Places To Play

Places to Play

The 11 best golf trips that offer the most bang for your buck

September 06, 2022

Much like weddings or school reunions, buddies trips offer golfers a chance to reconnect with friends away from the stress of day-to-day routines. Play some golf. Have a few drinks. Needle your opponent when the match gets tight. These getaways take on different shapes and sizes, but whether you take them with buddies from college, your weekend foursome or family members, the camaraderie always makes for memorable stories told long after the return home.

Of course, much like weddings, golf trips can be expensive. The most popular golf-trip destinations, though they might include some fantastic courses, can set you back thousands of dollars. If you’re looking to plan your next golf getaway but don’t want to break the bank, we’ve got you covered.

This collection includes our 11 favorite budget golf-trip destinations. We've identified some of the top quality, cheaper golf options that are worth seeking out in each region. Many of these courses have stay-and-play packages available to maximize value even further. 

Click around to learn more about each course and read reviews from our course-ranking panelists. And if you’re looking for more inspiration, check out our new, searchable course database, Places to Play, to plan your next trip.

Northern Michigan

Michigan is one of the most underrated public golf destinations in North America—with a ton of great courses in close proximity—it's perfect for planning a trip around. For your next buddies’ trip, consider heading up north for startling elevation changes, stunning scenery and tremendous value.

Though Forest Dunes and Arcadia Bluffs would be at the top of our lists if money was no obstacle, the below options are perfect for the group on a budget.

Bay Harbor Golf Club: Links/Quarry/Preserve
One of three grand "new Pebble Beaches" that debuted in the late 1990s, Bay Harbor was ranked third in Golf Digest's survey of Best New Upscale Public Courses of 1999, behind the twin juggernauts (and fellow Pebble Beach clones) Bandon Dunes and Whistling Straits. Bay Harbor consists of 27 holes, but we rank its Links 9, which plays mostly on a plateau overlooking Lake Michigan, and its Quarry 9, which dips in and out of a lakefront stone quarry.Though there isn't lodging directly at Bay Harbor, the Inn at Bay Harbor is an upscale option part of the Autograph Collection right down the road. And eight-person cottages with stay-and-play deals are also available at nearby Crooked Tree.
View Course
Marquette Golf Club: Greywalls
Public
Marquette Golf Club: Greywalls
Marquette, MI
A decade before architect Mike DeVries created the world-class Cape Wickham Golf Club in Australia, he produced an equally compelling design in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a second 18 for Marquette. It’s called Greywalls because of all the granite rock outcroppings that edge some holes and squeeze others, like the short par-4 fifth, and because the rock provides the rugged topography over which this course scampers up and plunges down. The vistas out over Lake Superior are fantastic, beginning with the opening tee shot. Like Wilderness Club (No. 57 on our 100 Greatest Public list), this is a destination course worth hiking to play.
View Course
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa: The Bear
Public
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa: The Bear
Williamsburg, MI
47 Panelists
Ranked for 10 years on our 100 Greatest Public list, The Bear is one of three championship layouts at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. The Jack Nicklaus-designed northern Michigan gem opened in 1985 and has plenty of character—with tiered greens, native fescue, moguls and deep pot bunkers. Like many Nicklaus designs, The Bear is a stern test, tipping out over 7,000 yards with a slope and rating of 76.1/150.
View Course

The other courses at Grand Traverse are also worth playing:

