Who says that golf lacks a compelling mano-a-mano rivalry? In our ranking of the Top 100 Courses You Can Play, two heavy hitters have dominated the competition for more than a decade. Now, for the first time in 12 years, there’s a new Number One: Pebble Beach has reclaimed the top spot from Pacific Dunes.
Mind you, Tom Doak’s design on the Oregon coast is no less brilliant. Rather, our judges were swayed by Pebble’s ongoing improvements. Since our last survey two years ago, Pebble has enhanced the seaside 17th (restoring the size of the green and revamping the bunkering) and smoothed out the wildly sloping 14th green, which had gotten out of control with modern green speeds.
Beyond Pebble and Pacific, six rookies have catapulted their way onto the list, headed by urban legend Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx, N.Y., and by Gamble Sands, David McLay Kidd’s high-desert funfest in central Washington State. And kudos to Streamsong Resort’s Red course in Florida, a Bill Coore–Ben Crenshaw design that’s cracked the top 10. Could one of these newcomers challenge the Big Two for supremacy? Check back in 2018 for the answer.
1. Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, Calif. ($495-$565)
Site of five U.S. Opens, 70 PGA Tour events and countless photos of the Pacific Ocean, Pebble has been tweaked several times since its 1919 debut, yet even today there isn’t a more thrilling, spectacular stretch of holes anywhere than holes 7 through 10. And is there anything in golf that can compare with that final stroll up the par-5 18th as it curls to the left around the splendor of Carmel Bay?
2. Pacific Dunes
Bandon, Ore. ($85-$310)
The highest-ranking American links, this 2001 Tom Doak creation checks in as one of the greatest modern designs in the world. It fits so majestically into its billowing terrain, it looks like it’s been there 100 years. Scattered blow-out bunkers, gigantic natural dunes, smartly contoured greens and Pacific panoramas are headliners.
3. Pinehurst Resort No. 2
Pinehurst, N.C. ($370-$480)
Donald Ross’s 108-year-old chef d’oeuvre rolls gently and spaciously through tall Longleaf pines in the Carolina Sandhills, with holes culminating in the legendary “inverted saucer” greens that have confounded the game’s very best since they were first grassed in 1935. For the 2014 U.S. Open, a Coore-Crenshaw restoration brought back the tawny-edged fairways and native roughs last seen in the 1940s.
4. Bethpage State Park (Black)
Farmingdale, N.Y. ($78-$150)
The Black scares golfers with a sign at the first tee: “Warning — The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers.” Among the highly skilled? Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover, who won the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens here. The “People’s Open,” as the 2002 edition came to be known, brutalized players with its Rees Jones-restored A.W. Tillinghast layout, owing to rugged, uphill par-4s, massive bunkers and wrist-fracturing rough. Woods was the only golfer to break par for 72 holes.
5. Whistling Straits (Straits)
Kohler, Wis. ($395-$460)
Venue for the 2004, ’10 and ’15 PGA Championships, this 1998 Pete Dye design on Lake Michigan was once a poker table-flat military training base in World War II. Eventually it became a site for illegal dumping of toxic waste. Dye and owner Herb Kohler engineered a mind-boggling cleanup, moved three million cubic yards of dirt, trucked in 7,000 loads of sand to create the hills and bunkers, and repositioned the bluffs farther back from the shore. All Kohler told Dye was “I want the course to look like it’s in Ireland.” Mission accomplished.
6. The Ocean Course at Kiawah Resort
Kiawah Island, S.C. ($274-$374)
A blend of tidal marsh carries, scrub-topped dunes and wildly undulating greens pair with 7,600 muscular yards to form a relentless mix of beauty and brawn. While architect Pete Dye has softened his greens and their surrounds over years, the Ocean Course remains among the toughest tests in the country. That’s what competitors in the 1991 “War by the Shore” Ryder Cup maintain; Rory McIlroy, who decimated the course in winning the 2012 PGA Championship, might feel differently.
7. TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium)
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. ($350-$495)
Venue for the PGA Tour’s Players Championship since 1982, Pete Dye’s imaginative, variety-filled and occasionally terror-inducing track has crowned winners such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Adam Scott. One of the wildest finishes took place in 2013, when Sergio Garcia, tied with Woods, splashed two tee shots at the infamous island-green 17th, made quadruple-bogey, and sunk to eighth place. Some sniff at its artificiality, yet for shotmaking options and memorable individual holes that require a blend of power and finesse, TPC Sawgrass has few peers.
8. Bandon Dunes
Bandon, Ore. ($85-$310)
Bandon’s original course is a David McLay Kidd design draped atop craggy headlands above the Pacific. Ocean views stun the senses, along with bluff-top sand dunes sprinkled with Scotch broom and gorse bushes, coastal pines, crashing surf, wind-whipped tall native grasses, and stacked sod bunkers. The most memorable seaside tests are the par-4 fourth, the par-3 12th and the par-4 16th, each with eye-popping scenery and enjoyable risk/rewards.
9. Harbour Town Golf Links
Hilton Head Island, S.C. ($190-$380)
A favorite of PGA Tour pros for more than 40 years, Harbour Town boasts the iconic candy cane-striped lighthouse that backdrops the 18th hole — and so much more. A place of subtle beauty, this is a shotmaker’s paradise where power takes a backseat to precision. Mixing live oaks, lagoons, tiny greens, bunkers banked by railroad ties and a closing stretch along the Calibogue Sound, this Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus collaboration delights and terrorizes at every turn.
10. Streamsong Resort (Red)
Streamsong, Fla. ($85-$255)
Streamsong dishes out a unique palette for Florida golf. Tall, odd-shaped sand piles, significant climbs and drops, firm, fast-running Bermuda fairways and lakes submerged in the sand spice the play on the Coore-Crenshaw-designed Red course. The uphill, 474-yard, par-4 opener sets the tone, with a drive over water and scrub. Most dramatic is the 208-yard, par-3 16th, a funky, stunning Biarritz hole, with a forced carry over water leading to a green that’s bisected by a massive hollow.
