Best U.S. Golf Courses by State
Golfers salivate over the thought of playing the best golf courses. But that quest is a pipe dream for most people in the United States. That's because the majority of America's top courses are exclusive, available to only members and invited guests. In fact, 38 of the 50 tracks on our "best by state" list — compiled after consulting the nation’s most noted golf course reviewers — are private.
A who’s who of golf course architects designed these courses, which showcase the best Mother Nature has to offer. Names like C.B. MacDonald, Alistair Mackenzie, Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and Perry Maxwell represent golf’s Golden Age. Modern-day artists include Tom Fazio (who designed seven courses on this list, the most by far), Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye, Robert Trent Jones Sr., Tom Doak and others.
Almost every era in American golf makes an appearance, with 16 of the tracks opening during the Golden Age (1800s-1930), 15 debuting from 1981-2000, and 13 built since 2001. But surprisingly, none of the courses were established from 1941 to 1960.
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Alabama: Shoal Creek
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Bottom Line: Shoal Creek
Jack Nicklaus was given an ideal canvas — 1,550 densely wooded acres located between Oak and Double Oak Mountains in the southern foothills of the Appalachians — to build this gem.
The course has been the site of numerous major championships, most recently the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open.
Related:Top 10 Public Golf Courses You Need to Play at Least Once
Alaska: Anchorage Golf Course
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Bottom Line: Anchorage Golf Course
Opened from May to October, this Bill Newcomb-designed course twists and turns across heaving ground and is set on the lower hillside of the City of Lights and Flowers.
The Chugach Mountains loom over the path, and holes sport views of the Anchorage city skyline, Cook Inlet, and Denali (the tallest mountain in North America), making for a spectacular backdrop.
Arizona: The Estancia Club
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Bottom Line: The Estancia Club
Routed in the shadow of the north slopes of Pinnacle Peak, and positioned to give golfers a variety of uphill and downhill shots and a change of direction on almost every hole, Estancia was Tom Fazio’s initial entry into the Scottsdale scene.
It features a high-desert design, with wide turf corridors and few desert carries.
Arkansas: The Alotian Club
Location: Roland, Arkansas
Bottom Line: The Alotian Club
Designed by Tom Fazio, the course plays alongside Lake Maumelle.
The track was designed to mimic the playing conditions and opulence of the famed Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, the home of the Masters, but it’s even hillier.
It’s the only course in Arkansas ever to make the "America’s 100 Greatest" list.
California: Cypress Point Club
Location: Pebble Beach, California
Bottom Line: Cypress Point Club
Alister Mackenzie’s masterpiece weaves through stands of cypress trees, across sand dunes and along jagged coastline.
Cypress Point's back nine is all along the Pacific Ocean, with its signature offerings, the back-to-back par 3s 16th and 17th, considered two of the most picturesque holes in the world.
Related:Top 10 Public Golf Courses in California, Texas and Florida
Colorado: Castle Pines Golf Club
Location: Castle Rock, Colorado
Renovated: 1993, 2000
Bottom Line: Castle Pines Golf Club
Club founder Jack Vickers, a Midwest oilman, urged Jack Nicklaus to design a mountain-venue design worthy of a major championship, and he did.
The course hosted The International, which for many years was the only PGA Tour event played under a unique Stableford format.
The track sits at 6,630 feet, allowing golfers to take in sweeping views of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
Connecticut: The Course at Yale
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Bottom Line: The Course at Yale
Golden Age architects C.B. MacDonald and Seth Reynor designed Yale, one of the world’s most challenging golf courses.
Considered far and away the best college course in the nation, its many cavernous bunkers, narrow, off-camber fairways, and huge and undulating greens demand the best in a player’s game.
Delaware: Wilmington Country Club (South Course)
Location: Wilmington, Delaware
Bottom Line: Wilmington Country Club (South Course)
The legendary architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed the course, which has been a bastion of great amateur golf.
It hosted the 2013 Palmer Cup, the annual Ryder Cup-style competition between the best collegiate golfers from the United States and Europe, as well as the 1965 U.S. Junior Amateur, 1971 U.S. Amateur, 1978 U.S. Junior and the 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur.
Florida: Seminole Golf Club
Location: Juno Beach, Florida
Renovated: 1947, 1979, 2017
Bottom Line: Seminole Golf Club
This majestic Donald Ross design has clever routing on a rectangular site, and each hole plays with a different wind direction.
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw redesigned the bunkers again, along with exposing some sandy expanses in the rough. The site for the course was chosen for its sand dunes, and they come into constant play.
