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Which state has the best golf in the U.S.? Our definitive ranking settles the debate

THE STAGE IS SET The versatility of the par-3 11th at Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course will delight viewers.

Brian Oar

July 05, 2023

The debate over which state in the United States has the best golf is tricky, not only because there are so many worthy contenders, but also because it’s tough to agree upon one definition of what the “best golf" is. In our latest ranking of America’s 100 Greatest and Second 100 Greatest Golf Courses, 39 states are represented—providing a number of opportunities to study the results and deliver an answer to the above question.

In terms of which state boasts the most courses in the upper echelon of our rankings—that is, courses inside our top 10 and in our top 100—New York stands alone. The Empire State has three gems inside the top 10 (No. 4, Shinnecock Hills, No. 7 National Golf Links of America and No. 9 Fishers Island) and 15 inside our top 100.

You’ll notice all three of New York’s best courses are private clubs (as are 14 of the state’s 15 in the top 200), so what about the states with the best public golf? That belongs to Oregon and Wisconsin, whose top resorts are among the nation’s best, giving them five public courses each inside our top 200. In terms of the sheer number of courses open for public play, you have to throw Florida and South Carolina in the mix as well.

/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/2021/4/pacific dunes Pacific Dunes' third green and 13th fairway.jpg

Stephen Szurlej

For our purposes, though, we’re determining the states with the best golf by tallying all the courses inside our top 200. California, with 21 courses, takes the top spot, edging out New York. Though the Golden State has 13 courses inside the top 100, trailing its East Coast rival, the impressive depth in our Second 100 Greatest puts California over the edge. Florida, with 13 courses inside the top 200, rounds out the Big Three.

To help you argue your case during your next grillroom debate, here are the top 10 states with the most courses ranked inside our 2023-2024 America’s 100 Greatest and Second 100 Greatest lists.

1. California (21)

3. Cypress Point Club
Carlos Amoedo
Private
3. Cypress Point Club
Pebble Beach, CA, United States
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.

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12. Pebble Beach Golf Links
Sherman Chu
Public
12. Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, CA, United States
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.
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16. Los Angeles Country Club: North
Private
16. Los Angeles Country Club: North
Los Angeles, CA, United States
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.
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2. New York (17)

4. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Dom Furore
Private
4. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Southampton, NY, United States
4.9
170 Panelists
Generally considered to be the earliest links in America, heavily remodeled by C.B. Macdonald, then replaced (except for three holes) by William S. Flynn in the early 1930s, it’s so sublime that its architecture hasn’t really been altered for nearly 50 years. Most trees that once framed many holes have been removed, and in 2012, the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw did make a few changes, mostly green expansions and new mowing patterns, to prepare Shinnecock for the 2018 U.S. Open, won by Brooks Koepka. Shinnecock will again host the U.S. Open in 2026.
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7. National Golf Links of America
Private
7. National Golf Links of America
Southampton, NY, United States
4.9
255 Panelists
This is where golf architect Seth Raynor got his start. A civil engineer by training, he surveyed holes for architect C.B. Macdonald, who scientifically designed National Golf Links as a fusion of his favorite features from grand old British golf holes. National Golf Links is a true links containing a marvelous collection of holes. As the 2013 Walker Cup reminded us, Macdonald’s versions are actually superior in strategy to the originals, which is why National’s design is still studied by golf architects today, its holes now replicated elsewhere. Hard to fathom that National Golf Links of America was not ranked in the 100 Greatest from 1969 until 1985.
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9. Fishers Island Club
Private
9. Fishers Island Club
Fishers Island, NY, United States
4.8
263 Panelists
Probably the consummate design of architect Seth Raynor, who died in early 1926, before the course had officially opened. His steeply-banked bunkers and geometric greens harmonize perfectly with the linear panoramas of the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound. The quality of the holes is also superb, with all Raynor’s usual suspects, including not one but two Redan greens, one on a par 4.
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3. Florida (13)