11. Old Macdonald
Bandon, Ore. ($85-$310)
This 2010 Tom Doak/Jim Urbina collaboration features turnpike-wide landing areas and gigantic, heaving greens that are hard to miss. To get the ball into the hole, however, you’ll need to master angles, strategy, trajectory and the ground game, making for an Old World links experience second to none in the U.S. The course pays homage to the design style and template holes of C.B. Macdonald, American’s pioneer architect, though the most memorable hole is a Doak/Urbina original, the par-4 7th, where the elevated green peers down over the beach.
12. Bandon Trails
Bandon, Ore. ($85-$310)
Unlike its elder Bandon siblings, “Trails” doesn’t cling to cliffs, but it’s no less spectacular. It opens in massive, scrub-covered dunes, then plunges into pine forest and touches linksy meadow before returning to dunesland. Along the way are stirring long views of the Pacific and a superb set of wildly different par-3s.
13. Pasatiempo Golf Club
Santa Cruz, Calif. ($240-$272)
Par has been shaved from 74 to 70 since Dr. Alister MacKenzie’s finest public access course first opened in 1929, yet it seldom takes a beating, even at the hands of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson or Tiger Woods, none of whom has bettered 67. How can such a pipsqueak in the yardage department play so difficult? Try rolling terrain that’s crisscrossed by barrancas, slender fairways hemmed in by trees, hordes of deep, artfully sculpted bunkers, Pacific Ocean breezes and nightmarishly quick, canted greens.
14. Streamsong Resort (Blue)
Streamsong, Fla. ($85-$255)
Hewn from the remnants of old phosphate mines, Streamsong Blue features a distinctive sand-based canvas that puts an emphasis on ground-game prowess. Tom Doak crafted fairways that cling to the terrain as if they’ve been here for thousands of years. Greens melt into their surrounds. Imaginative green-contouring forces players to think before approaching. After the dizzying panorama from the par-4 1st, the next stunner is the 203-yard, par-3 7th that demands a lake carry to a wildly undulating green cocooned in the sandhills. This is retro golf with modern trappings.
15. Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Pebble Beach, Calif ($395-$435)
Part of the rotation for the PGA Tour’s Bing Crosby (now AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) since 1967, this Robert Trent Jones Sr. design has been one of the Tour’s hardest layouts for nearly 50 years. Few have conquered its dune-flecked, oceanside start, nor its final 13 holes through the pines, except Phil Mickelson in 2005 and Luke Donald in 2006, when both posted astonishing 10-under-par 62s.
16. Shadow Creek North
Las Vegas, Nev. ($500)
Tom Fazio and Steve Wynn demonstrated in 1990 that with sufficient money and imagination, there’s nothing that couldn’t be accomplished in golf course design. Hewn from flat, featureless desert, Shadow Creek emerged with rolling hills, a forest of pines, bursts of flowers and a network of creeks and lakes.
17. Chambers Bay Golf Course
University Place, Wash. ($100-$275)
Controversial home to the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the 2015 U.S. Open, this 7,500-yard, walking-only, Robert Trent Jones II design unfolds atop an old gravel mine at the southeast tip of Puget Sound, 45 minutes south of Seattle. The eye candy commences at the first hole, a par-4 that shares a fairway with the 18th a la St. Andrews, amid 50-foot dunes.
18. Trump National Doral (Blue Monster)
Miami, Fla. ($250-$450)
An extraordinary makeover from Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner took what had become a tired resort course and turned it into one of the toughest tests on the PGA Tour, a fire-breather that once again lived up to its name. Newly installed teeth in the form of added yardage, altered angles, contoured greens and steeper slopes around the putting surfaces have dramatically altered the layout, strengthening it in every way.
19. Blackwolf Run (River)
Kohler, Wis. ($285-$320)
Often an afterthought to its sibling, Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run’s River is a major venue in its own right. It played host to the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, when nine of its holes paired with Blackwolf Run’s original front nine (now the back nine of the Meadow Valleys course). Dye’s typically penal hard edges along water hazards, ligament-snapping rough and nasty, steep, grass-faced bunkers are angst-inducing, but memorable holes abound, such as the remarkable short par-4 9th, with three legitimate options off the tee and the handsome, if brutal closing stretch of 16-18 that incorporates a twisting arm of the Sheboygan River.
20. Torrey Pines Golf Course (South)
La Jolla, Calif. ($110-$272)
This clifftop, city-owned venue overlooking the Pacific Ocean in suburban San Diego stretches 7,600 yards, following a 2001 Rees Jones renovation that also moved greens closer to canyon edges. Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson have won Tour events here. Tiger Woods has dominated, with seven wins in the Farmers Insurance Open and one amazing U.S. Open victory in 2008. Omni Homestead (Cascades) Hole 16
21. Forest Dunes Golf Club
Roscommon, Mich. ($69-$149)
An inspired Tom Weiskopf design three hours northwest of Detroit rolls through man-made sand dunes and red pine forests, with ground game options aided by firm, fast, rumpled fairways and perfectly groomed greens. Strategic tests such as the double-fairway, par-4 10th and the drivable par-4 17th, framed with sand and fescues, are superb.
22. Sea Island Golf Club (Seaside)
St. Simons Island, Ga. ($235-$320)
Home to the PGA Tour since 2010, the venerable 88-year-old Seaside layout was redesigned by Tom Fazio in 1999. Marsh-tinged wetlands, bold bunkers and views of the Atlantic Ocean are highlights. Most remarkable was the 2012 event, when Tommy Gainey’s final-round 60 catapulted him over Davis Love, Jim Furyk and David Toms for the win.
