Across the United States, nearly 30 million golfers of all ages and ability played at least one 18-hole round of golf in the last year, according to statistics.
This is due mainly to the plethora of great courses to play throughout the lower 48, as well as Hawaii and Alaska.
Sure, it’s an expensive sport where equipment and tee times can be quite pricey, yet, it’s a great way to get exercise, to socialize and if anything, enjoy a good walk in a pristine location.
Golf is also a destination sport, in that enthusiasts travel to seek out new tracks to play in such golf course heavy states as Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, just to name a few.
We’ve scoured the web to find one great public play course (though there may be many, this is subjective after all) in each state. There are even quite a few that will be instantly recognizable to those that follow the PGA Tour.
Here they are, from Alabama to Wyoming.
50. Alabama – Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Grand National (Links), Opelika
Robert Trent Jones Sr. was an eminent golf course architect who has put his stamp (either designing or re-designing) on over 500 golf courses in 45 U.S. States and 35 countries. His “golf trail” in the American South is a testament to his vision. The Jones designed Links course at Grand National in Opelika, home to the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship, is one of the finest public play courses in Alabama. At an average price of $65 a round, amateur and serious golfers can challenge themselves from the tips (Purple – 7,311 yards) to the less aggressive Teal markers (4,843). The par-4 18th hole, where tee shots have to carry a marsh and avoid a large bunker, is the best among all finishing holes on RTJ’s trail.
49. Alaska – Moose Run Golf Course (Creek), Fort Richardson
In the whole state of Alaska, there are about 26 golf courses (give or take a couple). That doesn’t mean, however, that enthusiasts are relegated to mediocre courses. The Creek course at Moose Run is breathtakingly beautiful, surrounded as it is by mountains and set in an area of burbling streams, old growth trees and reclaimed gravel pits. At 7,324 yards from the tips it is the longest course in Alaska and at a stunningly low price of $46 (lower from twilight rounds, as well as military members, seniors and kids) it is worth the trip to Fort Richardson.
48. Arizona – Quintero Golf Course, Peoria
When golfers and golf lovers think about the game in Arizona, the TPC course at Scottsdale, among many, many others is the one they can only hope to play. Unfortunately, most of the highest rated courses in the state, including the TPC, aren’t open to the public. Yet, there are a few public play gems such as Quintero in Peoria (just outside Phoenix) that golfers of all stripe can test themselves against. This 7,190 yard beauty is set among the picturesque rolling hills and cactus dotted scrub of the desert. Golfers looking to plop down just over $100 for a round ought not to get awed by the scenery.
47. Arkansas – Hot Springs CC (Park), Hot Springs
What’s not to like about a place called Hot Springs? The relaxation of dipping into one of the many natural hot tubs in this area has to be tonic for the soul. For golfers visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas, they might need a little relief after tackling the Park Course at Hot Springs Country Club. Nestled in the Ouachita Mountains, this 6,836 yard, 119-year-old track (from Gold markers) offers spectacular vistas and enough watery challenges to keep players honest, and in thrall.
46. California – Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach
The links at Pebble Beach are instantly recognizable among PGA Tour followers. The Pro-Am event is one of the most widely watched events of the year, on one of the greatest golf courses in America — and the world. That it is a public play course makes it even more appealing. This eye-popping gorgeous old course on the Monterey Peninsula is lauded as “the home of American golf” much like St. Andrews is “the home of golf.” Jack Nicklaus put his thoughts about it thus, “If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach. I’ve loved this course from the first time I saw it. It’s possibly the best in the world.” Public players hoping to test their game on this course’s spectacular layout must be willing to shell out $495.
45. Colorado – The Broadmoor G.C. (East), Colorado Springs
There is nothing quite like staring down an impending shot at Broadmoor Golf Club East course in Colorado Springs and seeing the sun-dappled foothills of the Rockies. In fact, those guests of the resort at Broadmoor who take the time to golf also get a view of one of the most famous mountains in America, Pikes Peak. At peak times — this course has limited winter golf — a round will set a golfer back as much as $280, but it’s well worth it. Designed jointly by architectural legends Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones Sr., East has tree-lined fairways and expansive greens where putts tend to break away from the surrounding mountains.
