Top 50 Public Golf Courses in the U.S.
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Top 50 Public Golf Courses in the U.S.

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Top 50 Public Golf Courses in the U.S.

Top 50 Golf Courses

What makes one course better than another?

Architecture? Shot value? History? Cost? Access? Condition? Ambiance? Name-brand course designer?

The importance of any single criterion is, in the final analysis, entirely up to the individual golfer. And, as with our industry-leading golf equipment testing, we believe most golfers best relate to feedback and opinions from ….wait for it … other regular golfers.

Sure, we’d all love to walk the fairways at Pine Valley or Augusta National. But what good is a course ranking if the opportunity to play it is somewhere between no chance in hell and absolutely 100% no chance in hell.

To build our list of the best golf destinations, we turned to TheGrint and to real golfers just like you.

ABOUT THEGRINT’S RANKINGS

To generate our rankings, we leveraged data from TheGrint, a golf handicap and stat-tracking service that also allows golfers to rate the courses they play. Think of it as something similar to Yelp for golf courses.

Here are the pertinent details:

  • Ranking derived from more than 300,000 golf course reviews from golfers just like you.
  • Only reviews from the previous year (2020) are used.
  • Only considered courses with a minimum of 50 reviews.
  • Golfers considered course conditions and overall experience as ranking criteria.

We get that most of what goes into a golf course review is subjective and there’s always going to be a difference of opinion. Then again, some might argue that the primary purpose of such ranking is to foster dialogue and debate.

We’ve also provided an interactive map that allows you to quickly view course location and ranking.  The larger the bubble, the higher the rank. You get the idea.

TOP 10

10. Pebble Beach Golf Links

Jack Nicklaus famously remarked, “If I only had one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach.” If there’s a golf equivalent to Mecca, Pebble Beach is likely it.

9. Pinehurst Resort | No.4

Alongside Pinehurst No. 2, which is the centerpiece of Pinehurst’s nine courses, the No. 4 course co-hosted the U.S. Amateur in 2019. Gil Hanse redesigned No. 4 in 2018 and plenty of golfers feel it’s now every bit as good as its even-numbered sibling.

8. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort | Bandon Dunes

It’s hard to believe Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is more than two decades old. Originally designed to give golfers an authentic links’ experience, the resort now includes six distinct courses. However, it’s the original David McLay Kidd design that tops our rankings.

7. Whistling Straits Golf Course | Straits Course

Wisconsin is home to the world’s best cheese curds, architect Frank Lloyd Wright—and plenty of outstanding golf. More specifically, the village of Kohler on the west shore of Lake Michigan is world-renowned as a premier golf destination with five-star amenities including two outstanding golf campuses: Whistling Straits (two courses) and Blackwolf Run (three courses).

6. Harbour Town Golf Links

Situated on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, Harbour Town Golf Links has hosted the RBC Heritage on the PGA TOUR since 1969. The Pete Dye creation provides golfers the opportunity to tee it up on a championship course where a solid round is likely the result of finesse, imagination and shot-making as opposed to brute strength. And you can’t miss the iconic red-and-white striped lighthouse on the par-4 18th hole.

5. Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course

Edgewood Tahoe is an upscale resort on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. At 6,200 feet above sea level, it combines lakeside golf with alpine terrain. And my hunch is that most golfers would tell you that the pictures, while striking, don’t quite do it justice.

4. TPC Sawgrass | Stadium Course

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is home to the PGA TOUR’s flagship event, The Players. But it’s the iconic island-green par-3 (No. 17) that everyone remembers. Fun fact: the highest score ever recorded on this hole during The Players is 12 (Bob Tway, 2005).

3. Erin Hills

Erin Hills is just over an hour southwest of Kohler, Wisc., and hosted the 2017 U.S. Open. The course stretches out to 7,700 yards (77.9 rating) and recently opened a 63,000 square-foot practice putting green. (Side note: I have a buddy who has played a lot of top-shelf resort courses and firmly places this as one of his top five.)

2. Blackwolf Run Golf Course | River

In terms of Midwest golf destinations, Herb Kohler is making a strong push as the heartland Dairy King (unofficial title). Of the four championship courses at Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run, three are ranked in the top 20 and two in the top 10.

1. Spyglass Hill Golf Course | Spyglass Hill

The Monterey Peninsula is like that friend who looks good in any outfit. It almost feels unfair. While Pebble Beach is perhaps the first course most golfers associate with this prized piece of land, it’s Spyglass Hill that tops our rankings this year.

 

 

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Chris Nickel

Chris Nickel

Chris Nickel

Chris is a self-diagnosed equipment and golf junkie with a penchant for top-shelf ice cream. When he's not coaching the local high school team, he's probably on the range or trying to keep up with his wife and seven beautiful daughters. Chris is based out of Fort Collins, CO and his neighbors believe long brown boxes are simply part of his porch decor. "Isn't it funny? The truth just sounds different."