Seminole has long been one of America’s most exclusive clubs.
Related:Top 10 Public Golf Courses in California, Texas and Florida
Georgia: Augusta National Golf Club
Location: Augusta. Georgia
Renovated: 2018, et al.
Bottom Line: Augusta National Golf Club
Star amateur golfer Bobby Jones had a vision for his dream course on the rolling site of a tree nursery and enlisted Alister Mackenzie to design it for him. Together, they created perhaps the world’s most famous course.
The site of the Masters Tournament each April, Augusta National is home to Amen Corner and Rae’s Creek, and has welcomed the best players since 1934.
Hawaii: Nanea Golf Club
Location: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Bottom Line: Nanea Golf Club
Designed by David McLay Kidd, this course is the most exclusive in the 50th state — and perhaps the entire nation — and shuns publicity.
This challenging track set on the slopes of the Mount Hualalai volcano was fashioned in the style of owners Charles Schwab and George Roberts' favorite courses in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The Big Island masterpiece has views of the Pacific from every hole.
Idaho: Gozzer Ranch Golf & Lake Club
Location: Harrison, Idaho
Bottom Line: Gozzer Ranch Golf & Lake Club
Designed by Tom Fazio, this course is ballyhooed for its attention to detail and a combination of challenge and playability.
Set on an elevated, forested peninsula of Lake Coeur d’Alene, the course’s routing sports gorgeous views of the lake to the north and west and the panoramic farm valley to the east.
It is considered one of Fazio’s best creations.
Illinois: Chicago Golf Club
Location: Wheaton, Illinois
Renovated: 1922, 2002
Bottom Line: Chicago Golf Club
The course is home to the oldest 18-hole golf facility in North America, and C. B. Macdonald designed the historic track.
The club is one of the five founding member clubs of the USGA and has hosted national championships across three centuries.
It was the first club outside the Northeast to host the U.S. Open (1897) and the first to employ Bentgrass greens and remains one of America’s most exclusive clubs.
Indiana: Victoria National Golf Club
Location: Newburgh, Indiana
Bottom Line: Victoria National Golf Club
Tom Fazio designed Victoria National atop a coal company’s long-abandoned strip mine in southern Indiana, following the corridors that existed between mining spoil mounds, which have long since overgrown with trees and foliage, and more than 40 acres of spindly lagoons formed by steam shovels carving out coal deposits.
This course is both exacting and spectacular, and is one of the most visually stunning tracks in the nation.
Iowa: The Harvester Golf Club
Location: Rhodes, Iowa
Bottom Line: The Harvester Golf Club
Designed by Keith Foster and opened as one of the nation’s finest daily-fee tracks, this course and its owners are feeling their oats, transitioning to a private, members-only facility when it opened for the 2019 season.
It's an absolute gem nestled in the middle of nowhere, with rolling hills, incredible scenery and a phenomenally fun layout that’s always in pristine, country-club condition.
Kansas: Prairie Dunes Country Club
Location: Hutchinson, Kansas
Renovated: 1957, 2014
Bottom Line: Prairie Dunes Country Club
This course, designed by the peerless Perry Maxwell, was the top nine-hole track in America for 20 years.
When it was expanded 20 years later, Maxwell’s son, Press, added nine holes seamlessly and replicated his father’s putting surfaces, which break in three different directions.
Prairie Dunes illustrates the best of golf in rural Kansas — with prairie grasses, sand dunes, yucca plants, cottonwoods and constant wind.
Kentucky: Valhalla Golf Club
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Renovated: 2000, 2014
Bottom Line: Valhalla Golf Club
This course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, is the first owned solely by the PGA of America and has played host to two PGA Championships and the 2008 Ryder Cup.
The 500-acre parcel features varied terrain, water and plenty of space, with a links-like front nine and a more forested challenge after turning for home.
Louisiana: Squire Creek Country Club
Location: Choudrant, Louisiana
Bottom Line: Squire Creek Country Club
A Tom Fazio-designed beauty, Squire Creek's 18 championship holes are hand cut into the Northern Louisiana landscape.
The routing offers a fair but challenging test and is characterized by a gentle rolling plain, with natural views and picturesque scenery surrounding the 1,100-acre property to provide a perfect escape.
Maine: Belgrade Lakes Golf Club
Location: Belgrade Lakes, Maine
Bottom Line: Belgrade Lakes Golf Club
This majestic mountaintop course, the brainstorm of former Dexter shoe magnate Harold Alfond, is built on pristine, yet rugged land.
