Backswing RoundUp

What is the best public course you’ve ever played?

What is the best public course you’ve ever played?
The best courses across the country aren't just the private clubs. Here's a list of fantastic public courses that our professionals recommend.

27 Professionals Contributed

The #4 golf course at Pinehurst

One of the toughest questions that I have been asked is “What is the best Public Course that you have played?” I have been very fortunate to have played so many great golf courses both public and private and I am sure many people that have played Pebble Beach are quick to answer with Pebble. Of course that was an amazing experience and one of the most beautiful places to play but my answer is different.

My favorite Public course I have played happened on a recent trip to the small village of Pinehurst when I had the opportunity to play the #4 golf course at the resort that was recently renovated by Gil Hans. This year the United States Amateur Championship will be hosted there so of course it was in amazing shape. The reason this has become my favorite was more than just the course itself but the entire experience and how the day played out. The golf course offered multiple tee’s to fit each players ability level so we all could be challenged but still enjoy ourselves. The course was also one that offered up the opportunity for every shot in the bag both off the tee and around the green. It is an absolute masterpiece.

Once we finished we played the newly designed par 3 course named the Cradle! What an amazing day we had as we were able to enjoy the full Pinehurst experience that ended with dinner in the pub overlooking the 18th green of the famed #2. Pinehurst is a trip that evry golfer should add to their bucket list and make sure you add the Cradle as part of your trip.

I’ll see you all there soon!

Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf

Torrey Pines in San Diego, California

The best public course I ever had the pleasure of playing was Torrey Pines in San Diego, California. The breathtaking views, pristine conditions and remarkably affordable price made this Southern California favorite the best public course that I have ever played.

The Country Club of Virginia

Otter Creek Golf Course in Columbus, IN.

Otter Creek Golf Course in Columbus, IN. I grew up about 20 miles from Otter Creek and was fortunate to play there several times in the 1960s 1970s. We didn’t have any golf courses like it at that time in Indiana. It’s a championship course that is long, hard, extremely well maintained and fair. The practice areas were great and the staff was always service oriented and friendly. I haven’t played there in many years, but I bet it’s still a special place in a state not known much for golf.

Whistling straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin

The best public golf course I ever played was Whistling straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. If you have never been up to Sheboygan, I would definitely put it on your bucket list. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience.

The course layout is both fun and difficult with some of the best views of Lake Michigan. The architect, Pete Dye, created a masterpiece that makes you feel as though you are in Northern Ireland. There is even a herd of sheep that roams the course while you are playing.

Furthermore, it hosted the 3 PGA Championships, a Senior US Open, and will be the 2020 site for the Ryder Cup.

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Sandpiper Golf Course in Santa Barbara, CA

The best public golf course I’ve had the pleasure of playing is Sandpiper Golf Course in Santa Barbara, CA. With majestic ocean views and several holes right next to the water it is a must play if you’re ever in the Santa Barbara area and looking for an awesome golf experience. It’s also no walk in the park as there are some challenging holes especially if you play the tips. I recommend anyone who has the chance to play Sandpiper to do it for sure. It’s a round you surely won’t forget.

Pebble Beach Golf Links in Monterey California

There is no public golf experience that can compare with a day at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Monterey California! Period, drop the mic, floss, or whatever the kids do these days, end of discussion!!
If you love the game of golf; the beauty of the area, the character of the golf course, the conditions, the hospitality, and the history add up to a great day! In addition, the knowledge that you are walking on the same hallowed ground ground that Jack, Arnie, Tiger, and Hogan played on during the US Open, make this is an amazing golf experience.
From start to finish, the welcome at the Academy practice facility with legendary instructor Laird Small PGA, Kelsey, and staff, to the reflection on your round with a favorite beverage while sitting on the porch, overlooking the eighteenth green and Monterey Bay, everything contributes to create a fabulous day of golf.
I must forewarn you if it is your first time, or an infrequent round for you at Pebble, a certain sadness overcomes you as you head down the fifteenth and sixteenth fairways. You suddenly realize your round is winding to a close, and you don’t want it to end!
I have actually sat on the bench on the seventeenth tee and let others play through in an effort to delay the inevitable. ( Don’t tell anyone, but I have also cut back to number ten and played the back nine over)
When the round continues the joy returns, as you slowly play seventeen and eighteen, and take it all in.
( A Cliff Clavin [Cheers] Factoid): Number eighteen at Pebble is the slowest played golf hole on the planet, yet, no one seems to mind. We all understand the slowed walk, multiple practice swings, lingering stares at the ocean, the picture taking, the added conversation with playing partners, and the extra look at that final three-footer that you face, imagining it’s to win the open, just as you did as a kid.

Olde School Golf School

Harding Park in San Francisco

Pebble Beach does not count,,,Even though it”s open to the public for 525.00 it’s really a resort…So, I would say, Harding Park in San Francisco would be my choice…Old school public feeling behind it…Plus 18 excellent holes…Only downside is bad weather, sometimes you need two sweaters for the day…That’s in July!

My rating comes from this criteria: layout, condition, staff, affordability.

All of these courses are very different from each other. I can’t wait to get back to all of them! My rating comes from this criteria: layout, condition, staff, affordability. These golf courses are not inexpensive, but I feel you’re getting a lot for your $. Enjoy!

Favorites:

  • Pacific Dunes- Bandon, OR
  • Old Works- Anaconda, MT
  • Sunridge Canyon- Fountain Hills, AZ
  • Sun Valley Golf Club- Sun Valley, ID
  • Mauna Kea- Mauna Kea, HI
Coyote Springs Golf Club

Cog Hill G.C. in Lemont, Illinois.

Eliminating resort courses, the best public course for me was Cog Hill G.C. in Lemont, Illinois. The design, complexity and beauty are all wrapped together with great service and a beautiful day.

