America's Top 50 Courses For Women

May 12, 2011

Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes (No. 3) in Oregon offers breathtaking links-style golf from a manageable 4,280 yards.

What makes a woman-friendly golf course? Ask Golf Digest's panel of more than 100 female course raters, and they'll tell you it's a design that puts strong players to the test yet offers an enjoyable outing for shorter hitters. In considering candidates for our 2011 ranking of America's best public and resort courses for women, we emphasized course layout the most -- which is why Old Macdonald Golf Links at Bandon Dunes in Oregon debuts at No. 3. Its investment in designing a set of significantly shorter tees might shake up an industry that tends to think longer is better. But it doesn't take a Bandon-size budget to put women-friendly practices in place. Family programs, leagues and merchandise are all low-cost, high-impact ways to say: "We want you here." Each course in our Top 50 has at least one set of tees shorter than 5,300 yards, two sets of tees with USGA Course and Slope ratings for women, and few or no forced carries.

A welcoming atmosphere is essential, and so are top-course conditions and great amenities (that's where the experience of our course raters comes in). So read on and then visit as many of the Top 50 as you can. You won't regret it.

* New to list

__ 1. Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club__ Southern Pines, N.C.,

, $200

2. The Boulders Resort Spa (South) Carefree, Ariz.,

, $220

*3. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Old Macdonald) Bandon, Ore.,

, $225

4. Amelia Island Plantation (Ocean Links) Amelia Island, Fla.,

, $150

5. Running Y Ranch Klamath Falls, Ore.,

, $89

6. Sea Island Resorts (Seaside) St. Simons Island, Ga.,

, $295

7. LPGA International (Champions) Daytona Beach, Fla.,

, $69

8. The Golf Club At Newcastle (China Creek) Newcastle, Wash.,

, $115

9. Kingsmill Resort & Spa (Plantation) Williamsburg, Va.,

, $115

10. Grand Cypress Golf Club (East/North) Orlando,

, $190

11. Kiawah Island Golf Resort (Osprey Point) Kiawah Island,

, $180

12. Keystone Resort (River) Keystone, Colo.,

, $170

13. Celebration Golf Club, Celebration, Fla.,

, $109

__ 14. The Greenbrier (Old White)__ White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.,

, $325

15. Reynolds Plantation (Oconee) Greensboro, Ga.,

, $216

16. Southwood Golf Club Tallahassee, Fla.,

, $75

__ 17. La Quinta Resort & Club (Mountain)__ La Quinta, Calif.,

, $189

*18. Fossil Trace Golf Club Golden, Colo.,

, $79

19. The Lodge at Ventana Canyon (Mountain) Tucson,

, $159

20. Snowmass Club Snowmass Village, Colo.,

, $220

21. Pinehurst Resort (No. 8) Pinehurst, N.C.,

, $230

22. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort (Mystic Rock) Farmington, Pa.,

, $185

23. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Grande Lakes Orlando,

, $175

24. Province Lake Parsonsfield, Maine,

, $52

25. Turning Stone Resort & Casino (Shenendoah) Verona, N.Y.,

, $105

26. Heritage Hill Golf Club Shepherdsville, Ky.,

, $59

*27. Geneva National Golf Club (Player) Lake Geneva, Wis.,

, $125

28. Hammock Beach Resort (Ocean) Palm Coast, Fla.,

, $159

29. Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club (Miller) Aventura, Fla.,