23. Erin Hills Golf Course
Erin, Wisc. ($265-$280)
Thirty-five miles northwest of Milwaukee, Erin Hills occupies a massive, topsy-turvy spread of ridges, dunes and fescue grasses, lending an Ireland-in-the-Heartland ambiance — but no Emerald Isle course stretches to 7,823 yards, as this one does. Designed by Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten, Erin Hills controversially was chosen to host the 2017 U.S. Open before it had fully established itself. Yet, it proved worthy as host to the 2008 U.S. Women’s Public Links event, and again at the 2011 U.S. Amateur. A few ill-advised design changes by the original owner have now been reversed and today, Erin Hills boasts a formidable test of modern links-style shotmaking, with contour, angles, varied green sites and Old World bunkering.
24. Kapalua Resort (Plantation)
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii ($219-$299)
Home to the PGA Tour’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions, this 1991 Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw creation features extra-wide landing areas draped atop a former pineapple plantation. Past winners Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els have each conquered the downhill-plunging 508-yard, par-4 17th and the 663-yard, par-5 18th, both with jungle-strewn canyons to the left and Pacific Ocean views beyond.
25. Troon North Golf Club (Pinnacle)
Scottsdale, Ariz. ($39-$279)
Tucked into the shadows of Pinnacle Peak and down the block from the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, this Weiskopf/Morrish creation zigzags through boulders and cacti, at times leapfrogging dry desert washes and at others, skirting mountain slopes. Daunting forced carries and strategic risk/reward options elevates the Pinnacle for strong players.
26. Omni Homestead (Cascades)
Hot Springs, Va. ($100-$195)
Sloping fairways, gurgling brooks, tree-shrouded mountains and library-like tranquility fuel a round of golf at this 1923 William Flynn design that demands artful shotmaking, of the likes once favored by native son Sam Snead, who grew up here. Cascades serves up a dazzling array of lies, stances and imaginative shots you will be asked to manufacture, with the first 12 holes hemmed in by thick woods. The last six open up and strategy options abound.
27. Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. ($160-$280)
The world’s only Donald J. Trump Signature design will have you fired up to experience its spectacular bluff-top setting above the Pacific, some 40 minutes south of LAX. Draped atop cliffs amid the rolling horse country of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, no course in America offers such exquisite ocean vistas for four and a half hours. Pete Dye and Tom Fazio contributed to Trump’s original design and most recently, Gil Hanse has installed some classical features.
28. The Highland Course at Primland Resort
Meadows of Dan, Va. ($135-$220)
Deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, 20 miles north of the North Carolina border, English architect Donald Steel draped the Highland course across mountain peaks and into valleys that edge a River Dan gorge. He also outfitted the layout with deep bunkers and closely mown green surrounds that place an emphasis on precise approaches. At 3,000 feet elevation, the fall color palette is rich.
29. Caledonia Golf and Fish Club
Pawleys Island, S.C. ($69-$209)
Don’t let Caledonia’s miniscule 6,526 back tee yardage fool you: Stands of hardwoods, lakes, wetlands and imposing live oaks whose branches swat away stray shots like Tim Duncan make this 1994 Mike Strantz design a complete test of shotmaking. An antebellum clubhouse and 18th hole that border an old rice plantation and the Waccamaw River completes a pretty picture.
30. Fallen Oak at Beau Rivage Resort
Biloxi, Miss. ($200)
Picture Shadow Creek drenched in Deep South aesthetics and you have another Tom Fazio-MGM masterpiece, 20 minutes inland from the coastal Beau Rivage. Fallen Oak dishes out streams, orchards, lakes and wetlands, along with Fazio’s sprawling bunkers—plus an Acadian-style, Southern Mansion clubhouse.
31. Cog Hill (No. 4)
Lemont, Ill. ($155)
Former Western Open/BMW Championship venue Cog Hill in the southwestern Chicago suburbs became Tiger Woods’ personal playground. In 14 appearances, he triumphed five times between 1997 and 2009. Dick Wilson and Joe Lee crafted Cog Hill in 1964. More than 50 years later, Rees Jones added new back tees and reworked bunkers and greens to restore the dread in a course nicknamed, “Dubsdread.”
32. Mauna Kea Golf Course
Kamuela, Big Island, Hawaii ($165-$275)
Robert Trent Jones lists this 1964 Big Island layout as among his five favorite designs (of more than 500) and it’s easy to see why. It boasts his signature characteristics: long tees, propped-up greens protected by yawning traps and man-sized carries over water—notably at the 272-yard, par-3 third hole, which skirts the Pacific Ocean.
33. Dancing Rabbit (Azaleas)
Choctaw, Miss. ($70-$150)
This undulating 1997 Tom Fazio/Jerry Pate design 70 miles northeast of Jackson darts through thick forest for most of its journey, on a canvas ribboned with creeks, wetlands and in springtime, countless azaleas, notably at the par-4 sixth and the par-3 13th, both boasting amphitheater settings. If your luck runs out at the long, watery, par-4 18th, you can find it again down the street at the Pearl River Resort.
34. Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club
Sandia Park, N.M. ($62-$117)
Situated between 6,500 and 7,000 breathtaking feet on the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains, 25 minutes from Albuquerque, Paa-Ko dishes out a series of option-laden desert jewels that tumble through junipers, cedars and pines, forming a surprisingly green backdrop to many holes. However, numerous rock outcroppings, sagebrush and arroyos remind you that you’ll still in the desert.
35. World Woods (Pine Barrens)
Brooksville, Fla. ($40-$119)
With its forced carries over sandy waste areas and pine-framed, risk/reward holes, Pine Barrens is intended to resemble Pine Valley, but this 1993 Tom Fazio design is more player-friendly and much easier to get onto. It’s an hour-plus ride north of Tampa into Nowheresville, but well worth the journey. The 330-yard, split-fairway, drivable par-4 15th is a standout.
36. Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club
Arcadia, Mich. ($85-$190)
Top teacher Rick Smith and design associate Warren Henderson teamed in 1998 to craft this headlands course that peers down at Lake Michigan early and often, inevitably in spectacular fashion. With breezes off the lake, tawny fescues and tall sand dunes, the course professes a linksy feel, without being quite as bouncy as a true links, but at least the wide fairways and large greens make for extra playability in the wind.
37. The Greenbrier (Old White TPC)
White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. ($250-$425)
Following a sensitive 2007 restoration by Lester George, this 102-year-old C.B. Macdonald-Seth Raynor effort has charmed the old admirers and wowed the new ones. The PGA Tour has played here since 2010, amid the rolling terrain in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains and players delight in the classic accents, such as the Redan par-3 8th, Punchbowl par-4 9th and Eden par-3 15th. Devastating floods closed the course in June 2016. It’s scheduled to reopen in 2017.
38. Pronghorn Golf Club and Resort (Nicklaus)
Bend, Ore. ($95-$215)
This 2004 creation didn’t reach mass appeal until it opened its doors to outside play in 2010. Since then, folks have been scaling the snow-topped Cascades for a chance to duel with this sagebrush-lined, high desert treat that’s dotted with lava rock ridges and juniper trees, notably at the lake-guarded, dogleg-right, 378-yard, par-4 13th.
39. Dunes Golf and Beach Club
Myrtle Beach, S.C. ($100-$215)
The Dunes is a 1948 Robert Trent Jones Sr. creation that sports the master’s celebrated elevated greens, strategically deployed water hazards and heroic shot values, notably at the vaunted 590-yard, par-5 13th, that doglegs 110 degrees to the right around Lake Singleton. Double bogeys and alligators await any sliced shot.
40. We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (Saguaro)
Fort McDowell, Ariz. ($75-$235)
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s 2006 gem may lack the in-your-face drama of its sibling the Cholla, but its jaw-dropping mountain vistas are no less impressive and its subtle strategies are superior. Rolling, tilted, walkable fairways, imaginative green contouring, cactus-covered hillsides and no homes or roads make for a remarkable back-to-nature experience.
41. Reynolds Lake Oconee (Great Waters)
Greensboro, Ga. ($159-$245)
Few courses so successfully fuse beauty, challenge and playability as this 1992 effort that hugs the shoreline of Lake Oconee for nearly the entire back nine. Tall pines frame most of the holes, but the essence of the course centers on superior risk/reward tests such as the par-4 9th, par-4th 11th and par-5 18th, each of which challenges the mind and delights the eye with lakeside peril.
42. Taconic Golf Club
Williamstown, Mass. ($100-$160)
Abutting the postcard perfect campus of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., Taconic blends heart-of-the-Berkshires charm with superb shotmaking challenges. Trivia buffs: 16-year-old Jack Nicklaus aced the par-3 14th hole in a practice round at the 1956 U.S. Junior Amateur. Still, it’s the 470-yard, downhill, par-4 11th that will set your camera clicking.
43. Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point
Bronx, N.Y. ($194-$255)
New York City finally has a track to challenge Bethpage Black for public-access state supremacy. This Jack Nicklaus creation, with John Sanford consulting, is a treeless faux-links, complete with dunes and fescue grasses framing the fairways and options around the greens. Most memorable, however, are the Gotham visuals, from the Whitestone Bridge to the East River to the Manhattan skyline.
44. Manele Golf Course
Lanai City, Lanai, Hawaii ($325)
Jack Nicklaus’ 23-year-old hillside layout in the shadow of the Four Seasons Resort is best known for its incomparable 202-yard, par-3 12th, its green and tees separated by vertical cliff faces and the crashing surf of Hulopo’e Bay 150 feet below. The rest of the course isn’t far behind, with holes twisting among black lava outcroppings above the Pacific Ocean.
45. Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge (Challenger/Champion)
Orlando, Fla. ($90-$324)
Arnold Palmer and Bay Hill have been synonymous since 1965, when Arnie shot 66 and waxed Jack Nicklaus in an exhibition. Four years later, Arnie bought the place. Tiger Woods owns eight Tour triumphs at Bay Hill and captured the 1991 U.S. Junior Amateur here—his first USGA victory. Gently rolling—unusual for Florida—and splashed with lakes, bunkers and doglegs, Bay Hill favors shotmakers, as well as someone with nerves, as the watery two-hole finish is as scary as they come.
46. We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (Cholla)
Fort McDowell, Ariz. ($75-$235)
We-Ko-Pa’s original course, designed by Scott Miller in 2001, zigzags through cactus-framed canyons, climb atop ridges and offer stunning vistas of Four Peaks Mountain and Red Mountain, with nary a home or road in sight. Three split-fairway holes are Cholla highlights.
47. The Links at Spanish Bay
Pebble Beach, Calif. ($280-$320)
This undeniably gorgeous layout begins at the Pacific Ocean, eases through marshes and dunes, climbs into the forest and finally returns to the sea. The green at the par-5 first affords a sweeping panorama of the waters of Spanish Bay, clear out to the spit of land known as Point Joe, which serves as home to the Restless Sea, where ocean and bay currents collide, creating a tumult of foamy, white sea spray.
48. Gamble Sands
Brewster, Wash. ($85-$160)
GOLF Magazine’s Best New Course winner of 2014 is a David McLay Kidd design in central Washington that serves up extra-wide, firm fairways that zigzag around massive sand ridges and heavily contoured greens that place significant emphasis on ground game options. The rugged, high-desert scenery includes Columbia River views and vistas of the snow-capped northern Cascades.
