MPCC Shore Course

Best Golf Courses In California: The Best Golf State in America?

Simply put, California is one of the best states for golf in the country.

Possibly even the best (although New York might have something to say about that.)

Part of what makes it such a great state for golf is the fact it’s so diverse.

You have some of the best private courses in the world.

You have some of the best public courses in the world.

You have phenomenal oceanside golf courses, desert courses, mountain courses, and parkland courses.

California golf has it all.

California is also a massive state, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

So where should you play when you’re visiting?

Let’s take a look. 

Best Golf Courses In California 2022

These rankings are averages of the Best in State Rankings from Golf Digest, Top 100 Golf, and Golf Magazine. For ties, where possible we ranked based on our personal experience. We didn’t include Golfweek because the public/private breakdown skewed the results.

To be included there needed to be a minimum of two inclusions in one of the publications listed above, and if there was a course with only one, and I’ve played it, I added my own vote to make this list.

Golf Digest Best In California

  1. Cypress Point Club
  2. Pebble Beach G. Links
  3. Los Angeles C.C. (North)
  4. Riviera C.C.
  5. The Olympic Club (Lake)
  6. San Francisco G.C.
  7. Spyglass Hill G.C.
  8. Monterey Peninsula C.C. (Shore)
  9. The Valley C. of Montecito
  10. Monterey Peninsula C.C. (Dunes)
  11. The Quarry at La Quinta
  12. Pasatiempo G.C.
  13. The California G.C. of San Francisco
  14. The Preserve G.C.
  15. The Madison Club
  16. Mayacama G.C.
  17. Stone Eagle G.C.
  18. Bel-Air C.C.
  19. Martis Camp G.C.
  20. Sherwood C.C.
  21. Tradition G.C.
  22. Bighorn G.C. (Mountains)
  23. The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe
  24. The Vintage Club (Mountain)
  25. Bighorn G.C. (Canyons)
  26. Torrey Pines G. Cse. (South)
  27. Meadow Club
  28. CordeValle G.C.
  29. The Links at Spanish Bay
  30. Lahontan G.C.
  31. PGA West (Stadium)
  32. Shady Canyon G.C.
  33. The Olympic Club (Ocean)
  34. Lakeside G.C.
  35. The Plantation G.C.
  36. Rancho Santa Fe G.C.
  37. Los Angeles C.C. (South)
  38. Toscana C.C. (North)
  39. Wilshire C.C.
  40. Toscana C.C. (South)
  41. Poppy Hills G. Cse.
  42. Grizzly Ranch
  43. Rams Hill G.C.
  44. Torrey Pines G. Cse. (North)
  45. Pelican Hill G.C. (Ocean North)

Golf Magazine Best In California

  1. Cypress Point Club
  2. Pebble Beach G. Links
  3. Los Angeles C.C. (North)
  4. Riviera C.C.
  5. San Francisco G.C.
  6. The California G.C. of San Francisco
  7. The Olympic Club (Lake)
  8. The Valley C. of Montecito
  9. Pasatiempo G.C.
  10. Monterey Peninsula C.C. (Shore)
  11. Bel-Air C.C.
  12. Monterey Peninsula C.C. (Dunes)
  13. Spyglass Hill G.C.
  14. Meadow Club
  15. Stone Eagle G.C.
  16. Rustic Canyon
  17. Wilshire C.C.
  18. The Madison Club
  19. Torrey Pines G. Cse. (South)
  20. Martis Camp G.C.
  21. The Preserve G.C.
  22. San Diego C.C.
  23. Mayacama G.C.
  24. PGA West (Stadium)
  25. Borona Creek
  26. Lakeside G.C.
  27. The Olympic Club (Ocean)
  28. Hacienda
  29. Oak Quarry

“Top 100 Golf Courses” Website (California)

