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Best Public Golf Courses

Best Public Golf Courses Near 25 Major U.S. Cities

Are you an avid golfer searching for the best public golf courses? Look no further! We’ve curated a list of the best public golf courses in close proximity to 25 bustling cities across the country. These courses offer challenging layouts, breathtaking scenery, and top-notch facilities to enhance your golfing experience.

1. New York City, New York
Located just a short drive from the heart of Manhattan, the Bethpage Black Course is first on the list of best public golf courses. Conceived in the mid-1930s as the “public Pine Valley,” it rose to prominence in the early 2000s. Hosting the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens, the course earned acclaim from the USGA. Subsequently, it captured the attention of the PGA Tour, serving as the venue for the 2011 and 2016 Barclays tournaments. Now, The Black has garnered recognition from the PGA of America. It recently hosted the 2019 PGA Championship and is slated to host the 2025 Ryder Cup. From its humble beginnings as a rustic state-park course, Bethpage Black has evolved into a sought-after destination. Securing a tee time now requires lightning-fast fingers on the state park’s website. Reservations for this esteemed course are known to vanish within seconds.

2. Los Angeles, California
Nestled against the stunning backdrop of the Santa Monica Mountains, Rustic Canyon Golf Course offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of LA. This public course is renowned for its natural beauty and minimalist design, allowing golfers to immerse themselves in the surrounding landscape while navigating its challenging layout. Whether you’re teeing off at sunrise or sunset, Rustic Canyon promises a memorable golfing experience that captures the essence of Southern California living.

3. Chicago, Illinois
Just minutes from downtown Chicago, Harborside International Golf Center boasts two championship courses that showcase the city’s skyline against the backdrop of Lake Michigan. With its links-style layout and panoramic views, Harborside offers a unique golfing experience that is unmatched in the Windy City. Whether you’re tackling the challenging Port Course or the scenic Starboard Course, you’re sure to enjoy a round of golf that combines urban sophistication with natural beauty.

4. Houston, Texas
Situated in the heart of Houston, Memorial Park Golf Course is the best public golf course near Houston. It offers a challenging yet accessible golfing experience for players of all abilities. Recently renovated by renowned architect Tom Doak, this public course features redesigned fairways, greens, and bunkers that provide a fresh new look while preserving its rich history. With its central location and affordable rates, Memorial Park is the perfect destination for golfers looking to enjoy a round of golf in the heart of Texas.

5. Phoenix, Arizona
Known as the “Valley of the Sun,” Phoenix is home to some of the finest golf courses in the country, including Papago Golf Course. Nestled at the base of the Papago Buttes, this public course offers a challenging yet scenic layout that showcases the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert. With its rolling fairways, pristine greens, and stunning views of Camelback Mountain, Papago promises an unforgettable golfing experience that captures the essence of Arizona living.

6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Conveniently located just minutes from downtown Philadelphia, Cobbs Creek Golf Club offers a historic golfing experience that dates back to 1916. Designed by renowned architect Hugh Wilson, this public course features tree-lined fairways, strategic bunkers, and challenging greens that test golfers of all skill levels. With its rich history and affordable rates, Cobbs Creek is the perfect destination for golfers looking to enjoy a round of golf in the birthplace of American democracy.

7. San Antonio, Texas
Home to the famous River Walk and the historic Alamo, San Antonio is also home to some of the finest golf courses in Texas, including Brackenridge Park Golf Course. Designed by the legendary A.W. Tillinghast, this public course offers a classic layout that challenges golfers with its tree-lined fairways, strategic bunkers, and undulating greens. With its central location and affordable rates, Brackenridge Park is the perfect destination for golfers looking to experience the rich history and natural beauty of San Antonio.

8. San Diego, California
No list of the best public golf courses would be complete without mentioning Torrey Pines Golf Course. Boasting year-round sunshine and stunning ocean views, San Diego is a golfer’s paradise. Torrey Pines Golf Course is the crown jewel of the city. Perched atop the coastal cliffs of La Jolla, this public course offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and challenging holes that have tested the world’s best golfers in multiple U.S. Open Championships. Whether you’re teeing off on the North Course or the South Course, Torrey Pines promises a golfing experience that is as memorable as it is challenging.

We specialize in getting golfers tee times at the highly sought-after Torrey Pines Golf Course. Request a tee time today!

torrey pines golf course at sunset

9. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Dallas/Fort Worth boasts several outstanding public golf courses, but one that stands out is Stevens Park Golf Course. Located just minutes from downtown Dallas, Stevens Park offers a historic layout designed by renowned architect Jack Burke Sr. Golfers can enjoy tree-lined fairways, challenging greens, and panoramic views of the Dallas skyline, making it a quintessential Texas golfing experience.

