to choose from, first-rate lodging, delicious dining, a quaint village, the list goes on.

Course No. 2 is also one that lives large in our collective imaginations. – Jessica Marksbury

Read more here.

Cape Arundel, Maine

I’d driven through Maine before, but had never spent any time there prior to this trip. My knowledge of the state was limited to fresh lobster and what I’d seen in L.L. Bean magazines, so I was excited to experience it for the first time. I was also a little nervous — this was my first trip for GOLF where I’d actually be the person playing golf, rather than just watching the pros do their thing.

I drove up to Boston, where I met Dylan fresh off his redeye from Seattle. The two of us then hopped on the road up the coast, meeting Sean in Portland. Our first stop (after lunch in Kennebunkport) was at Cape Arundel, and it was the perfect course to kick off a few days of golf. – Claire Rogers

Read more here.

Goat Hill Park, California

I was fortunate enough to play a lot of great public courses for the first time this year. From Pinehurst No. 2 to Harbour Town to every course at Bandon Dunes, I checked quite a few boxes off the Top 100 Courses list. Sorry for the humblebrag, but you don’t need me to explain how great any of those courses are. But when I look back on a public course that left a different kind of first impression on me, Goat Hill Park, in Oceanside, Calif., comes to mind. – Tim Reilly

Read more here.

Forest Dunes — The Loop, Michigan

When my friends and I received a wedding invite to take place in Northern Michigan, we immediately thought one thing: golf trip. We figured a road trip through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan with a few rounds of golf, a few baseball games and lots of Enya would be more memorable than an indirect flight out of JFK (yuck).

And, we were right. We played three rounds of golf and crossed Progressive Field and Comerica Park off our stadium bucket-lists (in truth, I didn’t even have one of those until this trip). The most memorable stop though, was to Forest Dunes. – Emily Haas

Read more here.

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Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

Zak is a writer and host for various GOLF.com video properties and podcasts. Check out his travels on Destination Golf and his latest thoughts on the Drop Zone Podcast:

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