49. Bulle Rock
Havre de Grace, Md. ($79-$130)
Five times the venue for the LPGA Championship, this beautiful 18-year-old brute from Pete Dye that’s situated 40 minutes north of Baltimore unfolds over rolling, tree-lined terrain for 7,375 yards and enjoys several grin-inducing vistas of Chesapeake Bay. The 485-yard, par-4 final hole with water down the entire left side is one of the Mid-Atlantic’s most memorable closers.
San Martin, Calif. ($295)
Past home to the PGA Tour’s Frys.com Open, and a memorable venue to the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, this 1999 Robert Trent Jones Jr. creation south of San Jose darts through oaks and sycamores and is slashed with ravines and gorgeous sprawls of sand. You must stay at the 45-room inn to play, but it’s worth it for the Clos La Chance vineyards views alone.
51. Red Sky Ranch Golf Club (Norman)
Wolcott, Colo. ($210-$255)
Higher up in the hills than its Fazio-designed sibling, Greg Norman routed his severe, yet stunning holes amid vistas of mountain peaks and ski runs, with dry gulches, hardy scrub oaks and clusters of Alister MacKenzie-style bunkers along for the ride. Contoured greens are often edged by shaved-down chipping areas, putting a premium on short-game creativity.
52. May River Golf Club at Palmetto Bluff
Bluffton, S.C. ($205-$305)
This low-key Jack Nicklaus-designed romp through the salt marshes and 300-year-old oaks of the Lowcountry features soft contouring and mostly level terrain, making for a wonderful walk and quick pace of play. However, you’ll want to linger awhile at the par-3 6th, which traverses Greenleaf Creek, and at the par-3 14th that edges so close to the May River, you could stick your ball retriever in and pull out an oyster lunch.
53. Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club
Southern Pines, N.C. ($85-$235)
Owned and operated by legendary LPGA Founder Peggy Kirk Bell, Pine Needles is situated just three miles from Pinehurst, but is a celebrated tournament venue in its own right, having hosted the 1996, 2001 and 2007 U.S. Women’s Opens, won by Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Christie Kerr, respectively. Not as relentlessly tough as Number 2, yet its crowned greens will reject any timid approach.
54. The Quarry at Giants Ridge
Biwabik, Minn. ($62-$89)
From the remains of a rock and sand quarry in an old iron ore mine, architect Jeff Brauer forged a Paul Bunyanesque challenge in the northeastern Minnesota wilderness. Many holes tee off atop gigantic sand piles and play up, down and around cavernous pits, giant boulders and vast sand waste areas, all at a price tag that’s been chopped to bits by a sharp pickaxe.
55. Golden Horseshoe Golf Club (Gold)
Williamsburg, Va. ($89-$175)
This 1963 creation from Robert Trent Jones Sr. features topsy-turvy, wooded terrain that yields one of golf’s best par-3 quartets. The downhill 16th, its banana-shaped green jutting out island-style into a lake, is unforgettable. Dense forests, deep ravines and a plethora of water hazards further spice up the play. The Gold is currently closed for a Rees Jones renovation and will reopen in 2017.
56. PGA West (TPC Stadium)
La Quinta, Calif. ($39-$269)
Back on the rota for the PGA Tour’s 2016 CareerBuilder Challenge (formerly the Bob Hope Classic and Humana Challenge), Pete Dye’s west coast follow-up to Sawgrass pays brilliant, if brutal homage, right down to the island-green par-3 17th and the scary par-4 closer that wraps around a massive lake. Mountain backdrops, insanely deep bunkers, such as the 19-foot pit that guards the 16th green and formidable carries over the desert are further takeaways.
57. Dormie Club
West End, N.C. ($70-$215)
This 2010 Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw creation hews closely to the duo’s winning design formula. This means extra-wide, pine-framed fairways, festooned with spectacular, sprawling bunkers, as well as massive, artfully contoured greens and their surrounds, which demand touch and ingenuity—and perhaps multiple plays—to figure out. Forced carries over wetlands and 150 feet of elevation change are further highlights.
58. Troon North Golf Club (Monument)
Scottsdale, Ariz. ($39-$279)
With nine holes designed by the team of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish and the other nine a Weiskopf solo effort, there’s sure to be a signature drivable par-4. In fact, there are two of them, both framed by lush desert vegetation and mountain vistas. Unforgettable is the par-5 3rd, its fairway dominated by a giant boulder positioned dead-center of the landing area.
59. The Harvester Golf Club
Rhodes, Iowa ($99-$129)
Iowa hasn’t exactly produced a bumper crop of superior public courses, but this 16-year-old Keith Foster design 30 miles northeast of Des Moines is an exception. The Harvester sweeps across the prairie with sharp yet flowing lines that harken back to 1920s-era Midwestern classics. Strategic options abound, with grassy slopes, slender streams and perfectly slotted traps all well-poised to snare the careless shot, proving the adage here that you reap what you sow.
Boulder City, Nev. ($195-$395)
Waterfalls on the practice range, bighorn sheep on the first hole and a river that runs through the clubhouse—hey, it’s Vegas! At Cascata, a Caesars Entertainment property, you get all that—and more. This 2001 Rees Jones design 30 minutes south of the Vegas Strip is a high desert links with firm, fast fairways that burrow through stark, brown rock-encrusted hills.
61. Mid Pines Golf Course
Southern Pines, N.C. ($85-$195)
This brilliantly restored 1921 Donald Ross creation in the North Carolina Sandhills features the 2013 handiwork of architect Kyle Franz, who aided Coore-Crenshaw with their restoration of nearby Pinehurst Number 2. Franz put back hardpan sand dotted with wiregrass that frames the re-grassed fairways and greens, yanked out 400 trees and reinstituted Ross’ width, angles and strategies.