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa: The Wolverine
Gary Player created two distinct nines at The Wolverine course at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. The opening side plays along lowland marshes, with water lining many holes. Despite the water, the fairways are generous on the front. The back nine plays on rolling terrain with more elevation changes from tee to green.
View Course
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa: Spruce Run
The most affordable of the three courses at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, Spruce Run is considered the most player-friendly design on property. Renamed in the 1990s for the abundant spruce and fir trees that line most holes, the northern Michigan layout plays on gently rolling hills surrounding the resort’s hotel.
View Course
Treetops Resort: Masterpiece
Public
Treetops Resort: Masterpiece
Gaylord, MI
The Masterpiece course is considered the most difficult of the four 18-hole layouts (and one nine-hole course) at Treetops Resort. The scenic northern Michigan layout features plenty of elevation changes as well as deep ravines, water hazards and undulating greens.
View Course
Treetops Resort: Premier
Public
Treetops Resort: Premier
Gaylord, MI
One of four 18-hole layouts (and one nine-hole course) at Treetops Resort, the Premier course is a player-friendly Tom Fazio design with just one water hazard. There are numerous doglegs and many of the fairways are wide and slope to the middle, making them play wider than they already are.
View Course
Treetops Resort: Signature
Public
Treetops Resort: Signature
Gaylord, MI
Treetops Resort’s Signature course was Rick Smith’s first 18-hole design. Prior to laying out the course, Smith took a month-long trip to Ireland and Scotland to study the historic tracks. The resulting Signature course has narrow fairways and challenging greens that are considered the most undulating at Treetops Resort, which has 81 holes in total.
View Course
Treetops Resort: Tradition
Public
Treetops Resort: Tradition
Gaylord, MI
The Tradition course is considered the most player-friendly of the four layouts at Treetops Resort, tipping out at just over 6,300 yards. The Rick Smith design presents gently undulating, wide fairways framed by native grasses.
View Course
Shanty Creek Resort: Cedar River
Public
Shanty Creek Resort: Cedar River
Bellaire, MI
Shanty Creek Resort is spread across 5,500 acres in northern Michigan and is split into four distinct villages that each deliver a unique experience. The resort offers five championship courses, including the Tom Weiskopf-designed Cedar River, which has relatively small greens and many water hazards in play.
View Course
Shanty Creek Resort: The Legend
Public
Shanty Creek Resort: The Legend
Bellaire, MI
Shanty Creek Resort is spread across 5,500 acres in northern Michigan and is split into four distinct villages that each deliver a unique experience. The Arnold Palmer-designed Legend course is one of the resort’s five 18-hole layouts and features elevation changes, a meandering Shanty Creek and beautiful views of Lake Bellaire.
View Course
Shanty Creek Resort: Hawk's Eye
Public
Shanty Creek Resort: Hawk's Eye
Bellaire, MI
Shanty Creek Resort is spread across 5,500 acres in northern Michigan and offers five 18-hole courses. Hawk’s Eye is a challenging layout with water in play on half of the holes. There’s a good amount of elevation change which create some scenic vistas. The greens have a fair amount of undulation to them, allowing the player to feed the ball into certain pins.
View Course
Shanty Creek Resort: Schuss Mountain
Shanty Creek Resort is spread across 5,500 acres in northern Michigan and offers five 18-hole courses. At Schuss Mountain, which opened in 1972, there are two distinct nines. While the front is relatively flat and weaves through dense pine forests, the back side traverses rolling hills, providing more elevation change from tee to green. Overall, the greens don’t have a lot of undulation and are relatively straightforward.
View Course
Shanty Creek Resort: Summit
Public
Shanty Creek Resort: Summit
Bellaire, MI
Shanty Creek Resort is spread across 5,500 acres in northern Michigan and offers five 18-hole courses. The most playable of the five, Summit is a short course (under 6,300 yards from the tips) but can be tricky around the small, sloped greens. There is a par-3 tee box on every hole to give juniors and beginners an inviting way to pick up the game.
View Course

Alabama

Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail—complete with nearly 500 holes at 11 facilities spread across the state—provides some of the best value in the country. We’ve selected the best courses on the Trail between Birmingham and Montgomery for you to plan your next trip around.

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail At Capitol Hill: The Judge
35 Panelists
Appropriately named for its location just outside Alabama’s state capital, the Judge course at Capitol Hill opens with one of the more memorable holes on the Trail. The opener plays straight down hill to a green perched along the backwaters of the Alabama River. With water in play on 14 of 18 holes, the Judge—currently ranked fifth on our Best in Alabama list—demands your best ball-striking, most notably on the island-green par-3 sixth.
View Course
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail At Capitol Hill: Legislator
Unlike its sibling Judge course, which is defended by water throughout, the Legislator is a more traditional tree-lined layout with water in play on just four holes. The front nine at this Montgomery-area track plays on a bluff over a lake, weaving in and out of dense forest. The back nine descends to play among a native cypress swamp, which provides a unique setting, especially on holes 11 through 13. More forgiving off the tee than the Judge, the Legislator is the more player-friendly option.
View Course
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail At Capitol Hill: Senator
A links-style course just outside Montgomery, the Senator has many qualities of a classic Scottish layout: Pot bunkers abound, imposing mounding covered in native grasses flanking the wide fairways and large undulating greens. Water is in play on just one hole—the par-5 17th—where a creek bisects the fairway, creating a tricky second shot.
View Course
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail At Cambrian Ridge: Canyon/Loblolly/Sherling
This layout ranked third on Golf Digest’s list of Best New Public Courses in 1994 and features vast elevation changes. The Sherling nine starts at the highest point in Butler County before descending to play along a lake. Large, undulating greens put an emphasis on precise iron play and a deft touch on the greens. Many extraordinarily tall pine trees and several pristine lakes make this one of the most scenic courses on the RTJ Trail.
View Course
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Ross Bridge

Towering pines and two large lakes frame many holes on this expansive layout just south of Birmingham. Significant elevation changes dictate a layout that plays up and down the banks that surround the two lakes, which are connected by a stunning waterfall that separates the ninth and 18th greens. With wide landing areas and large greens, there is ample room for wayward shots. The course tips out over 8,000 yards, but there are five sets of tees to accommodate all players. Note: The course is temporarily closed due to green damage caused by misapplied herbicide.