10. Austin, Texas
Omni Barton Creek stands as one of Texas’ premier golf resorts, conveniently situated just a short 25-minute drive from Austin. Boasting four distinct 18-hole designs, the resort’s crown jewel is the Fazio Canyons course, formerly recognized as one of Golf Digest America’s 100 Greatest Public courses. Crafted by the renowned architect Tom Fazio, this signature design treats golfers to breathtaking vistas of Austin’s Hill Country. Recently revitalized through an extensive renovation, the Fazio Canyons course promises an enhanced golfing experience amidst the picturesque landscapes of Texas.

11. Jacksonville, Florida
Deane Beman’s vision birthed the TPC Stadium concept. In 1980, Pete Dye’s design blended distance and precision. Dye’s strategy, dubbed “grenade attack architecture,” features unpredictable mounds and contours around greens. The 17th hole, an island green, challenges players, especially in windy conditions. It has inspired many imitations. Steve Wenzloff revamped several holes, including the 12th, now a drivable par 4.

12. San Jose, California
Pasatiempo is Alister Mackenzie’s cherished masterpiece, where he resided alongside the sixth fairway in his final years. Restored by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, the course’s intricate greens and bunkering display Mackenzie’s genius. The course features five challenging par 3s, including the signature 181-yard 18th over a canyon. The back nine is adorned with exceptional holes like 10, 11, 12, and 16, all playing over barrancas. Pasatiempo has hosted several prestigious USGA championships, including the 1986 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 2004 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. The course also earned recognition for environmental efforts, receiving a Golf Digest Green Star award in 2014. Today, with a new storage tank for recycled water, the course ensures sustainability for future generations.

13. Columbus, Ohio
The course is semi-private and open to those affiliated with Ohio State University.

The Ohio State University Golf Club: Scarlet was designed by Alister MacKenzie in 1931. While Perry Maxwell completed construction, it remains a MacKenzie layout. In 2005-2006, Jack Nicklaus restored bunkers and extended the course to over 7,400 yards. The bunkers are notorious, requiring high-lofted clubs. The greens pose challenges, often firm and difficult to hold approach shots. The course hosts a tough event during the Korn Ferry Tour’s finals series.

14. Charlotte, North Carolina
Rocky River Golf Club, located in Concord, NC, offers a scenic escape near Charlotte Motor Speedway. Designed by Dan Maples in 1997, the course winds through rocky hills and natural wetlands. This best public golf course providing a challenging yet picturesque setting for golfers. The hum of racecars adds to the experience, audible from the front nine holes as players navigate the rolling layout.

15. Indianapolis, Indiana
Brickyard Crossing Golf Course showcases Pete Dye’s genius with four holes on the infield providing diverse challenges. Firstly, the par-3 seventh boasts a towering Seth Raynor-inspired green. Secondly, the par-4 eighth offers a picturesque lakeside challenge reminiscent of Crooked Stick. Thirdly, the ninth hole is adorned with numerous pot bunkers, adding to the strategic complexity. Lastly, the short par-4 tenth presents a unique dogleg layout around a prominent waste bunker, showcasing Dye’s signature illusions. From massive greens to rippled surfaces and pot bunkers, each hole offers a unique test of skill and strategy. Adjacent to Indianapolis Speedway, this course is a favorite among golf enthusiasts in the area.

16. San Francisco, California
TPC Harding Park, San Francisco’s iconic municipal course, shares its architect, Willie Watson, with Olympic Club. Framed by majestic trees, it hosted major tournaments like the PGA Championship and Presidents Cup, sealing its reputation as a premier golf destination on the West Coast.

17. Seattle, Washington
Architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. embraced a vertical-links style while crafting Chambers Bay within an abandoned sand quarry. Despite challenges, the course earned accolades such as Golf Digest’s America’s Best New Public Course of 2008. It’s also hosted prestigious events like the 2010 U.S. Amateur and 2015 U.S. Open. Initially known for its firm dry fescue turf and challenging greens, improvements have been made. Course architects replaced putting surfaces with pure Poa Annua. Yet, the course’s allure remains intact, with breathtaking views of Puget Sound. Multi-level fairways encourage strategic play, and iconic holes parallel a railway reminiscent of early Scottish and Irish links courses.