62. French Lick Resort (Pete Dye)
French Lick, Ind. ($350-$380)
You’ll need local hero Larry Bird’s long-range touch to cope with this seven-year-old, 8,100-yard Pete Dye brute that plays atop ridges and through valleys amid the rolling countryside of southern Indiana. Rough-covered sidehill lies and a fistful of volcano bunkers will drain any golfer—except perhaps Colin Montgomerie, who captured the 2015 Senior PGA Championship here.
63. Reynolds Lake Oconee (Oconee)
Greensboro, Ga. ($159-$245)
Rees Jones’ big, bold layout benefits from rolling terrain that sweeps through giant pines and mixes strategy-laden shotmaking options with eye-candy views of Lake Oconee. Two standouts: the par-4 16th, with stone-dappled cascades of water bisecting the fairway, and the massive par-4 18th, which demands a bite-off-as-much-as-you-can-chew drive over an inlet of the lake.
64. Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club (Ghost Creek)
North Plains, Ore. ($100-$130)
Tiger Woods won the 1996 U.S. Amateur and Nancy Lopez lost the 1997 U.S. Women’s Open on Ghost Creek’s private sister, Witch Hollow, but don’t weep for this walkable Bob Cupp design in suburban Portland, which boasts better finishing holes on each of its nines and which witnessed a marquee event of its own, in 1993, when David Duval captured the Nike Tour Championship. Creeks, wetlands, woods and tall fescues grasses will terrorize the wayward hitter.
65. Karsten Creek Golf Club
Stillwater, Okla. ($325)
Tom Fazio routed this immaculately groomed, naturally rolling course through a blackjack oak forest and around 110-acre Lake Louise, named for the wife of course benefactor Karsten Solheim. The lake comes into play on the back nine and must be carried on tee shots of both the 17th and 18th holes. A highlight of the 22-year-old layout is the 209-yard, par-3 11th, which demands a precise shot over a sunken creek bed.
66. Crosswater at Sunriver Resort
Sunriver, Ore. ($99-$189)
Wetlands, bunkers and the Deschutes and Little Deschutes Rivers come into play early and often on this 1995 Bob Cupp/John Fought design. The meadow-style tract is a rugged test, at 7,683 yards, though tempered by the 3,600-foot elevation and by glorious vistas of snow-capped Mt. Bachelor. As proof that accuracy is as critical as length, look no further than Fred Funk, who twice here captured the Tradition, a Champions Tour major.
67. The Broadmoor (East)
Colorado Springs, Colo. ($165-$280)
One of the rare Donald Ross creations west of the Mississippi, Ross carved the Broadmoor from the foothills of the Cheyenne Mountain in 1918. Today’s Ross originals appear as holes 1-6 and 16-18. Robert Trent Jones Sr. crafted the other nine holes (7 through 15) in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Jack Nicklaus won the 1959 U.S. Amateur here, Annika Sorenstam the ’95 U.S. Women’s Open. At 6,200 feet, with mountain backdrops, both distance control and green-reading vex the best.
68. Atunyote at Turning Stone Resort
Verona, N.Y. ($200-$225)
Open only to guests of Turning Stone, this pristine, 12-year-old Tom Fazio parkland creation is maintained like a PGA Tour course—which it once was. Dustin Johnson won his first PGA Tour title here, in 2008, Matt Kuchar took the title in 2009 and Tiger Woods shows up annually to compete in Notah Begay’s Foundation Challenge.
69. Linville Golf Club
Linville, N.C. ($125)
Public access at Linville is limited to guests of the Eseeola Lodge, but it’s well worth the splurge to check out the eye-candy afforded at this 1924 Donald Ross design, situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains an hour northeast of Asheville. Trout-filled Grandmother Creek affects play on 14 holes, including at the signature 472-yard, par-4 3rd, where it must be carried to find the green.
70. The Virtues Golf Club
Nashport, Ohio ($59-$99)
Situated 45 minutes east of Columbus, this gift to the masses from its legendary basket-making parent, Longaberger, is newly renamed and now under new management. The 1999 Arthur Hills design mixes open and wooded holes, all flawlessly groomed. The downhill plunge at the par-5 5th and the long par-4 8th that’s backdropped by a lake are two of the Midwest’s best. Barefoot Resort (Love) Hole 13
71. Wolf Creek Golf Club
Mesquite, Nev. ($85-$200)
No course in America serves up as many “Caution: Steep Grade” signs on the cart paths, likely because no course in America takes you on such a perversely thrilling ride. Wolf Creek’s holes either plunge downhill or climb uphill, nearly all of them cocooned by massive sandstone formations and enormous canyon walls. Gurgling streams, lakes and a bevy of sprawling bunkers add beauty and menace.
72. Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)
Palm Harbor, Fla. ($165-$350)
Back in 2006, Ernie Els gushed, “Copperhead is the best golf course the PGA Tour visits in Florida.” Who are we to argue with the Big Easy? This 44-year-old, Tampa-area layout sports Carolina-like towering pines and surprisingly hilly terrain, along with fiercely trapped, elevated greens. The tough closing stretch, known as “the Snake Pit,” has crowned recent winners such as Jordan Spieth and Charl Schwartzel.
73. Wilderness Club
Eureka, Mont. ($64-$130)
Few courses are as aptly named as this remote seven-year-old layout set in northwest Montana, 10 miles south of the Canadian border. A collaborative effort from Nick Faldo and Brian Curley of Schmidt-Curley Design, the Wilderness Club embraces skillfully sculpted rugged bunkers, open meadows, deep-blue glacial lakes and corridors of Ponderosa pines. Contrasting the brutish 503-yard, par-4 ninth with the 320-yard, drivable par-4 10th speaks to the diversity of the challenge.