10. Seminole Golf Club
Carlos Amoedo
Private
10. Seminole Golf Club
Juno Beach, FL, United States
4.8
211 Panelists
A majestic Donald Ross design with a clever routing on a rectangular site, each hole at Seminole encounters a new wind direction. The greens are no longer Ross, replaced 50 years ago in a regrassing effort that showed little appreciation for the original rolling contours. The bunkers aren’t Ross either. Dick Wilson replaced them in 1947, his own version meant to the imitate crests of waves on the adjacent Atlantic. A few years back, Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw redesigned the bunkers again, along with exposing some sandy expanses in the rough. Seminole has long been one of America’s most exclusive clubs, which is why it was thrilling to see it on TV for a first time during the TaylorMade Driving Relief match, and then again for the 2021 Walker Cup.
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41. TPC Sawgrass: Stadium
Dom Furore / Golf Digest
Public
41. 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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69. Calusa Pines Golf Club
Private
69. Calusa Pines Golf Club
Naples, FL, United States
4.6
344 Panelists
Calusa’s developer, Gary Chensoff, a Chicago venture capitalist, survived a rare form of cancer despite long odds, and his recovery strongly influenced how Calusa Pines was designed and built. Chensoff decided to gamble, instructing Hurdzan-Fry to design the most unique course in south Florida despite a dead flat site. They responded by piling up fill from ponds to form ridge lines up to 58 feet, then planted them with mature oaks, pines and sabal palms. Calusa Pines sports perhaps the firmest, fastest Bermuda fairways and greens in Florida, rivaled only by the turf at Streamsong. Recent removal of overgrown vegetation between holes has returned beautiful long-range views to the course and made it more playable.
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T-4. New Jersey (10)

1. Pine Valley Golf Club
Carlos Amoedo
Private
1. Pine Valley Golf Club
Pine Valley, NJ, United States
5
267 Panelists
A genuine original, its unique character is forged from the sandy pine barrens of southwest Jersey. Founder George Crump had help from now-legendary architects H.S. Colt, A.W. Tillinghast, George C. Thomas Jr. and Walter Travis. Hugh Wilson (of Merion fame) and his brother Alan finished the job, and William Flynn and Perry Maxwell made revisions. Throughout the course, Pine Valley blends all three schools of golf design—penal, heroic and strategic—often times on a single hole. Recent tree removal at selected spots have revealed some gorgeous views of the sandy landscape upon which the course is routed, and bunker reconstruction by Tom Fazio has given the barrens a more intricate and ornate look.
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45. Baltusrol Golf Club: Lower
Private
45. Baltusrol Golf Club: Lower
Springfield, NJ, United States
4.7
145 Panelists
Jack Nicklaus won two U.S. Opens on Baltusrol's Lower Course, setting a tournament record each time. Phil Mickelson and Jimmy Walker won PGAs on it. But the Lower’s most historic event was the ace by architect Robert Trent Jones in 1954 on the par-3 fourth, instantly squelching complaints of critical club members who felt Trent’s redesign made it too hard. Trent’s younger son, Rees, an avowed A.W. Tillinghast fan, lightly retouched the Lower’s design for the 2016 PGA Championship. But there has been another changing of the guard at Baltusrol, as architect Gil Hanse and his team took over as the club’s new consulting architects, and re-opened the restored Lower course—after carefully examining Tillie's old plans and reclaiming green size and rebuilding bunkers—in May 2021. The results, while praised, did not alter the course's standing in the 100 Greatest ranking--it remains at no. 45.
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57. Somerset Hills Country Club
Jeff Bertch/Courtesy of the club
Private
57. Somerset Hills Country Club
Bernardsville, NJ, United States
4.8
185 Panelists
Somerset Hills is another marvelous A.W. Tillinghast design, one of the few that has remained virtually unchanged since it opened in 1918. So it may be the most authentic Tillinghast course on the 100 Greatest. It’s a charming, laid-back design that works through seemingly undisturbed rolling terrain, past rock outcroppings and around small-but-distinctive water hazards. Tilly designed this with a spoonful of whimsy, with “dolomite” mounds edging one green and startling knobs within another putting surface. Like Baltusrol Upper, Somerset Hills has a Tillinghast version of a Redan par 3.
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T-4. North Carolina (10)

