Every golfer I know spends the winter months dreaming about courses they’ll play when the snow melts. As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought current golf travel to a screeching halt. But that doesn’t mean we stop thinking about it. Travel planning is uncertain but dreaming is still allowed.
Bucket Lists come in two sizes – possible and impossible.
As many of you probably do, I have Augusta National on my Bucket List but I’m not going to spend any time planning a trip to Georgia. Maybe Fred Ridley, the current Chairman of Augusta National, will call one day and say, “Hey Pete, we’d like you to come down here for a few days to play the course and let us know what you think. Sometime before the Masters in April would be ideal. Hope you can fit us into your schedule.”
I suppose that could happen but I’m not holding my breath. (Fred, if you’re reading, my schedule is wide open.)
The same goes for Pine Valley, Cypress Point and almost every other exclusive private club in the World Top 100. Some will say they’re not impossible – there are ways. Sure, there are. I know a guy whose cousin Bob is married to a girl whose mother works at the Piggly Wiggly in Augusta with a woman whose son is third assistant to the Superintendent at Augusta National. She or he can probably get you on.
Ya, right. We all know a guy.
But if you’re not good at working angles, asking for favours and weaseling your way around, then it’s not going to happen. I’d rather wait to be invited anyway. That invitation may never come but if not, there are lots more Bucket List courses that fall into the ‘possible’ category. Here are some from my list (North American version) where you don’t have to know anyone at the Piggly Wiggly. Dream on!
This one has been on my list for as long as I can remember. It’s like 1 and 1A with Augusta. Obviously influenced by the PGA Tour event but rich with history and spectacular scenery. I went there in 1989 as part of a trip with my wife to the San Francisco area. We stayed a couple of nights in a quaint little inn in Carmel, walked on the beach below the golf course and I even climbed the dunes to walk on the 9th or 10th fairway. The green fee back then was around $200 as I recall, still pretty hefty in those days, but I would have paid it, if only I’d brought my clubs.
My last trip to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia included rounds at Highlands Links, one of my favourite courses in the world, and Cabot Links. The Cliffs hadn’t been built yet, but course rankers are saying it’s better than the other two. I’m a huge fan of the work that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw do and eager to see if The Cliffs lives up to all the hype.
Stanley Thompson built Jasper in 1925 and it has only grown in stature since. I had the opportunity to play there in the late 80’s when staying at Banff for an industry trade show. It was a bit of an awkward schedule, so I chose a day of horse back riding instead. Stupid decision. The scenery was nice, but I’ve never been so sore.
Humber Valley Resort
I’ve never been to Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s the only province left on my golf list but there are so many other attractions I’d like to see in this beautiful region too. Humber Valley is a wonderful Doug Carrick design set in the mountains in the western part of the province. Not the easiest place to get to but well worth the trip according to numerous friends who rave about it.
Who doesn’t have this iconic resort on the Oregon coast on their Bucket List? Bandon was on mine when there was just one course there. Now there are six! A magnificent testament to the best of Scottish and Irish links golf. Bandon is another destination that’s not easy to get to, but then that’s what makes it worth every penny and hour required.
I couldn’t go years ago when invited to join a media trip to play this incredible Tom McBroom design in Kamloops. I’ve been kicking myself ever since. An intriguing combination of mountain and desert golf with awesome views of the lake. It was top of mind this week after speaking to an industry colleague who lives in Kelowna (2-hour drive) and plays Tobiano regularly. Lucky guy!
In case you thought all my Bucket List courses were long distance affairs on either coast or tucked in some far-off Rocky Mountain retreat, let me suggest Whistling Straits. It’s on the shores of Lake Michigan and driveable from the GTA. There are four top ranked courses at this Wisconsin resort but the one that intrigues me most is Whistling Straits. It’s a Pete Dye design on the shores of the lake, that boasts more pot bunkers than they can count. (Supposedly over 900). This is where Dustin Johnson famously ground his club in what he thought was a waste area on the final hole of the 2010 PGA Championship, only to find out to his everlasting chagrin that it was in fact a bunker. The two-stroke penalty cost him a spot in the playoff.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these courses if you’ve played them or other selections that might be on your own Bucket List. Please leave me a comment below.