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The best courses used for U.S. Open qualifying in 2024

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David Cannon

The U.S. Open is considered the most democratic championship in America, if not the world. Any professional golfer can apply for entry, as can an amateur with a Handicap Index of 0.4 or lower. Granted, the number of golfers who fit into those categories is small compared to the overall population who play the game, but the fact that the only restriction for getting into the national championship (besides paying the $200 entry fee) involves merely identifying if you have the proper skill level makes the event worthy of the label.

Of course, to tee it up in the championship proper requires a tad bit more effort. The vast majority of the 10,000-plus applicants the USGA got this year for the 2024 U.S. Open must prove themselves further by actually playing their way into the major championship at Pinehurst. That begins with Local Qualifying, with the USGA conducting 18-hole local events at more than 100 courses in 44 states and Canada. This year they’re being played from April 22 to May 20; you can see here the results of those that have already taken place as well as the schedule for the remaining qualifiers.

The top players at each Local Qualifying site then move on to 12 Final Qualifying events, playing 36 more holes for the right to compete in the actual U.S. Open. This year, Final Qualifying events will be played at 10 U.S. sites as well as in Japan, England and Canada.

With only 156 players in the field at Pinehurst, nearly everybody who applies to play in the U.S. Open will fall short. The solace? Saying you competed in Local and/or Final Qualifying is an accomplishment on its own. Plus, the USGA holds qualifiers at some of the top courses in the country.

Indeed, for all those who tried and failed, it’s likely that they got to play a standout course for their troubles. Here’s a list of all the courses that hosted or are hosting Local and Final Qualifying events this year. To save you some time, however, we curated some of the best venues into the list you see below. Our criteria for inclusion was a course’s ranking by Golf Digest’s Course Rating panel with a few “wildcard picks” based off of notable facts about the courses. TPC River Highlands, for instance, made our list given it's not every day you're playing a PGA Tour venue in USGA local qualifying.

LOCAL QUALIFYING

Brookside Golf and Country Club
Private
Brookside Golf and Country Club
Columbus, OH
3.7
53 Panelists
Architect Brian Silva put an entirely new twist on this 1927 design by rebuilding and expanding greens, shifting classical-era-inspired bunkers to more consequential locations, thinning trees and adding a newly conceived par 3. The transformation pushes this club into the first tier of a competitive Columbus golf market that includes 100 Greatest mainstays like Muirfield Village, The Golf Club, Scioto and Double Eagle.
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Omaha Country Club
Private
Omaha Country Club
Omaha, NE
4
80 Panelists
Opened in 1899, Omaha Country Club is one of the oldest clubs in the Midwest. The course has some incredibly undulating topography that captivates the golfer with a great mix of uphill and downhill holes. Despite being situated in a flat part of the country, Omaha’s elevation changes separates it from its peers. In addition, the green complexes are severely contoured with some pin positions allowing for scoring opportunities and others adding to the resistance to scoring.
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Escondido Golf & Lake Club
Private
Escondido Golf & Lake Club
Horseshoe Bay, TX
4.1
139 Panelists
Escondido Golf & Lake Club is ranked 13th in Texas
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Whippoorwill Club
Private
Whippoorwill Club
Armonk, NY
4.4
54 Panelists
Found on an incredibly undulating and varied piece of land, Whippoorwill Club is one of the finest courses in Westchester County. Originally a nine-hole Donald Ross design that sat on the clubhouse side of Whippoorwill Road, Charles Banks was given a piece of land on the other side where holes 4-9 and 12-14 currently reside. The modern course is chock full of interesting design features—from deep bunkers to green complexes that rival many of the other great courses in the area.
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The Club at Olde Stone
Private
The Club at Olde Stone
Bowling Green, KY
4.5
43 Panelists
The Club at Olde Stone, just a little more than an hour outside Nashville, is a 2006 Arthur Hills design built among an upscale housing development, which also includes a quality golf academy, putting course and a par-3 course. After a challenging opening hole, the next six holes play down into a natural meadow—with some more rolling topography throughout the property creating some blind approach shots and strategic tee shots.
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Orchid Island Golf Club
Private
Orchid Island Golf Club
Vero Beach, FL
3.8
46 Panelists
Orchid Island Golf Club in Vero Beach is one of the best golf courses in Florida. Discover our experts reviews and tee time information.
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Muskegon Country Club
Private
Muskegon Country Club
Muskegon, MI
4.2
29 Panelists
Donald Ross told the founding members of this new club that you have the “most wonderful piece of property I have ever seen,” while executing a redesign of their Tom Bendelow course. Subsequently, three generations of the Michigan-born Matthews family architects have worked on the course. There isn’t much Ross left, but what is there is very good, and the course is one of the most enjoyable walks in Michigan, built on gently rolling sand dunes just a mile from Lake Michigan. While not long, the greens have serious movement and require good shot-making, and several short par fours prove to be highlights. Tall fescue along some holes gives it an old-world feel.
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Longmeadow Country Club
Private
Longmeadow Country Club
Longmeadow, MA
4.1
23 Panelists
Longmeadow Country Club is ranked as one of the best golf courses in Massachusetts. Discover our experts reviews and tee time information
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Union League: Liberty Hill
Private
Union League: Liberty Hill
Lafayette Hill, PA
3.9
43 Panelists
Formerly The Ace Club, built by the Chubb Foundation back in 2003, Union League Liberty Hill is a Gary Player design sitting on 311 rolling acres. Liberty Hill was now acquired by the Philadelphia Union League as part of its growing golf portfolio.
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Palouse Ridge Golf Club At Washington State University
3.8
25 Panelists
One of the most invigorating architectural feats by the late architect John Harbottle III—who died suddenly in 2012 but left an impressive portfolio with 15 original designs and 45 remodels mostly in the Pacific Northwest and California—is Palouse Ridge, home of the Washington State golf teams. Built on the site of an existing nine-hole course, Harbottle reimagined the layout with some acquired land as part of a $12 million project that opened in 2008. The course offers tee-time packages on Cougar football weekends.
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Troy Burne Golf Club
Public
Troy Burne Golf Club
Hudson, WI
3.9
51 Panelists
Troy Burne sits on 420 acres of rolling hills in the St. Croix Valley, just east of the Twin Cities. 1996 Open champion Tom Lehman collaborated with Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry to design this well-bunkered layout with wide fairways and sloped greens. Ponds and creeks come into play on many holes, especially around the greens, placing an emphasis on approach play. With few trees on the course, wind often plays a strong factor.
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TPC River Highlands
Private
TPC River Highlands
Cromwell, CT
4.3
34 Panelists
TPC River Highlands has a long history hosting the annual Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour, dating back to 1984, when Pete Dye redesigned nine of the existing holes (formerly Edgewood Country Club). Then one of Dye's former associates, Bobby Weed, returned in 1989 to not only renovate the existing course but add holes as part of a newly built home-development project, one of the first of its kind. Weed has continued to return to renovate the course over the years, including most recently a substantial bunker project in 2016.
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Duke University Golf Club
Public
Duke University Golf Club
Durham, NC
3.8
52 Panelists
Home to the Duke Blue Devils, a top NCAA Division I program, the Duke Golf Club features significant elevation changes and forced carries over narrow winding creeks. The track also has a fascinating history—it was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1957, and it was soon honored as the host of the 1962 men’s NCAA Championship. Rees Jones, eldest son of the esteemed designer, played for Yale University in the championship that year. He went on to renovate the course himself in 1994.
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FINAL QUALIFYING