View Course
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail At Oxmoor Valley: Ridge
Standing on the first tee looking down at the fairway below, golfers will get a sense of the dramatic elevation changes and undulating fairways in store for their round. The “roller-coaster” fairways are aesthetically appealing and create many shots from uneven lies. A heavily wooded track flanked by imposing pines, the Ridge course features several dramatic elevation changes, including at the downhill par-3 eighth. Given the topography, taking a cart is recommended.
View Course
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail At Oxmoor Valley: Valley
The 54 holes at Oxmoor Valley were built on former mining land owned by U.S. Steel. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the Valley course is a tree-lined layout with rolling fairways and modest elevation changes. The first tee is perched high on a bluff, offering scenic views of the surrounding hills. The course extends two miles down a narrow valley before returning to the clubhouse. Large bunkers and several imposing lakes demand precise shot placement.
View Course

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach has long been a staple on any list of best golf trips. For good reason: The Grand Strand boasts nearly a hundred courses, many of which offer stay-and-play packages that combine value with quality golf. On your next trip to the Palmetto State, consider these multi-course resorts.

Barefoot Resort & Golf: Dye Course
Public
Barefoot Resort & Golf: Dye Course
North Myrtle Beach, SC
52 Panelists
The highest ranked of the four courses at Barefoot Resort, the Dye course features classic Dye bunker complexes with risk/reward opportunities for low-handicappers with playable options from forward tees for higher handicappers.
View Course
Barefoot Resort & Golf: Fazio Course
Public
Barefoot Resort & Golf: Fazio Course
North Myrtle Beach, SC
Fazio's entry at Barefoot Resort will challenge the best players—with the routing constantly changing direction to account for the seemingly ever-present wind—but is playable for the resort player. The par-5 fourth hole stands out—lined with bunkers and a sentinel pine up by the green. The 18th hole is a great finish, playing up to the clubhouse with a huge porch, perfect for watching players come in.
View Course
Barefoot Resort & Golf: Love Course
Public
Barefoot Resort & Golf: Love Course
North Myrtle Beach, SC
A member of Golf Digest's 100 Greatest Public ranking from 2003 to 2007, the Love course is one of the best in Myrtle Beach and yet ranked as the third-best at golf-rich Barefoot Resort (just a few tenths of a point behind the Fazio course, according to our panelists). This is Love Golf Design's only work in Myrtle Beach, and it makes good use of the land with a good variety of holes—long, short and doglegs in each direction.
View Course
Barefoot Resort & Golf: Norman Course
Public
Barefoot Resort & Golf: Norman Course
North Myrtle Beach, SC
The Norman course at Barefoot Resort is highlighted by the seven holes that play along the Intracoastal Waterway. As is typical of many Greg Norman designs, the fairways run off into sandy waste areas, which present a unique challenge. The greens have subtle movement and often give the player the option of hitting a low, bump-and-run shot.
View Course
The Legends Golf Resort: Heathland
Public
The Legends Golf Resort: Heathland
Myrtle Beach, SC
The Heathland course at the Legends Golf Resort opened in 1990 and was one of Tom Doak’s earliest designs. The acclaimed Doak—who also designed Pacific Dunes, Tara Iti and Streamsong Blue, among many others—designed Heathland in a Scottish links-style, with open, rolling terrain. Shot options abound at Heathland, with well-placed bunkering, patches of dense native grasses and a meandering creek all demanding thoughtful strategy and proper execution.
View Course
The Legends Golf Resort: Moorland
Public
The Legends Golf Resort: Moorland
Myrtle Beach, SC

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten: At the same time in 1989 when Tom Doak was constructing the Heathland Course at Legends Golf Resort in Myrtle Beach, Pete Dye's younger son, P.B. Dye, was on site concocting another 18, the Moorland Course. (I'm pretty sure Doak routed Moorland at the same time he prepared his plans for Heathland, because early press releases stated Doak was do three 18s at the resort. He ended up building just one of the three.) Moorland, like Heathland, opened in 1990, and I played both soon thereafter.

