The 50 Best Public Golf Experiences in America

How do you narrow thousands of public golf courses to the 50 best public golf experiences in America? First, play a lot of golf all over the country! I have played the top 100 public golf courses in America and over 500 in total. Second, most of the golf lists are top 100 or a variation thereof. However, I find a lot of those lists to be watered down, scattered or political. Plus, at times, the rankers haven’t actually played all courses listed and they don’t necessarily take into account the destination or experience.

Criteria

My criteria is simple…Is the golf course good? Fun? Picturesque? Is it near cool stuff to enhance the experience? Is it worth my time, money and effort to travel to go there? I don’t care about green complexes, bunkering, type of grass used or other golf architect nerd talk. Simply put: where should I go play golf to get the best experience possible?

That said, some golf resorts and destinations have multiple courses that merit inclusion in any top golf course list-so why separate? As you go through the 50 best public golf experiences in America list, you’ll notice a slant toward resorts or destinations with multiple courses. Multiple top courses certainly contributes to the experience of a Bandon or Pinehurst, etc. It becomes more desirable as you’ll get more for your money and effort. Then there’s the destination, which counts for a lot.

For instance, Lake Tahoe doesn’t have a single public golf course worthy of top 50 inclusion. However, with a glamor course like Edgewood, several other fun courses with the backdrop of Lake Tahoe-you’ve clearly got a destination that’s one of the 50 best public golf experiences in America.

In terms of destinations, I separated golf hot spots like Phoenix, Las Vegas or Palm Springs and only included the best experiences from each. Whereas a place like Bend, Oregon that has multiple excellent courses is included as one because it’s all part of one experience in a unique golf destination.

Some stand-alone courses are listed as well. These are the courses that I think are worthy of a trip even with nothing else noteworthy around them. These are unique golf experiences in and of themselves.

Please enjoy the 50 best public golf experiences in America!

  1. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Oregon

Bandon Dunes is a golf dream. It has 5 courses that are worthy of a top 10 ranking; Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Old MacDonald, Bandon Trails and Sheep Ranch plus a fabulous Par 3 course called The Preserve. I could argue Pacific Dunes or Sheep Ranch as the singular best public course in America. Bandon is a slam dunk at #1. It’s as close as you’ll get to Ireland or Scotland in America and is a must for any golfer.

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

  1. Monterey Peninsula, California

The Monterey Peninsula is golf royalty. It’s perhaps the most beautiful part of America and is home to legendary Pebble Beach. The Pebble experience alone is worth the trip but there are so many other great courses on and around the Monterey Peninsula. Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills just to name a few. And don’t you dare forget about nearby Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz! Go experience it for a few days and don’t miss the 17-mile drive!

Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula

Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula

  1. Pinehurst Golf Resort, North Carolina

The word Pinehurst suggests golf. A regal place, with lawn bowling and croquet. Some of that is true but Pinehurst crushes it in the golf department. Along with the world renowned Pinehurst #2, Pinehurst Resort has 9 18-hole courses plus the fantastic short course, The Cradle. Just down the road are Mid Pines and Pine Needles, which are both top 100 level courses. Pinehurst is fantastic!

Pinehurst Golf Resort

Pinehurst Golf Resort

  1. Kohler, Wisconsin

Kohler may not be the most exciting destination on its own, but it’s ranked this high because the golf is simply spectacular. Everyone knows Whistling Straits, which is as good and tough as you want it to be. There’s also the excellent Irish Course. Plus, there are 2 Blackwolf Run courses, River and Meadow Valleys. Not to mention, Wisconsin is in the running for best public golf state. So you’re not far from other great courses like Lawsonia Links, Erin Hills or the great food in Milwaukee-or even Chicago!