29. Pinehurst No. 2
Stephen Szurlej
Public
29. Pinehurst No. 2
Pinehurst, NC, United States
In 2010, a team lead by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw killed and ripped out all the Bermudagrass rough on Pinehurst No. 2 that had been foolishly planted in the 1970s. Between fairways and tree lines, they established vast bands of native hardpan sand dotted with clumps of wiregrass and scattered pine needles. They reduced the irrigation to mere single rows in fairways to prevent grass from ever returning to the new sandy wastelands. Playing firm and fast, it was wildly successful as the site of the 2014 Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens, played on consecutive weeks. Because of its water reduction, the course was named a Green Star environmental award-winner by Golf Digest that year. In 2019, Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4 hosted another U.S. Amateur Championship, and the USGA announced Pinehurst No. 2—in addition to hosting the 2024 U.S. Open—will also have the 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047 U.S. Opens.
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32. Wade Hampton Golf Club
Stephen Szurlej
Private
32. Wade Hampton Golf Club
Cashiers, NC, United States
4.8
124 Panelists
Built during the period when Tom Fazio was still working with the existing landscape rather than ignoring it, Wade Hampton is an exercise in restraint. The fairways flow through a natural valley between flanking mountain peaks. Some holes are guarded by gurgling brooks, but Fazio piped several streams underground to make the course more playable and walkable. Selected as Golf Digest’s Best New Private Course of 1987, it has never been out of the Top 40 since it joined America’s 100 Greatest.
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54. Old Town Club
Jon Cavalier
Private
54. Old Town Club
Winston Salem, NC, United States
4.7
190 Panelists
Created by architect Perry Maxwell on the heels of his work at No. 23 Prairie Dunes and No. 28 Southern Hills, Old Town Club was surprisingly unique, and included perhaps Maxwell’s only surviving double green. When Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were hired to address the bunkering at Old Town, they opted not to reproduce the original bunkers (some of which were enormous) but rather emulate their gnarly shapes, edges and vegetation in places where bunkers naturally fit. Lots of trees had already been removed, but the architects convinced the club to get rid of even more. Now, a single swath of fairway connects the seventh, eighth, ninth, 17th and 18th holes. Very unique. The course has jumped 45 places in the rankings since it debuted in 2019.
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6. South Carolina (9)

24. Kiawah Island Golf Resort: The Ocean Course
Carlos Amoedo
Public
24. Kiawah Island Golf Resort: The Ocean Course
Kiawah Island, SC, United States
Often considered to be the first course designed for a specific event—the 1991 Ryder Cup—this manufactured linksland-meets-lagoons layout might well be Pete Dye’s most diabolical creation. Every hole is edged by sawgrass, every green has tricky slopes, every bunker merges into bordering sand dunes. Strung along nearly three miles of ocean coast, Dye took his wife’s advice and perched fairways and greens so golfers can actually view the Atlantic surf. That also exposes shots and putts to ever-present and sometimes fierce coastal winds. The Ocean Course will forever be linked with Phil Mickelson and his improbable victory at the 2021 PGA Championship.
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42. Congaree Golf Club
Private
42. Congaree Golf Club
Ridgeland, SC, United States
4.8
150 Panelists
Tom Fazio has designed countless compelling golf courses on sites that weren't. But at Congaree, 30 minutes inland from Beaufort, S.C., he at least had great material: sand, in the form of two deep sections of it separated by a lowcountry wetland area. The sand made it easy to scoop and shape long ridgelines, creating significant movement across an otherwise level property—and dozens of stately live oaks, carefully transplanted for effect—further outline the design. Finely edged Melbourne-style bunkers sweep up to the edges of fairways and into greens, catching shots that drift too far and leading to challenging hi-lo recovery situations. Congaree hosted the 2022 CJ Cup after making its debut as a tour venue for the previous year's Palmetto Championship, which replaced that year's Canadian Open.
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104. Yeamans Hall Club
LC Lambrecht
Private
104. Yeamans Hall Club
Charleston, SC, United States
Though it contained a classic collection of Raynor favorites, including a Road Hole, a Biarritz, a Redan and even a Prize Dogleg (based on an entry from a 1914 magazine design contest), Yeamans Hall suffered from benign neglect for 50 years, with bunkers overgrown and greens both shrunk by mowing habits and mushroomed by topdressing. But in the later 1980s, the course superintendent discovered Raynor’s original plans in the clubhouse attic. Architect Tom Doak and his then-associate Jim Urbina used the plans to faithfully restore Raynor features. Urbina continues to implement restoration touches and Yeamans Hall today is one of the country's most polished and evocative examples of Raynor's architecture on a relatively flat piece of Lowcountry land.
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T-7. Illinois (8)