44. Connecticut – Lake of Isles G.C. (North), North Stonington
Set in the picturesque south east portion of Connecticut, near Long Island Sound, the North course at Lake of Isles in North Stonington is well worth a visit. Rees Jones, son of famous Robert Trent Jones, designed the Lake of Isles track set close to the adjacent — and busy — Foxwoods Resort Casino. North is a public play course that plays over 7,300 yards from the championship tees and anyone wishing to challenge themselves there should know a round costs over $100 and is subject to dynamic pricing (rates adjusted up and down due to a number of factors including demand). The fee, though, does include a cart, range balls and a bottle of water.
43. Delaware – Bayside Resort G.C., Selbyville
If Jack Nicklaus has a hand in designing it, the golf course is worth a shot. The Bayside Resort Golf Club in Selbyville, Delaware, is a renowned course fashioned by the Bear himself and open on a limited basis to public players. This 18-hole gem set near the border of Maryland outside Selbyville offers great views of Assawoman Bay, Ocean City and the and the Atlantic Ocean barrier island it sits on. The course itself mixes it up, with tree-lined fairways on some holes, while others wind their way through marsh land. Yardage-wise, it plays anywhere from Club tees (5,615 yards) to the longest on Signature tees (7,545 yards). Rates seem to fluctuate from $80 to $110.
42. Florida – TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium), Ponta Vedra Beach
There are no more iconic, or more difficult, holes in golf than no. 17 at the famous TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course in Ponta Vedra Beach, Florida. Many a PGA Tour pro has dunked his ball into the pond surrounding the green at his hole, possibly ruining his chance at winning the “fifth major”, the Players Championship. And amateurs can test their game against this beast of a hole, just like the big guns on the tour. Now, it’s not a cheap outing, as a Memorial Day Weekend “special” still costs $389 (which is advertised as a $120 saving!). But, if a vacation in Florida is in the plans and golf is on the itinerary, a visit to Sawgrass should be on top of that list.
41. Georgia – Sea Island G.C. (Seaside), St. Simons Island
When thinking about golf in the great state of Georgia, the course that immediately comes to mind is Augusta National. However, the average hacker, unless he or she knows a member or gets an invite, can’t play at the exclusive home of The Masters. But, down on Georgia’s Atlantic coastline, not far from Florida, the Sea Island Resort and Golf Club is definitely open to the public and very playable, not to mention beautiful and challenging. The Seaside course (one of three at the resort), is where PGA pro Davis Love III is said to have honed his game. The Tom Fazio re-designed Seaside is a links course that is dotted with bunkers big and small and some pretty spectacular scenery.
40. Hawaii – Kapalua (Plantation), Kapalua, Maui
There may be no more beautiful or natural settings for golf than the one at Kapalua in Maui, specifically the Plantation Course. Located on the rugged northeast coast of Maui, with stunning views of neighboring island Molokai, the Plantation course is home to the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions. Designed jointly by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, the Plantation is a 7,411 yard beast that challenges pros but has fairways and greens expansive enough as not to punish average golfers. Those average golfers should know that a round at the Plantation, standard rate, is $325 ($265 for resort guests).
39. Idaho – Circling Raven G.C., Worley
Casino Resorts have been popping up all over America and with them, some pretty swanky golf courses. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho is home to an eponymous casino resort and features the Circling Raven, a 7,189-yard course that meanders through the rolling hills of Northern Idaho and set among 620 acres of wetlands, woodlands and Palouse grasses. Public play golfers should be heartened by the rates for either standalone golf or stay-and-play, too. Peak rates just to play the course are just $105 ($20 for a cart) and stay-and-play packages for Friday-Saturday peak times are listed at $319. The vistas of the surrounding foothills alone are worth the price of admission.