74. Atlantic City Country Club
Northfield, N.J. ($70-$225)
Talk about history—Walter Travis, Babe Zaharias and Don January have all won at ACCC—and the term “birdie” was born here. The 119-year-old layout was most recently reworked by Tom Doak in 1999 and today’s version is a par-70, 6,577-yard layout that unfolds over flattish coastal terrain. Strategic shot options, acres of salt marshes and handsome views of the Atlantic City skyline are all part of the package.
75. The Links at Lighthouse Sound
Bishopville, Md. ($55-$199)
Situated just west of the Intracoastal Waterway near Ocean City, Lighthouse Sound shines with endless scenery and strategic options to match. This 2001 Arthur Hills design zigzags through wetlands, salt marshes and hardwoods—often on the same hole— and pauses here and there to dish out superb vistas of Assawoman Bay and the Ocean City skyline.
76. The Prairie Club (Dunes)
Valentine, Neb. ($130-$240)
Picture the widest fairways imaginable—then double it—and you have the driving zones at this six-year-old Tom Lehman/Chris Brands design carved into the heaving, wind-sculpted terrain of northwestern Nebraska. However, these fairways feature firm, rumpled landing areas that will funnel side-spinning shots into dense native fescues or, worse, into some of the largest formalized bunkers ever created.
77. True Blue
Pawleys Island, S.C. ($79-$169)
Softened over the years, but still worthy of the Mike Strantz signature, the 18-year-old True Blue remains among Stantz’s finest designs and it’s easy to see why. Variety from one hole to the next is astonishing. A mostly open course, True Blue provides beauty and peril with lakes, marshland and plenty of scrub-filled natural sandy areas.
Stevens Point, Wisc. ($99-$125)
Famous since its 1982 opening for the par-3 16th that’s adorned with 50,000 colorful flowers, the central Wisconsin course benefited from a 2015 renovation that featured two new par-3s, four re-designed holes and improved shot options and playability, courtesy of original architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., associate Bruce Charlton and former associate Jay Blasi.
79. Whistling Straits (Irish)
Kohler, Wisc. ($195-$230)
Compared to its older, brawnier brother, the Straits, the Irish is clearly the overlooked sibling. Make no mistake, however. It can hold its own. The Irish is blanketed with bunkers, crisscrossed with streams and pockmarked with gigantic man-made dunes. A smattering of wetlands and parkland holes intrude on the faux-Emerald Isle experience, yet for whatever it lacks in authenticity, it makes up for with heroic, testing holes.
80. Marquette Golf Club (Greywalls)
Marquette, Mich. ($75-$130)
This 2005 Mike DeVries design on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula twists through forests and edges wetlands throughout its rough-and-tumble, up-and-down journey. Most memorable are the granite outcroppings that serve as turfed-over houses for elevated tee boxes and as aiming points behind greens, as well as jabbed into and alongside fairways. The view of Lake Superior from the first tee is, well, superior.
81. Omni Barton Creek Resort (Fazio Canyons)
Austin, Tex. ($199-$250)
The younger sibling to the Barton Creek Fazio Foothills course is a 16-year-old Tom Fazio creation that sits two miles from the resort. It’s well worth the short ride to sample holes that are handsomely framed by oaks and sycamores and that feature the Short Springs Branch, a limestone creek bed that adds beauty and menace.
82. Lake of Isles (North)
North Stonington, Conn. ($129-$190)
The Manshantucket Pequots pioneered the tribal casino-resort with their prosperous Foxwoods in southeastern Connecticut, yet it wasn’t until 2005 that they had a course worth bragging about. Rees Jones chiseled two formidable spreads from the rock-studded hills, the public-access North and the South. Wetlands, rock ledges and rolling, forested terrain provide all the golf you could want.
83. Tullymore Golf Resort
Stanwood, Mich. ($75-$150)
Jim Engh’s distinctive design style is on full display at this 14-year-old creation north of Grand Rapids that blends woods and wetlands in a striking package. Engh’s unique “muscle” bunkers flex throughout the round, their narrow, squiggly shapes bracketed by biceps of grass. The risk/reward par-5 closer flirts with water and trees in its exciting tee-to-green journey.
84. Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club
Maricopa, Ariz. ($39-$169)
Situated 25 minutes south of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and recently retooled by original architect Brian Curley and original consultant Fred Couples, this still-muscular 7,546-yard design features sprawling bunkers, fescue-framed fairways, inspired green contouring and nary a weak hole, together with mountain vistas—and no homes to mar the views.
85. Barefoot Resort (Love)
North Myrtle Beach, S.C. ($95-$190)
This 15-year-old Davis Love III creation stands out in a town loaded with great golf. Love’s Donald Ross-infused, inverted saucer greens, imaginative contouring and chipping areas and re-created plantation house ruins add up to pure fun. The option-laden drivable par-4 fourth hole is one of the Lowcountry’s best risk/reward tests.
86. Hammock Beach Resort (Ocean)
Palm Coast, Fla. ($99-$225)
This seaside, linksy layout was the site of 13-year-old Michelle Wie’s triumph at the 2003 U.S. Women’s Public Links Championship and it’s easy to see why she was so inspired. While the final four holes along the Atlantic rightly earn acclaim as “the Bear Claw,” the best of the 18 might be the 437-yard, par-4 9th, with the ocean looming to the right.
87. Lawsonia Links
Green Lake, Wis. ($35-$95)
It’s likely only architecture buffs have heard of William Langford and Theodore Moreau, the gents that sculpted the Badger State’s best bargain, but no matter. At their best, during their 1920s heyday, they blended design characteristics of both Donald Ross and Seth Raynor with the result here a rolling, mostly treeless layout (hence the “Links” misnomer), though one with a fabulous set of deep bunkers and elevated greens.
