Course Guides

The best public golf course near major U.S. cities

Whatever your reason is for traveling—work, visiting friends or a family trip—golfers are always trying to squeeze in at least one round of golf. Carve out a few hours and find the best local public track. At least that’s how we think about it.

The trouble is when you’re traveling, especially to a new city, it can be tough to find an option that pairs convenience with quality. That’s why we’ve created this guide to the best golf courses near major U.S. cities, so that if you can only play one round, you know where to go.

In this guide, we’ve used data from our 1,800 course-rating panelists to identify the best courses within reasonable driving distance from major downtown areas. In most cases, we considered courses within about a 45-minute drive, but we prioritized courses that are located much closer to downtown to give you a convenient option for your next trip.

Scroll on for the complete ranking of the best courses near major U.S. cities, and be sure to click through to each individual course page for bonus photography and reviews from our course panelists. We also encourage you to leave your own ratings on the courses you’ve played … so you can make your case for why a course should be higher or lower on our rankings.

1. New York City

Bethpage State Park: Black
Public
Bethpage State Park: Black
Farmingdale, NY
Sprawling Bethpage Black, designed in the mid-1930s to be “the public Pine Valley,” became the darling of the USGA in the early 2000s, when it played the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens. Then it became a darling of the PGA Tour as host of the 2011 and 2016 Barclays. Now the PGA of America has embraced The Black, which hosted the 2019 PGA Championship (winner: Brooks Koepka) and the upcoming 2025 Ryder Cup. Heady stuff for a layout that was once a scruffy state-park haunt where one needed to sleep in the parking lot in order to get a tee time. Now, you need fast fingers on the state park's website once tee times are available—as prime reservations at The Black are known for going in seconds.
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2. Los Angeles

Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles
Public
Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
3.9
44 Panelists
Just 30 minutes south of LAX, the Pete Dye design features Pacific Ocean views on every single hole. Built among the jagged cliffs of Palos Verdes Peninsula, Trump National Los Angeles is reportedly one of the most expensive courses constructed in the United States, as the Trump Golf folks claim it took $250 million to develop this scenic public golf experience.
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3. Chicago

Cog Hill Golf & Country Club: Dubsdread (Course #4)
Some tour pros were critical of Rees Jones's remodeling of Cog Hill No. 4, insisting it's too hard for high handicappers. What did they expect? Its nickname is, after all, Dubsdread. And there are three easier courses at Cog Hill for high handicappers. Original owner Joe Jemsek wanted a ball-busting championship course when it was built back in the mid-1960s. Jones's renovation was true to the philosophy of original architect Dick Wilson, who liked to pinch fairways with bunkers and surround greens with more bunkers, all of them deep.
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4. Houston

Golf Club of Houston Tournament Course
2.9
44 Panelists
Formerly known as Redstone Golf Club, the Golf Club of Houston hosted the PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open from 2002 through 2018 until the tournament moved to the municipal Memorial Park. The 7,425-yard layout, just minutes away from downtown, was designed by Rees Jones and David Toms and features multi-tiered green complexes and a number of water hazards.
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5. Phoenix

Papago Golf Club
Public
Papago Golf Club
Phoenix, AZ

Papago is one of the best values in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, offering incredible views of the nearby Camelback Mountains and downtown Phoenix. A recent $8 million investment into the course and the impressive Thunderbirds Golf Complex, where the Arizona State men's and women's golf teams train, have reengerized this municipal course that hosted the 1971 U.S. Amateur Public Links. The four-acre short game area boasts one of the most impressive collegiate practice facilities in the country with three acres of rough and fairway to mimic a variety of lies and a six-acre hitting area with 21 target greens and a number of fairway bunkers. Papago is also incredibly close to the Phoenix/Sky Harbor airport, making it a perfect option either on the front or tail end of your trip.