13. Chicago Golf Club
David Cannon
Private
13. Chicago Golf Club
Wheaton, IL
4.8
163 Panelists
Chicago Golf Club opened the country’s first 18-hole course in 1893, built by C.B. Macdonald, the preeminent golf expert in the U.S. at the time. Two years later Macdonald built the club a different course after the membership moved to a new location in Wheaton, Ill.: “a really first-class 18-hole course of 6,200 yards,” he wrote. Members played that course until 1923 when Seth Raynor, who began his architectural career as Macdonald’s surveyor and engineer, redesigned it using the “ideal hole” concepts his old boss had developed 15 years earlier (he kept Macdonald’s routing, which placed all the O.B. on the left—C.B. sliced the ball). For reasons of history and practicality, no major remodels have occurred since then, allowing the club to merely burnish the architecture by occasionally upgrading worn parts, adjusting grassing lines and, recently, reestablishing a number of lost bunkers that had been filled in over time.
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55. Shoreacres Golf Club
Brian Palmer/Courtesy of Shoreacres
Private
55. Shoreacres Golf Club
Lake Bluff, IL, United States
4.5
211 Panelists
Shoreacres possesses perhaps the most fascinating topography upon which Seth Raynor ever created a golf course, with his usual collection of suspects, including No. 3 (Leven), No. 6 (Biarritz), No. 7 (Double Plateau), No. 8 (Eden), No. 10 (Road) and No. 14 (Redan) all playing along plateaus and over ravines that feed into Lake Michigan. The stretch of 11, 12 and 13, playing across a ravine, down into it and back out of it, are as unique a stretch of holes as can be found anywhere on a 100 Greatest course.
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75. Butler National Golf Club
Private
75. Butler National Golf Club
Oak Brook, IL, United States
4.3
222 Panelists
Butler National was former tour player George Fazio’s ideal of a championship course, with 10 forced-carries over water in 18 holes. Even before it opened, it was signed to eventually serve as permanent site of the Western Open. Problem was, when it opened, it was the last cool-weather venue on the PGA Tour to utilize bluegrass rather than bent-grass for its fairway, and several prominent golfers declined to play Butler National because of potential flyer-lies from those fairways. Eventually the turf was converted, but then the Shoal Creek scandal occurred. Rather than change its restricted men-only policy, the club relinquished its role of Western Open host after the 1990 event. So why include a club on America’s 100 Greatest that won’t allow female panelists a chance to evaluate it? Because we rank golf courses, not club policies.
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T-7. Ohio (8)