Whistling Straits

Whistling Straits

  1. Shadow Creek, Las Vegas

Shadow Creek is just a golf course, but the experience is unparalleled in public golf. It’s “public” but it’s not cheap or easy to get on. You must be a player at an MGM Resorts hotel, get invited for an event, or be lucky enough to swoop up a midweek tee time for over $600. But it’s a course and experience you’ll never forget. You’ll be taken to and from the course by limousine, you’ll hardly see anyone else playing, and never wait. It’s the closest thing a regular person can get to Augusta National.

Shadow Creek

Shadow Creek

  1. Streamsong Resort, Florida

When you’re playing Streamsong, you can’t believe you’re in Florida. Links style golf with elevation changes in the middle of Florida breaks every boring Florida golf stigma. Streamsong boasts 3 top 40 courses that are fun, playable, and unique with some enormous greens. Plus, they have a good hotel, a little Par 3 course and a fun putting green to enjoy adult beverages-and perhaps a wager!

Streamsong Resort

Streamsong Resort

  1. Silvies Valley Ranch, Oregon

Silvies Valley Ranch may well be the most unique golf experience in America. Aside from the reversible Craddock and Hankins courses, there’s also a fun little Par 3 course called Chief Egan and the totally unique McVeigh’s Gauntlet where you can use a goat caddy. Yes, that’s right-a goat caddy. Trust me, it’s a tough walk and the goats know the way! Silvies isn’t just about golf either. They have a ton of things to do like cattle roundups, shooting, fishing, eco tours, and a fantastic whiskey bar. Silvies is a must!

Silvies Valley Ranch

Silvies Valley Ranch

  1. Bethpage State Park, New York

Everyone knows Bethpage Black. It’s really hard and has hosted multiple major championships. But Bethpage also has 4 other courses on site that are pretty good. But Bethpage is a real New York golf experience. Take your clubs on the train from the City, play quick, or get yelled at or hit into. As a New Yorker, that’s my kind of golf. Bethpage Black is legendary and is a true test for any serious golfer.

Bethpage Black

Bethpage Black

  1. Manele Golf Course at Four Seasons Resort, Lanai

Manele Golf Course is a standout to me. I look at all the top golf course lists and it’s always underrated in the 20’s. You get Pacific Ocean views on every hole. The course is fun, challenging, and stunning. Bill Gates got married on the 12th hole! Plus, Lanai is amazing, and the Four Seasons Resort Lanai is superb. It’s a golf experience, a Hawaiian experience, and an indulgence in luxury that you won’t forget.

Manele Golf Course

Manele Golf Course

  1. Kiawah Island Resort, South Carolina

You go to Kiawah Island to play the Pete Dye designed Ocean Course. It’s the hardest course I’ve ever played and as good as advertised. But Kiawah also has several other courses at the fabulous resort. Plus. It’s a short drive over to Charleston and some of the best food in America. Kiawah isn’t a cheap experience but worth the splurge for any golf junkie. Also, there’s no shade, wear sunscreen-trust me!

The Ocean Course, Kiawah Island

The Ocean Course, Kiawah Island

  1. Maui

Maui is my favorite Hawaiian Island. I don’t say that lightly because I love them all. Great golf just adds to the experience. The most famous course is the Plantation Course at Kapalua. It’s a fun track and Kapalua and Kaanapali have several fun courses. But my favorites are in Wailea. Wailea Gold and Emerald-I love playing them. I love the views, conditions, and that every putt goes away from Haleakala. I just love Maui.

Wailea Golf Club

Wailea Golf Club

  1. Sand Valley, Wisconsin

When you drive out to Sand Valley in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin, you’re constantly thinking, “is this the right way’? But alas, you reach this 2-course gem of Sand Valley and Mammoth Dunes and you’re quickly taken away into golf heaven. More courses are coming but even as is, it’s a great golf experience. Don’t be surprised to see Sand Valley shoot up this list as it expands and improves its overall experience.