11. (8) The Bear's Club
Private
11. (8) The Bear's Club
Jupiter, FL


From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:


The Bear’s Club marked a transition point in Jack Nicklaus’ design outlook when it opened in 1999. His architecture had typically been analytical and, while still lovely, oriented toward factoring how players might break down the features tactically. That strategic backbone is present in The Bear’s Club, but the team approached the design more holistically than they had previously, factoring in aesthetics to an unprecedented degree. Instead of building holes on a golf site, Jack and his associates created a golf environment, expanding and enhancing a dune ridge running through the low pine and palmetto scrub and anchoring large, sensuous bunkers into the native vegetation.
 

The course is part of an upscale residential development near the Intracoastal Waterway, but it blends so well you wouldn’t know it. The change in perspective that Nicklaus Design developed at The Bear’s Club pushed the firm toward similar successes in the 2000s like Sebonack (with Tom Doak), The Concession and Mayacama.
 

Explore more about Bear's Club with our complete review here—including bonus photography and ratings from our expert panelists.

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Lake Merced Golf Club
Private
Lake Merced Golf Club
Daly City, CA
4.2
85 Panelists
Lake Merced is one of the latest clubs to benefit from the restoration work of Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and their team. In 1962 a freeway forced a major overhaul of the work Alister Mackenzie did in 1929 and 1930, changing the look and feel of the golf course. Gone were the deep barrancas, sandy waste areas and Mackenzie's signature mounding and bunker designs. Hanse recaptured these lost features using what he often does—expansive research using historical photos and aerials. All 18 green and tee complexes were rebuilt, but perhaps most dramatically, 150,000 square feet of bunkers were refurbished to match Mackenzie’s signature style. What has emerged is a revitalization of one of California’s great courses that will further both Hanse’s and Mackenzie’s legacy as two of the most important architects in the game.
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The Ohio State University Golf Club: Scarlet
3.9
66 Panelists
Augusta National and Cypress Point architect Alister MacKenzie originally designed Ohio State’s Scarlet course in 1931, but he died in 1934 before construction began. After his death, Perry Maxwell oversaw the construction, though the course is still considered a MacKenzie layout. Jack Nicklaus returned to his collegiate course in 2005-2006 to restore the bunkers and lengthen the course to over 7,400 yards. The bunkers are some of the most penal in college golf, many massive in size and most with tall lips, often requiring high-lofted clubs to get back in play. The greens often play quite firm, making it difficult to hold approach shots close to some hole locations. The Ohio track regularly plays as one of the toughest courses on the Korn Ferry Tour when it hosts an annual event during the tour’s finals series. The course is semi-private and open to those who have an affiliation with Ohio State University.
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