The United States is a golf country. It is estimated that about 5 million Americans, young and old, enjoy golf across the country. In fact, the US houses the most number of golf courses in the world. You can only dream about setting your foot or playing most of these great courses, but they are all within reach of the serious traveling golfer.
It is true that some golf courses in the US are very pricey to play, but you can play many of those designed by some of the greatest architects in the world (Pete Dye, Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus, etc.) for less than $50. All you need to do is to find them.
Here are the 10 top golf courses in the US:
- Pine Valley – Pine Valley, N.J.
- Shinnecock Hills – Southampton, N.Y.
- Augusta National – Augusta, Ga.
- Cypress Point – Pebble Beach, Calif
- Oakmont – Oakmont, Pa.
- Pebble Beach – Pebble Beach, Calif.
- Merion (East) – Ardmore, Pa.
- Winged Foot (West) – Mamaroneck, N.Y.
- Seminole – Juno Beach, Fla.
- Crystal Downs – Frankfort, Mich.
Browse through our pages to learn more about these 10 best American golf courses. We will provide you with expert reviews and recommendations of each golf course.
The 18-hole Pine Valley golf course at the Pine Valley Golf Club in Clementon, New Jersey has long been attracting superlatives. Golf enthusiasts and experts continually judge it as one of the finest courses in the world. Why not? It has more top-class holes than other courses and the finest 18 green complexes of any course. It also has the finest collection of one shot holes, two shotters (particularly those under 370 yards), as well as three shotters. Pine Valley additionally possesses the finest three hole start and three hole finish.
Pine Valley used to be a gathering point for architects during the Golden Age of golf course design to analyze and discuss design features. When George Crump bought the property in 1912, the architecture world’s who’s-who came and contributed to the design of the golf course. They included Charles Alison, Harry Colt, William Flynn, William Fownes, Robert Hunter, Charles Blair Macdonald, Alister MacKenzie, Perry Maxwell, Donald Ross, George Thomas, A.W. Tillinghast, Walter Travis, and Hugh Wilson. This 18-hole golf course features many of the hallmarks of New Jersey golf.
The golf course is widely praised because of its consistent level of conditioning and challenge on each hole, which will require you to carefully place the ball from tee to green and correct the placement on approach shots to the green because of major undulations and swales. It also boasts of a 155 slope from the championship tees, providing a very tough challenge to even the best golfer in the world.
Trademarks include the par three 5th, the famous “hell’s half acre” (a bleak wasteland on the par five 7th hole, probably the world’s largest non sea-side bunker), and “the devil’s asshole” (a very deep bunker on the par three 10th). Also popular is the par four 18th hole, which integrates various golf course elements into an impressive finishing hole.
Pine Valley is a nice golf course for experienced players as well as the beginners. In addition to its being a long course, it also offers a lot of challenges like tight fairways and small greens. Many golfers – novices and professionals alike, and even handicap players – enjoy playing in this excellent course.
Throughout America and the world, very few golf courses are as well-regarded as the Cypress Point in Pebble Beach, California. People admire it not just for its magnificent beauty but LAO for its architectural wonders. In fact, it always ranks as one of the top courses in the country and the world by the panel of experts from Golf Magazine. The 18-hole Cypress Point is a superb venue that encompasses what many golf courses in the country have to offer.
The golf course features about 6,540 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 72. It has a 72.4 course rating and a 136 slope rating on Blue grass. Cypress Point was designed by Alister MacKenzie and it opened in 1928.
Due to the extremely private nature of the Cypress Point golf club as well as the overwhelming grandeur of its picturesque finish, its first 14 holes are almost unknown to many golfers, which is really a shame, because they are also gorgeous.
You will be entranced by your surroundings, when playing to the 14th green. You will see deer roaming around as if they are in Prozac. The sights of the 15th will also spellbind you. Imagine these pictures when playing Cypress Point: The Pacific boiling on the rocks and tearing at the kelp below, an otter lolling on his back in the shallows, a peregrine falcon hovering overhead, and the smell of the brine pleasantly filling your nostrils.