18. Denver, Colorado
It’s often said that great golf courses inspire others, a sentiment evident in the foothills of the Rockies near Denver. Here, The Ridge at Castle Pines North stands alongside renowned clubs like Sanctuary Golf Club and The Country Club at Castle Pines. As the sole public-access course among these prestigious neighbors, The Ridge offers a unique opportunity for golf enthusiasts to experience championship-level play. Municipally owned but privately managed by Troon Golf, The Ridge represents the exceptional golfing experiences available in Castle Pines. So, this makes it a must-visit destination for avid golfers seeking top-tier courses.

19. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Jimmie Austin Golf Club at the University of Oklahoma offers a semi-private experience with modern updates by architect Tripp Davis. Davis relocated tee boxes, shifted three fairways significantly, relocated five greens, lengthened the courses, and redesigned all bunkers. A haven for golf enthusiasts, it also features a Short Course for added enjoyment. This provides a well-rounded experience for players of all skill levels in the heart of Oklahoma.

20. Nashville, Tennessee
Twentieth on our list of best public golf courses is Hermitage Golf Course: General’s Retreat. Located in the Nashville area, this course has a rich history. The course hosted a LPGA event from 1988 to 1999. Notable winners included World Golf Hall of Fame members Nancy Lopez, Meg Mallon, and Laura Davies. The courses accommodates various playing styles by offering a blend of wide, generous fairways and challenging holes. Notably, it features four formidable par 5s. These include the thrilling risk-reward opportunities of holes 8, 11, and 16, where water hazards add an extra layer of excitement to the game.

21. El Paso, Texas
Nestled amidst the stunning Franklin, Hueco, and Sierra Madre mountains, Butterfield Trail Golf Club offers exceptional value for a challenging golf experience. Designed by Tom Fazio, tee times start at just $40 including a cart. Despite facing closure during the pandemic, the course was renewed with the assistance of former PGA Tour player Todd Barranger. This ensured its continued operation and enjoyment for golf enthusiasts and local residents.

22. Washington, D.C.
The University of Maryland Golf Course is located on the western edge of the University of Maryland campus and just north of Washington, D.C. The university’s golf course offers an excellent opportunity for both students and city dwellers to enjoy a round of golf. Designed by George W. Cobb, the course features challenging uphill approaches to greens with false fronts. This provides a challenging test for golfers of all skill levels. While most holes are lined with trees, the fairways remain spacious. With weekday rates starting at $50, the University of Maryland Golf Course offers great value in the D.C. area.

23. Las Vegas, Nevada
Shadow Creek gained widespread attention during the Black Friday 2018 broadcast of the match between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. It’s widely regarded as one of the most expensive courses in America, with a reported $47 million construction cost. Shadow Creek’s lavishness is evident in every aspect. Designer Tom Fazio justified the hefty budget by describing the necessity for “total site manipulation.” He transformed the flat desert floor north of Las Vegas into a stunning landscape of rolling hills and canyons, supplemented with ample water. However, its success has led to numerous costly imitations, none quite able to replicate its splendor. Its an obvious entry for our list of best public golf courses around U.S. major cities.

24. Boston, Massachusetts
Granite Links is a semi-private 27-hole facility deeply ingrained in the city’s landscape. Part of a massive road infrastructure project, the course benefited from nearly 900,000 truckloads of excavated dirt. This enabled architect John Sanford to sculpt dramatic topography using 13 million tons of material. With elevations reaching 298 feet above sea level, the Milton, Quincy, and Granite nines offer stunning views of downtown. Also, Granite Links’ tavern was honored as one of Golf Digest’s best 19th holes.

25. Portland, Oregon
Pumpkin Ridge boasts a 36-hole facility featuring Ghost Creek, a challenging public course. Also, it features the private Witch Hollow course, a private layout. Ghost Creek presents a strong challenge with its winding creek affecting many holes. Designed by Bob Cupp, it hosted both the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior in 2000. Meanwhile, Witch Hollow gained fame as the venue for Tiger Woods’ remarkable third consecutive U.S. Amateur victory in 1996.

Ghost Creek at Pumpkin Ridge: best public golf courses


From the busy streets of New York City to the sunny shores of San Diego, these best public golf courses near major U.S. cities offer a diverse array of experiences for golfers of all skill levels. Whether you’re seeking a challenge or scenic landscapes, these courses promise a memorable golfing experience. Each course captures the essence of their city’s unique charm. So pack your clubs, hit the links, and discover the best public golf courses near 25 major U.S. cities today!

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