PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club



Best in State

The best golf courses in California

The argument over which state has the best golf is a fun one—and though we're not here to slam the door on that debate, we think our latest list of the Best Golf Courses in California offers a strong case for the Golden State. For the first time since Golf Digest has started publishing Best in State lists (which dates back to 1977), we have listed 60 courses in California. That speaks to the depth of great golf.

Below you'll find our 2023-'24 ranking of the Best Golf Courses in California. If you're interested in the best public options, check out our collection of the best courses you can play in California.

We urge you to click through to each individual course page for bonus photography, drone footage and reviews from our course panelists. Plus, you can now leave your own ratings on the courses you’ve played … to make your case why your favorite should be ranked higher. 

1. (1) Cypress Point Club
Private
1. (1) Cypress Point Club
Pebble Beach, CA
5
231 Panelists

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:
 

Cypress Point, the sublime Monterey Peninsula work of sandbox sculpture, whittled Cypress and chiseled coastline, has become Exhibit A in the argument that classic architecture has been rendered ineffectual by modern technology.
 

I'm not buying that argument. Those who think teeny old Cypress Point is defenseless miss the point of Alister MacKenzie’s marvelous design.
 

MacKenzie relished the idea that Cypress Point would offer all sorts of ways to play every hole. That philosophy still thrives, particularly in the past decade, after the faithful restoration of MacKenzie’s original bunkers by veteran course superintendent Jeff Markow.

Explore our complete review here—including bonus photography and ratings from our expert panelists.