Sand Valley

Sand Valley

  1. Mesquite, Nevada

Everyone knows Las Vegas and some know St. George, Utah but few people know about Mesquite, Nevada in-between. It’s home to some creative, fun, funky and stunning golf courses. Wolf Creek is often said to be a favorite of many. It’s a course out of a different world. But there are several others including Conestoga and Falcon Ridge that make the strange experience of Mesquite worth an overnight trip from Vegas.

Wolf Creek Golf Club

Wolf Creek Golf Club

  1. Tobacco Road, North Carolina

Yes I probably could have grouped Tobacco Road in with Pinehurst but I think it’s so special that it deserves its own mention. Tobacco Road is probably the most unique course I have played and surely amongst the most fun. It’s in an unassuming little piece of North Carolina and not to be missed.

Tobacco Road

Tobacco Road

  1. Chambers Bay, Washington State

The infamous 2015 US Open was held at Chambers Bay. I say infamous because it gave the pros fits and even vertigo. Since then, the course has become more friendly and is just phenomenal. The Puget Sound views and beautiful links layout make it a dream. The Lone Fir 15th is a gem and one of my favorite Par 3’s.

The Lone Fir at Chambers Bay

The Lone Fir at Chambers Bay

  1. Gamble Sands, Washington State

The trek out to Gamble Sands is a long one from just about anywhere. It’s another incredibly unique and fun course that will leave you wanting more. A lot of what Gamble Sands has to offer is not necessarily in plain sight. You need to play it a few times to see the genius of Gamble Sands. It’s not the hardest course. Many shoot their best rounds there. However, in terms of experience, few courses are better.

Gamble Sands

Gamble Sands

  1. PGA West in La Quinta, California

The Coachella Valley with Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, and others could be the best golf destination in America. But that’s too easy to just say as a blanket statement. PGA West has some 6 courses, and all are fabulous. The most famous is the Pete Dye Stadium course. But the Dye Mountain and Dunes, Nicklaus Tournament Course and others make it a great golf experience.

PGA West Pete Dye Mountain Course

PGA West Pete Dye Mountain Course

  1. Arcadia Bluffs, Michigan

There are now 2 courses at Arcadia Bluffs. I would have included it with just the original because it’s that good. It’s always ranked in the top 20 and I feel like it still gets shafted. This gem on the shores of Lake Michigan Ocean is a must experience. The views are incredible, the course is stellar, and the clubhouse is top notch. Well worth the journey to get there.

Arcadia Bluffs

Arcadia Bluffs

  1. Giants Ridge, Minnesota

If you look hard enough in Northern Minnesota, you’ll come across a dot called Biwabik that has two awesome golf course that make up Giants Ridge. The Quarry is one of my favorite courses and The Legend is good too. The experience lies in getting there and I highly recommend playing in the Fall because the colors up there are unforgettable. There are a few memorable courses in Minnesota like the Classic at Maddens or Wilderness at Fortune Bay, but Giants Ridge is the top public golf experience in Minnesota.

Giants Ridge

Giants Ridge

  1. TPC Sawgrass, Florida

The palatial clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass may be the nicest clubhouse in America. The home of The Players in Ponte Vedra is honestly just awesome. TPC Sawgrass is hard, fun, and frustrating. When you tee off at the iconic Par 3 17th island green, you feel like Tiger Woods-until you hit it in the water! The other course called Dye’s Valley is easier and some even like it more. For me, I like them both as a true golf experience.

The Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass

The Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass

  1. Paako Ridge, New Mexico

Before I played Paako Ridge, it was a complete mystery to me. It’s between Albuquerque and Santa Fe and has very little cell service at high altitude. But as soon as you arrive, you know why you came. Paako Ridge is a stunner. It’s a fun course. It’s challenging but gettable. The altitude makes everything fly farther so you feel like Tiger off the tee. Mountains and elevation changes just make golf better. Paako gets it right.