The holes also vary from long par 5’s to rolling links through the evergreens, to the ocean side finishing holes. While it is not easy in the wind, it is playable. There are no gimmicks to increase the difficulty. Holes 14 to 17 are perhaps the most beautiful holes that you could ever play, while the 15th hole, 115 par 3, is the most awesome. A par or birdie is easy provided that you hit away from the ocean. You will leave this hole feeling good about your game until you move on to the next only to be enveloped by serenity and fear all at once.
Considering the overall luxury that the Cypress Point golf course offers, its club house is unexpectedly modest. What’s more, the staff is also welcoming and friendly. The caddies are also very knowledgeable veterans; they know the golf course inside and out.
Augusta National, located in Augusta, Georgia, is one of the most exclusive and famous golf clubs in the United States and in the world. Bobby Jones founded the club, which opened for play in 1933. It hosted the annual Masters Tournament in 1934, and since then it has been hosting one of professional golf’s four major championships.
Augusta National is widely regarded as the most venerated course on the PGA Tour. The Masters Tournament is held at the same venue ach year, so fans have the exclusive opportunity to familiarize themselves with the golf course, something that the other three majors cannot not afford.
So what does Augusta National really look like? Well, it is unquestionably beautiful – even more stunning than TV can ever show. Every hole is adorned by a unique botanical specie, and the course has some 80,000 plants of more than 300 varieties. They are all fine-tuned with temperature control and fertilizer to bloom at the precise moment. The course will take your breath away once you set your foot on it.
Since the Masters takes place the first weekend after April’s first full week, the flowers of the shrubs and trees that border the golf course are blooming beautifully during the tournament. Every hole is named after the shrub or tree with which it is associated. Moreover, the layout is astonishingly compact, considering that the original purchase was around 365 acres. There are also many places on the golf course where a few pine trees separate adjacent holes.
Augusta National’s 11th to 13th holes were called “Amen Corner” by Herbert Warren Wind in a Sports Illustrated article in 1958. Attempting to find a name for the locations where critical actions had taken place during that Masters edition, the author got the name from “Shouting at Amen Corner”, an old jazz recording by a band under Milton Mezzrow’s direction.
In the same year, Arnold Palmer made heroic escapes at the Amen Corner and eventually triumphed over Ken Venturi for the Green Jacket. The place also played host to prior Masters memorable moments such as Byron Nelson’s birdie-eagle at 12 and 13 in 1937 and Sam Snead’s water save at 12 in 1949, sparking him to victory.
Apparently, unlike almost all other public or private golf courses in the country, Augusta National has never been rated. In the 1990 Masters, Golf Digest organized a team of USGA to evaluate the course. It had an unofficial 76.2 course rating and 148 slope rating.
Opened in 1891, the 18-hole Shinnecock Hills golf course offers almost 7,000 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 70. It has a 74.5 course rating and a 140 slope rating. It is a high-status links-style golf club located in the hamlet of Shinnecock Hills in Southampton on Long Island in New York. It has hosted the US Open four times in three different centuries (1896, 1986, 1994, and 2004). It is the oldest formal organized golf club in the US and has the oldest golf clubhouse in the country. In addition, it is also the first golf club to admit women.
Since its initial design by Willie Dun, updates by William S. Flynn, Charles B. Macdonald, Howard C. Toomey, and Seth Raynor have made a treeless, sandy, and dull landscape into a beautiful and top-class course. Described as “perfect”, “ruthless”, and “the ultimate test of US championship golf”, it has gained multiple honors.
Shinnecock Hills golf course is made up of amazing mix of holes: the par 3s vary from the 226-yard 2nd to the 158-yard 11th. The 11th requires a lofted shot to the smallest green on the golf course. The course only has two three-shot holes, the famous 16th hole and the rather short yet narrow 5th.
Its world-famous Redan hole (7th – 194 Yard Par 3) is an icon for all golf course architecture aficionados. The small green slopes from right to left, proving to be the hardest Redan many people have played because of the small putting surface. The clubhouse is also an outstanding display of golf history and architecture. The gorgeous structure features a nice locker room and also boasts a striking porch with unlimited views across one of the country’s best golf clubs.