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6. Philadelphia

The Golf Course at Glen Mills
Public
The Golf Course at Glen Mills
Glen Mills, PA
3.7
39 Panelists
The Golf Course at Glen Mills sits about 40 minutes from downtown Philadelphia, but the tumbling topography make this public course one of the best options in the Philly area. “A beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of Philly,” one panelist says. There is a nice mix of open holes and ones that require more precise ball-striking. The course is cut into a valley and presents a lot of elevation change. Sprawling bunkers add uncertainty to many shots, as the bunkers and elevation change can make depth perception difficult.
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7. San Antonio

TPC San Antonio Oaks Course
Private
TPC San Antonio Oaks Course
San Antonio, TX
3
55 Panelists
TPC San Antonio’s Oaks course has hosted the Valero Texas Open since 2010. Playing through the dry outlands north of the city, the Greg Norman design is one of the most strategically compelling courses on tour with aggressive bunkering, some wonderful short par 4s and several uniquely demanding par 5s, including the 18th, one of the most underrated and frustrating closing holes the professionals play. --Derek Duncan, architecture editor
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8. San Diego

Torrey Pines Golf Course: South
Public
Torrey Pines Golf Course: South
La Jolla, CA
Torrey Pines sits on one of the prettiest golf course sites in America, atop coastal bluffs north of San Diego with eye-dazzling views of the Pacific. Rees Jones’ remodeling of the South Course in the early 2000s not only made the course competitive for the 2008 U.S. Open (won by Tiger Woods in a playoff over Rocco Mediate), it also brought several coastal canyons into play for everyday play, especially on the par-3 third and par-4 14th. An annual PGA Tour stop, Torrey Pines received another boost by Jones prior to hosting its second U.S. Open in 2021, this one won by Jon Rahm.
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9. Dallas/Fort Worth

Stevens Park Golf Course
Public
Stevens Park Golf Course
Dallas, TX
3.7
21 Panelists

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten: Stevens Park Golf Course, a municipal operation in a revitalized area of Oak Cliff just southwest of downtown Dallas, isn’t exactly a preservation of the past, but a celebration of it. The original design was by a pair of club pros, Jack Burke, father of 1955 Masters champ Jack Burke Jr., and Syd Cooper, father of Lighthorse Harry Cooper, one of those “best players never to have won a major.” The course was built on land donated by Walter A. Stevens and his sister Annie Laurie in memory of their parents, Dr. and Mrs. John H. Stevens. In the early days, Stevens Park was a fun but funky affair, crisscrossed by so many hills, creeks, gullies, trees and city streets that one par 4 required a snap hook off the tee and three others demanded snap-slices.

 

Read our architecture editor's complete review, here.

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If you're able to travel a little outside the city, consider heading to Omni PGA Frisco, the new headquarters of the PGA of America that will host future major championships.

10. Austin

Omni Barton Creek Resort Fazio Canyons
4.2
68 Panelists
One of Texas' best golf resorts is the Omni Barton Creek, located just 25 minutes outside of Austin. The resort features four 18-hole designs, and the highest-ranked layout is the Fazio Canyons design, a former Golf Digest America's 100 Greatest Public winner. This signature Tom Fazio design, which offers scenic views of Austin’s Hill Country, recently underwent an extensive renovation.
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11. Jacksonville

TPC Sawgrass: Stadium
Public
TPC Sawgrass: Stadium
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
TPC’s stadium concept was the idea of then-PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman. The 1980 design was pure Pete Dye, who set out to test the world’s best golfers by mixing demands of distance with target golf. Most greens are ringed by random lumps, bumps and hollows, what Dye calls his "grenade attack architecture." His ultimate target hole is the heart-pounding sink-or-swim island green 17th, which offers no bailout, perhaps unfairly in windy Atlantic coast conditions. The 17th has spawned over a hundred imitation island greens in the past 40 years. To make the layout even more exciting during tournament play, Steve Wenzloff of PGA Tour Design Services recently remodeled several holes, most significantly the 12th, which is now a drivable par 4.
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12. San Jose

Pasatiempo Golf Club
Public
Pasatiempo Golf Club
Santa Cruz, CA
Pasatiempo is arguably Alister Mackenzie's favorite design. He lived along its sixth fairway during his last years. With its elaborate greens and spectacular bunkering fully restored by Tom Doak and now by Jim Urbina, it’s a prime example of Mackenzie's art. The five par 3s are daunting yet delightful, culminating with the 181-yard over-a-canyon 18th. The back nine is chock full of other great holes: 10, 11, 12 and 16 all play over barrancas. The storied course has hosted two USGA championships: the 1986 U.S. Women's Amateur and the 2004 U.S. Senior Women's Amateur. In 2014, Pasatiempo received a Golf Digest Green Star environmental award for its measures in dealing with drought. Today, water worries are in the past, in part because of a new storage tank that allows the club to capture and store recycled water.
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13. Columbus

The Ohio State University Golf Club: Scarlet
3.9
66 Panelists

The course is semi-private and open to those who have an affiliation with Ohio State University.