  1. Cypress Point Club
  2. Pebble Beach G. Links
  3. Los Angeles C.C. (North)
  4. Riviera C.C.
  5. San Francisco G.C.
  6. The California G.C. of San Francisco
  7. The Olympic Club (Lake)
  8. The Valley C. of Montecito
  9. Pasatiempo G.C.
  10. Monterey Peninsula C.C. (Dunes)
  11. Bel-Air C.C.
  12. Monterey Peninsula C.C. (Shore)
  13. Martis Camp G.C.
  14. Spyglass Hill G.C.
  15. Stone Eagle G.C.
  16. Rustic Canyon
  17. Mayacama G.C.
  18. Meadow Club
  19. The Quarry at La Quinta
  20. The Preserve G.C.
  21. Los Angeles C.C. (South)
  22. CordeValle G.C.
  23. Borona Creek
  24. PGA West (Stadium)
  25. Shady Canyon G.C.
  26. Torrey Pines G. Cse. (South)
  27. Menlo
  28. Rams Hill G.C.
  29. Lahontan G.C.
  30. Sherwood C.C.
  31. Tradition G.C.
  32. The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe
  33. The Vintage Club (Mountain)
  34. La Quinta (Mountain)
  35. Vintage (Desert)
  36. The Madison Club
  37. Bighorn G.C. (Canyons)
  38. El Dorado
  39. Wilshire C.C.
  40. Pelican Hill G.C. (Ocean North)
  41. The Olympic Club (Ocean)
  42. Pelican Hill G.C. (Ocean South)
  43. La Costa (Champions)
  44. Stanford University
  45. Copper Valley
  46. The Links at Spanish Bay
  47. TPC Harding Park
  48. Rancho Santa Fe G.C.
  49. The Farms
  50. PGA West (Nicklaus)

Does California Have Any Top 100 Courses?

Does a bear s^%^ in the woods? 

Yes, as you can imagine, California has a number of top 100 courses across, well pretty much any top 100 golf list that’s out there.

California, probably more than any other state, has pretty wild variances from one list to another. For instance, the Golf Magazine and Golf Digest Top 100 public lists look nothing like each other when it comes to Cali.

All that to say, there are a ton of great options for good golf.

Here are the current top 100 rankings as of 2022.

Golf Digest Top 100 America (California Courses)

MPCC Shore Course

The Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

  • #3 – Cypress Point Club
  • #8 – Pebble Beach Golf Links
  • #19 – Los Angeles Country Club (North Course)
  • #22 – Riviera Country Club
  • #34 – The Olympic Club (Lake Course)
  • #36 – San Francisco Golf Club
  • #51 – Spyglass Hill
  • #53 – Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore Course)
  • #78 – Valley Club of Montecito
  • #80 – Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Dunes Course)
  • #85 – The Quarry at La Quinta
  • #98 – Pasatiempo Golf Club

Golf Digest Top 100 Public (California Courses)

  • #1 – Pebble Beach Golf Links
  • #10 – Spyglass Hill
  • #17 – Pasatiempo Golf Club
  • #42 – Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course)
  • #51 – Cordevalle Golf Club
  • #53 – The Links at Spanish Bay
  • #55 – PGA West (Stadium)
  • #86 – Edgewood Tahoe Golf Club
  • #92 – Poppy Hills Golf Course
  • #95 – Grizzly Ranch
  • #98 – Rams Hill Golf Club

Golf Magazine Top 100 Public (California Courses)

  • #1 – Pebble Beach Golf Links
  • #13 – Pasatiempo Golf Club
  • #30 – Spyglass Hill
  • #47 – Rustic Canyon Golf Club
  • #67 – PGA West (Mountain Course)
  • #72 – Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course)
  • #76 – Barona Creek
  • #89 – Oak Quarry
  • #91 – La Quinta Resort (Mountain)

Golf Magazine Top 100 America (California Courses)

  • #2 – Cypress Point Club
  • #10 – Pebble Beach Golf Links
  • #12 – Los Angeles Country Club (North Course)
  • #17 – Riviera Country Club
  • #21 – San Francisco Golf Club
  • #27 – California Golf Club of San Francisco
  • #54 – The Olympic Club (Lake Course)
  • #55 – Valley Club of Montecito
  • #59 – Pasatiempo Golf Club
  • #67 – Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore Course)
  • #68 – Bel Air Golf Club
  • #85 – Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Dunes Course)

Golf Magazine Top 100 World (California Courses)

  • #2 – Cypress Point Club
  • #14 – Pebble Beach Golf Links
  • #20 – Los Angeles Country Club (North Course)
  • #27 – Riviera Country Club
  • #34 – San Francisco Golf Club
  • #48 – California Golf Club of San Francisco
  • #96 – The Olympic Club (Lake Course)

Breaking Eighty Top 100 (California Courses)

  • #1 – Pebble Beach Golf Links
  • #6 – Los Angeles Country Club (North Course)
  • #22 – Pasatiempo Golf Club
  • #34 – Riviera Country Club
  • #46 – California Golf Club of San Francisco
  • #96 – Spanish Bay Golf Links

Best California Golf Itineraries: Where You Should Play

The Ultimate Monterey Trip:

Spyglass Hill Hole #4 drone shot at sunset

Spyglass Hill Hole #4

If you’re heading to Monterey and you want to do it all? Then these 6 courses will make for one of the most epic golf trips you can possible have.

