Oak Hill East Hole 13

The Breaking Eighty Top 100 Courses in the World (2022)

I started this website a decade ago.

Before it began in 2012, I’d never taken a dedicated golf trip outside my home state.

I’d never played a private golf course.

I’d never broken 80.

And then something happened. I started.

I played my first really good golf course. I started bringing golf clubs on my trips.

And since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to play a lot of really good golf courses all over the world.

I’ve taken thousands of photos, played thousands of holes, and started to have a much better understanding of what makes a good golf course.

I’ve also been able to form opinions about which courses enjoy the most.

There’s a very distinct (and at times, quite large) difference between what I enjoy and what constitutes a good course by traditional standards.

If you look at many of the “top 100” lists from major publications you’ll in many cases see a big slant towards difficult, championship golf courses with a lot of historic pedigree.

Usually, those courses are worthy of being as highly ranked as they are. However, does that mean that some of them were my favorite courses to play?

Not exactly.

The fun thing about this list, is that get to decide what get’s ranked where, and why. This is the Breaking Eighty Top 100 Golf Courses list for 2022.

What This List is Not

This is not a list of which courses I think are the best from an architectural standpoint. If I were rating them for say GolfWeek or Golf Digest I would rank them very differently based on their architectural merits.

With this list I asked myself one simple question:

Which courses do I enjoy playing the most?

I went through and asked myself over and over and over again “would you rather play course #1 or course #2” – this list is based on those answers.

As much as possible, I tried to throw out exclusivity and pedigree. For instance in all honesty, if you told me I could go play Tobacco Road or Winged Foot West– I’d most certainly go play Winged Foot – yet I have Tobacco Road ranked higher.

This leads to the question “How on earth could you have Tobacco Road ranked higher than Winged Foot??”

My Primary Top 100 Ranking Factor

When creating this list, I took into account everything from course difficulty, strategic shot values, scenery and personal affinity – but there’s one ranking factor that will always remain paramount for me.


How much fun did I have playing the course? Was there a lot of variety? Was each hole distinct and keep me entertained throughout the round?

I mean, after all, that’s what golf is supposed to be about right? Having fun?

This is why in many cases you’ll find very highly ranked courses (by traditional measures) that are far superior from an architectural standpoint, not ranking as high as other courses.

That said, in some cases, much of the fun can be derived from the exclusivity, location, or history of a course.

Top 100 Golf Course Rankings: Each Year it Gets Harder

Hands down my 2022 top golf courses list has been by far the hardest to write over the 8 years that I’ve been doing it.

There are a few reasons for this.

One is that every year I’m playing more and more golf. 

At first, it was easy to push out a lot of the mediocre courses, but now, there are very (VERY) good courses not on this list. And in some cases, I pushed out a “better” course because I just didn’t enjoy it as much as some of the ones I left on the list.

I spent a lot of time this year reviewing old photos, videos, journal entries, and blog posts to refresh my memory on some of the courses where it’s been a few years since I’ve played them.

The second reason this continues to be challenging is that the hate I’ve received for this list in the past is still fresh in my mind.

Long story short, I was called a bunch of names, and hammered over some of the items on this list from people who know a lot more about golf courses than me.

Frankly, I find it amazing that for something as subjective as a list of favorite golf courses, so many people were bold enough to tell me just how wrong I was.

A couple things to keep in mind while you read this list:

  1. When it comes to favorite golf courses (not the best), no one is wrong. Everyone likes different things, and that’s one of the things that makes this game so great.
  2. It’s just golf. If you get worked up reading this list, then that means you’ve probably played a lot of these courses. In that case, you are an extremely privileged human being. Be thankful for that (I know I certainly am), and recognize that none of this is life or death, or even close to it. So smile, and be glad that you’ve been fortunate enough to travel to play cool golf courses.

And then you should read this.

Now that you understand a bit about my unconventional ranking strategy, let’s get on with it.