For our architecture editor's complete review, click here

View Course
The Legends Golf Resort: Parkland
Public
The Legends Golf Resort: Parkland
Myrtle Beach, SC
As evidenced by its name, the Parkland course at Legends Golf Resort is tree-lined and relatively flat, with subtly contoured fairways. There are recently renovated bunkers and plenty of native fescue lining many fairways.
View Course
Tidewater Golf Club
Public
Tidewater Golf Club
North Myrtle Beach, SC
When Ken Tomlinson set out to build this Grand Strand course, he looked to world famous designs, such as Merion and Pine Valley. The architect wanted to ensure that his venue would harmonize seamlessly with its natural surroundings. Tidewater does just that: sitting atop a peninsula, the golf course is nestled between the tidal marsh and forest lands in North Myrtle Beach.
View Course

Colonial Williamsburg

Oftentimes, a buddies’ trip is all about the golf. A 27- or 36-hole day is commonplace for many groups looking to maximize time on the course. Colonial Williamsburg is great for that -- as many resorts offer multiple courses that are all worth playing. But on at least one of the days, make sure you head to the historic center of town, where life looks similar to as it did in the 18th century.  

Golden Horseshoe Golf Club: Gold Course
Public
Golden Horseshoe Golf Club: Gold Course
Williamsburg, VA
Back in 1966, Golden Horseshoe was ranked among America's 200 Toughest Courses by Golf Digest. How times change. In 2012, we ranked The Gold Course as one of America's 50 Most Fun Public Courses. "Trent Jones in his kinder, gentler persona," we wrote. "Even the island green seventh hole is a generous target." The evolved Williamsburg track hosted the 1999 USGA Men's State Team Championship.
View Course
Golden Horseshoe Golf Club: Green
Public
Golden Horseshoe Golf Club: Green
Williamsburg, VA
Panelists
Though not ranked as high as the Gold course, the Rees Jones-designed Green course has hosted three USGA championships, including the 2004 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. Compared to the Gold, the Green course is longer but more forgiving, with generous landing areas.
View Course
Kingsmill Resort: The River Course
Public
Kingsmill Resort: The River Course
Williamsburg, VA
Pete Dye gained notoriety in the 1960s for his unique, trend-setting take on architecture at courses like The Golf Club, Crooked Stick and Harbour Town. He became a virtual household name in the 1980s after creating sensations like The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, PGA West and Blackwolf Run, and the fame continued throughout the 90s and for the rest of his career—at The Ocean Course, Whistling Straits, The Dye Course at French Lick and numerous others—until his passing in 2020. Less heralded are his courses from the 1970s. But among them, the River Course at Kingsmill Resort continues to stand out and remains a strong expression of Dye’s early design period, more in the mode of Harbour Town than Sawgrass. The course, which hosted the PGA Tour’s Michelob Championship from 1981 through 2002 and now hosts an LPGA event, sits quietly on the land and lets the natural movements of the wooded site—rather than sharp architectural features—define the character. The final three holes circle near the James River, including the par-3 17th that plays on a bluff above the water.
View Course
Kingsmill Resort: The Plantation Course
Public
Kingsmill Resort: The Plantation Course
Williamsburg, VA
The Plantation course at Kingsmill Resort is an Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay design that offers generous fairways. The par-72 layout, which plays through a housing development, is relatively short, tipping out at under 6,500 yards. Many fairways are tree-lined and a couple par 3s play over deep ravines.
View Course
Royal New Kent Golf Club
Public
Royal New Kent Golf Club
Providence Forge, VA
26 Panelists
The tragically short career of the late architect Mike Strantz, an understudy of Tom Fazio, netted less than 10 of his own designs. Royal New Kent is one of them, and it earned Golf Digest’s Best New Upscale public course in 1997. The links-inspired course tips out at 7,400 yards and features more than 100 of Strantz’s artistically designed bunkers, hand-stacked rock walls and tall fescue. The course re-opened under new ownership in 2020 and is currently ranked 12th in state.
View Course

Orlando

Like Myrtle Beach, Orlando is a fixture on many golf destination lists, with a number of quality public options to plan your next trip around. There are truly an endless amount of solid Orlando golf options, but we've highlighted our favorite ones below.