View Course
2. (2) Pebble Beach Golf Links
Public
2. (2) Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, CA
Not just the greatest meeting of land and sea in American golf, but the most extensive one, too, with nine holes perched immediately above the crashing Pacific surf—the fourth through 10th plus the 17th and 18th. Pebble’s sixth through eighth are golf’s real Amen Corner, with a few Hail Marys thrown in over an ocean cove on the eighth from atop a 75-foot-high bluff. Pebble hosted a successful U.S. Amateur in 2018 and a sixth U.S. Open in 2019. Recent improvements include the redesign of the once-treacherous 14th green, and reshaping of the par-3 17th green, both planned by Arnold Palmer’s Design Company a few years back—and the current changes to the iconic eighth hole. Pebble Beach hosted the Women's U.S. Open for the first time in 2023.
View Course
3. (3) Los Angeles Country Club: North
Private
3. (3) Los Angeles Country Club: North
Los Angeles, CA
4.8
236 Panelists
It’s on the edge of Tinsel Town, but the architecture of the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club has been solid gold ever since its 2010 restoration by architect Gil Hanse, his associate Jim Wagner and their colleague Geoff Shackelford. It matters not that Hanse’s team didn’t replicate the bunkering style of original architect George C. Thomas, but rather the more visually exciting style of Thomas’ associate, William P. Bell. The first nine plays rustically up and down a shallow canyon with holes switching back and forth across a dry barranca, and the second nine loops across a more spacious upland section with one par 3 (the 11th) that can stretch to nearly 300 yards and another (the 15th) that often plays just 90 yards. The hole strategies reinstituted by Hanse provided an intriguing examination when LACC's North course hosted the 2023 U.S. Open.
View Course
4. (4) Riviera Country Club
Private
4. (4) Riviera Country Club
Pacific Palisades, CA
4.8
198 Panelists
A compact and shrewd design by George C. Thomas Jr. and associate William P. Bell, Riviera features everything from a long Redan par 3 to a bunker in the middle of a green to an alternate-fairway par 4. With its 18th green at the base of a natural amphitheater, and its primary rough consisting of club-grabbing Kikuyu, Riviera seems tailor-made as a tournament venue. It hosted a PGA Championship in 1995, a U.S. Senior Open in 1998 and a U.S. Amateur in 2017, but no U.S. Open since 1948. Riviera was recently awarded the 2031 U.S. Open, and it will also host the 2028 Olympics. But it’s the site of an annual PGA Tour event, which is even better exposure to the golf world.
View Course
5. (6) San Francisco Golf Club
Private
5. (6) San Francisco Golf Club
San Francisco, CA
4.7
252 Panelists
San Francisco Golf Club’s original routing was done mostly by a trio of club members, who first staked out the course in 1918. A.W. Tillinghast remodeled the course in 1923, establishing its signature greens and bunkering. He also added the par-3 seventh, called the “Duel Hole” because its location marks the spot of the last legal duel in America. Three holes were replaced in 1950 in anticipation of a street widening project that never happened. In 2006, the original holes were re-established by Tom Doak and his then-associate, Jim Urbina.
View Course
6. (5) The Olympic Club: Lake
Private
6. (5) The Olympic Club: Lake
San Francisco, CA
4.8
243 Panelists
It seems fitting that, in a town where every house is a cliffhanger, every U.S. Open played at Olympic has been one, too. For decades, the Lake was a severe test of golf. Once it was a heavily forested course with canted fairways hampered by just a single fairway bunker. By 2009, the forest had been considerably cleared away, leaving only the occasional bowlegged cypress with knobby knees, the seventh and 18th greens were redesigned and a new par-3 eighth added. Despite those changes, the 2012 U.S. Open stuck to the usual script: a ball got stuck in a tree, slow-play warnings were given, a leader snap-hooked a drive on 16 in the final round, and a guy name Simpson won. If the past was predictable, the future of the Lake Course might be more mysterious after Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner completed a remodeling in 2023 in preparation for the 2028 PGA Championship.
View Course
7. (8) Monterey Peninsula Country Club: Shore
4.7
268 Panelists
Mike Strantz was battling cancer while transforming the bland, low-budget Shore Course into a scenic and strategic marvel that rivals next-door neighbor Cypress Point. Strantz reversed direction of the fifth through 15th holes to provide a Pacific Ocean backdrop to most of them. He weaved fairways among trees so players could “dance among the cypress,” and added native grasses for a coastal prairie look. The stunning landscape would be Strantz’s last work of art. He died six months after completing the redesign. Former PGA Tour player Forrest Fezler, who was Strantz’s associate on the project, later served as a consulting architect in order to retain the Strantz vision, until he died in 2018.
View Course
8. (7) Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Public
8. (7) Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Pebble Beach, CA
Given the task of designing a course just up the 17 Mile Drive from Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, Robert Trent Jones responded with a combination of Pine Valley and Augusta National. The five opening holes, in Pine Valley-like sand dunes, are an all-too-brief encounter with the Pacific seacoast. The remaining holes are a stern hike through hills covered with majestic Monterey pines (which, sad to say, may someday disappear to pitch canker, but are being replaced in some areas with cypress trees). Add several water hazards that hearken back to the 16th at Augusta (a hole which Trent Jones designed, by the way) and you have what some panelists consider to be Trent’s finest work. Others say it’s the best course never to have hosted a major event. After all, even Pine Valley and Cypress Point have hosted Walker Cups.
View Course
9. (13) California Golf Club of San Francisco
Private
9. (13) California Golf Club of San Francisco
South San Francisco, CA
4.6
388 Panelists
For a course that featured Alister Mackenzie bunkers (added just two years after it first opened), Cal Club was never considered the equal of its near neighbors, No. 35 Olympic (Lake) or No. 33 San Francisco G.C. That’s partly because it was so claustrophobic, not just from dense trees, but from its truncated front nine reworked in the 60s by Trent Jones after road expansion took two holes. Architect Kyle Phillips resolved the problem by clearing trees and creating five new holes, including a new par-4 second in the old practice range and a new dogleg-right par-4 seventh atop a previously unused mesa in the middle of the course. Best of all, he re-introduced Mackenzie’s glamorous bunkers. Cal Club is now much closer to its top-ranked neighbors.
View Course
10. (9) The Valley Club of Montecito
Private
10. (9) The Valley Club of Montecito
Santa Barbara, CA
4.6
102 Panelists
The Valley Club is routed like an hourglass, with a wide variety of holes, including the third (hard against a barranca), the downright mountainous 10th, the gorgeous canyon-carry 14th and broad, serpentine 15th. Fairways are generous, but the slant of greens demand certain angles of approach. The restored MacKenzie bunkers resemble jigsaw pieces that, observed architect Jim Urbina, seem to fit one another, left and right. An added bonus is its location, in perhaps the best golfing weather in the nation. But the surrounding dry hills are subject to erosion, and The Valley Club was severely damaged by mudslides in 2018, necessitating an intensive project to reclaim its grand golf holes.
View Course
11. (10) Monterey Peninsula Country Club: Dunes
4.6
219 Panelists

The Dunes Course, long in the shadow of its big brother Shore Course, was originally routed by Seth Raynor, who died before construction. It was completed by Robert Hunter, a partner to Alister MacKenzie (who did not participate in the work), and Raynors ideas for the greens were altered before they were even built. In the 1990s, Rees Jones remodeled the course and reshaped holes to mimic the Raynor look, to mixed reviews. In 2016, Tom Fazio was brought in to make the Dunes as appealing to members as the gorgeous Shore Course, though it was former associates Tim Jackson and David Kahn who conceived of and carried out the details of the plan to give the Dunes a MacKenzie look. Sandscapes now frame most holes, fairways now zigzag around jagged bunkers and nearly all the greens are oriented diagonal to lines of play. The Dunes Course now lives up to its name.