Routed by Clive Clark, the design naturally fits the landscape as rolling fairways are lined with brilliantly colored stands of timber, alongside white granite outcroppings.
Maryland: Congressional Country Club (Blue Course)
Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Bottom Line: Congressional Country Club (Blue Course)
The Blue course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and renovated by his son, Rees, was founded by members of Congress to create a club where prominent government officials and businessmen could meet socially.
It has been the site of major championship tournaments, including the U.S. Open, PGA National Championship and AT&T National.
Massachusetts: The Country Club (Clyde/Squirrel)
Location: Brookline, Massachusetts
Renovated: 1902, 2012
Bottom Line: The Country Club (Clyde/Squirrel)
Willie Campbell originally designed the course, and it is one of the founding clubs of the United States Golf Association.
The club has hosted 16 USGA competitions. Of these, six were U.S. Amateurs (the most recent in 2013) and three U.S. Opens (1913, 1963, 1988).
The Country Club also was host to the 1999 Ryder Cup matches, which were played on the Clyde and Squirrel nines.
Michigan: Crystal Downs Country Club
Location: Frankfort, Michigan
Bottom Line: Crystal Downs Country Club
The Crystal Downs course overlooks Lake Michigan and Crystal Lake and always is ranked as of the top in the nation.
Designed by Alister Mackenzie and Perry Maxwell, the track’s fairways zigzag and rumble back and forth over a glacial landscape to severe and often steep putting surfaces, some that have doglegs in them.
Minnesota: Interlachen Country Club
Location: Edina, Minnesota
Renovated: 1919, 1960, 2006
Bottom Line: Interlachen Country Club
Golf legend Bobby Jones won the 1930 U.S. Open at this course, completing the second leg of what would become the game’s first Grand Slam.
Originally fashioned by Willie Watson, the hilly, tree-lined track with small greens and plenty of bunkers has most been the showcase of recent women’s professional golf, hosting the 2002 Solheim Cup and the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open.
Mississippi: Mossy Oak Golf Club
Location: West Point, Mississippi
Bottom Line: Mossy Oak Golf Club
The Magnolia State’s newest course grants players a full-sensory, immersive outdoors experience.
Designer Gil Hanse stuck to his minimalist approach creating a links-style course that winds through the natural landscape, preserving and accentuating the Mississippi Black Prairie’s native plant species.
From the sixth tee, players can see all 18 holes of the property since there are just 19 trees on the entire site.
Missouri: Bellerive Country Club
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Bottom Line: Bellerive Country Club
The site of the 100th PGA Championship in 2018 is a brawny Robert Trent Jones Sr. design built around a winding creek that comes into play on half the holes.
A Rees Jones renovation prepared the course for the likes of the BMW Championship in 2008.
Montana: Rock Creek Cattle Company
Location: Deer Lodge, Montana
Bottom Line: Rock Creek Cattle Company
Designed by Tom Doak, this course is routed across land that was once part of the historic Grant-Kohrs Ranch, an expansive property encompassing nearly 10 million acres of southwestern Montana.
The track includes crisscrossing streams and native areas in one of the country’s foremost fly-fishing destinations, with a backdrop of the dramatic Flint Creek Mountain Range.
Nebraska: Sand Hills Golf Club
Location: Mullen, Nebraska
Bottom Line: Sand Hills Golf Club
Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore took more than two years to trudge across more the 1,000 acres of the Nebraska Sandhills to decide on the final design for this track.
By moving just 4,000 cubic yards of earth, and letting the winds shape the bunkers, the duo created the most natural golf course in America, and one of the best in the world.
Nevada: Shadow Creek Golf Course
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Bottom Line: Shadow Creek Golf Course
Tom Fazio designed, at a reported cost of $47 million, what he now calls "total site manipulation," to create this course, carving rolling hills and canyons from the flat desert floor and pumping in plenty of water.
The track makes golfers forget they are in the middle of the desert because of its 21,000 trees, all brought to the site and planted.
New Hampshire: Baker Hill Golf Club
Location: Newbury, New Hampshire
Bottom Line: Baker Hill Golf Club
Rees Jones designed this exclusive track, and membership at the Baker Hill Golf Club is kept down to a very low 225 people, so the course is always available for play — if you're a member.
It’s set on 260 undulating and wooded acres between Wadleigh State Park and Lake Sunapee and is built in the classic style amid dramatic granite outcroppings.