Mission Inn Resort & Club: El Campeon
Public
Mission Inn Resort & Club: El Campeon
Howey In The Hills, FL
Mission Inn Resort offers two courses which have hosted numerous amateur and professional events, including PGA Tour Latinoamerica Q-school. The El Campeón course opened in 1917, making it one of the oldest courses in the area. The course is situated on steep hills with elevation changes of over 85 feet, and water is in play on most holes.
View Course
Mission Inn Resort & Club: Las Colinas
Public
Mission Inn Resort & Club: Las Colinas
Howey In The Hills, FL
Mission Inn Resort offers two courses which have hosted numerous amateur and professional events, including PGA Tour Latinoamerica Q-school. The Las Colinas course has less water in play than its sibling layout, but the large, undulating greens provide an intriguing test. Trees closely guard many fairways on the back nine, placing a premium on accuracy off the tee.
View Course
Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge: Crooked Cat
Orange County National is a hotspot for public golf in Orlando, with two quality courses (and a third nine-hole layout) and a massive, 360-degree driving range. Crooked Cat, often considered easier than its sibling course, offers more of a links-style experience, with native heather framing the wide fairways.
View Course
Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge: Panther Lake
Orange County National is a hotspot for public golf in Orlando, with two quality courses (and a third nine-hole layout) and a massive, 360-degree driving range. The Panther Lake course winds through rolling meadows, native pines, and wetlands, immersing golfers in the natural landscape. Elevation changes of up to 60 feet and no housing developments make this Florida course unique.
View Course
Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge: Tooth
The walking-only Tooth course at Orange County National is made up of exciting par 3s of varying length and a couple of short par 4s. The greens are small and have plenty of slope, making this a fun complement to the two regulation courses at Orange County National.
View Course
Reunion Resort & Golf Club: Jack Nicklaus Course
Three stellar golf courses—designed by Nicklaus, Palmer and Watson—can be found at this full-service Orlando-area resort, making it the only destination with three courses designed by these three legends. A manageable drive to the airport makes this an easy trip to plan.  The Nicklaus Course is generally forgiving off the tee, but small, undulating greens place a premium on precise iron play. Elevated railroad-tie tees and greens, along with the occasional pot bunker, give the course character.
View Course
Reunion Resort & Golf Club: Arnold Palmer Course
Three stellar golf courses—designed by Nicklaus, Palmer and Watson—can be found at this full-service Orlando-area resort, making it the only destination with three courses designed by these three legends. A manageable drive to the airport makes this an easy trip to plan. The Palmer Course challenges players with undulating terrain, creating uneven lies in the fairways and rough. It features significant elevation changes, including a 50-foot drop from tee to green at the par-3 second.
View Course
Reunion Resort & Golf Club: Tom Watson Course
Three stellar golf courses—designed by Nicklaus, Palmer and Watson—can be found at this full-service Orlando-area resort, making it the only destination with three courses designed by these three legends. A manageable drive to the airport makes this an easy trip to plan. The Watson Course utilizes strategic bunkering and hilly terrain as its defense. With hardly any water in play on the course, bunkers line the fairways, which are generally wide.
View Course

Tampa

For another getaway to the Sunshine State, consider heading down to the Tampa area, where you’ll find some great public options. Tampa offers the perfect combination of quality nightlife with very good golf. Though Innisbrook Resort or nearby Streamsong might top many traditional lists, we’ve identified some hidden gems for this buddies-trip-on-a-budget list that for solid value.

Also keep in mind that World Woods -- which will be Cabot Citrus Farms when it re-opens (projected to be the end of 2023) -- will become our new favorite option in the area.

Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club: South Course
Built on uniquely hilly terrain about 30 minutes north of Tampa, Lake Jovita’s South course is largely tree-lined and features plenty of elevation changes. The par-5 11th features a 30-yard drop from tee to green, which provides a scenic view when you crest the hill and look down on the green. There is a nice blend of doglegs in both directions on the South course, allowing golfers to shape it whichever way they prefer.
View Course
Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club: North Course
Much like Lake Jovita’s South course, the North plays on uniquely hilly terrain just 30 minutes north of Tampa. The North offers even more elevation changes than the South. Standing on the second tee, golfers can see up to five miles in the distance. The North is slightly longer than its sibling and has less trees, giving it a more open, expansive feel.
View Course
Fox Hollow Golf Club
Public
Fox Hollow Golf Club
Trinity, FL
Just northwest of Tampa, Fox Hollow was one of the last courses designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. In typical RTJ fashion, there are plenty of water hazards and penal bunkers lining many fairways. The landing areas are contoured, with mounds creating a lot of uneven lies. The layout finishes strong at the par-4 18th, where water lines both sides of the fairway for the entire length of the hole.
View Course
The Club at Cheval
Public
The Club at Cheval
Lutz, FL
Playing over 860 acres just north of Tampa, The Club at Cheval is a semi-private course lined with towering cypress trees. The Steve Smyers layout is demanding off the tee, with water coming into play on more than half of the holes. Despite playing around a housing development, several holes—especially around the turn—have a secluded feel.
View Course

Minnesota

It’s only appropriate that these affordable courses in the Land of 10,000 Lakes all play around … lakes. This collection of scenic tracks includes a 100 Greatest Public course and a couple of shorter options sure to inject excitement into your next buddies’ trip match. 