View Course
12. (11) The Quarry at La Quinta
Private
12. (11) The Quarry at La Quinta
La Quinta, CA
4.7
163 Panelists

The developers of The Quarry hired Tom Fazio in the early 1990s with instructions that he top his design of Shadow Creek. Fazio was savvy enough to ignore those instructions, because he recognized The Quarry site was a much better piece of topography than what he’d been provided in Las Vegas. Thus The Quarry has more variety, starting and ending in a gravel quarry now lavishly landscaped. In between, holes play on high desert overlooking the Palm Springs Valley and in a valley, with four holes tucked in an isolated notch of the Santa Rosa Mountains. The course regularly receives some of the highest Conditioning scores in the ranking.

View Course
13. (12) Pasatiempo Golf Club
Public
13. (12) 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.
View Course
14. (14) The Preserve
Private
14. (14) The Preserve
Carmel, CA
Located a few miles inland from the glorious fivesome of 100 Greatest courses on California’s Monterey Peninsula (Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Spyglass Hill and the two courses at Monterey Peninsula C.C.), The Preserve is dramatically different, the only golf course contained within a 20,000-acre parcel of gentle hills and mammoth oaks. Fazio moved almost no earth here, so perfect was the routing established by Poellot and Tatum. The greens are subtle, the bunkering low key, the atmosphere one of absolute tranquility.
View Course
15. (15) The Madison Club
Private
15. (15) The Madison Club
La Quinta, CA

When developer Michael Meldman first showed Tom Fazio the land for the proposed Madison Club, an arid, barren desert outside Palm Springs, he told Fazio, “Let’s do a modern-day Shadow Creek.” By “modern-day,” he meant one that would feature homesites along the holes. So Fazio did what he’d done in Las Vegas at Shadow Creek. He had crews dig into the desert and pile up dirt to the sides. But this time, the cuts became channels wide enough for fairways, with pads for home sites perched above holes on surrounding ridgelines. After trucking in and planting mature trees and sodding everything, Fazio was satisfied The Madison Club looked nothing like a typical Palm Springs residential layout. Said Fazio, “If you’re given a free hand in the Coachella Valley, what do you do? You do everything. You move the earth, plant the trees and carve out the streams. You create the entire space. There’s so much here.”

View Course
16. (17) Stone Eagle Golf Club
Private
16. (17) Stone Eagle Golf Club
Palm Desert, CA
Stone Eagle is the most remarkable course in the golf-heavy Palm Springs market. It sits atop a rocky plateau, a thousand feet above the Coachella Valley but still thousands of feet below the peaks of the adjacent Santa Rosa Mountains. When Tom Doak first walked the site, he said, “I thought this must be what the surface of Mars looks like: rocky, rugged and red.” Given the luxury of routing an 18 without any homesites, Doak did his lay-of-the-land best to create a faux links high above the desert floor by tucking fairways into creases of the land and positioning shots to play over low ridges into bold greens that mimic the rugged topography. At Stone Eagle, Doak used hillsides of rocks and boulders the way Old Country architects used sand dunes. The only difference: sand is soft, rock is not.
View Course
17. (19) Martis Camp
Private
17. (19) Martis Camp
Truckee, CA
Back in the 1960s, a forest south of Truckee served as a location for the filming of the popular TV western “Bonanza.” Now it’s the locale for three diverse residential courses, Schaffer’s Mill by Johnny Miller and the late John Harbottle, Lahontan by Tom Weiskopf, and Martis Camp by Tom Fazio. Fazio has called this site one of the finest natural pieces of property on which he’s ever created a golf course. It has pines, firs, hemlocks and rocky outcroppings on nearly every hole, particularly the 18th, where the clubhouse sits atop a 70-foot-high wall of granite behind the green. Fairways are broad, though hazarded by squiggly bunkers in certain spots, and some greens have trunks of tall Ponderosa pines uncomfortably close. So gorgeous is Martis Camp Golf Club that one critic called it, “a private-gated national park experience.”
View Course
18. (18) Bel-Air Country Club
Private
18. (18) Bel-Air Country Club
Los Angeles, CA

Completing a George C. Thomas hat trick of designs (the others being Los Angeles C.C. (North) and Riviera) is Bel-Air C.C., a charming throwback design that winds through mansion-dotted canyons of Los Angeles, the topography so steep that golfers are guided from hole to hole via a tunnel, an elevator and the city’s most famous suspension bridge, which spans a gulch on the par-3 10th and serves as a dramatic backdrop for the 18th green. Bel-Air’s design had been altered over decades by, among others, Dick Wilson, George Fazio, Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Tom Fazio. But in 2018 Tom Doak erased every bit of their work, removing most of the phony water hazards and faithfully recapturing Thomas’s splashy signature bunkering. To complete a round amidst these Hollywood hills, you’ll definitely encounter a Hollywood star. Her name is Bel-Air.