The three at Pebble Beach Resort are easy enough with some planning and deep pockets. But getting either the MPCC or CPC invites are certainly going to be more challenging…

  • Cypress Point Club – Cypress Point is the pinnacle of golf. That’s it. It’s one of the ultimate bucket list golf experiences and is on par with Pine Valley, Augusta, and the Old Course. Good luck getting an invite. But if you do? Shoot me a note and ‘ll buy the drinks 🙂
  • Pebble Beach Golf Links – There are few courses more famous than Pebble Beach. In my opinion? It’s every bit as good as advertised and then some.
  • Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore Course) – Designed by the late Mike Strantz, this is one of the coolest golf courses on the planet. Imagine, a private Tobacco Road, right on 17 Mile Drive? Pretty special.
  • Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Dunes Course) – While the Shore is generally more highly regarded, the Dunes is a top 100 course in it’s own right. This makes MPCC one of only 2 other 36 hole private clubs to feature both of their courses within a top 100 list (Winged Foot and Baltusrol being the others)
  • Spyglass Hill – The more I play Spyglass Hill, the more I enjoy it. It has one of the best opening holes in golf, and one of the coolest greens on the planet.
  • Spanish Bay Golf Links – Generally playing third fiddle to Pebble and Spy, I actually know more than one person who likes Spanish best. It has views, fun holes, and is definitely an underrated gem.

Still want more golf and you’ve got the connections to get you on these courses? Head nearby to The Preserve at Santa Lucia.

Playing the resort courses and looking for a more affordable public access option? Go play Pacific Grove, the “Poor Man’s Pebble.”

Bay Area Top 100s

Obligatory shot of Cal Club. The bunkers here were insane.

The San Francisco Bay area has some wonderful courses. 

And if you’re working on any of the top 100 lists, then you should try and hit:

  • San Francisco Golf Club – SFGC is one of the only west coast Tillinghas courses and is much more player friendly than his most famous courses. SFGC is one of the most unique and special experiences in golf.
  • The Olympic Club (Lake Course) – The Lake Course is going to kick your butt. But with beautiful views, PGA pedigree, and an impressive clubhouse, it’s one of those “must play” courses for the golf traveler.
  • California Golf Club of San Francisco – After a Kyle Phillips renovation, the affectionately called “Cal Club” continues to get more and more love. And why shouldn’t it? You could make the argument it’s the best course in SF.
  • Pasatiempo Golf Club – This one is a little bit farther away out in Santa Cruz, but it’s worth the extra trip.

If you’re open to venturing out a little farther, I’d try and go play Mayacama for a private experience, and Cordevalle for a more accessible course, that still feels like a private club.

Los Angeles Top 100s

Riviera hole 16 Sunset

To this day one of the best golf trips I’ve taken was to LA. Let’s ignore the fact that we got rained out a couple days with FOUR INCHES of rain in a matter of hours, but we did get some solid golf in the process.

I’d play:

  • Los Angeles Country Club (North) – One of the best routings of a golf course I’ve ever played. I hope to see it when it’s not covered in water sometime soon.
  • Riviera Country Club – Riv is an incredible course. But it’s hard to understand just why it’s so good until you’ve played it. And even since then, I have a hard time articulating why it’s so good. But it exceeded my expectations. Oh, and the par 4 10th is about as fun as it gets.
  • Bel Air Country Club – A good course turned into a great course recently after Tom Doak finished his renovation of it recently.
  • Valley Club of Montecito – This one is a couple hours north of LA near Santa Barbara, but it’s one of the most undisturbed Alistair Mackenzie courses left in existence. 
Valley Club of Montecito Hole 14

Looking out at the par 3 14th, with #1 and the clubhouse in the background

Looking for a few more rounds to play? Try Wilshire or Hillcrest. 

Prefer a public option? Rustic Canyon has an incredible routing, and is among my picks for most underrated golf courses in the world.