38. Illinois – Cog Hill G. & C.C. (No. 4), Lemont
Illinois is home to some famous and frighteningly difficult tracks for PGA Tour pros, those being Medinah no. 3 (three U.S. Opens) and Olympia Fields North (two U.S. Opens, two PGA championships). Those two beasts, however, are private. One that isn’t, Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont, specifically no. 4 Dubsdread, is a renowned course that comes in at $155 a round ($100 at twilight). As one of America’s Top 100 public courses (according to Golf Digest), Cog Hill No. 4 is a must play for duffers and pros alike. It’s 7,554-yard layout (5,441 yards from the forward tees) is difficult enough to have hosted the prestigious BMW Championship on four occasions, the last one in 2011. Reason enough to give it a go, in our opinion.
37. Indiana – The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, French Lick
Pete Dye’s course designs can be so thorny, the word “Dye-abolical” has become part of golf lore. Not that his courses aren’t playable, of course, just that he adds in heaps of risk-reward to his creations. One of Dye’s masterpieces is in French Lick (home of Larry Bird) at the French Lick Resort. Twinned with a Donald Ross designed course at the resort, Dye’s track comes in at a thunderous 8,102 from the back (Gold) tees, on down to 5,151 from the forward tees. A round at one of America’s best public play courses isn’t cheap ($350) but well worth the outlay.
36. Iowa – The Harvester G.C., Rhodes
It seems apt that in a state known for agriculture that its finest public golf course — one of America’s best too — is named Harvester. But golfers should beware that rural American themed name for the Harvester is 6,430 yards (from the back tees) of score-testing golf. Difficult enough, too, to host a regional NCAA Division I golf championship in 2019. Set amidst a former working farm, the touches added (like an old threshing machine left hanging around) make if feel like a walk in a pasture, with a twist. It’s 7,345 yards from the tips (5,180 from the front tees) and the cost, $129 at peak and $89 for a replay, is entirely reasonable.
35. Kansas – Firekeeper G.C., Mayetta
The American Midwest, as we’ve seen previously in Indiana and Iowa, is dotted with outstanding public play courses. Firekeeper, in tiny Mayetta, Kansas (just outside Kansas City) is no different. An endeavor of the Prairie Bend Potawatomi Nation, this design by four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III (a full-blood native American) is a challenging course that plays 7,560 yards from the back (Notah) tees. The layout is typical middle American prairie, a mixture of natural grasses and trees on gently rolling land.
34. Kentucky – Kearney Hill Golf Links, Lexington
When playing Kearney Hill Golf Links in suburban Lexington, it’s best to prepare for a lot of wind. Wide open and peppered with deep sand and grass bunkers, there aren’t many trees and the course is wide open and rolling. If the wind wasn’t enough, this is yet another acclaimed design by Pete Dye coming in at 7,129 yards from the rear tee blocks (5,367 forward) and has a slope rating of 131. What makes this test of golf most appealing is the rate to play, set at a penny-pinching $25 for a weekday round and just $31 on the weekend.
33. Louisiana – TPC Louisiana, Avondale
Pete Dye sure is a prolific golf course designer. We’ve already mentioned him twice in this list and the TPC Louisiana course he created in suburban New Orleans is a remarkable one. It has played host to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, so amateurs can be assured that the money they plop down is well spent. Playing from the tips, measured at 7,425 yards, can be treacherous as the holes weave through the wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta. Huge old growth Cypress and Oak trees and bunkers galore make it a true test of anyone’s game. The cost for this upscale course, while steeper than many on this list, still is reasonable at $229 per person, according to a special offered before and after the Zurich Classic.
32. Maine – Sugarloaf G.C., Carrabassett Valley
The Carrabassett Valley in central Maine is a very pretty place come fall. Golfers taking in a round at the Sugar Loaf Golf Club located in the valley might be a little too awestruck of the autumn colors and scenery presented before them. As part of a golf and ski resort, the golf course has been rated one of the best public tracks over the years. Pricing is dynamic, as it is a seasonal course that won’t open until June 2, 2017, but on the Sugarloaf website there is a special for four rounds of golf at $250. This Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed course plays to 6,930 yards and incorporates dramatic elevation changes, winding fairways and unforgiving bunkers.