View Course
19. (16) Mayacama Golf Club
Private
19. (16) Mayacama Golf Club
Santa Rosa, CA
As Jack Nicklaus wound down his competitive career, his empathy for average golfers rose, and rather than continue to build back-breaking championship-length courses, he began to tailor some of his designs toward the average golfers who foot the bill. Thus Mayacama is less than 6,800 yards and is routed to be a very comfortable walk, essential since the club has no golf carts. A bold design, it explores every facet of the oak-dotted hillsides above Santa Rosa. Watersheds and gulches figure prominently in the layout, which has some dramatically elevated tees and four stunning, gambling par 5s.
View Course
20. (20) Sherwood Country Club
Private
20. (20) Sherwood Country Club
Thousand Oaks, CA

When Jack Nicklaus completed Sherwood Country Club for industrialist David Murdock in the late 1980s, critics immediately compared it to Shadow Creek, which Nicklaus felt was unfair, since his land—a river valley with homesites on high surrounding hills—was far more natural than the barren Vegas desert. But critics were comparing ledger books. They spent lots of money at Sherwood. Several hundred mature oaks were transplanted at an estimated cost of $6 million. The massive boulders edging some fairways were trucked in as well, and the ponds and streams guarding landing areas and greens were manufactured by experts in that business. In the end, it added up to producing one of the best courses money could buy, until the drought of 2014. Nicklaus returned in 2016 to approve agronomic improvements that reduce water use by 25 percent. Sherwood remains a great layout, but more austere in presentation.

View Course
21. (21) Tradition Golf Club
Private
21. (21) Tradition Golf Club
La Quinta, CA

Tradition Golf Club was intended to be Palmer Course Design’s answer to the most opulent private courses in greater Palm Springs, such as The Quarry at La Quinta and Vintage Club (Mountain). Built on the old Hacienda del Gato Ranch, the front nine is routed over rolling desert and through a flood-control basin, while most of the back nine is tucked at the base of the rocky slopes of the Santa Rosa Mountains, with three holes (15th through 17th) curving around a 90-degree bend dubbed the “Coyote Canyon.” Almost every hole here has a distinguishing feature, from desert wash to serpentine waste bunker to double fairway to boulder landscaping to cascading waterfalls. The common overall theme are fields of wildflowers spread throughout the far roughs. During a 2005 Golf Digest Panelist Summit, Arnold Palmer explained he had those flowers planted to appeal to his first wife, Winnie, who loved flora much more than golf.

View Course
22. (24) The Vintage Club: Mountain
Private
22. (24) The Vintage Club: Mountain
Indian Wells, CA
4.4
92 Panelists

The Vintage Club proved to be the last collaboration between former tour golfer-turned-architect George Fazio and his young nephew, Tom. But while George was heavily involved in promoting this exclusive Palm Springs area club to prospective members, Tom was sweating the details out on the construction site. The opulent course was built for $6 million, considered an outrageous amount at that time, but Tom explained that sum was necessary in order to “create an environment where none existed,” a phrase he would repeat later in the decade when constructing Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. Tom spent $1.5-million building just The Vintage’s 16th and 17th holes, including three cascading waterfalls at $175,000 apiece. It was money well spent.