Keep in mind, this list is based on courses that I’ve played, so when you say “why isn’t Cypress Point or Pine Valley listed?”  It’s probably because I haven’t been there…yet.

And with that? Time to jump into our 2022 top 100 golf courses list!

#100: Atlantic City Country Club – Atlantic City, New Jersey

The 4th hole at Atlantic City CC

Atlantic City Country Club, on top of being the birthplace of the term “birdie” is one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in my golf travels.

Some of the inland holes were a bit more pedestrian, but the ones out near the water like 3 and 4, and for much of the back 9 are about as good as it gets.

This is one that’s worth the two-hour drive from NYC to go visit if you ever find yourself in the area.

#99: Spanish Bay Golf Links – Monterey, California

Spanish Bay

Spanish Bay

I’ve played Spanish Bay twice now, and both times I found myself wondering “how does this course not get talked about more?”

The answer is that its siblings are Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill.

But there are some wonderfully fun golf holes at Spanish Bay, and some spectacular views to match. Not to mention the hotel there is one of the great hotels in all of golf.

Check out: Why the Lexus Champions for Charity May be the Best Event in Golf

#98: Garden City Men’s Club – Garden City, New York

Garden City Hole 14

Garden City Men’s Club is among the most exclusive golf courses I’ve ever played. The experience was incredible, and the company great. This is a course that feels like The Old Course in that much of is genius lies in it’s subtleties. I’d love to play it again and see where I’d rank it with more time on the course.

#97: Olympic Club (Lake Course) – San Francisco, California

The Lake Course at the Olympic Club is one of the top 100 golf courses in the US and has hosted 5 US Open Championships

Let’s not be mistaken, the Olympic Club is hard. It forces you to move the ball in every direction possible, and be on top of your putting game in the process. It’s truly a championship course, and while I found some of the holes to feel a little familiar by the end, there’s no doubt it’s a place I’d enjoy getting beat up when given the opportunity.

Not to be missed: the burger dog, and the men’s locker room.

#96: Portmarnock Golf Club – Dublin, Ireland

Portmarnock Golf Club

Portmarnock was one of the most special rounds of golf I had the year I played it. We had the course to ourselves, and the fact it was on January 3rd, and we actually were able to get it in without any major weather issues was a fantastic surprise.

This is one I imagine might move up the list with a few more plays. It has a fantastic routing, and the history at the club is unparalleled.

#95: Forest Dunes Golf Club – Rosscommon, Michigan

Forest Dunes is one of the best golf courses in the United States

Now that’s a sunrise

Forest Dunes is in the middle of nowhere, but the Weiskopf layout is worth the trip.

It’s in a beautiful region of the country, and you can get some awesome stay-and-play deals in the fall.

And there has never been a better time to go considering they also built a Doak reversible routing called The Loop, which was named best new public course by Golf Digest when it opened.

Check out: Forest Dunes Review and 12 of the Best Golf Resorts You’ve Never Heard Of

#94: Circling Raven Golf Course – Worley,  Idaho

Circling Raven Golf Course at sunset.

Circling Raven is a brute of a golf course, and one of the best “hidden gems” I’ve played.

The Floating Green at the Resort Course gets most of the Coeur d’Alene attention, but here’s an insider’s secret: Circling Raven is probably the better golf course.

It used to make regular appearances on top 100 public lists, and frankly, I’m shocked it isn’t still on most of them.

This is a BIG golf course that’s challenging, yet incredibly fun at the same time. There’s some very good golf in this part of the country, and you’re missing out if you don’t play Circling Raven on any trip to the area.

Check out: Circling Raven Golf Club: A Wonderful NW Stay and Play

#93: The Country Club (Clyde/Squirrel) – Brookline, Massachusetts

The approach on hole 11 at The Country Club

The approach on hole 11 at The Country Club

This is another one that the purists will totally hate on me for. The Country Club is one of the most exclusive courses in the country, and playing it was such a special treat. If you asked me to rank it based on the design and architecture – it’d be top 50 in the world.