31. Maryland – Bulle Rock, Havre de Grace
While it would be nice to have a go at the Blue course at the Congressional in Bethesda, MD (home to the PGA Tour’s Quicken Loans National), it’s not open to the public. However, Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace is a Pete Dye gem that has consistently been rated one of the nation’s top public play courses. Named after the first thoroughbred horse brought to America, Bulle Rock mixes long and short holes and plays 7,375 yards from the back tees and 5,507 at the front. Tree-lined fairways, well-placed bunkers and plenty of water keep public players honest, for sure. Regular season rates to give this premier course a shot are $130 plus a state amusement tax of 5 percent.
30. Massachusetts – Taconic G.C., Williamstown
Nestled in the far northwestern part of Massachusetts (the Berkshires) at the south end of the Green Mountain range is a beauty of a golf course called Taconic. Opened in 1927 the course underwent a re-design by Gil Hanse, Golf Magazine’s Architect of the Year. The distance of the back tees isn’t punishing for a course of this magnitude, coming in at 6,808 yards, while the forward tees are a manageable 5,826. The price to play, for unaccompanied guests, first round, is $160, including a cart. It’s a picturesque course set in gently rolling parkland, with plenty of mature trees, bunkers and water.
29. Michigan – Arcadia Bluffs G.C., Arcadia
Michigan his home to hundreds of great golf courses, many of them open to the public and in turn very reasonably priced. Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club, located on the shores of Lake Michigan in the northwest part of the state, is an absolute stunner whose holes are wide open and offer views of the lake. The Bluffs course is a daily fee club open to the public seven days a week between April and November. It is a 7,300 yard true links course that has thick fescue and hundreds of bunkers to catch wayward shots. At peak summer times, it costs $190 to play and $110 for a twilight round. We say it’s worth it.
28. Minnesota – The Quarry at Giants Ridge, Biwabik
Michigan isn’t the only northern state with plenty of awesome public play golf courses. The Quarry at Giants Ridge in beautiful northeast Minnesota is a re-purposed industrial site that was named one of the most important golf courses in America by Golf Digest shortly after it opened. Not too punishing at 7,112 yards from the rear tees, the Quarry is a pretty stern test of anyone’s game. The site of a former quarrying operation, it has a good amount of water, but also plenty of old growth forest lining the fairways and a hole that features a sandtrap that looks like a giant foot. Rates for golf course this highly rated are ridiculously low, with a round in the summer costing just $89 ($97 on weekends).
27. Mississippi – Fallen Oak G.C., Saucier
Now not so unknown the the golf and travel set, Mississippi is a destination of choice for golfers of all ability. And, many of the top-rated tracks in the southern state are public play. Chief among them is Fallen Oak Golf Club outside of Saucier. Typical of the American south near the Gulf of Mexico, Fallen Oak has thousands of old growth oaks, magnolias and pine trees, interspersed with ponds and streams. While it is a “private” course, guests of the Beau Rivage Resort in nearby Biloxi are more than welcome to play it. Tom Fazio designed the course and it is a par-72, 7,487 yard people pleaser that even gives a pro game a good challenge.
26. Missouri – Buffalo Ridge G.C., Hollister
Like Fallen Oak in Saucier, MS, the Buffalo Ridge “Springs” Golf Course in Hollister, MO is a Tom Fazio creation. Situated in the heart of the Ozark mountains near Branson, Buffalo Ridge comes by its name honestly, as it winds its way through natural native grasslands that are home to free-ranging buffalo at nearby Dogwood Canyon Park. The course is just over 7,000 yards long and showcases some spectacular elevation changes, interesting rocky outcrops and carries over water and burbling rock-lined creeks. A round at this course in the summer isn’t a wallet-breaker, with the highest fee at $125 for weekend play to a low of $80 after 3 p.m. (twilight).