 

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. 

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14. Charlotte

Rocky River Golf Club
Public
Rocky River Golf Club
Concord, NC
In the backdrop of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dan Maples routed Rocky River Golf Club in 1997 through rocky hills and natural wetlands. The humming of racecars doing laps around the track—visible from holes on the front nine—can be heard while navigating the rolling layout. Though North Carolina boasts some of the best public golf anywhere, Charlotte isn’t necessarily as blessed—but Rocky River might be the best option closest to the city.
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15. Indianapolis

Brickyard Crossing Golf Course
Public
Brickyard Crossing Golf Course
Indianapolis, IN
3.9
43 Panelists
As an unapologetic Pete Dye fan, I know the most economical way to understand and appreciate Dye's genius is to simply play Brickyard Crossing, the course associated with the Indianapolis Speedway. There are four holes on the infield of the race track that provide a complete portfolio of his evolving design style. The par-3 seventh plays to a massive Seth Raynor-styled green perched some 10 feet high. The par-4 eighth is a boomerang par 4 along a lake that brings to mind the eighth at Crooked Stick, with a long rippled green a salute to Alister MacKenzie. The par-4 ninth is peppered with 10 pot bunkers in the right rough, eight more in the left. The short par-4 tenth, a dogleg wrapped around a long flat waste bunker down the left side, is a hole is full of Dye illusions. None of the four holes look or play anything like the other three, which makes it not only challenging but fun as you analyze and conquer. Plus, it's in the middle of the Indianapolis Speedway racetrack. --Ron Whitten
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16. San Francisco

TPC Harding Park
Public
TPC Harding Park
San Francisco, CA
3.9
117 Panelists
Across the street from the Olympic Club is San Francisco's most famous muny, designed by the same architect, Willie Watson. Framed by eucalyptus, cypress and monterey pines, TPC Harding Park hosted a PGA Tour event in the 1950s and 1960s. And it hosted the 2020 PGA Championship, won by Collin Morikawa, after a significant renovation a couple years prior. The course also hosted the 2009 Presidents Cup, as well as the 1937 and 1956 U.S. Amateur Public Links.
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17. Seattle

Chambers Bay
Public
Chambers Bay
University Place, WA
Prodded by his partner, Bruce Charlton, and their then-design associate Jay Blasi, veteran architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. agreed to a radically different, vertical-links style when building Chambers Bay in an abandoned sand quarry near Tacoma. By the time Golf Digest named it as America’s Best New Public Course of 2008, the course had already been awarded the 2010 U.S. Amateur and 2015 U.S. Open. In the Amateur, Chambers Bay proved to be hard, both in the firmness of its dry fescue turf (Jones called his fairways, “hardwood floors”) and its difficulties around and on the windswept greens. For the U.S. Open, the firmness and surrounds were more manageable, but the greens were notoriously bumpy. That’s now been remedied, as the fescue turf on the putting surfaces has been replaced with pure Poa Annua. What's irreplacable are the views of Puget Sound from nearly every hole, multi-level fairways that entice bold driving to gain second-shot advantages and two holes running parallel to a railway that's invokes feelings of early Scottish and Irish links courses.
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18. Denver

The Ridge at Castle Pines North
Public
The Ridge at Castle Pines North
Castle Rock, CO
3.7
39 Panelists

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten: It was once said, probably first about California's Monterey Peninsula, that great golf courses breed great golf courses. That's certainly true of the foothills of the Rockies a half hour south of Denver, where The Ridge at Castle Pines North sits almost immediately next door to Sanctuary Golf Club and just to the north of The Country Club at Castle Pines, which in turn is bordered on its south by famed Castle Pines Golf Club. The Ridge, the only one of the four courses actually located in the town of Castle Pines (the others are in Castle Rock), is the only one of the four open for public play. (According to the city website, The Ridge is municipally owned, but privately managed by Troon Golf.)