Madden's on Gull Lake: The Classic at Madden's
The Classic is a genuine amateur architect design, although course superintendent Scott Hoffmann consulted with veteran course architect Geoff Cornish as well as others in creating The Classic at Madden's. It's beautiful but not for the faint of heart, a hilly course with some narrow, pine-lined fairways and occasional challenging shots over water from sidehill or downhill lies. But, like other multiple course operations such as Bethpage and Cog Hill, Madden's has easier alternate layouts for high-handicappers.
View Course
Madden's on Gull Lake: Pine Beach East
Designed by Scotsman James Dalgleish and opened in 1926, the Pine Beach East course at Madden’s features Minnesota’s only par 6, at the sixth hole, which can play over 600 yards. Another unique feature is the straightforward par 3 opener which allows golfers to ease into their round. In fact, there are six par 3s in total at this short par-72 layout.
View Course
Legacy Courses At Craguns: Dutch Legacy
15 Panelists
With six par 5s and par 3s, the Dutch Legacy course at Craguns is a unique layout that offers stunning elevation changes and dramatic vistas. The Dutch Legacy course was ranked in Golf Digest's most recent Best in State ranking in Minnesota. Wide fairways means that higher-handicappers have some room to miss off the tee, but shot options are still high with the course demanding players navigate penalty areas and some undulating greens.
View Course
The Pines At Grand View Lodge: Lakes/Woods/Marsh
Talk about sneaky competitive golf states: Minnesota boasts a top-25 ranking with eight public facilities -- and yet Grand View Lodge's Pines course -- which is actually 27 holes, is also one of the state's best. The Lakes/Woods nines comprise what Grand View Lodge refers to as its 'players' course, but the Marsh nine also rotates into the mix. The resort has had a number of improvements over the past couple years, including to its second course, the Preserve, and a multi-million-dollar renovation to the resort's clubhouse.
View Course
Deacon's Lodge Golf Course
Public
Deacon's Lodge Golf Course
Pequot Lakes, MN
27 Panelists
A former member of our 100 Greatest Public list, Deacon’s Lodge is a scenic Arnold Palmer signature course that plays through woodlands and around lakes. The fairways have a lot of movement to them and are often banked on the sides, filtering balls toward the middle. There are some forced carries over native grasses, which add to the aesthetics of this central Minnesota layout.
View Course

Closer to the Wisconsin side of the state, a very worthwhile trip would be combining two 100 Greatest Public facilities: Giants Ridge and The Wilderness at Fortune Bay.

The Quarry at Giants Ridge
Public
The Quarry at Giants Ridge
Biwabik, MN
It doesn't get the press that courses such as Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Whistling Straits or Arcadia Bluffs, but The Quarry at Giants Ridge plays very links-like with its collection of fairway speed slots, greenside backboards and backstops and reverse-camber greens. Its very inventive design also demands some aerial play, too. A standout is its 13th, a drivable par 4 that's nearly as wide as it is long, with three alternate routes to a 100-yard-wide green.
View Course
The Wilderness At Fortune Bay
In 2005, The Wilderness at Fortune Bay won America's Best New Upscale Public Course, a year after architect Jeff Brauer won the same award for No. 25 The Quarry at Giant's Ridge, also in northern Minnesota. Where The Quarry uses slopes and ramps, Wilderness rewards aerial play, with some high-low alternate fairways, lake-edged greens and a pair of drop-shot par 3s. As we wrote back in 2005, "its options outnumber its rock outcroppings, and there are outcroppings galore."
View Course

West Point, Mississippi

One of the more underrated destinations in this collection, West Point, Miss. boasts a couple of exceptional layouts—both ranked on our 100 Greatest Public list—that won’t break the bank.

Mossy Oak Golf Club
Public
Mossy Oak Golf Club
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. Hanse got the job before he was awarded the Rio Olympics design in 2012, and it was the first project he tackled after completing his work in Brazil.

For the full review from our architecture editor, click here.