But for how much I enjoyed it? It’s not quite as high. I enjoyed the back 9 more than the front, but also my experience was skewed having played off-season in some pretty nasty weather. It was fun to watch it host the 2022 US Open, however.

#92: Scioto Country Club – Columbus, Ohio

The average golfer might not know it, but Columbus is a hotbed of world-class golf. Flying a little more under the radar next to some pretty heavy hitters is Jack Nicklaus’ childhood course where he learned to golf: Scioto.

Scioto is a championship course that has some teeth – but aside from the fact I got food poisoning the day of my round there – I truly enjoyed it. Memorable par 3s, and hands down one of the best, and busiest country clubs I’ve been to.

Full Recap: Scioto Country Club (My Biggest Victory Ever)

#91: Carnoustie Golf Links – Carnoustie, Scotland

Carnoustie Hole 18

Carnoustie is kind of akin to Bethpage Black here in the states. It’s long, hard, public, and has sort of a no-frills vibe going for it. While not nearly as scenic as some of its other Scottish neighbors, I enjoyed my round here more than expected – and the history is second to none. Just be prepared for a beating.

Full Recap: Carnoustie Golf Club

#90: Cascata Golf Club – Boulder City, Nevada

Cascata Golf Club

When it was built, Cascata was Caesar’s answer to MGM’s Shadow Creek. While not quite the transformation that Shadow was, it’s a dramatic course with tons of great elevation, and the Vegas price tag to go along with.

That said, everything about the experience is first-rate, and if you don’t feel like blowing another 400 bucks at the blackjack table, a round at Cascata is a great alternative.

See the video: Cascata Golf Club

#89: Great Waters Golf Course – Lake Oconee, Georgia

Great Waters is the crown jewel of the Reynolds Lake Oconee community. It has one of the great back 9s in golf, with the lake coming into play on 9 of the last 10 holes.

Not only are the views incredible, but the course has great variety as well.

I love the entire Reynolds experience, not just the Great Waters course. So if you’re looking for a luxury golf escape, you could do a whole lot worse than a few days here.

Check out: Great Waters Golf Course – The Crown Jewel of Reynolds Lake Oconee

#88: Old Macdonald – Bandon, Oregon

I’ve now played Old Macdonald 4 times, and honestly? During the first three, I didn’t love it.

But on my 4th time playing it, I finally got it. 

While I still generally enjoy the other courses at the resort more, there is a ton to like about Old Mac.

Check out: Old Macdonald: The Most Mis-Understood Course at Bandon Dunes

#87: Wolf Creek Golf Club – Mesquite, Nevada

Wolf Creek Golf Club in Mesquite, Nevada is one of the top 100 public courses in america.

This is like the Six Flags of golf courses. Up, down, left, right – you won’t find many courses rival this for flat-out fun. You pretty much have to take a cart, and you’ll play holes that while not always the most strategic, may very well give you vertigo.

This is one of those “must play at least once” type courses.

Full Recap: Wolf Creek Golf Club

#86: Stonewall (Old Course) – Elverson, Pennsylvania

18th Green at Stonewall Old

I believe the Old Course at Stonewall was Tom Doak’s first private design, and it’s clear why it helped put him on the map. Great elevation change, a nice variety of holes, and a beautiful setting all combine to make this one of the finest courses in the Philadelphia area.

Stonewall was home to our 2018 Eighty Club Club Championship, as well.

#85: Valhalla Golf Club – Louisville, Kentucky

Valhalla Golf Club

After our round at Double Eagle Club was canceled due to weather, we were able to line up a tee time at Valhalla on short notice. In a stroke of luck, our very first Eighty Club member happened to be in town, and we were able to have a fun impromptu round.