25. Montana – Northern Pines G.C., Kalispell
It stands to reason that putting a golf course pretty much anywhere in Montana will offer stunning scenery. Located near the Flathead National Forest in northwest Montana, Northern Pines is just such a golf course. Conveniently situated near the golf resort town of Kalispell, Northern Pines was designed by two-time U.S. Open champ Andy North. Its 6,812 yards incorporate the best of links golf, along with native grasses, rolling fairways and the scenic Stillwater River winding its way throughout. Golf travelers will absolutely love the price, too, as a round during the summer is just $70 during the day and $45 for a twilight round.
24. Nebraska – The Prairie Club (Dunes), Valentine
The Prairie Club in Valentine features not just one, but two outstanding public play courses, the Pines and the Dunes. We picked the Dunes because of it absolutely gorgeous links layout over typical great plains topography. Wind and a wide open course force regular golfers to keep the ball low and straight, as thick natural grasses and fescue line all the fairways in this Sandhills area track. From the air, the luscious green holes amid the scrubby landscape look like a verdant necklace. The Dunes is 7,583 yards from the back tees and 5,752 yards from the front and rounds at the Prairie Clubs public courses are included in stay-and-play packages.
23. Nevada – Shadow Creek, North Las Vegas
Nevada is a destination state and because of the gambling meccas of Las Vegas and Reno, high-priced golf courses have popped up in the desert. Vegas, for one, is home to many courses that set a leisurely golfer back $500 or more, including the Wynn on the strip. In North Las Vegas sits the state’s best public course, Shadow Creek, but it too costs half a thousand to play, which includes a limo from a MGM Resort International hotel downtown. Again, Tom Fazio can take credit for this absolutely beautiful track (where MGM guests can shell out big to play at was once a very private course). Located as it is in the desert, to look at the layout suggests otherwise, as Fazio literally carved out the “seventh wonder of the golfing world.” A must play in Sin City.
22. New Hampshire – Omni Mount Washington Resort G.C., Bretton Woods
Any golfer looking to be blown away by not only the golf, but the vistas, ought to take in the Mount Washington Course at the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. With the Green Mountain’s Presidential Range providing a backdrop, this Donald Ross designed par-72, 7,004 yard course is one of the best and prettiest courses in the state. Public guests (18 years of age or older) can take advantage of this superior track for the low price of $89 weekdays (before 1 p.m.) and resort guests pay even less ($82). A change in foliage in the fall and the mountain range behind it would make Mount Washington a must-see (and play) come late September.
21. New Jersey – Ballyowen GC at Crystal Springs Resort, Hamburg
Because of its proximity to New York City and the abundance of old money and Ivy League schools like Princeton, golf in New Jersey tends to be private, and pricey. Everyone knows Baltusrol and how Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship there in dramatic fashion in 2005, as well as world-renowned Pine Valley, which has vowed never to cut down trees to host a major PGA event. They are both very private, too. Up in Hamburg, north west of New York City is a treat of a course at the Crystal Springs Resort, the Ballyowen. Woven into the Kittatinny Range of mountains on the Appalachian Trail, Ballyowen is a links-style track perched atop a plateau that looks and feels like a Heathland course in Ireland. Rates are included among the many golf vacation packages offered at Crystal Springs.
20. New Mexico – Paa-Ko Ridge G.C. (1st/2nd), Sandia Park
The American southwest is prime territory for those seeking a warm, dry climate, with lots of golf. Lesser known than say the array of courses Arizona and Nevada are those in New Mexico. And the premier tracks in this state won’t set you back the greenbacks needed play in higher profile Arizona and Nevada. Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in Sandia Park has been lauded numerous times as one of the top 100 public courses in America and the average price of a round is between $62 (twilight) and $117 (weekends and holidays). There are 27 holes set in lush parkland and the holes have interesting sounding names like Lone Ponderosa, Ambush and Agua Caliente. A true gem just minutes outsid Albuquerque.
19. New York – Bethpage State Park (Black), Farmingdale
Cloistered around New York City are a few of the golf world’s premier courses, which have been put to devastating use by the PGA Tour. In Mamaroneck there is Winged Foot, which has hosted the U.S. Open five times and will do so again in 2020. Due south on Long Island is Shinnecock Hills in tony Southampton, which has also been home to the U.S. Open on four occasions and is slated to bring the PGA Tour there again in 2018 and 2026. Those courses, though, are extremely private and exclusive. Not so Bethpage State Park golf courses in Farmingdale, which has five championship courses, including the intimidating Black course. This difficult 18 has seen two U.S. Opens and two Barclays championships in the last 15 years. Public players can test their game at Black, which has to be booked months in advance, for the reasonable price of $130 weekdays for non-NY residents and just $39 for residents.
