What are the best golf courses in the USA? The Golf World Top 100 panel ranks and rates the best courses in America where you can actually play in our inaugural list.
We’re into the top 25 of our inaugural Top 100 Courses in the United States – with every entry playable by everyone.
Our specialist US panel took control, led by Englishman-in-America Tony Dear and supported by various other well-travelled golfers including Jim Hartsell, Jimmie James, Kirk Baert and Malcolm Baker.
They assessed the best of America in the usual categories of Design, Setting, Playability, Memorability, Consistency and Presentation.
And, once you’ve enjoyed this ranking, please do take a look at some of our others – from the best courses in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, to GB&I’s best links, the most fun courses to play and the finest courses and resorts Portugal has to offer, we’ve got it covered.
Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor
Can I join the Golf World Top 100 panel?
Yes! If you have knowledge of lots of resorts and courses, we’d love to hear from you. Whether you’re male, female, young, old, low handicap, high handicap, if you’re well-travelled then get in touch with us, here.
25. Arcadia Bluffs (Bluffs)
Not unlike Whistling Straits, the Bluffs Course is a totally man-made lakeside layout (on the east side of Lake Michigan) that very closely resembles a links. The Rick Smith and Warren Henderson design opened in 1999 and possesses a number of phenomenal holes on the water that make this an exciting round. Some of the inland holes are pretty special, too.
24. Shadow Creek
Las Vegas, Nevada
Forgetting the incredible feats of engineering and horticulture, the wild imagination and the sizeable investment needed to transform a once-rocky, sandy desert into a lush golfer’s Xanadu, Shadow Creek is a very interesting golf course with a number of memorable holes and conditioning the maintenance crew at Augusta National would be proud of.
23. Forest Dunes (The Loop; Black/Red)
Publications in the US tend to treat each course on this reversible 18 separately, but we wanted to celebrate the brilliance of Doak’s concept, routing and shaping by combining them, as the sum of the parts is a truly remarkable achievement.
The Black Course, which opened in 2016, tends to be the more favoured of the two layouts but, as with the Streamsong, Sand Valley and Bandon Dunes courses, there’s precious little to choose between them.
22. Chambers Bay
University Place, Washington
Beautifully situated on Puget Sound, 40 miles south of Seattle, Chambers Bay is a much better course than the one we saw during the 2015 US Open when burnt fairways and disfigured putting surfaces were the story.
The fescue on the greens, which never thrived, has since been replaced with poa annua and the course plays infinitely better as a result.
21. Streamsong (Black)
Bowling Green, Florida
Massive, undulating greens are the most noteworthy characteristic of Gil Hanse’s eye-popping 2017 design. They may be fairly easy to find, but getting down in two every time is a serious challenge. Huge sandy waste areas add to the Black’s very distinctive look.
20. Tobacco Road
Sanford, North Carolina
British golfers might not be familiar with architect Mike Strantz, who started out working for Tom Fazio and later built his own successful design company before sadly succumbing to cancer in 2005, at the age of 50.
Of his eight (highly) original designs, Tobacco Road is considered to be his masterpiece with huge, sandy areas, heavily-contoured greens and unconventional-looking holes that make you double-take.
The sight of the 1st hole, funneling between two grassy, 50ft tall banks either side of the fairway fills you with anticipation before you even start, and the excitement never really lets up.
19. Lawsonia (Links)
Green Lake, Wisconsin
William Langford and Theodore Moreau’s design style was utterly unique. But far from being gimmicky or different for the sake of it, it resulted in wonderfully interesting golf that makes you wonder why they aren’t better known. Lawsonia Links, which opened in 1930, is perhaps the best and most distinctive of their remaining layouts.
18. Streamsong (Blue)
Bowling Green, Florida
The Blue rarely gets the plaudits the Red does. Fair enough, it’s not quite as dazzling. But bear in mind it ranks all of five places lower on our list of public courses in America, which boasts over 12,000 courses anyone can play – the difference between the two is really minimal in the grand scheme of things.
A typically interesting Doak design, the Blue puts greater emphasis on your ability to strategise, make sound decisions and execute accordingly than it does in hitting the ball vast distances.
17. Erin Hills
The UK golfer will gaze astonished at the sheer immensity of barren, windswept Erin Hills, which throws up numerous inviting shots over its 652 acres. Brooks Koepka made it look fairly limp in shooting 16 under at the 2017 US Open but, be assured, for you and I it is anything but.
16. Gamble Sands
High on a hillside overlooking the Columbia River in central Washington, David McLay-Kidd was handed every golf course architect’s dream site – beautifully-rugged, feature-packed ground on sandy soil with no housing component and incredible views. And he absolutely made the most of it. The course opened in 2014 and has been working its way into golfers’ consciences ever since.
15. TPC Sawgrass
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Playing the holes the pros play is always special. And if those holes were designed by a particularly creative, envelope-pushing Pete and Alice Dye on what was once a swamp, the experience is all the more invigorating.
14. Sand Valley (Sand Valley)
The course that gives every golfer the chance to get creative and make full use of his/her repertoire of shots is the course that holds their interest day after day, round after round – like Coore and Crenshaw’s Sand Valley, which opened on an unlikely area of sandy soil in central Wisconsin in 2017.
13. Sand Valley (Mammoth Dunes)
Wide fairways mean everyone gets off the tee safely, but cleverly-positioned and intriguingly-shaped hazards and other obstacles mean the golfer seeking to match or better par needs to bring his best stuff. McLay-Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes, opened a year after the original course at Sand Valley, and keeps golfers engaged the whole way round.
12. Bandon Dunes (Old Macdonald)
Doak and Urbina’s take on C.B. Macdonald’s templates and design philosophy results in a fascinating set of holes that make up a round perhaps better-suited to a head-to-head matchplay duel than a medal round. Whichever format you play, though, you’re going to love the firm, sandy turf and variety of shots you’re asked to hit.
11. Streamsong (Red)
Bowling Green, Florida
It’s a great shame Coul Links was never built, but UK golfers only have to fly to Orlando and drive 90 minutes into central Florida to see why Coore and Crenshaw are probably the most acclaimed architects in the world.
Here in Polk County they took advantage of significant acreage, dozens of lakes formed during the site’s phosphate mining days, and millions of tons of sand to route a constantly thought-provoking course with numerous memorable holes that opened in 2013.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Bertram is the Golf World Top 100 Editor.
He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.
Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG before joining Golf World and Today’s Golfer as Senior Production Editor.
He has been freelance since 2010 and when he is not playing and writing about the world’s finest golf courses, he works for BBC Sport.
A keen all-round sportsman, Chris plays off 11 – which could be a little better if it wasn’t for hilariously poor lag putting which has to be seen to be believed.