View Course
23. (26) Torrey Pines Golf Course: South
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.
View Course
24. (23) The Bridges At Rancho Santa Fe
Private
24. (23) The Bridges At Rancho Santa Fe
Rancho Santa Fe, CA
4.4
143 Panelists
This upscale residential course wanders a lovely site in the dry, stony foothills in north San Diego County. The design is a contrast of sculpted architecture with smooth-edged, cape-and-bay style bunkering, reflection ponds and flowing fairway lines set against the property’s rugged ridges and canyons, with long views toward the Pacific off the highest points. The first nine circles through the development’s more compact residences while the second nine flares out into open country under the purview of large luxury estates. The club’s namesake bridges connect several holes that leap over valleys and the Escondido Creek ravine.
View Course
25. (30) Lahontan Golf Club
Private
25. (30) Lahontan Golf Club
Truckee, CA
4.2
31 Panelists
Situated a few miles north of Lake Tahoe, Lahontan is a Tom Weiskopf design that weaves through the densely forested landscape. Weiskopf balanced playability and challenge, presenting narrow corridors off many tees that open to forgiving fairways and large greens. Lahontan is an aesthetically pleasing layout, playing among towering pines and wispy fescue set against a mountain backdrop.
View Course
26. (25) Bighorn Golf Club: Canyons
Private
26. (25) Bighorn Golf Club: Canyons
Palm Desert, CA
3.5
55 Panelists
The second of two courses at Bighorn to open, the Canyons was designed by Tom Fazio and features prominent bunkering throughout. Like the sibling Mountains course, the Canyons layout receives high marks from our panelists for its conditioning and aesthetics. In early 2018, the club completed a new 80,000-square-foot clubhouse that cost $70 million.
View Course
27. (22) Bighorn Golf Club: Mountains
Private
27. (22) Bighorn Golf Club: Mountains
Palm Desert, CA
4.3
40 Panelists
Set hard against the mountains, the aptly named Mountains course is one of two courses at Bighorn Golf Club ranked inside the top 30 on our Best in California list. The Arthur Hills design features some dramatic elevation changes, with many downhill tee shots providing fantastic vistas of Palm Springs down below. The course receives high marks from our panelists for its conditioning and aesthetics. In early 2018, the club completed a new 80,000-square-foot clubhouse that cost $70 million.
View Course
28. (27) Meadow Club
Private
28. (27) Meadow Club
Fairfax, CA
4.1
86 Panelists
About a half hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Meadow Club opened in 1927 as Alister MacKenzie’s first design in the United States. Over the years, the original treeless links-style layout was lost as many trees were planted and greens shrunk, but a restoration project in the early 2000s recaptured much of MacKenzie’s original intent. Architect Mike DeVries expanded the greens to their original size and restored the bunkers to MacKenzie’s intended style. Set in a valley near Mount Tamalpais, Meadow Club once again plays as the sprawling design with large, undulating greens and well-placed MacKenzie bunkering.
View Course
29. (28) CordeValle Golf Club
Private
29. (28) CordeValle Golf Club
San Martin, CA
Located in the little known but abundant golfing area south of San Jose, the gorgeous CordeValle was a private club when it first opened, but is a high-end resort destination these days, with climbing and descending soft hills dotted by gnarled oaks. It hosted both the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur and PGA Tour's Frys.com Open in 2013 and the U.S. Women's Open in 2016, won by Brittany Lang in a playoff against Anna Nordqvist.
View Course
30. (32) Shady Canyon Golf Club
Private
30. (32) Shady Canyon Golf Club
Irvine, CA
4.2
106 Panelists
Opening in 2002, Shady Canyon is a Tom Fazio design in Irvine, just south of Los Angeles. Fazio said his “ultimate goal is to have it appear as if nothing has been done, that the layout is completely natural.” At Shady Canyon, the course weaves through the canyon, with native brush and streams lining many holes, giving the layout the natural feel that Fazio strived for. Many of the greens have a significant amount of slope, often creating numerous distinct sections. If you’re not on the proper section, you’ll face a difficult two-putt.
View Course
31. (33) The Olympic Club: Ocean
Private
31. (33) The Olympic Club: Ocean
San Francisco, CA
4.3
54 Panelists
The Ocean Course at The Olympic Club has a tumultuous history. Originally Lakeside Golf Club, it was bought by Olympic in 1918 after Lakeside fell into some financial trouble following World War I. The course became the Ocean course in 1924 but winter storm damage just months after it opened forced the need for the course to be remodeled before finally reopening in 1927. The Ocean Course now has a great variety of holes and incredibly undulating greens with great speeds. The course is lined by beautiful Cypress trees that provide a scenic, yet challenging tee shot.
View Course
32. (29) The Links At Spanish Bay
Public
32. (29) The Links At Spanish Bay
Pebble Beach, CA
The Links at Spanish Bay was the first true links course built in America in many decades, but it took years for conveyor belts to deposit sand atop exposed bed rock to return this mined-out sand quarry back to a linkland site. The trio of designers, playfully dubbed "The Holy Trinity," thoughtfully shaped an 18 that looks natural, plays strategically and is sensitive to the coastal wetland environment.
View Course
33. (31) PGA West: Stadium Course
Public
