The best golf trips near every SEC school
For many golfers, fall is the best time of the year—not only for the colorful foliage that lines courses but for the return of college football. With a little planning, you can combine these two into a weekend buddies’ trip that is tough to beat: A Friday afternoon round, Saturday tailgating and football, and a Sunday morning tee time that will get you home in time for Sunday Night Football. Or another 18 on Monday, too. We won't tell your boss.
We're not here to sell you on which SEC football stadium is best, but we can help you coordinate where to play near each campus. In this guide, we focused on every school in the Southeastern Conference and identified the best public courses to play when you’re headed to an SEC football game. (Editor’s note: We will add to this guide in 2024 when Texas and Oklahoma are set to join the conference.) Whether you’re looking for just one round or a full weekend of golf, we tracked down the best options with input from our expert course-ranking panelists in the Southeast.
Scroll down for the complete list of the best golf trips near every SEC school. 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 and reviews of the courses you’ve played. It's all part of the relaunch of Golf Digest's Places to Play franchise.
University of Alabama
If you’re flying into Birmingham on the way to a Crimson Tide game, you’ve got plenty of great public golf options on the road to Tuscaloosa. Consider the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Ross Bridge, a Golf Digest Best in State course that’s scheduled to reopen in October 2023 following some green damage. We also recommend both courses at RTJ Oxmoor Valley, as well as Bent Brook. For something closer to campus, consider Ol’ Colony, a Jerry Pate design that’s home to the Alabama men’s and women’s golf teams.
University of Arkansas
Northwest Arkansas is home to many excellent public clubs—including Blessings Golf Club, Pinnacle Country Club and Fayetteville Country Club—but public options are harder to track down. Stonebridge Meadows will be the most convenient option when you’re heading to a Razorback game, but if you’re willing to drive 90 minutes, you’ll want to head down to the Lake of the Ozarks and Bella Vista, which has five 18-hole courses. We didn’t include the courses at Big Cedar Lodge—which has three courses ranked on our 100 Greatest Public list—because it’s a couple hours drive from Fayetteville, but if you’ve got the time, consider making a weekend trip out of the popular Missouri resort.
Bella Vista, AR
Bella Vista, AR
About 20 minutes from Auburn University and with two Best in State courses, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Grand National is perfect for a weekend golf trip. Rounding out your golf itinerary depends on where you’re flying into (or driving from). If you’re flying out of Birmingham, stop at FarmLinks, a Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry layout. Also consider The Fields, just over the Georgia border, if you’re flying out of Atlanta. The RTJ Golf Trail at Capitol Hill has three excellent courses if you’re heading through Montgomery.
University of Florida
The public golf options around Gainesville are limited, so for a weekend trip, consider heading an hour south to the Ocala area, where you’ll find some solid courses. Though it’s about 80 minutes south of the University of Florida, Black Diamond Ranch was previously a private club, but now offers stay and play packages. With two Best in State courses and a nine-holer, it’s a fantastic option if you can make the drive.
Black Diamond Ranch is located in out-of-the-way hill country of central Florida, some 30 miles southwest of Ocala. Part of a residential development, this Tom Fazio fantasy-come-alive features a front nine that runs up and down 60-foot-high sand hills and alongside natural sand dunes. But it’s the back-nine stretch through an old rock quarries, holes 13 through 17, that’s the real draw. You start with a par 3 over a pit, then skirt along the rim of a bigger quarry, then descend 85 feet of steep limestone cliffs to the 15th green, positioned astride a bottomless pit of lake, then emerge for more shots along the edge, then shoot down into the smaller pit to the 17th green before finishing on a conventional 18th. Black Diamond has as many twists and turns as a hard-boiled detective novel.
Traditionally a private club (there are a total of 45 holes on property), Black Diamond now offers on-site accommodations and stay and play packages.
University of Georgia
Of all the SEC schools, the University of Georgia makes for one of the best weekend golf trips. For convenience, the school’s course in Athens is a solid option, but consider heading to Reynolds Lake Oconee, where there are six courses including Great Waters, a 100 Greatest Public track. If you’re flying into Atlanta, Chateau Elan works well with traffic flow and has two challenging courses.