Paako Ridge Golf Club

Paako Ridge Golf Club

  1. Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California

Lake Tahoe may be the most beautiful singular spot in America. It’s an absolute must see destination and experience. It also has a wide selection of very good golf courses spread out around Lake Tahoe, Reno, the Carson Valley and Truckee, California. Edgewood Tahoe is the biggest draw for good reason. It’s a fun course on the lake where they host the Celebrity tournament each summer. Other courses I love in the Tahoe area are Old Greenwood, Coyote Moon, Incline and Genoa Lakes. Lake Tahoe is just fantastic.

Edgewood Tahoe

Edgewood Tahoe

  1. Branson, Missouri

I’m not gonna lie, Branson, Missouri is a weird place, but Branson is a golf destination that’s all part of a unique golf experience. Big Cedar Lodge is the spot to stay. Ozarks National and Payne’s Valley are the most famous courses around Branson but certainly not alone. Buffalo Ridge Springs and a few others are also good. The stunning Par 3 Top of the Rock is also one of the best Par 3 courses in the country.

Top of the Rock in Branson

Top of the Rock in Branson

  1. French Lick Resort, Indiana

The Pete Dye Course at French Lick is a must play golf experience. It’s one of my favorites and one of most challenging courses in America in high wind. The Donald Ross Course is a favorite of the vintage course lovers. But the real experience comes from the French Lick Resort itself. What a place! Baden Springs and French Lick Resort are throwbacks to another time. They are fantastic places, and the backdrop of Larry Bird’s hometown is never far away. Also, be sure to play the nearby Pfau Course at Indiana University!

The Pete Dye Course at French Lick

The Pete Dye Course at French Lick

  1. Prairie Club, Nebraska

Half the fun of the Prairie Club is simply getting there. It’s in the middle of the Western Nebraska Sandhills, not close to anything. I drove some 6 hours from Denver to get there and was greeted with just pure golf! The Dunes Course is the top draw, but the Pines Course is also excellent. The fun little Horse Course is also not to be missed day or night! But the golf experience of staying in the isolation of Western Nebraska, perusing old golf books, playing on a vintage pool table, with a cocktail in hand, is tough to beat!

The Dunes Course at the Prairie Club

The Dunes Course at the Prairie Club

  1. Sand Hollow, Utah

Sand Hollow is simply one of my favorite golf courses in America. It’s in a place called Hurricane, near St. George, Utah and offers some of the most scenic holes in America. The Par 4 12th is my favorite Par 4 in America. It’s simply breathtaking. The course is fun and very gettable if you keep the ball in the fairway. Sand Hollow also boasts a little 9-hole links course where I recommend using hickories. Sand Hollow has a lot of great hiking and nature around it to experience. St. George is an up and coming golf destination.

The stunning 12th at Sand Hollow

The stunning 12th at Sand Hollow

  1. Marquette Greywalls, Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Greywalls is one of the most complicated courses to get to because it’s far from everything. I drove some 7 hours to get there and was blown away. Marquette Golf Club boasts 2 courses, but Greywalls is why you come. It’s on every top 100 list but should be ranked higher. It’s unique, rugged layout challenges you and mesmerizes you. You’re constantly asking, where’s the hole? Where do I hit it? It’s such a fun course, I’m smiling as I type this. It’s worth the trek.

Marquette Greywalls

Marquette Greywalls

  1. Cascata, Nevada

About 40-minutes from the Vegas Strip lies the beautiful, Cascata. It feels exclusive and tucked away down in Boulder City not far from the Hoover Dam. It’s the most unique layout in the Las Vegas area and although very expensive-very worth it. If you go all the way out to Cascata; also consider playing the always fun muni, Boulder Creek, across the street. It’s a fun 36 to experience old and new Boulder City.

Cascata Golf Club

Cascata Golf Club

  1. Big Island, Hawaii

The Big Island is fantastic for everything. Stunning vistas, wide open spaces, volcanos, a green sand beach, coffee, and golf. Rent a car, wake up early and play some of Hawaii’s best. My favorites are the 2 Mauna Lani courses, the famous Mauna Kea, the elegant lava course of Hualalai at the Four Seasons Resort and Hapuna. There are also several courses at Waikoloa Village that will keep you entertained for days. The Big Island is a must experience for golf and everything else.