33. (31) PGA West: Stadium Course
La Quinta, CA
Originally private, the Stadium Course (the original 18 at PGA West) was among the rota of courses for the old Bob Hope Desert Classic until some pros, objecting to its difficulty, petitioned to remove it. (It’s now back.) It's Pete Dye at his rambunctious best, with a finish mimicking his later design at TPC Sawgrass: a gambling par-5 16th (called San Andreas Fault), a short par-3 17th to an island green and an intimidating par-4 18th with water all the way to the green. Though hideous in its difficulty and aesthetics by 1980s standards (it was can't miss television when it hosted the 1987 Skins Game), it's matured into a noble piece of architecture that represents the tail end of Dye's extreme middle phase.
View Course
34. (34) Lakeside Golf Club
Private
34. (34) Lakeside Golf Club
Burbank, CA
4.1
59 Panelists
Lakeside is a classic old-school layout across the Los Angeles River from Universal Studios Hollywood. The course was designed in the early 1920s by Max Behr, a Yale graduate and the first editor of Golf Illustrated magazine. Lakeside has long been a favorite among Hollywood elite—Bing Crosby notably was a five-time club champion. The relatively short course is well bunkered, features tiny greens and receives high marks in conditioning from our course-ranking panelists.
View Course
35. (NR) Hillcrest Country Club
Private
35. (NR) Hillcrest Country Club
Los Angeles, CA
4.4
39 Panelists
Hillcrest Country Club sits adjacent from Rancho Park Golf Course—one of L.A.’s better public options—and across West Pico Boulevard from the Fox Studio Lot. The private country club opened in 1920, and the course was designed by Willie Watson. In 2018, Kyle Phillips made extensive changes to the course, creating six new holes and making room for a new six-acre practice facility. The par 3s stand out at Hillcrest, including the 12th, which can tip out as far as 260 yards and plays to massive Biarritz green. Hillcrest hosted Final Qualifying for the U.S. Open ahead of the 2023 championship at Los Angeles Country Club, just a mile north.
View Course
36. (NR) The Hideaway Golf Club: Clive
3.7
34 Panelists
One of two courses at this Discovery Land Company property that sits on 600 acres, the Clive Course is a standout in our conditioning category -- and attention to the detail around the greens and along the fairways add to the sitelines off the tees. The par 3s offer spectacular backdrops, and the one-shotters are all varied in length (playing around 196, 147, 200 and 221 yards from the back tees) to add to the layout variety.
View Course
37. (NR) Eldorado Country Club
Private
37. (NR) Eldorado Country Club
Indian Wells, CA
3.3
36 Panelists
Eldorado Country Club, located in the Coachella Valley, hosted the 1959 Ryder Cup, when Sam Snead captained the American team to a dominating victory over Great Britain. That was played on the original Lawrence Hughes designed track; in the early 2000s, Tom Fazio led an extensive redesign of the course, notably adding plenty of water to both toughen the course and add aesthetic appeal. Still, it remains a player-friendly layout, with forgiving fairways and large greens that often allow players to run shots up onto the surfaces.
View Course
38. (39) Wilshire Country Club
Private
38. (39) Wilshire Country Club
Los Angeles, CA
4.2
77 Panelists
Wilshire is an exclusive private club with old-school layout situated on 104 acres near Hollywood. The course is bisected by Beverly Boulevard and a barranca meanders throughout, coming into play on around half the holes. The course was designed by Englishman Norman Macbeth in 1919 and hosted four Los Angeles Opens between 1928-1944. Tipping out around 6,500 yards, Wilshire is a very short course by modern standards, but a variety of testing green shapes with plenty of undulation, as well as sharp-lipped deep bunkers make the historic course a strong test.
View Course
39. (40) Toscana Country Club: South
Private
39. (40) Toscana Country Club: South
Indian Wells, CA
4.1
57 Panelists
Bold and dramatic bunkering is a key feature on the first of two Jack Nicklaus-designed courses at Toscana Country Club. Nicklaus’ team moved a lot of earth to create some rolling terrain that offers impressive elevation changes. A number of long par 4s require precise approach shots over water and well-guarded putting complexes. Often times, challenging the bunkers off the tee creates the best angles in the greens.
View Course
40. (NR) The Palms Golf Club
Private
40. (NR) The Palms Golf Club
La Quinta, CA
3.3
31 Panelists
Built on an old palm tree farm, The Palms Golf Club stays true to its roots with some towering trees framing nearly every hole—which along with the mountains in the distance—make for great backdrops. The Brian Curley/Fred Couples design is playable off the tee but features some smaller, undulating putting surfaces that can give players fits. There is a good variety of holes—with long and short par 3s and a shorter, reachable par 5 coupled with a 600-yard-plus three-shotter.
View Course
41. (35) The Plantation Golf Club
4.5
60 Panelists
On a short list of the most exclusive clubs in the country, The Plantation Golf Club is notorious for being a men's-only club with some strict rules (i.e. no phones, women arriving at the club, etc.). For those who get to enjoy the course, The Plantation is a fun, playable layout by Brian Curley and Fred Couples with some intriguing bunker and green complexes.
View Course
42. (37) Los Angeles Country Club: South
3.7
57 Panelists