I found Valhalla to have a more interesting routing than expected, and the course exceeded my expectations. It wasn’t difficult to remember every hole, and it strikes a great balance of an enjoyable members course, and a stern test for the pros.

Full Recap: Valhalla Golf Club – Even Better than Expected

#84: Sentosa Golf Club (Serapong Course) – Singapore

Sentosa Golf Club Serapong Course

I didn’t have overly high expectations for the Serapong Course, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Specifically, the opening 7 holes are one of the better stretches of golf I’ve had in recent memory.

The back nine didn’t quite have the views and drama of the front, but challenging bunkering, and a good routing, helps this stay solidly in the top 100 this year.

#83: Dormie Club – West End, North Carolina

The short par 4, 3rd hole at The Dormie Club.

The short par 4, 3rd hole at The Dormie Club.

Dormie Club has had a tumultuous history, but when the Dormie Network acquired it a few years ago, everything changed.

An investment in new cabins and a new clubhouse has made this one of the great destination clubs in golf.

Full Recap: The Dormie Club and the Best Courses in North Carolina

#82: Streamsong (Blue Course) – Bowling Green, Florida

Streamsong Blue Hole 1

While it’s usually Streamsong Red that gets the nod as the best of the three courses, personally I preferred Tom Doak’s Blue Course. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s fun – and if you’re not on your game, you’ll probably have a long day.

#81: Hawks Ridge – Ball Ground, Georgia

Hawks Ridge Golf Club

I’d played Hawks Ridge once before, but after a second round earlier this pas year I was reminded by just how much fun this golf course is.

There are some fantastic elevation changes, and risk-reward opportunities are on nearly every hole. 

This is one of Bob Cupp’s best, and if you have the opportunity to play it, it’s well worth the effort to venture deep into Atlanta’s suburbs for a round.

#80: Punta Mita Golf Club (Pacifico Course) – Punta Mita, Mexico

Punta Mita Pacifico Tail of the Whale

While yes the natural island green on the Pacifico Course is the signature feature (and a very cool one at that), the rest of the course is incredibly fun as well.

It’s everything you hope for in a resort round of golf: an engaging routing, scenic holes, spectacular views, enough challenge to keep it interesting, but benign enough to help you shoot a good score. Not to mention, the Four Seasons might be the best family golf resort in the world.

Full Recap: Punta Mita Pacifico Golf Course Review

#79: Atlanta Athletic Club (Highlands Course) – Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta Athletic Club Highlands Hole 11

The approach on 11 might be my favorite shot at Atlanta Athletic Club.

After another play this year, the Highlands Course at Atlanta Athletic Club moved up a few spots. For a course that has been beefed up over the years by Rees Jones to challenge the pros, it’s still more fun than many courses of a similar style.

All of the par 3s are beautiful and exciting, and there are multiple ways to play most holes. The new Riverside Course is also fantastic and well worth playing.

Check out: Atlanta Athletic Club: The Best 36 Hole Club in the South?

#78: Tetherow Golf Club – Bend, Oregon

Tetherow Golf Club in Bend, Oregon is one of the best golf courses in the US.

The 6th at Tetherow in Bend, Oregon.

The exact opposite of Pronghorn, Tetherow is one of the most unique courses in the world. It’s in the high desert, but the fescue grass has it playing like a links course. It’s high on the fun factor, and the greens can leave you some truly terrifying putts. I enjoy it every time I head out, and with the work they’ve been doing there, it’s only getting better.

Full Recap: Tetherow: The Most Polarizing Course in Oregon

#77: Plainfield Country Club – Edison, New Jersey

Plainfield Country Club Hole 2

The 2nd hole at Plainfield Country Club.

Home of 2016’s Barclays, Plainfield is a fantastic Donald Ross layout. It starts to border on the “long, championship-style” courses that aren’t always my favorite, but I really enjoyed my round out here – especially the back nine.

11 is one of my favorite par 3s in the country.