Mauna Lani on the Big Island

Mauna Lani on the Big Island

  1. San Francisco, California

I’ve only played golf once in San Francisco, but I did it right. I played 54 holes in a day. I started early at Presidio and was shocked at how good it was for a venerable old course. It was challenging, fair, had great views of the city, and was fun. It felt how municipal city golf is supposed to feel like. Next, I played a quick 18 at Lincoln Park. The course is whatever, but the 17th makes it all worth it. The views of the Golden Gate Bridge are second to none. Finally, TPC Harding Park doesn’t get the love it deserves. It’s a world-class course. It’s tough, fun, beautiful and affordable. I’ve only scratched the surface on SF golf but loving it.

Golden Gate Bridge views from the 17th at Lincoln Park

Golden Gate Bridge views from the 17th at Lincoln Park

  1. Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, Nevada

Paiute is another world from the Vegas Strip. It’s in the middle of nowhere (literally), with 3 fun courses. The barren mountain views follow you around and look different but equally awesome from any angle. Vegas has a lot of golf courses and experiences, but for my money, the Paiute value, is second to none.

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort

  1. We-Ko-Pa, Arizona

Drive about 30 minutes into the desert from Phoenix and you’ll come to an Indian Casino Resort featuring the 2 fabulous courses of We-Ko-Pa. I don’t have a favorite between the Cholla and Saguaro Courses but they’re both fun, gorgeous, well-maintained, and part of the Arizona Desert experience. It’s well worth the trip out of Scottsdale, even though the Phoenix area has over 200 courses. We-Ko-Pa rocks.

We-Ko-Pa Golf Club

We-Ko-Pa Golf Club

  1. Forest Dunes, Michigan

Ever heard of Roscommon, Michigan? I didn’t think so. There’s no reason to go there except for the fact they have a few amazing golf courses in the middle of the state. Forest Dunes is a highly ranked, traditional forested course with an awesome clubhouse. Next door is The Loop; a reversible course played differently each day. The Red and Black Course are both fantastic and make the Forest Dunes experience a can’t miss!

The reversible Loop at Forest Dunes

The reversible Loop at Forest Dunes

  1. Primland, Virginia

Primland Resort is in the middle of nowhere Virginia. You drive and drive and drive and then suddenly you enter Primland. A stunning resort surrounded by nature at every turn. Plus, the Highland Course is exceptional with killer views. I loved every second at Primland (even during the pandemic) and hope to return soon. It’s a golf and nature experience with an ultra-modern clubhouse.

The Highland Course at Primland Resort

The Highland Course at Primland Resort

  1. Bend, Oregon

I could’ve listed Bend, Oregon much higher on this list. There are a ton of great courses in the Bend area, anchored by Pronghorn, Tetherow and the Sun River Resort including the famous Crosswater Course. Bend is Oregon at its best. It has all the feel of the Pacific Northwest without the mess of Portland. Bend is well-positioned for an Oregon Road Trip with Mount Hood and other natural attractions not too far away.

Tetherow Resort

Tetherow Resort

  1. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Alabama

The RTJ Golf Trail is a lot of fun. If you’re committed to play a bunch of courses designed by Robert Trent Jones all over the State of Alabama, this is for you! It contains 26 courses with the top ones being Ross Bridge, Grand National, Magnolia Grove and Capitol Hill. The best part of the RTJ Trail experience is you get to see things in Alabama you otherwise likely wouldn’t. For instance, Civil Rights education in Montgomery; Selma; or check out Toomer’s Corner at Auburn University. Along the way, don’t forget to play FarmLinks at Pursell Farms; it’s not on the RTJ Trail but shouldn’t be missed.