18. North Carolina – Pinehurst Resort (No. 2), Pinehurst
Of the lower 48, not many states enjoy the level of golf tourism seen in North Carolina. The Pinehurst resort, first founded in 1895, bills itself as “the cradle of golf”, for very good reason. There are nine courses spread throughout the 5,500 acre resort, with no. 2 being the most famous. This stately old Donald Ross designed course has seen the best in the world play there, from a PGA Championship (1936), to a Ryder Cup (1951) and three U.S. Opens (including Payne Stewart’s famous final victory there in 1999). Its 7,562 yard layout (5,267 from the forward tees) can be soul-crushing, as it includes several long par-4s and a 617-yard par 5. For those daring enough to take no. 2 on (or any of the other eight courses), there are various stay-and-play packages, that are fairly pricey, but well worth it.
17. North Dakota – Hawktree G.C., Bismarck
The rugged and stark landscape in central North Dakota doesn’t lend itself to being a golf destination, given that winters there are longer and harsher than most other states. The Hawktree Golf Club, just outside the state capital of Bismarck, has been intricately woven into the rolling hills of the Burnt Creek Valley (a tributary of the Missouri River), like it was meant to be there. The links-style course plenty of wild native grass and many bunkers to catch stray golf balls, as well as water on 11 of the 18 holes. Elevation changes and plenty of prairie wind provide even more challenge over the 7,085 yard layout. And the price? A wallet friendly $75, which includes use of the practice range and range balls.
16. Ohio – Longaberger G.C. (The Virtues), Nashport
Muirfield Village and Firestone are two of the most recognizable golf courses in Ohio, without a doubt. The former is home to Jack Nicklaus’ PGA Tour Memorial tournament and the latter was made famous by a big Nicklaus victory there at the PGA championship in 1975. They are both, however, ultra-private. That’s why a course like The Virtues at Longaberger Golf Club in Nashport is a good consolation prize for public players. Located just east of Columbus in the rolling hills north of the Licking River, The Virtues has been anointed as a top must-play public track. Its parkland setting with mature trees and a 7,243-yard length make it a challenge for amateurs and pros alike. Peak season rates are a bargain, too, with weekend green fees set at $99 and an unlimited package at $149.
15. Oklahoma – Karsten Creek G.C., Stillwater
Oklahoma is a football state and in Stillwater, the OK State Cowboys reign. Located between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Stillwater is also home to one of the top 100 public golf courses in the U.S., Karsten Creek Golf Club, which is the OSU golf team’s home track. While the private Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa gets all the press for hosting U.S. Opens and PGA Championships, it’s not open to the great unwashed of golf. Karsten Creek, on the other hand, was laid out by Tom Fazio to challenge the best of the hackers among us. At 7,408 yards, it’s no walk in the park, but it has earned a coveted five star rating from Golf Digest, one of only 10 courses in America to be so honored. Unaccompanied golfers should be prepared to fork over $350 for a round, while those playing with a member can do so for $150.
14. Oregon – Pacific Dunes, Bandon
There are few courses as spectacularly beautiful as the Pacific Dunes and Bandon Dunes courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon. Set hard against the rugged Pacific coastline, the Pacific Dunes course (our choice) incorporates the best of true links golf with the shore pines of the Pacific northwest. Wind and weather come into play in equal measure, making this 6,643-yard Tom Doak designed course harder to play than expected. In 2005, Pacific Dunes was rated the number one resort golf course in the nation, ahead of famous old Pebble Beach down the coast in California. Green fees for resort guests are as much as $275 at peak season and $325 for day guests.