University of Kentucky
You can make an affordable golf trip out of a weekend in Lexington. Below are the three courses we’d recommend, including the University of Kentucky’s Big Blue course, about 10 miles from campus. We would also consider Houston Oaks and the semi-private Griffin Gate, where you can play if you’re a resort guest at the Marriott hotel.
Louisiana State University
If you’re flying into New Orleans for an LSU game, we’d recommend playing TPC Louisiana, which hosts the Zurich Classic of New Orleans each spring. For something closer to Baton Rouge, consider these three courses.
Baton Rouge, LA
Mississippi State, located in Starkville, is just down the road from West Point and one of the most underrated weekend golf destinations in the country. We’d play all of our rounds at Mossy Oak—a Gil Hanse design ranked on our 100 Greatest Public list—and Old Waverly.
West Point, MS
From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten: Back in mid-1980s, George Bryan, who ran Bryan Foods, now part of Sara Lee Corp., created Old Waverly Golf Club in tiny West Point, Miss., a Bob Cupp/Jerry Pate design and former U.S. Women’s Open host that to me is a bit underrated. In the early 2000s, Bryan bought an old dairy farm (Knob Hill Dairy) across the highway and hired Gil Hanse to give him an Old School public golf course. George named it Mossy Oak, after a West Point company of the same name that supplies outdoor camouflage gear. (The company has a 10-percent interest in the course.) He was going to call it Howlin' Wolf after a legendary blues singer born in West Point, but his heirs wanted too much money.
West Point, MS
From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten: I've always admired Jerry Pate's work in golf architecture. He was one of the few PGA Tour pros who really got down and dirty in golf design, and I especially liked the few courses he did with architect Bob Cupp. Their second collaboration was Old Waverly in tiny West Point, Miss., a dream project of West Point native George Bryan, who at the time was chairman of the meat division of the Sara Lee Corporation based in the tri-city area (West Point, Starkville and Columbus) known as Mississippi's Golden Triangle.
University of Missouri
The public golf options near Columbia, Mo., are limited, so after playing Tanglewood, we’d head about 90 minutes south to the Lake of the Ozarks and play Old Kinderhook and Osage National. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, Big Cedar Lodge has three courses ranked on our 100 Greatest Public list and is about three hours south of the Missouri campus. For more options closer to campus, consider Redfield and Eagle Knoll.
Lake Ozark, MO
The Ole Miss Golf Course is convenient for a weekend trip to Oxford, Miss., but make sure to book your tee time early if you’re looking to play during a home football weekend. If you’re flying into Memphis on the way to a game, we recommend Mirimichi, a challenging Best in Tennessee course that was once owned by Justin Timberlake. If you’re willing to drive 90 minutes, consider heading down to West Point and playing Mossy Oak and Old Waverly.
Holly Springs, MS
University of South Carolina
Quality public golf courses are very limited around Columbia, S.C. and the University of South Carolina, making a weekend golf trip tricky unless you have connections to private courses. Your best bet is to head down to Aiken and play the historic Aiken Golf Club. You’re less than 2.5 hours from Kiawah Island, which is a great option if you’re looking for some high-end resort golf and making a longer weekend out of it.
University of Tennessee
WindRiver and Island Pointe are the public courses close to Knoxville that we’d recommend, but if you’re willing to drive a couple hours, be sure to head down to Sewanee and Sweetens Cove, two of the best nine-hole courses in the country. Rarity Bay, Egwani Farms and Sevierville are also good public options near Knoxville.
Lenoir City, TN
South Pittsburg, TN
Texas A&M University
Gus Wortham, a recently restored municipal near downtown Houston, may be one of the most underrated courses in Texas and is definitely worth a round if you’re flying into Bush airport on the way to College Station. Memorial Park, which hosts the PGA Tour’s Houston Open, is also worth playing, as is Highland Pines, a new course with a uniquely heat resistant type of zoysia grass. Other courses worth checking out on the way to Texas A&M include the Golf Club of Houston, Cypresswood, Tour 18 and High Meadow Ranch.
There are some solid public options around Nashville, which we’ve highlighted below, but if you’re willing to drive 90 minutes, consider heading to Sewanee and Sweetens Cove, two nine-hole courses that are perfect for a laid-back weekend buddies’ trip.
Old Hickory, TN
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