The 10 Best Golf Cities in America
Golf Magazine and the National Golf Foundation have teamed up for our first-annual countdown of the 10 Best Golf Cities in America. Who's No. 1? The answer will surprise you.
By Joe Passov
If you want to play golf a lot of golf the occasional getaway won't cut it. You need to go where the golf is: the city. That's right. Most of the country's best public courses are in or near major metro areas. To help you find the best place to live the golf life, we joined forces with the National Golf Foundation to rank the 50 biggest U.S. cities on seven factors, including affordability, number of quality courses and weather. Some results will surprise you. (We love you, Phoenix, but Columbus, Ohio, has risen from the ashes!)
Even if you won't be moving soon, any city on this list makes a great place to visit. And you might just want to live there.
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2 of 12Bristol Harbour Golf Club
No. 10. Rochester, N.Y.
Median home price: $106,900
Number of public courses: 64
Median green fee: $30
THE GOLF: Baby, it's cold up here, but by Memorial Day you can play more gorgeous golf for less than in any other big American city. Locals pay just $38 to walk the best of the bunch, Greystone, a 7,200-yard links-style layout with tall native grasses and pot bunkers aplenty.
THE REST: In addition to the low crime rate, affordable housing and a high number of Fortune 1000 companies in town, Men's Health magazine hails Rochester as one of America's healthiest cities for men. Hmm. They must have passed on the Garbage Plate, a tasty native dish that includes hot dogs, burgers, eggs, home fries, baked beans, onions and hot sauce. Pack the Tums.
The Bristol Harbour Golf Club (4th hole, above) is located in the heart of New York State's Finger Lakes region.
3 of 12Rob Perry
No. 9. Portland, Ore.
Median home price: $289,900
Number of public courses: 48.5
Median green fee: $44
THE GOLF: Imagine the weather and wonder of the highlands, without that pesky peer pressure to wear kilts. Portland's Scotland-like weather is gorgeous, green, and you can play all year long. Our favorite track is Stone Creek Golf Club; with its Mt. Hood vistas and $35 weekend greens fees, it's a value version of the semi-private Pumpkin Ridge.
THE REST: Mountains, coast, desert, scenic wonders like the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. St. Helens Portland is a nature lover's paradise. Throw in the friendly locals, a crackling downtown scene and microbreweries, and you've got a town you'll want to set up golf camp in.
• Perfect Day of Golf in Portland
The Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge GC (18th hole, left) is a tough test in a gorgeous setting.
4 of 12J2 Golf Marketing
No. 8. Atlanta, Ga.
Median home price: $170,400
Number of public courses: 92.5
Median green fee: $46
THE GOLF: You've got the Bobby Jones trifecta: East Lake, Peachtree, and Atlanta Athletic Club. East Lake is one of the area's two PGA Tour sites, along with TPC Sugarloaf. There's also the Crabapple course at the Capital City Club, a former Tour host. With its high ranking for access to quality public golf, its many junior golf programs, a whopping 60 quality public courses, Hotlanta is sweeter than a peach for golfers.
THE REST: The capital of the South oozes charm like sausage gravy. It's the home of the civil rights movement, sweet tea and funky blues clubs. On perfect-weather summer evenings, locals can hit the lively restaurant scene and enjoy a cold one on one of the many awesome outdoor patios.
• Perfect Day of Golf in Atlanta
Tall pines and snow-white bunkers frame the water-fronted 13th hole at Bear's Best.
5 of 12
No. 7. San Jose, Calif.
Median home price: $788,000
Number of public courses: 22.5
Median green fee: $59
THE GOLF: While real estate is pricey, public golf isn't. The Callippe Preserve, with its camera-ready views of Mt. Diablo and pastoral setting near a butterfly preserve, is only $36 to walk during the week, far cheaper than the $100-plus fee you'd expect.
THE REST: True, Silicon Valley homes go for about what Bill Gates spends yearly on pocket protectors. But San Jose's dandy weather sunny and fog-free all year is priceless. With this climate and crime rates lower than Mayberry's, you'll want to know the way to San Jose.
The 12th hole at Callippe Preserve in Pleasanton overlooks Mt. Diablo.
6 of 12Rob Perry
No. 6. Seattle, Wash.
Median home price: $380,200
Number of public courses: 62
Median green fee: $45
THE GOLF: Fun fact: Seattle's iconic, 605-foot-high Space Needle was designed to look like a tee. OK, we made that up, but given the area's golf goods, it could be true. Two greats are Washington National and the Coal Creek course at the Golf Club at Newcastle. The recent debut of the tough-but-fun Chambers Bay, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design near the Puget Sound, helps make the home of Starbucks good to the last (penalty) drop.
THE REST: While often cloudy, Seattle is actually drier than most big cities, averaging four inches less rain per year than New York. Sunny or gray, the Emerald City is a looker, from the Olympic Mountains to the waters of the Puget Sound. Another welcome site is Pike Place, the oldest farmer's market in the country, which offers fresh produce, fishmongers and even antiques.
You can see forever or at least all the way to downtown Seattle from the 17th green on the Coal Creek course.
7 of 12Tom Breazeale/Bay Hill Club and Lodge
No. 5. Orlando, Fla.