13. Pennsylvania – Nemacolin Woodlands Resort (Mystic Rock), Farmington
Merion and Oakmont are Pennsylvania’s two premier golf courses, especially Oakmont which has hosted a whopping nine U.S. Opens and three PGA championships. They aren’t, however, open to the public. Not far from the hallowed fairways at Oakmont in Plum, PA is the state’s best public course, Mystic Rock at the Nemacolin Woods resort in tiny Farmington. Yet another superb design by Pete Dye, Mystic Rock is nestled in the Allegheny Mountain highlands and has a slope of 149, one of the highest in the U.S. Those wishing to have a go at Dye’s creation will pay $195 at peak, while resort guests get a break at $175.
12. Rhode Island – Triggs Memorial – Providence
Little Rhodey is dotted with quite a few private golf courses, leaving little room for affordable public tracks. Donald Ross designed one just outside Providence, though, that offers good value for the buck. Triggs Memorial isn’t a long walk, 6,522 yards from the tips, but set in parkland with huge old growth trees lining the fairways, it’s best to keep the ball straight. Ross also mixed a very difficult opening three holes (390 yards, 411 and 445) as well as bunker complexes where deep fescue rings the sand, making an out from within and without challenging. Rates at this course are among the lowest on this list, with a peak round going for a mere $42 on weekends.
11. South Carolina – The Ocean Course, Kiawah Island
The mecca of golf travel in the U.S. is South Carolina and the plethora of golf courses around Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head. Golfers from all over the country (and Canada) make the golf hajj to play an amazing array of courses around the spectacular coastline. The best of them, arguably, is the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort (though Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head is a close, close second). Not only is it one of the best courses in America, but also the world, as deemed by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. Pete Dye (there he is again) designed this stunning track with views of the ocean at every turn to be the sternest test of any golfer’s ability, with a nation high slope rating of 153. This Ryder Cup blessed (1991) course has many stay-and-play packages.
10. South Dakota – The G.C. at Red Rock, Rapid City
The Black Hills of southwest South Dakota are a starkly beautiful part of the lower 48 natural tapestry, home to many great state parks and the famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Putting a golf course just on the edge of the Black Hills National Forest, then, just seemed like a great idea. The Golf Club at Red Rock has something for everyone in its layout, from approachable greens to risk-reward opportunities, particularly with the many elevation changes and links-style bunker complexes. At par-72 and 7,000 yards it isn’t too punishing and the rate to tool around it is an inexpensive $59, including a cart.
9. Tennessee – Mirimichi G.C., Millington
One of Memphis’ own superstars, Justin Timberlake, actually owned one of the state’s best public courses for a while, Mirimichi in suburban Millington (where Timberlake was born). An avid golfer, JT bought the formerly named Big Creek Golf Course and then poured about $16 million into it to make it the eco-friendly Mirimichi (he sold it later). Deep pit bunkers, elevated greens, native grassland, waterfalls and meandering creeks are all part of the challenge of this 7,479 yard track. Rates to play the course, which include a cart, use of the range and range balls, are extremely affordable. Weekend green fees are $73 ($63 twilight), with discounts for Military, Fire and Police ($59).
8. Texas – TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks), San Antonio
The saying that everything is bigger in Texas can certainly apply to the golf courses there. Unfortunately, many of the highest ranked tracks are private, like stately old Dallas National as well as Whispering Pines in Trinity. Down San Antonio way, there is a public course, TPC San Antonio – AT&T Oaks, that welcomes the public hordes. Home to the Valero Texas Open, this Greg Norman designed course meanders through oak tree stands and features plenty of native grass and plants. It’s extremely playable, with only 100 feet of elevation change and just two forced carries over the 7,435 yard length of the course. It’s not cheap to play there, but if its good enough for the PGA Tour, its good enough to shell out for.
7. Utah – Entrada at Snow Canyon C.C., St. George
Like New Mexico, the state of Utah doesn’t gets its due for being a decent golf destination. There are quite a few beauties around Park City, which has the whole Olympic games cache about it. Those highly rated courses, however, are private. One good one that isn’t is down-state in beautiful St. George. The Entrada at Snow Canyon is situated in the absolutely stunning canyon that features the famous red rock of the low desert. Playing to 7,062 yards from the back tees (5,214 from the front), there is much to love about this track, including some of the black lava formations. A year-round course, the Entrada has winter and summer stay and play rates that very from $180 to $245 per person (summer) and $255 to $320 (fall, winter, spring).