Overshadowed by its championship brother, the South course at LACC is still an incredibly fun course and often gets more play than the more difficult North. Highlighted by interesting variety and shark-toothed bunker formations from George C. Thomas, remodeled by Gil Hanse and Geoff Shackelford, LACC's South course packs less of a punch in comparison to the North. South’s tunnels are one of its most interesting features, Holes 1-2 and 17-18 share the side of Wilshire Road with the North course, while the rest of the holes come after crossing a tunnel to get to the other side of the property. The South also weaves through buildings that provide a fitting metropolitan backdrop for the Tinsel Town stunner. South’s par 3s are probably the highlight of the course, delivering five very different holes and mandating five very different shots.
View Course
43. (38) Toscana Country Club: North
Private
43. (38) Toscana Country Club: North
Indian Wells, CA
4
45 Panelists
The second 18 holes at Toscana Country Club weren't completed until a few years ago, with the North Course's first nine holes and its 18th were built at the time of the South course's completion. Toscana's North course fits in the Jack Nicklaus style playing through and around beautiful arroyos and water features with bold green and bunker complexes. Holes are picturesquely framed by layers of landscaping and the surrounding mountains.
View Course
44. (41) Poppy Hills Golf Course
Public
44. (41) Poppy Hills Golf Course
Pebble Beach, CA
When originally built, Poppy Hills had unpopular perched greens framed by massive containment mounds. Following a 2013 remodeling by original designer Robert Trent Jones II and partner Bruce Charlton, it's now a graceful, low-profile layout. "We popped the hills at Poppy Hills," says Trent Jr. A new feature are sandy naturalized areas and pine straw off the fairways instead of manicured rough, part of a concerted effort to significantly reduce water consumption. The renovated course was on display at the 2018 U.S. Girls' Junior, won by current LPGA player Yealimi Noh.
View Course
45. (NR) The Reserve Club
Private
45. (NR) The Reserve Club
Indian Wells, CA
3.8
46 Panelists
The Reserve is a private club in Indian Wells, Calif., built by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish that is routed against the surrounding mountain ridges and follows the natural contours, winding through the terrain to create interesting and varied holes. Tee and approach shots are well framed, and the housing never intrudes into your view as you play.
View Course
46. (43) Rams Hill Golf Club
Public
46. (43) Rams Hill Golf Club
Borrego Springs, CA
Local residents revived this golf development within Anza Borrego Desert State Park, on the western edge of the Sonoran Desert about an hour from La Quinta, Calif., in the mid 2000s with an entirely new course built by Tom Fazio. Some of Fazio’s spacious holes are molded into the desert earth and others ride the up and down rocky elevations, leading to a finish that includes the short par-4 17th and gambler’s par-5 18th that streaks downhill around a water feature.
View Course
47. (NR) Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles
Public
47. (NR) 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.
View Course
48. (45) Pelican Hill Golf Club: Ocean North
4.1
151 Panelists
This Tom Fazio-designed oceanside course provides stunning views of Catalina Island and Newport Beach. Set on slightly higher ground than its sister course (Ocean South), the North Course at Pelican Hill features sloping greens and several carries over canyons off the tee.
View Course
49. (44) Torrey Pines Golf Course: North
3.6
131 Panelists
Redesigned by Tom Weiskopf in 2018, Torrey Pines' North course became friendlier for the average golfer. The number of bunkers were reduced from 60 to 42 and made easier to play out of. And the average green size was increased from 4,500 square feet to 6,000. Lastly, Weiskopf added one of his signatures: a short, drivable par 4 (the seventh)—making the companion course to the championship South course a little more fun. This may sound like a dumbing down of the architecture but it isn't. Within the simplification is a wide variety of green configurations and contours, with slopes rising and falling, some set high and others low, and many with more internal contour than is found on most greens on the South course, including the surfaces of the cross-ravine par-3 12th and par-3 15th. The North course also boasts ocean and canyon views on par with the South, particularly the par-4 16th rising along the Pacific Ocean cliffs and brining the player in the most direct contact with the stunning panorama. Perhaps because we feel there's a better couse hidden somewhere beneath the current South course, playing the North doesn't feel like a step down, just a step across to the other side of one the best public golf sites in the U.S.
View Course
50. (NR) Menlo Country Club
Private
50. (NR) Menlo Country Club
Redwood City, CA
3.9
45 Panelists
Kyle Phillips completed an extensive renovation in 2014, moving nearly 100,000 cubic yards of earth—creating 14 new holes and redesigning the other four holes. The original course opened in 1912 after it was designed by Scotsman Tom Nicoll. Redesigns were done over the years by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., after the club acquired additional land—and the work Phillips did over 17 months completely reimagined the course while staying true to the original Menlo Country Club design. The club now enjoys bentgrass greens, and Phillips instituted playability with more teeing areas and redesigned green complexes that feature run-off areas that offer options for those who miss the green.