17. Muirfield Village Golf Club
Private
17. Muirfield Village Golf Club
Dublin, OH, United States
4.9
172 Panelists
This is the course that Jack built, and rebuilt, and rebuilt again and again. Since its opening in 1974, Jack Nicklaus has remodeled every hole at Muirfield Village, some more than once, using play at the PGA Tour’s annual Memorial Tournament for some guidance. The most recent renovation in 2020 was one of the most extensive and included the rebuilding of every hole, the shifting of greens and tees, strategic changes to the iconic par 5s and a new, more player-friendly par3 16th. That’s how a championship course remains competitive. But with every change, Nicklaus always made sure the general membership could still play and enjoy the course as well. The latest word is that Nicklaus is still not happy with the 16th hole and has plans for yet another version.
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44. The Golf Club
Private
44. The Golf Club
New Albany, OH
4.5
299 Panelists
The Golf Club, built in 1966, may be the most authentic of Pete Dye’s transition period of design, when he first chose to buck convention and start building lay-of-the-land layouts like those he’d seen during a 1963 tour of Scotland. In doing so, Dye re-introduced deception, misdirection and railroad ties into American golf architecture. Its construction attracted the attention of local boy Jack Nicklaus, who visited several times and made some astute suggestions. That led to a five-year Dye-Nicklaus design partnership. The Golf Club remained untouched for nearly 45 years, until 2014, when Pete Dye returned to rebuild holes, modestly adjusting some of his original green contours to better match them to present-day green speeds. He also relocated the fifth green, adding a contorted putting surface more reminiscent of his later designs, an inconspicuous reminder how much his design pedilictions evolved throughout his career.
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47. Camargo Club
The Henebrys
Private
47. Camargo Club
Cincinnati, OH, United States
4.8
116 Panelists
One of Seth Raynor’s last designs, it wasn’t completed until nearly a year after his 1926 death. William Jackson, who later became the club’s pro and superintendent, handled the construction and was faithful to Raynor’s diagrams with two exceptions: he turned the 16th into a par 4 and the 17th into a par 5. Robert von Hagge added flashy but incongruous bunkering in the early 1960s. They lasted over 20 years, until Tom Doak undertook a restoration in the Raynor style of geometric-shaped bunkers and greens. Curiously, the Biarritz green at the par-3 eighth has never been mowed as the 60-yard-long putting surface found on other Biarritz holes built by Raynor or his mentor C.B. Macdonald. Club officials insisted early aerial photos confirm the front half of the green was always mown at fairway height, so they continue that tradition today. Don Placek of Renaissance Golf has recently completed further renovation enhancements, including adding six acres of restored fairway to better help define the scale of the property and extending the back left section of the Road green at 17 (as well as reintroducing a second "Road" bunker beyond the first) to reclaim its original prodigious 15,000 square feet.
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T-7. Massachusetts (8)

19. The Country Club: The Main Course
Brian Oar
4
160 Panelists
The Country Club’s 18-hole course that was the scene of the 1963 and 1988 U.S. Opens is not the 18-hole course ranked by Golf Digest. Those events were played on a composite course, utilizing a few holes from the club’s third Primrose nine. We rank the combination of the Main Course, clearly good enough to be one of the top courses in the world. Gil Hanse performed some course restoration prior to the 2013 U.S. Amateur at The Country Club. The USGA used a new configuration of 18 holes for the 2022 U.S. Open, won by Matthew Fitzpatrick, eliminating the par-4 fourth and adding the tiny par 3 11th, the first time the hole was used since the 1913 Open won by Francis Ouimet.
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50. Myopia Hunt Club
Jon Cavalier
Private
50. Myopia Hunt Club
South Hamilton, MA, United States
4.7
121 Panelists
Few realize Myopia Hunt Club, a funky, quirky lark where greens look like bathmats and bunkers look like bathtubs, hosted four U.S. Open championships by 1908 (two of them when the club had only nine holes). Although the Open hasn’t been back in over 110 years, Myopia has always retained a reputation of being a tough little rascal, with tiny greens, deep bunkers and several cross-hazards. Thanks to a Gil Hanse restoration, Myopia looks like it did in its U.S. Open heyday, but with much better turf conditions now.
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63. Old Sandwich Golf Club
The Henebrys/Courtesy of Old Sandwich GC
Private
63. Old Sandwich Golf Club
Plymouth, MA, United States
4.6
144 Panelists
Old Sandwich Golf Club may be the craftiest Coore-Crenshaw design yet built. Amidst its pines, scrub oaks, gnarly bunkers, chocolate drop mounds, wavy fescue and briar bushes are hints of Baltusrol, National Golf Links, Pine Valley, Pinehurst No 2 and Chicago Golf Club in its cross-bunkering, hazard placement and sandy waste areas. The greens are some of the most rolling of any Coore & Crenshaw design, seeded with a half-dozen bent varieties to give them an old-fashioned mottled appearance. Nobody does old-fashioned better than Coore & Crenshaw.
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T-10. Georgia (6)