The Ultimate Desert Trip: Public or Private

Stone Eagle Golf Club. Photo courtesy of photographer extraordinaire Pjkoenig.

The Palm Springs area is kind of like Arizona when it comes to golf course rankings. There are a ton of courses and a ton of very expensive clubs, but not necessarily many that make most top 100 lists.

That said, the experience at many of these high-end clubs is among the coolest you’ll have anywhere.

If you have serious connections? These are the courses I’d try and go play:

  • Stone Eagle – Most golf courses in the area were built decades ago, so you don’t see much from the current “en vogue” architects. Stone Eagle on the other hand is an incredible Tom Doak course that is very different from other courses in the area.
  • The Quarry – Widely considered the best course in the Palm Springs area, this is one invite you shouldn’t pass up when you get it.
  • Madison Club – Some of the most high-end, unique, and fun golf clubs in the country are owned by Discovery Land Company. The experience at the Madison Club is unparalleled. 
  • Bighorn Golf Club – Bighorn has two courses in the Canyons and Mountains course. But the club bills itself as “The Most Innovative, Imaginative Club in the World.” If you visit, ask for a tour of “The Vault” and you’ll see that maybe there’s some truth to that statement.

Looking to play some spots that are a bit more accessible?

  • PGA West Stadium Course – This is arguably the most famous course in the area, and is the one with the PGA pedigree. It’ll kick your butt. Like, really kick your butt. But it’s the one people will ask you about after visiting.
  • PGA West Mountain Course – The Mountain Course at PGA West makes Golf Magazine’s top 100 public list, and will likely be a more fun round of golf than its brutal sibling the Stadium Course.
  • The Lights at Indio – When was the last time you played a legit round of golf at night? Under the lights? 

Some Additional Thoughts on the Best Golf Courses in California

I’ve covered a lot about California golf above, but I wanted to either hammer home a few points here, or also mention a few places that may not have been overshadowed based on the amazing courses above.

Consider Visiting Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay Old Couse Hole 18

Don’t care as much about playing top 100 courses, but want to take an amazing luxury vacation with your significant other?

Go to Half Moon Bay.

The Old Course has one of the best finishing holes in golf, and the Ocean Course has some nice views as well.

But the Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay is one of the most enjoyable hotels I’ve ever visited.

Pebble Beach is Truly a Bucket List Experience

I’ve heard people call Pebble Beach overrated many times.

For me? It’s the best golf course I’ve ever played.

Or if not the best objectively speaking, it’s at least my favorite course.

4-10 is the most incredible stretch of golf I’ve played, and no other golf course has given me the vibes Pebble has.

It’s a spendy trip, but it’s well worth it. 

And Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay? Not exactly terrible supporting acts.

And if you’re looking for a really fun and charitable way to go about it? Consider the Lexus Champions for Charity:

A Few Other Courses to Consider

Here are a few courses on my radar that I’d be looking to play if I found myself in the area:

  • Northwood Golf Club (Monte Rio)- There aren’t many places you can play a 9 hole Alistair Mackenzie design through Russian River forest.
  • Clear Creek Tahoe (Lake Tahoe) – This Coore Crenshaw design is one you should definitely try and play if in the Tahoe area. As is Edgewood Tahoe.
  • Goat Hill Park (San Diego) – Want the most casual, SoCal vibe imaginable? Go play John Ashworth’s Goat Hill Park. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a ton of fun.
  • TPC Harding Park (San Francisco) – An excellent course that recently got the TPC moniker. It’s hosted a handful of Tour events and if you’re looking for a high end public course in the Bay Area, this may be it.
  • Presidio Golf Course (San Francisco) – Looking for a public Olympic Club experience? This might be as close as you get in the Bay Area.
  • Pelican Hill (Newport Beach) – It isn’t as well regarded architecturally, but if you’re looking for a well-maintained resort course with incredible views in SoCal? Check out Pelican Hill.
  • Torrey Pines Golf Course (San Diego) – Another course that some have called overrated, there’s no denying it’s still one of the best municipal courses in the country, and certainly one with the best views.

All of Our Content from California Golf Courses

Honestly? There is so much good golf in California, it’s impossible to cover them all in one golf course.

But regardless of what style of course, what golfing landscape, or what region of the state you’re in – you’ll find excellent options for both public and private golf.

Other Best in State Recaps

Member of a private club and love to travel and meet other golf nuts? Check out our Eighty Club Golf Society.




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