Chris Nickel

Chris Nickel

Chris Nickel

Chris Nickel

Chris Nickel

Chris Nickel

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Chris Nickel

Chris Nickel

Chris Nickel





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      Rob

      2 years ago

      I really do like to read all the reviews but I am growing weary of all the complaining. It seems like maybe Mygolfspy should change its name to MyCheapgolfspy, review only products and services that retail for less than $49.99 and shut these closed minded commentators down. I really don’t think you will ever make them happy because they view everything MGS does as some form of personal attack on their financial status. I see reviews all the time for products and services I could never afford…but that doesn’t mean the review is well written or helpful to some who choose to read it.

      Reply

      Chris V

      3 years ago

      I’ve played a big chunk of this list, any criteria that leaves off Karsten Creek which is annually top 10-20 US Public for Golf Digest needs to be reworked. That’s one of Tom Fazio’s absolute gems.

      Reply

      KBrown

      3 years ago

      No Courses in Texas…. Huh?
      Memorial at Houston? Houston Open?
      I know its hot but come on…

      Reply

      Richard Brooke

      3 years ago

      Now for your list… I lived in Carmel for 10 years and Spyglass is number 1 public for the locals. Pebble IS an experience but it is not the best track IMO. Edgewood is also not the best track but is an iconic experience. Cant beat the views…except at Pebble. Golf is so subjective. I didnt care for Bandon partly because of the weather and partly the service. The courses are nice but I didnt find them striking any awe. But of course I could only see 100 yards in front of me. Looking forward to Wisconsin golf

      Reply

      Richard Brooke

      3 years ago

      Wife and I are on a national tour this summer fall in the motorhome. So far we have played The Coeur d Alene, Resort, Black Rock, Rock Creek, Bandon Dunes, Sheep Ranch, Bandon Shores and Gamble Sands all in the north west. We will be playing Gozzer Ranch and Circling Raven and then head east to the Sands east of the Rockies. I am going to review all of them and publish a blog. So far, Black Rock and Gamble Sands are our favorites. Bandon was a great disappointment

      Reply

      Tom R

      3 years ago

      I have played all of the Kohler courses, I was surprised that Blackwolf Run The River and Erin Hills were ahead of The Straits. I know I am not 300,000 people but if I was choosing, my order would have been the opposite, The Straights, Eric Hills then The River. Anyway, great list, great article.

      Reply

      Momo

      3 years ago

      Much of the review info MGS puts out is very good/useful. However, sometimes you get lost and fail to consider most golfers don’t/can’t/choose not to spend their next car lease payment on a round of golf.
      I admit I have a bad golf addiction but can’t justify those prices for 4 hours.

      Reply

      Gino

      3 years ago

      Played 4 of your top-10, in the last year and would rank them in opposite order from what you have (Pebble, Bandon, Edgewood, Spyglass).. Don’t think ranking is defensible from people playing each of the courses. Rankings solely on reviews suffer from a ‘expectations’ problem.

      Reply

      Cody Reeder

      3 years ago

      I understand people are looking at different things and have varying criteria> but, There is no way in hell Edgewood is a top 50 course in the US. I live 30 min from there and have played it a number of times. It is a nice course. but not that nice..

      Reply

      DR

      3 years ago

      Couldn’t agree more Cody, I’ve played 2/3 of the top 100 public and 1/3 of the top 100 overall (public/private) and Edgewood isn’t close to the competition. It’s a $50 course on a $100,000,000 piece of property (yes that’s a hundred million dollars for the land it’s on). Don’t get caught up in the views……

      Reply

      Hard to imagine a list of public courses in the US that does not have the Black Course at Bethpage on it in the top 10.. Especially since it is one of the more affordable, especially for local residents. No Torrey Pines South? Sometimes we split hairs when choosing what is “best”, But those two venues which have hosted majors and other TOUR events are both top 10 in my mind…

      Reply

      J Thorpe

      3 years ago

      On vacations and business trips, I have played #1, 4, 6, 9, and 10, As others have mentioned several of these have related layouts such as Spanish Bay and PH which are open nearly year round, Pebble rate #! with me as my wife and I had caddies to guide and advise us though the round. The caddies had us playing off the right tees for our level which made it much easier.

      Reply

      I have to question any list of top public courses that does not have Bethpage Black at or near the top of the list. I guess a lot of people don’t go on vacation to NYC to play golf.. I get that part. Also again my opinion but all the courses Bandon Dunes could easily be included. Especially Pacific (my #1 public in the US) and Sheep Ranch.