View Course
Old Waverly Golf Club
Old Waverly Golf Club
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. Cupp was just two years removed from his employment as Jack Nicklaus’ chief designer, and Pate was still active on the PGA Tour when they started the project in August 1986. Both spent a lot of time on the site. I remember Pate was as proud of the massive drainage system he successfully persuaded Old Waverly to adopt as he was of the many strategies he helped impart in its holes. The course opened in August 1988 to immediate acclaim, finishing No. 3 among Golf Digest's Best New Private Courses in 1989.

For the complete review from our architecture editor, click here.

View Course

San Antonio

In terms of affordable public golf, the San Antonio area is tough to beat. Of all the destinations in this collection, these Texas Hill Country courses may provide the most bang for your buck. Of course, Austin is also very doable when headed to the Hill Country, but there's a little more value on and off the course in San Antonio.

The Quarry Golf Course: Quarry
Public
The Quarry Golf Course: Quarry
San Antonio, TX
Designed by Keith Foster in 1993, this par 71 is defined by its fascinating history. The rock formations throughout the golf course date back to 1908 when the piece of land was home to the Alamo Quarry. Along with its unique story, the San Antonio course boasts dramatic cliffs with abrupt elevation changes.
View Course
La Cantera Golf Club
Public
La Cantera Golf Club
San Antonio, TX
Ranked Golf Digest’s Best New Public Course of 1995, La Cantera Golf Club is a beautiful Texas Hill Country course located on one of the highest points in the area. As you navigate the frequent elevation changes and tricky false fronts on this 7,001-yard par-72, look out at impressive views of the Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme park.
View Course
Canyon Springs Golf Club
Public
Canyon Springs Golf Club
San Antonio, TX
Built on former farmland, Canyon Springs is a classic Texas Hill Country design, playing on rolling hills and through thick stands of trees. A couple of limestone waterfalls and numerous patches of thick native grasses enhance the aesthetics of the course. Finding the fairway is imperative, as bunkers and fescue line many holes.
View Course
Brackenridge Park Golf Course
Public
Brackenridge Park Golf Course
San Antonio, TX
Home to the very first Texas Open in 1922, Brackenridge Park is a tree-lined city-park course with tee times starting at only $53. In 2008, a restoration and rerouting brought the municipal track back to its original 1916 A.W. Tillinghast style. Located just north of downtown San Antonio, Brackenridge is now the site of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame.
View Course
SilverHorn Golf Club of Texas
Public
SilverHorn Golf Club of Texas
San Antonio, TX
Just a couple of miles from San Antonio’s airport, SilverHorn is a conveniently located public track with affordable rates (we’ve seen afternoon times go for under $40). The tree-lined fairways can be tough to hit, with lakes and creeks both coming into play off the tee. The signature hole is the par-4 15th, which features an elevated green and a couple of creeks crossing the fairway.
View Course
The Bandit Golf Club
Public
The Bandit Golf Club
New Braunfels, TX
Situated about 30 minutes northeast of downtown San Antonio, The Bandit Golf Club is an affordable public course with elevation changes, large bunkers and a meandering creek that comes into play on several holes. Weekday rates start at about $50 and kids under 18 play free with a paying adult, making The Bandit one of the best value courses around.
View Course
Cedar Creek Golf Course
Public
Cedar Creek Golf Course
San Antonio, TX
Cedar Creek, located northwest of downtown San Antonio, weaves through the hillside and has plenty of elevation changes. Though some fairways are narrow, the edges often camber towards the middle, salvaging an errant shot. Cedar Creek, which has hosted a local qualifier for the U.S. Open on numerous occasions, can be played for under $40 on weekdays and weekends.
View Course

Chattanooga

If your typical buddies’ trip usually takes on a laidback vibe, consider centering your next one around Sweetens Cove, just outside Chattanooga. And there are some other quality options in the area to round out your trip for when you’re not whacking it around the Peyton Manning-backed nine-holer with few rules.