Overall, simplicity is one feature that best defines Shinnecock Hills. But the concept of simplicity, like the concepts of grace and beauty, is difficult to adequately put into words. But take a round and you will know why.
Pebble Beach provides some of the most panoramic settings for golf in the United States. With its renowned championship course it is revered as golf holiday Mecca for many golfers around the world. Your pilgrimage to Monterey would not be complete without having a nice round on this American golf institution.
Pebble Beach golf course hosts a number of world-renowned golf tournaments such as the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am and the US Open. Some of the greatest rounds in golf history have been played here, and each year golfers visit the course to walk in the footsteps of the world’s greatest golfers.
Pebble Beach does not have a monster length, insisting that you play every shot with more precision than power. The 1st to 3rd holes will give you modest success, but it is at the next hole that the golf course starts to show its true character. The 7th to 10th holes constitute the world’s best stretch of seaside holes. And finishing to the 18th hole will definitely give you one of the greatest moments of your life.
Pebble Beach sits in the Delmonte Forest between Carmel and Pacific Grove. It is where the sea, land, and sky meet to a stunning effect. Its beautiful coastline includes Bird Rock as well as the Lone Cypress, a much photographed landmark on the coast of California. If you can divert your attention from the amazing sights, you will also soon appreciate the Pebble Beach golf course as one of the best in the world.
The service is superb, the setting is just magical, many holes are top class, and the course’s history is awesome. Additionally, it offers really nice rooms and top notch bars. So get your caddy and soak it all in. On the downside, playing Pebble Beach is insanely pricey. To some extent, the setting is also diminished by tourists wandering near the golf course on the beach. But if you really love golf, you owe it to yourself to go to Pebble Beach and play there.
The 18-hole Oakmont, located in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, constantly ranks as one of the best golf courses in the United States and the World by panel of experts from Golf Magazine. Featuring about 7,230 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 71, it has a course rating of 76.8 and a slope rating of 144.
Nestled in the gently rolling hills, Oakmont has hosted the US Open eight times, most recently in 2007. It also lays claim as the first golf club in the US to be designated as a National History Landmark. It is also very famous for its thick rough and extremely fast greens. Oakmont also takes pride of the turf-laden bunker between the 3rd and 4th fairways, popularly known as church pews.
Henry Fownes designed the championship golf course, the only one course he designed. While there have been some major changes over the century, the greens on this golf course remain as they were initially designed. Opened in 1903, it is widely considered as the most difficult golf course to play in the country.
Golf champion, Gene Sarazen, said Oakmont has “all the charm of a sock to the head.” Another legendary golfer, Johnny Miller, called it as the “most difficult test of golf in America.” Henry Fownes, the Club founder, even issued a warning: “Let the clumsy, the spineless, the alibi artist stand aside.”
What is it about Oakmont that supports such kind of talk? Well, its panoramic 456-yard 18th hole has been widely known as the best par-4 in golf. And the par-4, 482-yard opening hole was voted once as the most difficult in PGA Tour. It is a true golfer’s playground, with 200-plus bunkers, Scottish-style links without the water hazards, and super fast greens.
Another major defense is a medley of slick, and wildly contoured greens, reinforced by thick, tangled rough and ditches along the fairways. Par for members is 71, though this was reduced to a par 70 for the 2007 US Open players.
Merrion (East Course)
Located in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Merion Golf Club is a private club that consistently rates among the best golf courses in the United States. It will host the 2009 Walker Cup on September 12 and 13 and the 2013 US Open. It has two courses: the West course, and the more highly regarded 18-hole East Course.
The East golf course highlights 6,482 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 70. It has a 72.9 course rating and 144 slope rating on Bent grass. The East course, designed by Hugh Wilson, opened in 1911. Merion’s East Course has hosted more USGA Championships than any course in the US and houses some of its greatest moments.
From Robert Tyre Jones, Jr.’s Grand Slam victory at the 1930 US Amateur to Ben Hogan’s amazing performance on the 72nd hole at the 1950 US Open, as well as the fairways, treacherous bunkers, and sculpted greens of the course have shaped the game. The East Course continues to challenge the best of the best.
