We’ve compiled all the rankings from major golf websites to create a list of the top 18 public courses in the country. Each course represents one hole on this country-sized links in my head. These are all courses that you can play but might have to break the bank to do so. We’re using the Mississippi River as our east/west line, and because of the split a lot of big-name western courses are not on the list. Bandon, Oregon takes the golfing destination crown with four courses making the top nine in the west. Although I’m a geography nerd, the holes are numbered as each course ranked for their region and not what would make the most sense playing all 18 like a giant golf course. On to the rankings…
Front Nine – East Region
#1. Pinehurst (No. 2) Pinehurst, NC- One of the most popular public courses on the East Coast, Pinehurst has hosted multiple major championships. One of the best places to live out your PGA dreams.
#2. Bethpage State Park (Black) Farmingdale, NY – Another major championship host and wildly popular public course, Bethpage has been on the bucket list of golfers for generations. The red and yellow courses may be a bit easier on the casual player.
#3. Kiawah (Ocean Course) Kiawah Island, SC – One of the toughest courses on the list, the Ocean Course was built for the 1991 Ryder Cup and has since become one of the most popular golfing destinations in the southeast.
#4. Whistling Straits Sheboygan, WI – Speaking of tough courses, this links-style course on the shore of Lake Michigan has so many bunkers they can’t even count them all. Should be on every golfer’s bucket list.
#5. TPC Sawgrass (Stadium) Ponte Vedra Beach, FL – The most famous hole in golf, the island green 17th, turns professional and amateur legs to jelly no matter what’s on the line. The rest of the course is immaculate and provides numerous unexpected challenges.
#6. Streamsong (Red) Streamsong, FL – First of two Streamsong courses on the list. Ben Crenshaw helped design this challenging course amongst towering sand dunes.
#7. Streamsong (Blue) Streamsong, FL – Tom Doak designed this other Streamsong course on the list. Red or Blue is debated hotly on the property, and we call it a coin flip. Both courses are among the best in the country.
#8. Sand Valley (Sand Valley) Nekoosa, WI – Finishing up the front nine with a pair of courses on the same property. The courses at Sand Valley Golf Resort are quickly catching up to Kohler as Wisconsin’s top golfing destination.
#9. Sand Valley (Mammoth Dunes) Nekoosa, WI – Much like the Streamsong properties, the debate rages over which of these two courses is better. Mammoth Dunes may be a bit more forgiving than Sand Valley, but it still provides ample challenge in a beautiful setting.
Playing just one of these courses would be a career highlight for most golfers. The course conditions alone are unlike anything amateur golfers see on a day to day basis. The beauty of these courses is they can be played by anyone, unlike many of the top courses in the world. Come back Monday to see the back nine, the top nine courses in the western US.
About the Author: Brian Neufeld
Brian Neufeld’s background includes more than 15 years of experience in golf course management, specializing in agronomy. Brian uses his knowledge of the game and best practices in turf sustention to create informative pieces for GolfTourney.com’s readers.