2. Augusta National Golf Club
Dom Furore
Private
2. Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta, GA, United States
5
94 Panelists
No club has tinkered with its golf course as often or as effectively over the decades as has Augusta National Golf Club, mainly to keep it competitive for the annual Masters Tournament, an event it has conducted since 1934, with time off during WWII. All that tinkering has resulted in an amalgamation of design ideas, with a routing by Alister Mackenzie and Bobby Jones, some Perry Maxwell greens, some Trent Jones water hazards, some Jack Nicklaus mounds and swales and, most recently, extensive rebunkering and tree planting by Tom Fazio. The tinkering continues, including the lengthening of the par-4 fifth in the summer of 2018, the lengthening of the 11th and 15th holes in 2022, and the addition of 35 yards to the famed par-5 13th in 2023.
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25. Peachtree Golf Club
Dave Sansom
Private
25. Peachtree Golf Club
Atlanta, GA, United States
4.9
194 Panelists
The design collaboration by amateur star Bobby Jones and golf architect Robert Trent Jones (no relation) was meant to recapture the magic that the Grand Slam winner had experienced when he teamed with Alister Mackenzie in the design of Augusta National. But Trent was an even more forceful personality than the flamboyant Mackenzie, so Peachtree reflects far more of Trent’s notions of golf than Bobby’s, particularly in designing for future equipment advances. When it opened, Peachtree measured in excess of 7,200 yards, extremely long for that era. It boasted the longest set of tees in America (to provide flexibility on holes) and the country’s most enormous greens (to spread out wear and tear). As it turns out, Trent was a visionary, and decades later other designers followed his lead to address advances in club and ball technology.
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34. Ohoopee Match Club
Dom Furore
Private
34. Ohoopee Match Club
Cobbtown, GA, United States
4.8
84 Panelists

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:

I’ve been told Gil Hanse had first examined the site of Ohoopee Match Club as far back as 2006 considered it ideal for golf: gently rolling terrain with no severe elevation changes, and beautiful sandy soil deposited by the nearby Ohoopee River, perfect for drainage and firm, fast conditions.

The ground around tiny Cobbtown, Ga., is also perfect for growing onions—it’s just northeast of Vidalia, world-famous for the Vidalia onion. Indeed, Ohoopee’s logo is a freshly picked onion, although if you look closely, its roots are three writhing snakes.

Any symbolism pertaining to match play is uncertain; perhaps it simply suggests the sort of putts one will face. What’s the composition of a course meant for match play? One might think it would contain lots of penal hazards, because a triple bogey on any particular hole would not be fatal in match play.

Perhaps the targets would be smaller than normal, to level the playing field between big hitters and short-but-accurate golfers. That’s not the composition of the 7,325-yard championship course at Ohoopee. Hanse did produce dramatic visuals in this sandy locale that hark back to portions of Pinehurst and Pine Valley, from long expanses of sandy rough dotted with native plants to deep, foreboding pits of sand, but they’re mostly on the far perimeter of holes. 

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

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T-10. Pennsylvania (6)