New Jersey: Pine Valley Golf Club
Location: Pine Valley, New Jersey
Bottom Line: Pine Valley Golf Club
This course is considered the best in the country and one of the best in the world.
Designers George Crump and H.S. Colt forged the track from the sandy pine barrens of southwest Jersey and made it challenging even for the scratch golfer.
It is known as the ultimate test of golf, and contains more classic golf holes than any other course anywhere.
New Mexico: Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club
Location: Sandia Park, New Mexico
Bottom Line: Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club
There are 27 holes at this facility, designed by the three-headed firm of Finger Dye Spann, but the original 18 are the course’s calling card.
Holes are routed around and across arroyos, rocky outcrops and a variety of native vegetation, with the track set at between 6,500 and 7,000 feet in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains outside Albuquerque.
New York: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Location: Southampton, New York
Renovated: 1894, 1931, 2012
Bottom Line: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Shinnecok Hills Golf Club is considered to be the earliest links in America.
The course was heavily remodeled by C.B. Macdonald, then replaced (except for three holes) by William S. Flynn in the early 1930s, and is so sublime that its architecture hasn’t really been altered for nearly 50 years.
The club has been host of the U.S. Open four times (in 1896, 1986, 1995 and 2018) and is another of the five founding members of the United States Golf Association.
North Carolina: Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)
Location: Pinehurst, North Carolina
Restored: 1909, 2011, et al.
Bottom Line: Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)
This course opened as a nine-holer and was renovated by Donald Ross and updated most recently by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who returned the track to its sandy character.
No. 2 has hosted the most single golf championships of any other course in the United States, including the 1999, 2005 and 2014 U.S. Opens.
It is a true thinking-man's course, demanding shot creation on every swing. Off the tee, there are great lines for shot visualization, but it can also trick players. The domed putting surfaces here are among the world’s most famous.
North Dakota: Hawktree Golf Club
Location: Bismarck, North Dakota
Bottom Line: Hawktree Golf Club
The course, designed by Jim Engh, offers distinctive holes, and features sweeping elevation changes that are both unexpected and exciting.
Natural hills and contours, brilliant coloration, plentiful wildlife and native grasses add mightily to the experience, as does the unique black coal slag used in its bunkers.
Ohio: Muirfield Village Golf Club
Location: Dublin, Ohio
Renovated: 2015, et al.
Bottom Line: Muirfield Village Golf Club
Oklahoma: Southern Hills Country Club (Championship Course)
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Bottom Line: Southern Hills Country Club (Championship Course)
This course is architect Perry Maxwell’s great achievement. Nearly every hole moves to the left or right, posing tee shots that demand conviction and execution.
Architect Gil Hanse and crew rebuilt much of the course in 2018, re-establishing Maxwell’s distinctive, gnarly edged bunkering in the process.
The course has played host to seven major championships.
Oregon: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Pacific Dunes)
Location: Bandon, Oregon
Bottom Line: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Pacific Dunes)
Tom Doak designed this track, the top-ranked course of the six at one of the world’s great golf destinations, and it doesn't feel like it was built as much as it was discovered, as rippling fairways remain just as they were found and natural bunkers line the landscape as they have for centuries.
The course emerges from shore pines to spectacular 60-foot sand dunes. The secret here is Doak moved a lot of earth in some places to make it look like he moved little.
Pennsylvania: Oakmont Country Club
Location: Oakmont, Pennsylvania
Bottom Line: Oakmont Country Club
Oakmont Country Club founder Henry Clay Frownes designed this brutal beauty, and the course is one of the best in the country.
It has hosted 11 major tournaments, eight of which were the U.S. Open.
Famous for its church-pew bunkers, the track also has deep drainage ditches and ankle-deep rough and the game’s swiftest putting surfaces.
Rhode Island: Newport Country Club
Location: Newport, Rhode Island
Renovated: 1915, 1923, 2003, et al.
Bottom Line: Newport Country Club
Newport is one of the five founding club members of the United States Golf Association and played host to the first U.S. Open in 1895.
Both Donald Ross and A.W. Tillinghast renovated this course, which has the look and feel of a seaside links. Undulating greens, tight fairways, rugged rough and a great mix of short and long holes is what makes this course a real challenge.
South Carolina: The Ocean Course
Location: Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Renovated: 2002, 2011
Bottom Line: The Ocean Course
This difficult track has the most seaside holes of any course in the Northern Hemisphere.
Designed by Pete Dye and Alice Dye, the course has hosted many major tournaments, including the 2012 PGA Championship, the inaugural UBS Cup in 2001, and the 1991 Ryder Cup.