, $225

30. Treetops Resort (Rick Smith Signature) Gaylord, Mich.,

, $89

31. Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club Front Royal, Va.,

, $65

*32. Monarch Dunes Golf Club (Old) Nipomo, Calif.,

, $95

33. Stowe Mountain Golf Club Stowe, Vt.,

, $205

34. Purgatory Golf Club Noblesville, Ind.,

, $75

__35. Boyne Highlands Resort (Heather), __Harbor Springs, Mich.,

, $99

36. Panther Run Golf Club Ave Maria, Fla.,

, $85

37. Half Moon Bay Golf Links (Ocean) Half Moon Bay, Calif.,

, $185

38. Monarch Beach Golf Links Dana Point, Calif.,

, $180

39. Black Lake Golf Club Onaway, Mich.

, $65

40. Wailea Golf Club (Emerald) Wailea, Maui, Hawaii,

, $190

*41. Richter Park Golf Course Danbury, Conn.,

, $97

42. Queenstown Harbor (Lakes) Queenstown, Md.,

, $62

__43. Williamsburg National Golf Club (Yorktown)__Williamsburg, Va.,

, $60

44. Barton Creek Resort & Spa (Fazio Foothills) Austin,

, $225

45. Sunriver Resort (Meadows) Sunriver, Ore.,

, $99

46. Whistling Straits (Irish) Haven, Wis.,

, $180

47. Indian Wells Golf Resort (Players) Indian Wells, Calif.,

, $140

48. The Sea Pines Resort (Heron Point) Hilton Head Island,

, $140

49. Angel Park Golf Club (Palm) Las Vegas,

, $155

50. Desert Willow Golf Resort (Mountain View) Palm Desert, Calif., desertwillow .com

, $185


The key to a woman's heart is her family, so making your course appealing to children is a great way to attract female golfers. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Grande Lakes (No. 23) in Florida offers junior tees at 2,950 yards and allows kids 17 and under to play for free with an adult or unaccompanied for 30 percent off the regular green fee. Stowe Mountain Golf Club (No. 33) in Vermont has a program that includes an alpine slide, rock wall, trampoline and spa activities. At Province Lake (No. 24), a daily-fee course in Maine, child care is available while you play.

For families that prefer to play together, more facilities are providing PGA Family Courses, a set of junior tees that can be played at discounted rates. Hammock Beach Resort (No. 28) in Florida promotes Family Fairways, a program that lets kids play with U.S. Kids Golf rental clubs for a $20 green fee. Richter Park (No. 41) in Connecticut has a nine-hole Family Scramble, and Pine Needles (No. 1) in North Carolina runs the Parent-Child Invitational each year. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Designing a layout that offers short hitters a manageable yardage and eliminates forced carries is the most obvious way to make a golf course attractive to women. The 4,280-yard forward tees at the Old Macdonald course at Bandon Dunes in Oregon are called the Royal Blues and represent a revolution in the way tees are constructed. The brainchild of consultants Arthur Little and Jann Leeming, the Royal Blues are USGA-rated, were conceptualized during the design phase and have a respectable place on the scorecard. Old Macdonald opened in June 2010, and the tees were such a success that the resort added Royal Blues to its other three courses by September. "It gives all of our guests another option. We strive to grow the game, and these tees will have a positive effect," says Jeff Simonds, head professional at Bandon Dunes. Retrofitting a course with a set of forward tees is a low-cost alternative to designing from scratch and one that Stowe Mountain Golf Club (No. 33) in Vermont has embraced under the leadership of director of golf Ron Philo Jr. Stowe Mountain's changes include new tee boxes (rebuilt at "a minimal investment") that eliminate all forced carries from the forward tees, which measure 4,350 yards. The course also features less-punishing rough and larger green surrounds that allow players to use their putters more.


Chris Walley, director of golf operations at LPGA International (No. 7) in Florida, can attest to the fact that carrying women's products in your golf shop is great for business. "We have more men than women who play golf at the facility, but the sales volume is 65 percent women's goods," he says. "We strive to stock items and lines that women can't typically find in a retail store." Offering women's merchandise seems like a smart way to make more money (everybody knows we like to shop), but facilities that emphasize women's goods are also sending a message of equality. "Golf has enough barriers. It's difficult, it's expensive, and the rules and etiquette carry this mystical awe that makes beginners tremble," says Jennifer Myers, assistant general manager at Geneva National Golf Club (No. 27) in Wisconsin. "Stocking the golf shop to be attractive and welcoming to women is the least we can do to tell them that they're valued customers." -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Tenna Merchent, co-owner of Purgatory Golf Club (No. 34) in Indiana, understands that the more events you have for women, the more they will come and play. Each month the club hosts Ladies Night, offering wine, free clinics, club demos, fashion shows and a nine-hole scramble. Many of our Top 50 emphasize the social aspect by coordinating leagues, special events and group instructional programs for women. "It's a no-brainer," says Jann Leeming, a golf-industry consultant and expert in marketing to women. "The costs are minimal, but the payoff is great."

Fossil Trace (No. 18), a Colorado municipal with a tight budget, has won several "best of" awards. Nevertheless, PGA head professional Jim Hajek is passionate about reaching out to women through free clinics (that cover everything from clubfitting to fitness) and a nine-hole women's league that plays after work. And let's not forget Pine Needles, which has offered women's programs and couples' jamborees for decades. It's the gold standard for women's golf.


Richter Park (Top, No. 41) in Connecticut has a parkland setting, five female staffers and a women's league with 100 participants. The Old course at Monarch Dunes (No. 32) in California boasts coastal views. (Photos courtesy of courses)