 

Read our architecture editor's complete review, here.

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19. Oklahoma City

Jimmie Austin Golf Club At The University of Oklahoma
4.2
48 Panelists

Jimmie Austin is a semi-private course with limited tee times available to the public, so be sure to call ahead of the date you want to play.

 

Originally designed by Perry Maxwell and opened a year before is death in 1952, this home to the University of Oklahoma golf team has received several modern-day touch ups, the latest in 2017 by architect Tripp Davis, an OU grad and member of the 1989 National Championship golf team. Davis relocated tee boxes, shifted three fairways significantly, relocated five greens, lengthened the courses and redesigned all bunkers. He also added a four-hole Short Course.

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20. Nashville

Hermitage Golf Course: General's Retreat
This Nashville-area layout hosted an LPGA event from 1988 to 1999 with World Golf Hall of Fame members Nancy Lopez, Meg Mallon and Laura Davies all winning at General’s Retreat. With a balance of some wide, generous fairways and several tighter, more demanding holes, the course tailors to a variety of strategies. The layout boasts four strong par 5s, three of which—Nos. 8, 11 and 16—offer exciting risk-reward opportunities with water in play.
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21. El Paso

Butterfield Trail Golf Club
Public
Butterfield Trail Golf Club
El Paso, TX
3.5
14 Panelists
Situated against the backdrop of the Franklin, Hueco, and Sierra Madre mountains, this Tom Fazio design is a great deal for a solid test of golf: Tee times are just $40 with a cart. The course, cherished by community members, was set to close down during the pandemic until former PGA Tour player Todd Barranger helped lift the struggling track off its feet.
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22. Washington, D.C.

University of Maryland Golf Course
Public
University of Maryland Golf Course
College Park, MD
3.2
14 Panelists
Situated on the western edge of the University of Maryland campus and just north of Washington, D.C., the university’s golf course is a great option for both students and those looking to get out of the city for a round. The George W. Cobb design starts strong, with several uphill approaches that play to greens with false fronts. Most holes are tree-lined, though the fairways are generous. With $50 rates on weekdays, the University of Maryland Golf Course is a great deal in the D.C. area.
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23. Las Vegas

Shadow Creek
Public
Shadow Creek
North Las Vegas, NV
The Match between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods may have fizzled as a pay-per-view spectacle, but the venue was certainly a showcase during the Black Friday, 2018 broadcast. Shadow Creek has the reputation of being one of the most expensive courses built in America, a reported $47 million at the time. Designer Tom Fazio said that budget was necessary at Shadow Creek to perform what he now calls “total site manipulation,” creating an environment where none existed, by carving rolling hills and canyons from the flat desert floor north of Las Vegas and pumping in plenty of water. Alas, this once-in-a-lifetime dream design has been too successful, triggering many equally expensive, but inferior, imitations.
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24. Boston

Granite Links: Milton/Quincy
Public
Granite Links: Milton/Quincy
Quincy, MA
2.8
38 Panelists
The semi-private, 27-hole facility is truly a part of the fabric of the city. As part of the 15-year, $24 billion road infrastructure project, nearly 900,000 truckloads of excavated dirt were deposited here. That afforded architect John Sanford the ability to use the 13 million tons of material to cap the site and mold some dramatic topography with the soil. With land sitting as high as 298 feet above sea level, the Milton, Quincy and Granite nines offer terrific views of downtown with impeccable conditions. The practice facilities are top-notch, and the tavern at Granite Links was named as one of Golf Digest’s best 19th holes.
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25. Portland, Ore.

Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club: Ghost Creek
Public
Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club: Ghost Creek
North Plains, OR
4
59 Panelists
The 36-hole facility at Pumpkin Ridge has one public course, Ghost Creek, and a private layout, Witch Hollow. Ghost Creek, a former member of our 100 Greatest Public list, is a challenging layout with the winding title creek coming into play on many holes. In 2000, the Bob Cupp design hosted both the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior. The private Witch Hollow course, also on property, may be best known for Tiger Woods’ dramatic third consecutive U.S. Amateur win in 1996.
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