Every hole is edged by sawgrass, every green has tricky slopes, and every bunker merges into bordering sand dunes.
South Dakota: Sutton Bay
Location: Sutton Bay, South Dakota
Bottom Line: Sutton Bay
Graham Marsh designed the course, which sits above the spectacular landforms of the Missouri breaks and overlooks the massive expanse of water known as Lake Oahe.
This private, exclusive track can be described as true inland links golf located on a parcel of land that provides some of the best views of any golf course in the world.
Tennessee: The Honors Course
Location: Ooltewah, Tennessee
Renovated: 1988, 1999, 2008
Bottom Line: The Honors Course
Acres of tall, native-grass rough and terrifying greens perched atop bulkheads of rock are some of the features that mark this course as an example of Pete Dye’s all-or-nothing architecture style.
The Honors Course was designed to honor amateur golf and has hosted 18 amateur championships. There has never been a professional event of any kind held here.
Texas: Whispering Pines Golf Club
Location: Trinity, Texas
Bottom Line: Whispering Pines Golf Club
The course, designed by Chet Williams (whose pedigree included work with Jack Nicklaus), is situated on a spectacular 400-acre property featuring piney woods, creeks, lakes, natural dunes and abundant wildlife.
It is the home of The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship, a biennial world-class event featuring 20 countries from six continents, with each represented by their two best men and two best women amateur players.
Related:Top 10 Public Golf Courses in California, Texas and Florida
Utah: Glenwild Golf Club
Location: Park City, Utah
Bottom Line: Glenwild Golf Club
This course, designed by Tom Fazio and set at an elevation of 7,000 feet, features a unique, natural layout that embraces the topography. It sits on a meadow valley north of Park City, offering invigorating vistas of the Wasatch Mountains.
Fazio clustered holes together, positioned some holes along a couple of irrigation lakes and linked the lakes via a network of streams and cascading waterfalls.
Vermont: Ekwanok Country Club
Location: Manchester, Vermont
Bottom Line: Ekwanok Country Club
Site of the U.S. Amateur in 1914 (won by Francis Ouimet, who also won the U.S. Open in 1913), this course is another that’s focused on amateur golf.
Walter Travis and John Duncan Dunn designed the track, nestled in a valley amid the Taconic Range mountains that loom over its historic routing.
Virginia: Kinloch Golf Club
Location: Manakin-Sabot, Virginia
Bottom Line: Kinloch Golf Club
This course is a beautiful parkland course set on 274 acres with a 70-acre lake as its centerpiece.
Designer Lester George routed the track through hardwood and pine trees, with a natural look and minimal earth moving.
It also has many double fairways posing options and alternate routes.
Washington: Sahalee Country Club (South/North)
Location: Sammamish, Washington
Bottom Line: Sahalee Country Club (South/North)
This course, originally designed by Ted Robinson and renovated by Rees Jones, was carved from a Pacific Northwest forest of cedar, spruce, fir and pine on the Sammamish Plateau.
Its dominant theme always has been narrow fairways framed by towering trees that reach to the heavens.
The track played host to the 1998 PGA Championship, 2002 World Golf Championship and U.S. Senior Open in 2010.
West Virginia: Pikewood National Golf Club
Location: Morgantown, West Virginia
Bottom Line: Pikewood National Golf Club
Mining company officers John Raese and Bob Gwynne bought this land and spent almost a decade creating this track.
Every hole has been given a great deal of consideration and fit into the terrain, with gorgeous results.
Sight lines are well-thought-out, and trees have been felled to give views of the surrounding mountains.
Wisconsin: Whistling Straits (Straits)
Location: Haven, Wisconsin
Renovated: 2009, 2011
Bottom Line: Whistling Straits (Straits)
Pete Dye transformed a dead-flat, abandoned U.S. Army airbase along a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan into an imitation Irish-style links course, with awesome dividends.
He peppered his rugged fairways and windswept greens with 1,012 (at last count) bunkers, some as small as a pothole.
The course was the site of the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015 and will host the 2020 Ryder Cup.
Wyoming: Snake River Sporting Club
Location: Jackson, Wyoming
Bottom Line: Snake River Sporting Club
The course was designed by Tom Weiskopf and is set within what was once a massive cattle ranch.
It begins at the base of a mountain with the natural sounds of swaying cottonwoods and the rushing Snake River enveloping the golfer.
The river meanders along the course, and millions of acres of national forest stretch into the distance.
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