6. Vermont – Jay Peak Golf Course, Jay
Hard up against the Canadian border in northern Vermont is the pristine Jay State Forest, home of the Jay Peak ski resort and its highly rated golf course. There is much to like about the layout, which offers views of the big peak and winds its way through mature forest and has elevation changes galore. Streams, ponds and complex bunkering along and around fairly expansive fairways will catch errant shots that don’t fly into the trees. The course plays to a manageable 6,874 yards from the championship tees and has a slope of 138. Day play green fees are a pocketbook friendly $65 through the week and $85 on weekends.
5. Virginia – The Homestead (Cascades), Hot Springs
Virginia isn’t just for lovers, its for golfers, too. There are Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones and even Trump courses sprinkled through the great state of Virginia, the majority of the really good ones private. The best of the public play tracks has to be the Cascades course at the Homestead in Hot Springs. Wedged into the picturesque George Washington and Jefferson National Forest in the Allegheny Mountain Range, Cascades has consistently ranked among the top 100 public courses in the nation. The yardage isn’t too trying at 6,667 from the blue (back) tee blocks and it was once the original home course to golf great Sam Snead. Peak green fees are priced at $210 ($145 twilight).
4. Washington – Chambers Bay, University Place
Robert Trent Jones could hardly have picked a finer locale than Puget Sound in the area of University Place (Tacoma) to fashion the Chambers Bay course. This public play masterpiece is reminiscent of the top links courses in Scotland, set against the splendor of the Pacific northwest and the Olympic mountains. It’s so good that the U.S. Open was staged there in 2015, with Jordan Spieth winning it all. Fescue grasses, massive fairways and breathtaking views are part and parcel of this 7,585 yard track. In the summer months, golfers of all ability can play it for $139 on Fridays and Saturdays, $119 Thursday and Sunday and $105 Monday to Wednesday.
3. West Virginia – The Greenbrier (Old White TPC), White Sulphur Springs
The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WVa, is a sprawling complex that caters to the golf set. It’s such a prime location that it has hosted 26 presidents at its hotel. It has hosted a Ryder Cup in 1979 and is the site of the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic. Old White TPC, which was damaged by flooding in 2016, but has been completely restored to its former glory, including a complete rebuild of every green complex and the introduction of new grass to the greens, fairways and bunker faces. Players wishing to challenge their shot-making on the 7,287-yard course will pay $450 non-registered and $400 as a registered guest during the peak summer period (July 10 – October 22).
2. Wisconsin – Whistling Straits (Straits), Haven
Of all the courses he has designed, the monstrous and beautiful Straits course at Whistling Straits on the shores of Lake Michigan north of Sheboygan might be his finest. This 7,790 yard beast has hosted three PGA championships since 2004, the last won by Jason Day in 2015. Eight of its challenging and mostly lengthy holes hug the shoreline and three stone bridges add charm. Challenge is presented in the form of deep pot bunkers, grass-topped dunes and howling winds off the big great lake. The Straits is a wide-open track that any ordinary golfer should be honored to play. Green fees at the Straits (one of four courses at the complex) will set public players back $410, as well as a required caddy ($65).
1. Wyoming – Teton Pines Resort & G.C., Jackson
The Teton range in Wyoming is one of the most stunningly beautiful places in America. Little wonder then, that ski resorts dot its expanse, not to mention a real good public play course at the Teton Pines Resort at Jackson Hole. The late Arnold Palmer had a hand in designing this wonder that ranges from 5,400 yards at the forward tee blocks to 7,400 yards at the rear. It is said that the 15th through 18th holes (three par-4s and a par-3) are four of the finest finishing holes any golfer may encounter. Members can play all day, while non-members have to play after noon, at a cost of $160 from June 22 to September 4 (peak).