88. Tobacco Road Golf Club
Sanford, N.C. ($100-$130)
Towering sandhills, remarkable variety in landscape-shaping and plenty of alternate routes to get from tee to green characterize this Pinehurst-area, 1998 Mike Strantz design. Or, put another way, Tobacco Road at times resembles a Dali painting, so warped are some of the landforms and putting surfaces. Blind shots, mounds in incomprehensible places and greens that list like a ship in a storm explain how a 6,500-yard course can boast a slope of 150.
89. Pelican Hill (Ocean South)
Newport Coast, Calif. ($300-$320)
Dating to 1991, the elder of the Tom Fazio courses here features wide fairways, coastal breezes and landscaping and the usual artful Fazio shaping. Most memorable are the back-to-back oceanside par-3s at 12 and 13, the latter a two-green setup with the putting surfaces separated by an enormous sand feature. Stick around for a stellar finish, highlighted by a double canyon crossing at the 453-yard, par-4 18th.
Pelican Hill is a treat, no matter which course you play.
90. The Glen Club
Glenview, Ill. ($100-$220)
It’s startling to imagine that until 1995, this tract housed the Glenview Naval Air Station — total elevation change: three feet. By its 2001 opening, Tom Fazio had moved two million cubic yards of dirt, brought in 4,000 trees and peppered the layout with lakes, streams and most incongruously, fescue-topped hills. Much like Turnberry in Scotland, where fairways were once airplane runways, The Glen Club is a testament to an imaginative architect and his skillful shapers.
91. Wild Horse Golf Club
Gothenburg, Neb. ($45.50-$68)
This Carnoustie of the Corn Belt tumbles through windswept, treeless terrain , where half the battle is keeping the ball from scooting into links-like bunkers and tall native grasses. It has been called the public Sand Hills, which comes as no surprise, because course architects Dave Proctor and Dave Axland were instrumental in helping Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw bring Sand Hills to fruition.
92. Sunday River Golf Club
Newry, Maine ($80-$95)
Sunday River is carved from dense stands of hardwoods and pines and dishes out sandy waste areas, mountain brooks and 400 feet of elevation change. Plenty of grin-inducing vistas of the Mahoosuc Range await, including a dandy at the 443-yard, par-4 18th. An autumn visit at this Robert Trent Jones Jr. design is pure sensory overload.
93. The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa
Grand Junction, Colo. ($55-$65)
Situated in the state’s far west, this 2001 Jim Engh creation rolls out one visually arresting hole after the next, with no two the same. As a quartet, the par-3s rank among the game’s most memorable, with holes 8, 12 and 17 offering vertigo-inducing plunges. A horseshoe-shaped rock wall frames the eighth; the 12th is backdropped by the Colorado National Monument.
94. La Quinta Resort (Mountain)
La Quinta, Calif. ($59-$229)
This early Pete Dye masterpiece kicked off the Palm Springs resort golf boom when it debuted in 1980. As always, with Dye, it’s tougher than old beef jerky from the tips, but pure fun if you choose the correct set of tees. Mountain is home to a truly memorable back nine, especially holes 14 through 16 that plunge up and down the mountainside.
95. Rustic Canyon Golf Course
Moorpark, Calif. ($36-$82)
Perhaps the best bang for the buck in the United States, this Gil Hanse/Jim Wagner/Geoff Shackelford design 45 minutes north of L.A. engages at every turn, thanks to an easy-to-walk routing with tremendous variety that allows for run-up shots galore. The course name is rooted in holes that are crisscrossed by barrancas and framed by native sagebrush and steep cliffs and by the old-fashioned shaggy-fringed bunkers.
96. TPC Deere Run
Silvis, Ill. ($79-$119)
Home to the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, where winners include Jordan Spieth, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson, the TPC Deere Run was warmly received upon its 2000 opening, including a ringing endorsement by 2003 champ Vijay Singh. Architects D.A. Weibring and Chris Gray injected an astonishing amount of variety into the layout, with holes that tumble up and down the slopes of the Rock River foothills, doglegging this way and that and which culminate in a splendid mix of green complexes. Toss in massive oaks, sycamores and rock outcroppings and you have a handsome package.
97. Bay Harbor Golf Club (Links/Quarry)
Bay Harbor, Mich. ($126-$302)
Arthur Hills’ 27-hole creation wows with jaw-dropping holes that skirt Lake Michigan and complements the sizzle with a prime collection of strategic holes that zigzag among trees and rock outcroppings. As visually arresting as the Links holes are at water’s edge, the real drama amps up on the Quarry, which must be carried, or considered, on nearly every hole. Phil Mickelson and Tom Lehman staged a memorable Shell’s match here in 1998.
98. Wynn Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nev. ($300-$500)
Turn Tom Fazio loose with hotelier Steve Wynn’s imagination and budget and you have the Wynn, with its enviable location on the Las Vegas Strip. The oasis-in-the-desert ambiance is achieved via 15,000 pines, planted atop slopes that cocoon virtually every hole and by the handsome water features that grace 11 holes. Play it soon; rumor has it that it’s on the chopping block.
99. Grayhawk Golf Club (Talon)
Scottsdale, Ariz. ($60-$255)
Talon, a 1994 David Graham/Gary Panks design, has terrific variety and many memorable holes. For back-tee golfers, the swinging bridge tee box at the 175-yard, par-3 11th rocks. What follows is an all-carry shot over a cactus-filled canyon. The drivable par-4 13th set in a box canyon, is another standout. Thick desert flora frames every Talon fairway and mountain panoramas arrive early and often.
100. Circling Raven
Worley, Idaho ($65-$95)
It may not sport a floating island green like its neighbor up the road, but this bird has everything else in its nest, including wetlands, grasslands and Ponderosa pines, plus unparalleled solitude disturbed only by the stray elk or moose. This 2003 Gene Bates design also sports a modest green fee that enhances the tranquil ambience.