Every square inch of Merrion’s East Course has a championship caliber condition. The teeing areas are lush green and the fairways give the golf ball a little extra roll. The rough is 4 to 5 inches high and the undulating greens are cut tight. The golf ball nestles down deep in the dense rough. So if you do not watch where the ball goes, you will never find it.
Check out some world-class practice facilities, such as driving range, pro shop, and putting and chipping greens. If you have time, have a satisfying meal on the outdoor patio overlooking the gorgeous course. Do not miss an opportunity to play st Merrion’s East Course.
Winged Foot (West)
Winged Foot Golf Club is one serious golf club. Located in Mamaroneck, New York, it is known as being the only club to have both of its courses (East and West) listed in the Top 100. There have been five US Opens contested over the West Course and the PGA Championship has been held here once. The trees down the left hand side of the 18th hole were the scene of the infamous Phil Mickleson meltdown during the 72nd hole of the 2006 US Open.
Designed by AW Tillinghast, the West Course course opened in 1921. It is a very difficult course that never fails to make even the best golfers struggle. You have to stay focused throughout this 6956-yard course as you need to hit long and precise shots all the time. The bunkers are very deep while the greens are small.
The golf course has two short holes (the 6th and the 11th holes) that act as a breather in the long and grueling course. Many golfers complain the fact that the West Course just has too many trees. The management has already been told about this minor problem by authorities in order to make the golf course less difficult and more playable. Currently, there are over a thousand trees on the West Course.
Located along Florida’s coastline in Juno Beach, the 18-hole Seminole Golf Course is the first excellent course created in the deepest south of the United States. It showcases 6,787 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 72. It has a 73.6 course rating and a 139 slope rating on Bermuda grass. Designed by Donald J. Ross, the course opened in 1929.
Many golf experts refer to the Seminole golf course as having great routing since the trails, greens, and bunkers all provide to the place’s overall challenge and elegance. It also hosts some tournaments and events regularly, such as the George Coleman Invitational that caters to amateurs.
Like any other seaside golf courses, it may take you more than one occasion before you get to appreciate Seminole. Other courses far from the ocean often can be assessed without much knowledge on the wind direction and strength. You will find it quite difficult to steer your shots when the wind blows in different directions in great wafts.
The terrain of the golf course itself provides another distinct effect. Seminole Golf Course lies on a bowl with a flat bottom. There are high dune ridges occupying the bowl’s left side. And more dune ridges along the coastline of Florida occupy the right. The course also features many ponds at the center.
Seminole Golf Course also highlights one-of-a-kind flashed-face bunkers situated across the course. The bunkers were originally designed that way to work well with the sand. Ross made the 18th hole to occupy the property’s vast area. Hole 4 ranges 450 yards with a cross bunker blocking the green 30 yards away. In case you overcome the cross bunker, you will soon find that many more lead up to the green’s left area. You will definitely remember the course for its unique quality and trait.
Crystal Downs is delightfully set on a headland wedged between Crystal Lake and Lake Michigan. This 18-hole course showcases 6,518 yards of great golf from the longest tees for a par of 70. It has a 73.6 course rating and a 138 slope rating on Blue grass. Designed by Perry Maxwell and Alister MacKenzie, the golf course started operation in 1929.
The terrain that Crystal Downs golf course is built on is very hilly, offering great play as well as stunning views. It is laid out before a bluff around 50 to 100 feet high with a clear and breathtaking sight of Lake Michigan. This regulated length course has a driving range that can accommodate up to 15 tees. Over the bluff, you can clearly see the very beautiful Crystal Lake surrounded by getaway cabins and homes.
You can play the holes located at the northern part of or near the clubhouse uphill and downwind. On the other hand, you can play holes located at the southern part of or away from the clubhouse downhill right against the wind.
The front-9 features a course routing, passing through the area away from the bluff, while the back-9 has the 10th hole moving toward the ridge. Watch out for the sharp ridge found at the clubhouse’s right side that divides the holes through a wooded plateau along the top of the bluff.
Crystal Downs proves to be a really demanding golf course to walk, that is why many pros advice not walking the course. After playing the 11th hole, you will literally hike through the woods (the walk is idyllic and uphill), taking you much time to get to the next tee box.