top 100 public golf courses

When it comes to golf, enthusiasts seek out the best courses to challenge their skills, soak in breathtaking views, and experience the thrill of the game. In this article, we’ll explore the top 100 public golf courses across the United States. Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a beginner, these courses offer something special for everyone.

This definitive guide unveils the top 100 public golf courses, a curated list to fuel your wanderlust and inspire your next golfing adventure. We’ll explore key factors that define a “top” public course, delve into frequently asked questions, and equip you with resources to plan your dream round.

Golf is a beloved sport played by millions worldwide, and every golfer dreams of teeing off on the most stunning and challenging courses. While private clubs offer exclusivity, public courses provide accessibility to golfers of all skill levels. This article presents the ultimate bucket list of the top 100 public golf courses in the USA, where you can experience the thrill of playing on world-class layouts without the need for a membership.

What Makes a Golf Course Great?

Before diving into the rankings, let’s understand what sets apart a remarkable golf course:

  1. Design and Layout: Exceptional courses blend natural beauty with strategic design. From rolling fairways to challenging bunkers, each hole presents a unique test.
  2. Scenery: Majestic landscapes, ocean views, and lush greenery elevate the golfing experience.
  3. Playability: A great course accommodates players of all skill levels. It’s both challenging and enjoyable.
  4. History and Prestige: Some courses have hosted major tournaments, adding to their allure.

What Makes a Public Course “Top-Rated”?

Before we dive into the list, let’s understand what makes a public course stand out. Here are some key aspects that contribute to a course’s reputation:

  • Challenge and Design: A top public course offers a strategic layout that rewards well-executed shots while providing a fair test for golfers of all skill levels. Think memorable holes, diverse landscapes, and risk-reward opportunities.
  • Course Conditions: Pristine fairways, meticulously maintained greens, and well-bunkered hazards are hallmarks of a top course. Consistent playing conditions ensure a smooth and enjoyable golfing experience.
  • Ambiance and Scenery: Breathtaking natural beauty, well-integrated design elements, and a sense of history elevate a course’s ambiance. Imagine oceanfront vistas, rolling hills, or dramatic cliffs adding a unique flair to your game.
  • Amenities and Service: Top public courses offer top-notch facilities. Think of well-stocked pro shops, excellent practice areas, and exceptional customer service.

The Top 100 Public Golf Courses: A Bucket List Beckons

While definitive rankings can vary slightly across publications, here’s a glimpse into the prestigious world of the top 100 public courses (consider searching online for the latest rankings from Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, or Top 100 Golf Courses):

  • United States: Dominating the scene, the US boasts a wealth of iconic public courses. Pebble Beach Golf Links (CA), Pacific Dunes (OR), Bethpage Black (NY), Pinehurst No. 2 (NC), Bandon Dunes (OR), and Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course (SC) are just a few legendary names.
  • International: The world stage offers incredible options too. Royal County Down (Northern Ireland), St. Andrews Old Course (Scotland), Cabot Cliffs (Canada), and Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog (Dominican Republic) are some international gems waiting to be conquered.

America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses

1. Pebble Beach Golf Links (Pebble Beach, CA)

  • Why It’s Iconic: Stunning coastal views, challenging holes, and a rich history.
  • Must-Play Hole: The iconic par-3 7th, hugging the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.
  • Pro Tip: Book well in advance; it’s a bucket-list course.

2. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Bandon, OR)

  • Why It Stands Out: Rugged coastal terrain, authentic links-style golf.
  • Signature Hole: The 16th at Pacific Dunes—a thrilling par-4 with ocean panoramas.

3. Whistling Straits (Kohler, WI)

  • Why Golfers Love It: Scottish-inspired layout, challenging bunkers, and Lake Michigan vistas.
  • Noteworthy Hole: The par-3 17th (“Pinched Nerve”) demands precision.

What are some additional expenses to factor in?

  • Cart rentals: Most courses offer cart rentals for an additional fee.
  • Caddie services: Some high-end courses offer caddie services, which can enhance your golfing experience.
  • Practice rounds: Warming up with a practice round can be beneficial, especially at unfamiliar courses.

What Makes a Great Public Golf Course?

A top-notch public golf course should offer an exceptional experience, from the quality of the layout and course conditions to the amenities and overall value. The best courses strike a balance between challenge and playability, catering to a wide range of skill levels while providing a memorable round for every golfer.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Public Golf Course

  • Course Design and Layout
  • Course Conditions and Maintenance
  • Practice Facilities
  • Clubhouse and Amenities
  • Value for Money
  • Location and Accessibility

FAQs About Public Golf Courses

  1. Are Public Courses as Good as Private Ones?
    • Absolutely! Public courses often rival private clubs in quality and design. Many top-ranked courses welcome public play.
  2. How Can I Play These Courses?
    • Plan! Some require reservations months in advance. Check their websites for availability.
  3. What About Green Fees?
    • Prices vary. Pebble Beach, for instance, is pricey, but there are affordable gems too.
  4. Can Beginners Enjoy These Courses?
    • Yes! While some are challenging, others cater to all skill levels.


As you explore these top 100 public golf courses, remember that golf isn’t just about scores—it’s about the journey, camaraderie, and the joy of playing on legendary fairways. So grab your clubs, tee up, and savor the magic of these remarkable courses.

By Lana

Lana Lana has been swinging a golf club for close to 30 years. After playing Division 1 College golf, she went on to turn professional and coach hundreds of golfers to become better players. Lana lives in Savannah, GA, with her husband and two young children and continues to write, teach, and learn about golf daily. As a scratch golfer, Lana has actionable tips and advice to help you take your game to the next level without over complicating it.

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