View Course
51. (NR) Lake Merced Golf Club
Private
51. (NR) 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.
View Course
52. (NR) Rustic Canyon Golf Course
4
63 Panelists
Rustic Canyon earned the honor of Golf Digest's Most Affordable Public Course in 2002, and it has continued to generate attention as one of Southern California's best public options since. With wide, generous fairways routed through a seasonal stream bed in the foothills north of Los Angeles, this Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and Geoff Shackelford design is a natural, minimalistic and strategic gem that should be on any list of the best in California.
View Course
53. (NR) Mission Hills Country Club: Tournament
3.3
49 Panelists
Former site of the ANA Inspiration, now to be a senior tour event, opened in 1972 and was designed by Desmond Muirhead. It is an old school parkland course with hazards, primarily bunkers defining the landing areas off the tee. The green complexes offer a variety of recovery shots unless you are short-sided, then they require a high pitch or flop to end up close to the pin. Bunkers are well maintained and consistent while the greens have defined and subtle slopes that make putting a challenge. Mature trees intrude into the fairway and often represent an unfair challenge where shots in the fairway are blocked or require the shot be shaped to access the pin. Some of the holes do not allow a driver as the risk is not commensurate with the reward. The finishing five holes are the standout on the property—with the well-known 18th hole and Poppie's Pond, the concrete-lined pool that is part of Champions Lake and site of the famous jump by ANA winners.
View Course
54. (NR) Stanford Golf Course
Private
54. (NR) Stanford Golf Course
Stanford, CA
4.2
47 Panelists
Home to the top-ranked Cardinal men’s and women’s golf teams, the Stanford Course is a par-70 George C. Thomas and Billy Bell Jr. design that dates to the early 1930s. Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Michelle Wie, and many more famed Stanford alums developed their games at this sprawling layout that was ranked on our America's 100 Greatest list in the 1970s. Grand oak trees line the fairways and elevated tee boxes provide beautiful views of the surrounding mountain scenery, especially on the 18th tee, where you can see San Francisco in the distance. There is strong layout variety at Stanford, with holes moving in each direction and a mix of wide-open tee shots and others that are quite narrow. Though it's a pleasant walk with few houses on the course, it can be strenous given the elevation changes and distance between some holes.
View Course
55. (42) Grizzly Ranch Golf Club
4.1
49 Panelists
Located in the Sierra Nevada foothills 50 miles northwest of Reno, Grizzly Ranch is getaway, escapist golf and a refreshing trek through nature. When given such serenity and untouched natural beauty, it’s important not to overcook the design. The late architect Bob Cupp didn’t. He layered the holes onto a basin of forest floor with minimal buildup, directing them easily up and down the tilted property and positioning the greensites in ways that mingle thoughtfully with creeks and dry washes.
View Course
56. (NR) Maderas Golf Club
Public
56. (NR) Maderas Golf Club
Poway, CA
3.9
88 Panelists
Just minutes from downtown San Diego, this Johnny Miller and Robert Muir Graves design snakes through rolling foothills with an abundance of elevation changes. Maderas not only features a challenging, target-oriented layout, but it also stars over forty acres of native wildflowers.
View Course
57. (NR) Pelican Hill Golf Club: Ocean South
4.3
144 Panelists
The first of the two Tom Fazio designs at Pelican Hill, The Ocean South course opened in 1991 and boasts striking Pacific Ocean vistas. Wide fairways, large undulating greens and fantastic conditions make for an enjoyable round on this coastal track.
View Course
58. (NR) Rolling Hills Country Club
Private
58. (NR) Rolling Hills Country Club
Rolling Hills Estates, CA
4.1
74 Panelists
David McLay Kidd transformed an existing, tight 18-hole course when a new owner purchased more land to allow Kidd to create a new routing. A massive quarry was filled and trees were removed to create expansive views of Los Angeles on this course just south of downtown.
View Course
59. (NR) PGA West: Arnold Palmer Private Course
3.7
34 Panelists
The Arnold Palmer Private course sits at the base of the Santa Rosa mountains with most of the holes playing between housing except the last five which are adjacent to the mountain, before heading back to the clubhouse. The Palmer Private course at PGA West was site of one of the most famous final rounds in PGA Tour history: David Duval's 59 to win the 1999 Bob Hope Classic. The course was part of the course rotation for the Palm Springs tour event from 1988 through 2015.
View Course
60. (NR) The Course At Wente Vineyards
3.9
34 Panelists
Tucked away in the native woodlands of Livermore Valley just 50 minutes east of San Francisco lies this beautiful Greg Norman design. Providing several striking panoramas of active vineyards, the Course at Wente Vineyards hosted the then-Nationwide Tour’s Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship from 2006 to 2008.
View Course

• • •

Explore Golf Digest's recently relaunched Places to Play community, where you can add star ratings and reviews for all the courses you play. We've collected tens of thousands of reviews from our course-ranking panelists to deliver a premium experience, which includes experts' opinions, bonus course photography and videos, plus much more. Check it out here!