Pebble Beach

I would change the rankings of top courses by price…categories like unlimited price, under $500, under $250, under $100 etc. It would be more fair.

In any case, Pebble is the best public course I’ve played. The setting, the routing, the breathtaking views, the underrated inland holes, and the dramatic flow from fairly easy to really challenging through 8, 9, 10.

A close second is Pacific Dunes. Best seaside links course in the country.

The Rookery At Marco

Blue Top Ridge at Riverside Casino, Spirit Hollow GC in Burlington, IA, and the home of the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic, TPC at Deere Run.

The best three public courses in the western Illinois and eastern Iowa region are Blue Top Ridge at Riverside Casino, Spirit Hollow GC in Burlington, IA, and the home of the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, TPC at Deere Run. They all make beautiful use of the properties they were built on and there are incredible things to do nearby when the round is over. They are all very moderately priced!

Arsenal Island Golf Course

The best public golf course (golf courses) I have ever played are located in Bandon Oregon.

The best public golf course (golf courses) I have ever played are located in Bandon Oregon. I can’t say enough about Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. My home club takes 36 guys there every year for the most fantastic golf experience you will find in the states. Not only is the golf breath taking along the Pacific ocean but the service, food and amenities keeps us all coming back each year. This place is Disneyland for the golfer. If you haven’t been there you haven’t lived as a golfer, period.

First Assistant Golf Professional at The Olde Course

The Nicklaus Resort Course at PGA West, Kapalua Plantation, and Pelican Hill

The Nicklaus Resort Course at PGA West, Kapalua Plantation and Pelican Hill are three of the better public golf courses I have played.

Whistling Straits

Whistling Straits.  It’s a great combination of strategy, challenge, and vistas all together in one property! It doesn’t even feel like you’re in the United States anymore.

Idle Hour Golf & Country Club

Rams Hill out in Borrego Springs, CA

My favorite Public golf course would have to be Rams Hill out in Borrego Springs, CA. This course is all around amazing. I went there with some co-workers one year and was satisfied with everything from the staff, to the clubhouse, to the views and the course. Well-groomed fairways and greens keep Rams Hill Golf Club difficult yet friendly, and the staff can offer tips and tricks for playing your best round. The work the maintenance crew goes through to keep this course in tip top shape year round is amazing. These are some of the bast fairways I’ve ever played on. The way this course is designed is not too challenging but brings a variety of different fun holes. If you are in the California area and want to try a golf course that will not disappoint, go play Rams Hill!

Canyon Crest Country Club

St. Andrews has the best public golf on the planet.

St. Andrews has the best public golf on the planet. Not just the Old Course, the New, Jubilee, Eden and others are amazing. For $500 you can get a 7 day pass for unlimited golf on six courses (Old Course excluded). Pace of play is fast and with the long evenings, you can easily play 36 or even 54 holes per day during the summer months. I played 20 rounds in 7 days and it’s easily the best golf vacation I’ve ever taken

Balbi Golf

Crandon golf course on Key Biscayne in Miami-Dade 

The best public golf course I’ve played is Crandon golf course on Key Biscayne in Miami-Dade .

Forest Dunes Golf Club - Weiskopf Course

Forest Dunes Golf Club – Weiskopf Course.  By far the best conditions – greens were perfect! Not a blade of grass out of place

Tsai Hsing Golf Academy

Pasatiempo Golf Course in Santa Cruz, Ca.

Pasatiempo Golf Course in Santa Cruz, Ca.  Designed by Alister McKenzie, an absolute “masterpiece”, spectacular ocean views, amongst a magnificent golf course/layout.

I think what did it for me, is after hitting the first tee-shot off of the #1 tee, walking down the fairway, with the view and smell of the ocean, just set me on a whole new level. It was a great day and a great golf experience all the way around!

Briar Leaf Golf Club located in LaPorte Indiana (50 minutes east of Chicago)

Briar Leaf Golf Club located in LaPorte Indiana (50 minutes east of Chicago). The grill house on the turn is one of the best around! Great course for the buck! Very challenging course but all at the same time it can be very rewarding!

Briar Leaf Golf Club

TPC Sawgrass

I would probably go with TPC Sawgrass. I really thought the course was an excellent test and had different ways to attack the course. I thought it might be overrated before I played it but it was not! The shot on 17 seems simple but with the added pressure of a Sunday and a firm green I can see why it gives guys fits!

Topgolf Houston – Spring

Kingsbarns was incredible.

My first trip to Scotland I had the time of my life. After playing St. Andrews which is the most famous course in the world we played Kingsbarns. Kingsbarns was incredible. The holes along the ocean reminded me of Cypress Point. My second favorite is Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand. Hope to someday share that with my members of The Grand Golf Club.

In the Midwest probably The Virtues

  • In the Midwest probably The Virtues (Old Longenberger Golf Club) one of Authur Hill better design. Lots of elevation change and fast greens.
  • Old course Ballyliffin in County Donegal Ireland.
  • Bandon Dunes in US.
Westerville Golf Center

Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach. It is a must play for every golfer.

Timarron Country Club

TPC Sawgrass

TPC Sawgrass is my favorite public course I’ve played. The experience of playing a course that you’ve watched on tv since you were a kid makes it a great experience. So much history and the new sub air golf course system helps the course play dry with summer rain.

Nick Duffy Golf

Poppy Hills in Pebble Beach, CA.

I have been blessed to play some amazing public courses in my life. I would have to say the best public course I ever played was Poppy Hills in Pebble Beach, CA.

It is a great layout with a lot of challenges and is in great shape. The greens are amazing and the wildlife was plenty.

PEBBLE

PEBBLE

Whispering Pines Golf Club