5. Oakmont Country Club
Private
5. Oakmont Country Club
Oakmont, PA
4.9
255 Panelists
Once tens of thousands of trees (mostly planted in the 1960s) were removed between the early 90s and 2015, Oakmont’s original penal design was re-established, with the game’s nastiest, most notorious bunkers (founder-architect H.C. Fownes staked out bunkers whenever and where ever he saw a player hit an offline shot), deep drainage ditches and ankle-deep rough. Oakmont also has the game’s swiftest putting surfaces, which were showcased during the U.S. Open in 2016, despite early rains that slowed them down a bit. Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner made bunker modifications and expanded the greens throughout the course in 2023 in preparation for the 2025 U.S. Open. The USGA has already awarded Oakmont three additional Opens between 2033 and 2049, reinforcing its title as it the Host of the Most U.S. Opens ever.
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6. Merion Golf Club: East
Private
6. Merion Golf Club: East
Ardmore, PA, United States
4.9
272 Panelists
Merion East has long been considered the best course on the tightest acreage in America, and when it hosted the U.S. Open in 2013, its first since 1981, the present generation of big hitters couldn’t conquer this clever little course. They couldn’t consistently hit its twisting fairways, which are edged by creeks, hodge-podge rough and OB stakes and couldn’t consistently hold its canted greens, edged by bunkers that stare back. Justin Rose won with a 72-hole total of one-over-par, two ahead of Jason Day and Phil Mickelson. With Gil Hanse's extensive two-year renovation making even more improvements at Merion's East Course, the design should be even more polished when the Open returns again in 2030.
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95. Aronimink Golf Club
Russell Kirk
Private
95. Aronimink Golf Club
Newtown Square, PA
4.5
168 Panelists
Aronimink is an object lesson in architectural evolution. After Donald Ross completed his design in 1928, he proclaimed, “I intended to make this my masterpiece.” That didn’t keep club members from bringing in William Gordon in the 1950s to eliminate out-of-play fairway bunkers and move other bunkers closer to greens. The course was later revamped by Dick Wilson, George Fazio and Robert Trent Jones. In the 1990s and into the 2000s, Ron Prichard, one of the profession’s original restoration specialists, began returning Aronimink back to Ross’s conception based on the architect’s drawings and field diagrams. But there was always a discrepancy between what Ross drew in plans and what was actually built in 1928. A more recent renovation by Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner, who live nearby, has put the course’s architecture more in line with what aerial photographs depict of the early design, particularly the bunkering that might have been imagined as larger in scale but built in smaller, more scatter-shot formations.
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T-10. Wisconsin (6)

26. Whistling Straits: Straits Course
Public
26. Whistling Straits: Straits Course
Sheboygan, WI, United States
Pete Dye transformed a dead flat abandoned army air base along a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan into an imitation Ballybunion at Whistling Straits, peppering his rugged fairways and windswept greens with 1,012 (at last count) bunkers. There are no rakes at Whistling Straits, in keeping with the notion that this is a transplanted Irish links. It has too much rub-of-the-green for the comfort levels of many tour pros, which is what makes it a stern test for top events, such as three PGA Championships, the 2007 U.S. Senior Open and 2021 Ryder Cup.
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48. Erin Hills Golf Course
Paul Hundley
Public
48. Erin Hills Golf Course
Hartford, WI, United States
Despite the rumor, Erin Hills wasn’t designed specifically to host a U.S. Open. Its original concept was to be a simple, affordable, lay-of-the-land layout, to prove Mother Nature is indeed the best golf architect. The concept changed—some greens moved, one blind par 3 eliminated—as the quest for a U.S. Open grew. That dream came true: after trial runs hosting the 2008 U.S. Women’s Public Links and the 2011 U.S. Amateur, Erin Hills hosted the U.S. Open in 2017, the first time the event had ever been in Wisconsin. Brooks Koepka won with a 72-hole score of 16-under, leading some to conclude Erin Hills was too wide and defenseless. In truth, what it lacked that week was the usual gusty winds that would have effectively narrowed the slanted, canted fairways. Had the par been adjusted to 70 instead of 72 as is usual for most Opens, the score would likely have been closer to 8-under.
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86. Milwaukee Country Club
Evan Schiller/Courtesy of the club
Private
86. Milwaukee Country Club
River Hills, WI
4.5
182 Panelists
With much of the course hard against the Milwaukee River and several holes subject to flooding (the green of the 12th and the entire 13th are located across the river), one might think Milwaukee Country Club is a flat layout. But many of its holes are surprisingly hilly. Its classic design is still tree-lined, but one of the crucial improvements recently made by consulting architect Tom Doak and his associate Don Placek was to remove many trees to open up views of the river from upland holes.
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