Ross Bridge on the RTJ Trail in Alabama

Ross Bridge on the RTJ Trail in Alabama

  1. Fallen Oak, Mississippi

Mississippi surprisingly has some excellent golf course with 3 top 100 courses. None better than Fallen Oak in Saucier not far from the casinos of Biloxi. Fallen Oak was supposed to be the exclusive sister to Shadow Creek. It’s still exclusive but you can drive yourself and play this gem off the Mississippi Gulf Coast. If you’ve never been, be sure to drive up the coast toward Louisiana to see some gorgeous beach scenery which will surely add to the Southern Mississippi golf experience.

Sunset along the Mississippi Gulf Coast near Biloxi

Sunset along the Mississippi Gulf Coast near Biloxi

  1. Red Sky, Colorado

When you think of Vail, you don’t think of golf first but that’s what makes Red Sky such a cool experience. You’re high up in the mountains of the Vail Valley playing two excellent courses; one designed by Greg Norman and the other by Tom Fazio. Both are excellent and non-members can play every other day. I highly recommend Red Sky and the experience of Vail, Eagle and Beaver Creek in summer.

Red Sky Golf Club

Red Sky Golf Club

  1. Torrey Pines, California

You’d think the famous Torrey Pines would be higher on a list like this. Torrey is unquestionably gorgeous with the 2 courses overlooking the Pacific in La Jolla. The South Course hosts major championships and has some amazing holes. The North Course is nearly as good. But there’s something that holds me back on Torrey. It has a crappy clubhouse and is not as well-maintained as you’d expect from a course of this stature when not hosting a tournament. It’s still a must-play golf royalty experience-but just be aware.

Torrey Pines South

Torrey Pines South

  1. Nemacolin, Pennsylvania

A true gem of a place in Western Pennsylvania; Nemacolin is amongst the greatest golf resorts that most people have never heard of. I absolutely loved the experience and the 2 on-site golf courses. Mystic Rock is especially awesome. But the Nemacolin experience isn’t limited to just golf. Stay a few nights, take in the sunsets, great restaurants, and exotic animals. Don’t forget to check out nearby Falling Waters or a ballgame at PNC Park in Pittsburgh about an hour away.

Nemacolin

Nemacolin

  1. Reynolds Lake Oconee, Georgia

Not too far from Augusta National is the beautiful Reynolds Lake Oconee Golf Resort. Complete with 6 championship courses and a Ritz-Carlton, you’ll be in golf heaven as I was for 3 days. But the Reynolds experience isn’t just golf. The property is massive and offers everything from skeet shooting to archery. Not to mention a great bar and one of the best breakfasts around!

Reynolds Lake Oconee

Reynolds Lake Oconee

  1. Kauai, Hawaii

I feel guilty having the Hawaiian Island of Kauai this low on my list, but the Garden Isle has some great golf and is a great experience. Princeville Makai is probably the top public course on the island and the views will back that up. But I think my favorite holes on Kauai are the last 4 holes at Poipu Bay on the other side of the island. The Ocean Course at Hokuala and the fantastic Wailua munis add to the prestige of Kauai. But obviously Kauai offers a lot more than golf for the experience. Do yourself a favor and get the helicopter tour of the Napali Coast and Waimea Canyon-trust me!

Princeville Makai on Kauai

Princeville Makai on Kauai

  1. Karsten Creek, Oklahoma

Stillwater isn’t necessarily a place you think of for great golf but Oklahoma State has produced top pros for years. Karsten Creek is a tough test of golf but absolutely fantastic. The experience of Stillwater wouldn’t be complete without a football game and a stop for dinner and drinks at Eskimo Joe’s. Karsten Creek isn’t quite nearby Southern Hills, but it’s pretty darn good!

