Updated February 2024 to update booking information.
I’ve played some golf in Northern California. One of our writers has played quite a bit too as the region is only a short drive from his home in Central Oregon. In this part of the state, the landscape and topography are diverse. In a day’s drive through Northern California, you can visit the coast, mountains at elevation, high desert plateaus, and the rich soil of wine country.
In between all that is a lot of great golf. With the help of our writer and our trusty readers, I’ve compiled a list of the best public courses in the northern part of the Golden State.
Yocha Dehe Golf Club
Yocha Dehe means “home by the spring water” in the native language of Yocha Dehe Native Americans. That makes sense considering this course features plenty of crystalline water and the surrounding country is velvet green.
Known for its immaculate playing conditions, Yocha Dehe is a treat to play for golfers of all abilities.
Having been called a “Top 100 Resort Course” by Golfweek, it’s little wonder locals and visitors both keep coming back to this spectacular track.
When you come to Yoca Dehe, plan on staying for a few days. The casino resort and hotel are first rate and there’s something to do for everyone.
Pasatiempo Golf Course
Alister MacKenzie is one of my favorite architects of all time. Yeah, he’s the guy that designed Augusta National.
Pasatiempo is an iconic track rich with history.
From tee to green, the course isn’t overly difficult. Even though some fairways are on the narrow side, you don’t have to hit driver on every hole.
Where the fun begins is on and around the greens. They’re some of the most undulating in North America. In some cases, you’re better off having a 20-foot putt from below the hole than a five-footer from above it.
Even though Pasatiempo costs a pretty penny to play, it’s more than worth biting the bullet. I have a couple of times and have never regretted it.
Pacific Grove Golf Links
One of the best values in Northern California is Pacific Grove Golf Links.
Here, classic coastal links design is married with the natural landscape where jagged cliffs overlook the Pacific.
The front nine is slightly inland and cypress-lined fairways offer glimpses of Monterey Bay. The back nine is right on the coast and the views are unforgettable.
If you play here in the afternoon, expect the winds to be up. Club selection is key.
For more than 75 years, Pacific Grove has been a treat to play for both locals and visitors. It doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon.
Bayonet Golf Course
Bayonet Golf Course sits near the coast in the town of Seaside.
This course is designed in a way that will test every facet of your game. The fairways are narrow and the holes long.
A testament to how difficult this course can play is the ninth hole. This par four measures 476 yards and plays uphill the entire way. I’ll be the first to tell you, that’s a long way. Especially at sea level where the ball goes next to nowhere.
Other features include penal bunkers, severe doglegs, and fast, contoured greens.
If I’m making this course sound tough, it’s because it is. I love the opportunity to test myself and Bayonet delivers every time.
The Course at Wente Vineyards
Greg Norman is a wine connoisseur. It reasons that he designed the Course at Wente Vineyards.
Having played host to the Nationwide Tour’s Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship, you can rest assured this is a quality round of golf.
Located less than an hour from downtown San Francisco in Livermore Valley, this track winds its way through quaint woodlands, open grasslands, and rolling hills.
Known for being in spectacular condition all year, I understand why players that keep coming back here.
TPC Harding Park
Playing where the pros play. It’s something all golfers dream of doing. Guess what? You can at Harding Park.
Having played host to last year’s PGA Championship and a President’s Cup, Harding Park is the Bay Area’s premier public facility.
This is a tough course. The fairways are narrow and the greens well-protected. Thankfully, plenty of tee options accommodate everyone’s needs.
Playing here, you might get the sense you’re in a Lord of the Rings movie. The tree lined fairways give the course a feeling of mysticism.
Worth the price of admission, a round at TPC Harding Park is one you won’t forget.
Darkhorse Golf Club
Darkhorse Golf Club is quintessential Northern California golf.
Rolling hills, tree lined fairways, and strategic hazards define this course’s character.
Expect to hit shots from point A to point B out here. This is target golf.
The greens are known for being slick and undulating. Rather than heading to the range, locals suggest heading to the practice green for your warmup.
Excellent conditions and outstanding service make this course a solid choice for anyone looking for a quality round.
Coyote Moon Golf Course
Truckee, CA is high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the Nevada border.
This is mountain golf at its finest where you can tee it high and let it fly. The ball goes a long way at this elevation.
The fairways are wide here, so you’ll have plenty of room to swing away from the tee.
The greens, however, are well guarded and their firm surfaces require approach shots to be struck solidly.
When you come to Truckee, plan on staying for a few days. There’s so much to see and do, you won’t want to miss out. Coyote Moon Golf Course is the focal point of those attractions.
Lake Shastina Golf Resort
Way up in the northern part of the state, you’ll find the quiet interstate town of Weed. There’s not much here other than some hotels, a brewery, and a community college.
Just north and east of town is Lake Shastina Golf Resort.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., this track opened in 1973.
To this day, Lake Shastina attracts golfers from far and wide. They keep coming back year after year.
You won’t find anything too fancy here. The clubhouse is simple, yet adequate. The lounge serves scrumptious food and stiff drinks can be expected.
Regardless of where you are on the course, you’ll be afforded striking views of the majestic Mt. Shasta. It looks close enough to reach out and touch.
Even though this course takes some work to get to, it’s more than worth the trip.
Bidwell Park Golf Course
You know how much I love munis. Bidwell Park in the city of Chico is one of the best around.
This course is over 100 years old and its charm hasn’t worn off in the least. It still plays host to the Chico City Championship every year.
The front nine is a traditional parkland design with plenty of trees and narrow fairways.
On the back nine, you’re treated to rolling hills and views of the landscape and city around.
For as much play as Bidwell Park gets, it’s always in great shape. And it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg either. Sounds like a winning combination to me.
When most people think of golf in the state of California, they think of Palm Desert, San Diego, and Los Angeles. What’s little known, is that there’s plenty of great golf in the northern part of the state as well.
Sure, the courses are a little more spread out and the weather can be dicey at certain times of the year. But if you’re willing to do a little research and get off the beaten path, there are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be tamed.
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