      Reply

      Mike

      3 years ago

      Bethpage black is a tough, penal course from whatever tease you play at. I have to think that for any golfer who doesn’t generally break 90, playing there would be an extremely arduous test. Maybe that’s why it’s not on the list..

      I get that the plantation course in kapalua is not something you do on a whim, but having been there, I can imagine a few venues more beautiful. Never saw so many golfers spouses come along for the ride!

      Reply

      DR

      3 years ago

      Let me get this straight, Edgewood is #5???? Someone else suggested Torrey South???? and Pacific Dunes didn’t make the list????
      Come on people……

      Reply

      Gordon

      3 years ago

      It is always nice to see what courses are outstanding and can help to make a bucket list. I see a lot of bitching / whining and complaining on this page ! It’s a list of the BEST courses ! Don’t you get it ! Most of the times you get what you pay for ! There are a few courses I have placed on my bucket list and I hope to be out there soon !

      Reply

      MarkM

      3 years ago

      Yes Gordon, as usual, the MGS crowd are price point complainers – what a surprise … LOL!

      Reply

      peter pahk

      3 years ago

      i can’t believe these results.. Pinehurst #2 is way more iconic and memorable than #4 ? Pasatiempo? an alistair classice that outclass most of the top ten.. are these golfers playing the same courses that i have?

      Reply

      markyourballs

      3 years ago

      Playing the PH courses once a year, No. 2 has the history, but most like No. 4 and everyone’s favorite is No. 8. You won’t lose a ball on No. 2, but it’s brutal around the greens.

      Reply

      Brent Blackburn

      3 years ago

      Oh I disagree with the take on No. 8. Our foursome played No 4, 5, 8 and 9 and, to a man, we all liked No. 8 the least. No. 4 was amazing, No. 5 was tired and needs a restoration but still more fun than No. 8 and No. 9 was pretty good in all areas.

      Chris Nickel

      3 years ago

      As with any series of course ratings, criteria are vitally important. This list is a really a function of course conditions and how much the golfer enjoyed the experience.

      Reply

      Brian

      3 years ago

      It’s a subjective list; not everyone’s opinion is going to be the same.

      Reply

      Bruce

      3 years ago

      Why bother with this list: most readers can’t afford these courses and do not have the game to be there.
      How about the best courses for $50 or less?

      Reply

      Michael

      3 years ago

      Agreed

      Reply

      Chris Nickel

      3 years ago

      You’re absolutely right that a many of the courses on this list are high dollar options – but based on the tee sheets at a lot of spendy venues, there are plenty of golfers that can afford it….now whether they have the “game” to be there…I actually have no idea what that means….

      Reply

      Mike

      3 years ago

      Agree with you last sentence. I’m a 14 index and assuming I play from the correct tees, I’m guessing that would enjoy probably any course in the world. Sure, if you’re my level and you go to Pebble Beach and play it at 7600 yards, your day is going to suck. But that’s your dumb waste of money!

      Brad

      3 years ago

      Google will help you find a list of under-$100 courses fairly easily: Lawsonia, Rustic Canyon, Wild Horse, George Wright, Bethpage Red, etc. For sub-$50, I suggest checking tee time booking sites for places you’re willing to drive to that get high ratings from the general public.

      Reply

      John Loffler

      3 years ago

      I am obvously an idiot but I seem to be the only one who can only access the top 10.. Whilst I can work it out on the map which are 11-50, is there a list form that I’m missing?
      BTW I notice Streamsong Black is at no 23 (the only one of these I’ve played – I’m from the UK) but thought the Blue and Red were – it’s superior.
      My brother who’s played all the Pinehurst courses is in agreement with those above who think No. 2 is the superior

      Reply

      John Bachman

      3 years ago

      Oh great. A list of courses I’ll never be able to afford to play at.

      Reply

      Ned

      3 years ago

      How about get real the average golfer isn’t going to pay $500 for a round of golf. Give us a list of great courses that are affordable.

      Reply

      Jimmy

      3 years ago

      Great point. Because a LOT of people would be interested in reading about an average muni track in Wisconsin that costs $60. Hell, I may even fly across the country to play a bunch of average, but affordable, courses. Don’t hate on world class golf just because you can’t afford it.

      Reply

      Mike

      3 years ago

      I love your sarcastic response! Well it’s true that these courses cost the fortune, who knows, I may end up playing one someday. I couldn’t care less about the best value courses under $50, I have some in my area and I’ll play them. Sure as hell not driving or flying across the country to play some cute little Muni in Oshkosh.

      Actually, for me, the problem with a lot of these courses is the logistics (airfare hotel, etc.).. I have absolutely NO reason in the world to travel anywhere near whistling straits in Wisconsin, but if for some crazy reason life took me in that area, despite costing a few hundred bucks to play, damn straight I’d rework my finances to play there. Why not???

