Golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. used to say that all 400 of his designs belonged in any ranking of the Top 100 courses. His comment exhibited the pride of a master practitioner but was also a wry acknowledgment that there’s never enough room on any ranking to give a nod to every deserving course. Undeterred, we enlisted our course-ranking panel, editorial staff and well-traveled course spies to select the 100 best courses worth spending your money on.
Another member of the Jones family — Robert Trent Jones II — makes the biggest splash this year. RTJ II’s firm crafted the best new public course of the past five years, Chambers Bay, near Tacoma, Washington. This municipal layout on Puget Sound was our pick as the Best New Course You Can Play in 2007, and it’s already been awarded the U.S. Open in 2015. Barely a year old, Chambers Bay is tops among 11 newcomers to the Top 100 You Can Play. At the other end of the age scale is Atlantic City Country Club, which opened in 1897. These two courses are far apart in history and architectural style, but they share one characteristic with the other 98 courses on this list: they are among the best public golf experiences your money can buy.