Median home price: $267,000
Number of public courses: 86
Median green fee: $49
THE GOLF: Half the PGA Tour calls Orlando home, so you could have a famous neighbor. ("Tiger, can I borrow a cup of money?") There's sweet public access, starting with Bay Hill, where guests tee it up at the King's place; an Old Course replica at Grand Cypress; and 36 holes at Greg Norman's Champions Gate. Unheralded gems include Black Bear, DeBary and Remington.
THE REST: If you've got kids, the House of Mouse is in your backyard (with five courses onsite). Bet you didn't know that Orlando's a sniff away from rural Old Florida, a serene oasis of spring-fed lakes and weathered oaks.
You might run into Arnie here: the 13th at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
8 of 12Mike Klemme/Golffoto
No. 4. Dallas, Texas
Median home price: $145,500
Number of public courses: 107
Median green fee: $38
THE GOLF: Dallas is a giant for rich golf history and value play. You could explore the Ben Hogan trophy room at Fort Worth's Colonial Country Club, then check out Lord Byron's memorabilia after your round at the Four Seasons/TPC Las Colinas. Your lore tour can continue for $16, what residents pay at Tenison Park, Lee Trevino's stomping (and hustling) grounds back in the '60s.
THE REST: There's barbecue, the 'Boys, plenty of golfable winter days and some great runways in addition to the fairways. Says our favorite Big D resident David Feherty: "Dallas has all the sophistication of a big city and none of the attitude. And if you lose a lot of money betting college football and have to flee, it has the best airport in the country."
Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine is the world's first NFL-themed golf course, a fitting tribute to football-crazed Big D.
9 of 12LC Lambrecht
No. 3. Las Vegas, Nev.
Median home price: $310,000
Number of public courses: 53
Median green fee: $140
THE GOLF: Sin City ranks No. 1 in two categories: accessibility to quality public courses and availability of total public courses. Yeah, you'll pay for that quality: The median greens fees are rocket-high. "But hey," says Charley Hoffman, resident pro and winner of the '07 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, "at least golf keeps you busy for five hours!" The A-listers (Tom Fazio's Shadow Creek and Wynn Las Vegas, Rees Jones' Cascata) are pricey, but fairer offerings abound, like Wildhorse Golf Club, a classic palm- and-pine-lined design that features dramatic mountain views. With greens fees under $50, it's a jackpot.
THE REST: Even if you don't gamble, bet on this: You'll never be bored in Vegas. See a show, tour the Canyon or snag a table at Prime, one of the best steakhouses in America.
• Perfect Day of Golf in Las Vegas
The Rees Jones-designed Cascata Golf Club is a man-made tribute to natural excess.
10 of 12Chris John
No. 2. Columbus, Ohio
Median home price: $141,600
Number of public courses: 66
Median green fee: $34
THE GOLF: No, that's not a misprint: Humble Columbus snags the No. 2 slot, and not because Jack Nicklaus was born and raised there and co-designed Muirfield Village. Ohio's capital city ranks so high because it has the heavy hitters of design: Tom Weiskopf, Donald Ross, Arthur Hills and more. While the Weiskopf-Jay Morrish creation Double Eagle is private (it ranks No. 79 on our list of the Top 100 Courses in America), Cooks Creek and EagleSticks are two superb courses you can play. And Donald Ross's Granville Golf Club may be the best course in the country for less than $40.
THE REST: The home prices are a pittance, and the cityscape appeals to young and old, with a hopping college climate, gorgeous old Victorian neighborhoods and San Margherita, an Italian outpost known for its Old World vineyards in the backyards of homes.
The 16th green at Longaberger Golf Club, No. 47 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play.
11 of 12Adam Bradley
No. 1. Austin, Texas
Median home price: $176,200
Number of public courses: 32
Median green fee: $40
THE GOLF: Austin, the cultural and economic pride of Texas, is a great city. No surprise there. But the Lone Star State capital is also a great golf city. The best, in fact. It has the nation's best combination of weather, name designs, and affordable, accessible golf. It's home to quality munis like Riverside, where Harvey Penick held court for 34 years; acclaimed resorts like Barton Creek, with two Tom Fazio courses at 68th and 69th on Golf Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play; and dynamite daily fee courses, including Circle C and Cimarron Hills. There are also exclusive courses, like Austin Golf Club, where Ben Crenshaw plays. While summers sizzle, the fall weather is perfect, and you can play virtually year-round.
THE REST: With its fabled 6th Street, and nearly 100 live venues in the area, Austin is known as the "Live Music Capital of the World." And it's arguably America's 'cue capital, with dozens of mouth-watering rib joints. You can add to those a new title: "The Best Golf City in America."
• Perfect Day of Golf in Austin
The brookside 1st hole at Cimmaron Hills, a Jack Nicklaus design.
Continue to find out the Worst Golf City in America
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12 of 12Chris Condon/WireImage.com
And the worst is...
The Insurance City posted the lowest scores among the 50 largest cities in America. Hartford earned cellar-dweller status due mainly to its frigid weather, too few courses for too many golfers, and greens fees that are too rich for John Q. Publinks: about $10 more than the average fee for our Top 10 courses. (Maybe those insurance premiums bumped up the price.) Sorry, Hartford better luck next year.
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The PGA Tour makes one stop in Hartford, at the TPC at River Highlands for the Travelers Championship
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