      Jim

      3 years ago

      Unfortunately, there is not much to learn here. These exercises can be fun, but there is really nothing to debate in these rankings. The list is entirely subjective and based wholly on player reviews from 2020. In case everyone forgot, 2020 was the year of the pandemic in which no one was traveling. The overwhelming majority of reviews had to come from people who lived a short drive from the courses on the list. I can absolutely guarantee that Tobacco Road is not a top 50 course in any serious discussion. It is quirky and fun and the owners run a first rate operation, but it is not a top 50 course. It just got a lot of good reviews. ( That said, if you are in the area, do yourself a favor and make a tee time. Love it or hate it, you will be talking about it for a very long time.)
      It is also understandable how Pinehurst #4 rates ahead of #2.
      #2 is more expensive, harder to get on and more difficult to play. It’s not hard to imagine that those factors combined to drive the reviews for #4 a little higher than the reviews for #2.
      As I stated at the beginning, this can be fun, but there’s really nothing to see here.

      Reply

      Alex

      3 years ago

      Couldn’t agree more. The courses on this list age great, but the rankings are flawed. I think one solution may be to have two lists – a 50 best courses, and a 50 best values.

      Reply

      Chris Nickel

      3 years ago

      Hang tight….more lists are on the way!

      But, what would you define as best “value” – is it all courses under a specific dollar amount? Or is it more experience/perceived quality per dollar spent concept?

      Mike

      3 years ago

      Value? I want value when I’m buying a car or other durable good. A round of golf? That should be an experience I couldn’t care less about value courses, they’re everywhere. This list is supposed to be just what it is the best of the best. If the author put a list out of top 10 cars, I wouldn’t expect to see my RAV4 hybrid on there (though it’s a great value).

      Dan

      3 years ago

      But we were granted a perusal of you sanctimonious take and we’re all the better for it.
      Of course there is something here…. something to think about, talk about..perhaps dream about..
      Your dismissed..

      Reply

      EMERY

      3 years ago

      Played THE OCEAN COURSE this AM and have to say, it was really fun and not horribly windy, yet. Lots of gators and fun. Only lost 4 balls……but there are times that a drop is worth the risk.

      Reply

      ForeRightAgain

      3 years ago

      Always find it ridiculous when resort courses are included with true public courses. While in theory you can play a lot of the resort courses even if you’re not staying there, we all know that the prices then are through the roof and tee times are hard to come by.

      Reply

      frazzman80

      3 years ago

      Zero in Texas or any state that’s not a 10+ hour drive. I guess I don’t know what I’m missing…

      Reply

      alex

      3 years ago

      You should put the rates (or at least the range in terms of cost.). IIRC Pebble costs twice as much as Pebble Beach.

      Reply

      alex

      3 years ago

      Bandon

      Reply

      E

      3 years ago

      While I have played only a couple on the top 10., I must say it’s laughable to have Pinehurst #4 ahead of #2. I like both, played both. It’s just not ahead of #2.

      Reply

      Barry Jennings

      3 years ago

      Agree! In no way is it possible for #4 to be ranked ahead of #2.

      Reply

      Jack Rainey

      3 years ago

      Montauk Downs is a masterpiece by Robert Trent. Jones Sr and his son Rees. Unquestionably in the top 50, it is a far superior course than Atlantic City.

      Reply

      James Adams

      3 years ago

      I volunteered at Harbour Town for the RBC when I was stationed in Beaufort Sc. Amazing course with immaculate conditions. Now, I will have to go see Pinehurst since I am stationed relatively close to there. No. 2 has always been a bucket list course, I will just have to play two rounds instead of just one.

      Reply

      Mark Smolens

      3 years ago

      The first 4 holes at Spyglass are as good as it gets. But after that I just don’t see what all the fuss is about. The rest of the course may as well be in North Carolina. I would take any of the courses at Bandon over Spyglass.

      Reply

      Agree with Spyglass comment but I would include the par 3 5th. Bandon has the best collection of courses (maybe). For value I would say the 5 courses at Bethpage. The Red is in a class with the Black.

      Reply

      Tim

      3 years ago

      Edgewood & Sawgrass ahead of Pebble? Zero chance. While I respect the opinions from the survey, Edgewood doesn’t even come close to Pebble, or even the sister course, Spanish Bay. Edgewood is not a top 10 course. Erin Hills looks interesting!

      Reply

      Mark Smolens

      3 years ago

      Interesting, perhaps, but top 10? NFW. Paying big $$ for a caddy who couldn’t read a green to save his life is hardly a recipe for inclusion on a top 10 list. I for one won’t be back until they let me use my push cart (the anti-push cart snobbery when 2 of the 3 caddies I’ve had at EH absolutely sucked is a deal breaker)

      Reply

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