Karsten Creek Golf Club

Karsten Creek Golf Club

  1. The Greenbrier, West Virginia

The Greenbrier is one of the most iconic, historic, and prestigious resorts in America. It’s an experience in and of itself but add on 3 golf courses including the fabulous Old White TPC Course and you’re in for an (expensive) treat. The best part about the Old White TPC Course is the 18th hole is a Par 3, which makes for a fun, dramatic ending much like Pasatiempo. If you don’t want to pay to stay at The Greenbrier, there are plenty of cheaper lodging options nearby but stop by, have a drink-it’s one of America’s great experiences.

The 18th at Old White TPC at The Greenbrier

The 18th at Old White TPC at The Greenbrier

  1. Sea Pines Resort, South Carolina

Everyone knows Harbour Town for good reason. But Sea Pines offers several top courses and a luxury golf experience that few resorts can match. Hilton Head is often overlooked as a retirement community but it’s only 45-minutes to the fabulous city of Savannah, Georgia. It’s a great place to start a South Carolina golf road trip up to Pawley’s Island, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach. If you can, stay at the Sea Pines Resort itself-it just adds to the overall golf experience but definitely check out the fabulous clubhouse.

Harbour Town Clubhouse at Sea Pines Resort

Harbour Town Clubhouse at Sea Pines Resort

  1. The Broadmoor, Colorado

The Broadmoor, like The Greenbrier, is an iconic, old money American golf resort in Colorado Springs. It boasts 2 fabulous courses with stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. But the experience of The Broadmoor is about the luxury resort itself and it’s history. It’s massive with something for everyone; and very kid friendly although the prices aren’t. It’s just one of those places you have to experience.

The Broadmoor

The Broadmoor

  1. Pelican Hill, California

I absolutely love Pelican Hill. It has 2 excellent courses overlooking the Pacific in Newport Coast. The accommodations are top notch, and you feel like you’re Orange County elite. It’s one of those places where celebrities play just as often as regular folks and then everyone meets for drinks later. It’s one of Southern California’s best golf experiences.

Pelican Hill Golf Club

Pelican Hill Golf Club

  1. Wine Valley, Washington

I wanted to rank Wine Valley higher but unfortunately, it’s just one course, albeit a great one. But the experience isn’t limited to golf. Walla Walla is an under the radar great wine destination with a fun downtown and a cool old hotel. It’s also surrounded by great nature and in striking distance of a lot of great places via road trip. Wine Valley is an unexpected great golf experience in a place you wouldn’t expect it.

Wine Valley

Wine Valley

  1. Quintero, Arizona

I think Quintero may be the best singular public golf course in the Phoenix area. It’s a long drive out to distant Peoria, but well worth it. The Par 3’s in particular are unreal. The elevation drops from tee to green are legendary and make for fun tee shots where you’re not sure which club to hit. Along with nearby Wickenburg Ranch, I love golfing in this part of Arizona north of Scottsdale.

Quintero Golf Club

Quintero Golf Club

  1. Sweetens Cove

Sweetens Cove markets itself as the anti-golf golf course and in many ways it is. It’s a very unique golf experience. It’s an excellent 9-hole course with 2 flags per green-so you play it in a loop like 18-holes. However, you can play as many holes as you want; your greens fee covers the entire day. You’re encouraged to drink, play fast and have fun. Bring your friends, a cooler, stay for the day and have a designated driver to get you home safe. Sweetens Cove gets it right.

Sweetens Cove

Sweetens Cove

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Comments

  1. Wow great list! I love how you grouped courses together to make life easier for people. Half the time I look at course lists and I have no idea where they’re located or what’s near them. I haven’t played the majority of these on your list but will definitely use it for reference. One I have played that I didn’t see, although I’m pretty sure you’ve played it is Coeur d’Alene Resort. That island green alone makes the course worth it and CDA is such a wonderful place. Thanks.

    • Hey Paul, thanks for the comment and I literally mulled over CDA Resort or not and couldn’t come up with another I would take off the list. So it would likely be my #51. There is also a circling raven up there for publics but I wouldn’t fly across the country to play it. Although if you can get on Gozzar Ranch that’s a different story!