Sweetens Cove Golf Club
Public
Sweetens Cove Golf Club
South Pittsburg, TN
The nine-holer just 30 miles west of Chattanooga is probably the buzziest nine-hole course in the U.S. Designed by King-Collins and now with financial backing by prominent golfers such as Peyton Manning, Sweetens Cove offers numerous alternative routings, allowing the course to be played several ways. The laidback atmosphere defies country-club tradition and encourages players to wear whatever they want—even allowing golfers to bring their dog along for the round. The course itself features generous fairways and massive, undulating greens that reward imagination and creativity.
View Course
Bear Trace at Harrison Bay
Public
Bear Trace at Harrison Bay
Harrison, TN
About 30 minutes north of Chattanooga, this Jack Nicklaus layout plays out on a peninsula on Chickamauga Lake, which surrounds the property on three sides. Despite the lake setting, water does not come into play on many holes—instead the defense comes from tall stately pines. With few forced carries, wide fairways, and the ability to run the ball up onto most greens, the course is playable for all golfers. In the warmer months, it’s common to see boats populating the surrounding lake.
View Course
Brainerd Golf Course
Public
Brainerd Golf Course
Chattanooga, TN
This Donald Ross design dates back to the 1920s and today is owned by the City of Chattanooga. Though the conditioning of the fairways can vary, our panelists note that the greens often roll well. At under 6,500 yards from the tips, the historic tree-lined course is playable for the average golfer.
View Course

Mesquite, Nev./St. George, Utah

One of the most scenic destinations in this collection, southern Nevada and Utah provide some of the most dramatic rock formations you’ll find on a course. Several of these affordable tracks just northeast of Las Vegas highlight desert golf in its gentler form, with wider landing areas than are typical of many southwestern layouts. 

Sand Hollow Resort: Championship
Public
Sand Hollow Resort: Championship
Hurricane, UT
One of the most scenic courses in the southwest, Sand Hollow’s Championship course has several holes that play on the edge of jagged cliffs. The front nine is a relatively straightforward desert layout with well-placed bunkers. The back side features dramatic elevation changes as golfers play along a towering ridgeline, which falls off dramatically. For the views alone—not to mention the strategic design—this is a must-play in southern Utah.
View Course
The Ledges of St. George
Public
The Ledges of St. George
Saint George, UT
The Ledges of St. George is a playable southern Utah public track with tremendous views of the red rocks that characterize the region. There are some shorter par 4s that can be drivable for the longer hitter, making for some exciting risk/reward decisions. Though the views are nice throughout, the back nine offers some stunning vistas of the surrounding rocks, ledges and mountains.
View Course
Copper Rock
Public
Copper Rock
Hurricane, UT
Built on a sprawling piece of property with desert dunes and mountain views, Copper Rock is a 6,901-yard routing that opened in February 2020 that's absolutely worth playing if you're in Southern Utah. The course also has hosted the LPGA's Epson Tour in the past.
View Course
Wolf Creek Golf Club
Public
Wolf Creek Golf Club
Mesquite, NV
Wolf Creek is a fantasy calendar come to life, with holes clinging to stark canyon hillsides and plunging down narrow ravines. A genuine amateur architect design (although Jim Engh provided an early routing), Wolf Creek finished third in Golf Digest's survey of America's Best New Upscale Public Courses of 2001, behind Pacific Dunes and Arcadia Bluffs (Bluffs). All three are now ranked among America's 100 Greatest Public Courses.
View Course
Oasis Golf Club: Palmer
Public
Oasis Golf Club: Palmer
Mesquite, NV
This Arnold Palmer design features many canyon fairways framed by towering rocky outcroppings. The course effectively uses the terrain, creating a variety of elevation changes, including several captivating elevated tee shots to landing areas that appear smaller off the tee than they actually are. The elevated tees provide beautiful vistas of the surrounding mountains. The Big Break Mesquite, the eighth season of the former golf reality television show, was filmed at Oasis Golf Club.
View Course
Oasis Golf Club: Canyons
Public
Oasis Golf Club: Canyons
Mesquite, NV
Like the Palmer layout at Oasis Golf Club, the Canyons course has several elevated tee shots that play dramatically downhill, each providing beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. Many fairways are guarded by the dramatic rocky outcroppings that characterize the sibling Palmer track. The back nine of the Canyons course was also designed by Arnie and features several tight fairways.
View Course
Coral Canyon Golf Course
Public
Coral Canyon Golf Course
Washington, UT
Coral Canyon has all the aesthetic and strategic beauty of a desert golf course without the penalizing bite that often characterizes southwestern tracks. This southern Utah layout is relatively forgiving off the tee, with wide fairways and thick rough that often stops balls from rolling into the surrounding rocky desert. Still, there are some forced carries into greens which require solid ball striking.
View Course
SunRiver Golf Club
Public
SunRiver Golf Club
Saint George, UT
Set in St. George’s Virgin River Valley, SunRiver is an affordable, scenic and player-friendly layout. There are scenic vistas of the surrounding red rocks and mountains on nearly every hole. Burnt red sand lines many of the fairways, and the greens have enough undulation to be interesting without being too daunting. Interestingly, the back nine features three par 3s and three par 5s, creating plenty of variety.
View Course