  2. Which state would you say has the best overall public golf? You mentioned Wisconsin in your post as a candidate but I would think Oregon or California?

    • Hey Rob, overall I would probably go with California or Oregon for public golf. I think overall quality percentage in Oregon is slightly higher but California just has so many courses from crap to excellent because the state is so big and the climate is ideal. Michigan would be another candidate for best public golf state but obviously it’s hurt by weather.

  3. Nice list, very cool that you got to play all those courses. You made it happen as usual.

  4. Rams Hill is one I thought might be on the list. I played it because I saw your Instagram stories on it and loved it! Thanks for the rec on the house as well! See you in SF soon to play I hope.

    • Haha did my buddy Darin put you up to this? Rams Hill is awesome! Loved it but because it was only one course and so close to Palm Springs and similar to PGA West stadium and tournament I chose to not include it. If they get another course it would surely be on the list because Borrego Springs is such a unique spot. Oh and better WiFi too!

  5. MAGA 2024 says

    I notice you didn’t include at Trump courses. Was that intentional or political?

    • This is a non-political list!

      None of the Trump brand courses were enough of an experience to include. The best one I’ve played is in the Bronx but it’s not a top 50 experience. Doral is whatever to me even with a handful of courses. I like the LA one but it’s got nothing on Pelican nearby and only one course.

  6. Interesting choices in Vegas, Phoenix and Palm Springs. I think you could’ve gone a number of different ways with those. I haven’t played as many as you but played some good ones in each. The one I’d suggest to include would be the Desert Willow Firecliff Course. It’s so good. I also love the Phoenician in Scottsdale and the Wynn in Vegas to name a few you didn’t include. Great list.

    • Firecliff is so good, you are totally correct! But it’s relatively similar to PGA West kind of like Rams Hill and doesn’t have the mystique to add to the experience like PGA West does. But surely a great course!

  7. Eric Allen says

    You should play McLemore in northern Georgia, trust me!

    • Haha a lot of people say this course so I went and played it last year abs actually shot my best ever round there! I absolutely loved it but didn’t think it is worth people flying across the country for by itself. Maybe I could’ve grouped it with Sweetens Cove because they’re somewhat close to each other but I do love McLemore.

  8. You didn’t include the University of Maryland course?! Travesty!

  9. Surprised you didn’t include PGA National or PGA Village in South Florida. Both those are fantastic. Have you played them? I assume you have.

  10. No Myrtle? It’s a golf paradise!

    • Ya I’ve not been impressed by anything I’ve seen in Myrtle and honestly don’t care much for Myrtle in general. It’s fine but not a top 50 golf destination or experience. It’s a lot of mediocre to good courses and a tough town to love-even with the beach!

  11. Texas Y’all! says

    You didn’t have a single course from Texas, how is that even possible? There’s so many good ones!

  12. Dave German says

    Surprised you don’t have Dubsdread of anything from suburban Chicagoland but helluva list overall. I know how hard it is ranking thjngs when you have to leave things off.

  13. Kirby Puckett’s ghost says

    Glad to see Minnesota get some love. Nobody realizes how good our golf is up here especially up north. The Twin Cities has great privates but you nailed it up north.

  14. Man you really have gotten around the last few years! I didn’t even know there was golf in Western Nebraska!

  15. Jennifer says

    Which was your favorite individual course?

    • Impossible question! I’m a big fan of any of the individual courses listed here and love all the Bandon courses especially Sheep Ranch and Pacific Dunes.

  16. Terry from Jersey says

    Nothing at all in the northeast except Bethpage. Western PA or Southern VA is as close as it gets! Wow that’s kind of surprising but I guess maybe not! LOL

    • NY NJ PA MA CT have great country clubs but not so much great publics at least that warrant an experience. I considered Leatherstocking Because it’s a great golf course and obviously it’s in Cooperstown, New York so you have the baseball Hall of Fame and it’s stunning lake but I really couldn’t justify it over some others.

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