Recap: Photo Tour of NYC Road Trip

#76: Rolling Green Country Club – Springfield, Pennsylvania

Rolling Green Golf Club Hole 3

Rolling Green had some great par 3s. This is the 3rd.

During a trip to Philly a couple years ago, Rolling Green was the course I didn’t know a whole lot about, and next to places like Merion, Aronimink, and Philly Cricket – I wasn’t totally giddy about playing it.

After the round though? Wow. Great variety, lots of elevation, and some really fun and unique holes. It’s easy to see why it was chosen to host the 2017 US Woman’s Amateur. Totally underrated in not only the Philly area, but in the US as a whole.

Full Recap: Rolling Green Golf Club

#75: Huntingdon Valley Country Club – Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania

Huntingdon Valley Hole 10

Huntingdon Valley was the first stop during our first Eighty Club event in Philly, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. We played the Toomey/Flynn nines, which have fantastic elevation changes, a handful of excellent short pars 4s, and one of the best clubhouse views you’ll find.

It’s a sleeper in the stacked world of Philadelphia golf, and one I’d love to play again.

#74: Prairie Dunes Country Club – Hutchinson, Kansas

The par 4 12th at Prairie Dunes Country Club.

Before heading to Prairie Dunes, I was telling some friends about my upcoming trip to Kansas.

And the response I got?


Clearly these friends aren’t golfers. Prairie Dunes is Perry Maxwell’s Golden Age masterpiece that is one of the most challenging courses I’ve ever played. It was the perfect setting for our final Eighty Club event of 2019.

#73: Chambers Bay – Tacoma, Washington

Chambers is another course that many people love to hate after the debacle that was the 2015 US Open. However, the variety, the fun holes, and the views make this a course that would be hard not to enjoy.

Full Recap: Salish Cliffs and Chambers Bay: The Perfect Golf Getaway

#72: Sheep Ranch – Bandon, Oregon

Sheep Ranch Bandon Hole 16

I can’t think of a course opening that has been more highly anticipated in the last few years than the Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes.

What do you get when you combine the most scenic piece of property, at the best golf resort in the world, with one of the best architects in the game?

Sheep Ranch.

The views rival any course in the world, and there are a handful of shots on the course you’ll simply never hit anywhere else.

Check out: Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes: The Most Stunning of All

#71: Spyglass Hill – Monterey, California

Spyglass Hill Golf Course Hole 3

The par 3, 3rd is one of the most fun shots at Spyglass Hill

Anything on the Monterey Peninsula is going to have some cache, and Spyglass Hill is no exception. The bigger, more brutal brother to Pebble Beach has one of the best opening 5 hole stretches I’ve played.

While I’m not as much of a fan of Spyglass as a lot of people are, I’ve enjoyed it more and more after each of my three rounds there. The par 3s are strong, the opening hole is one of the best openers in the world, and 4 is one of the coolest greens you’ll ever see.

I was last there for the 2019 Lexus Champions of Charity, and we had a pretty fun challenge on the epic 4th hole:

#70: Waverley Country Club – Portland, Oregon

Waverley Country Club Hole 13

The reachable par 5, 13th at Waverley.

Waverley is set on one of the most beautiful pieces of land for golf in the state of Oregon. Very few places I’ve played compare with the finish on 16-18.

There’s truly something special about this club that you don’t see often in Oregon. It feels like it’d be more at home with the Golden Age clubs of the Northeast. If there’s one place I hope to be a member at one day, this is it.

Full Recap: Waverley Country Club

#69: Eugene Country Club – Eugene, Oregon

For years Eugene Country Club had been ranked among the top 100 courses in the US. Most people I know agree, it’s the best “non-Bandon” course in Oregon.

And this year? It’s gotten even better.

They just did a full renovation of the course, and from everything I’ve seen? It’s phenomenal. I’d expect this to climb in my rankings next year once I’ve played the new and improved ECC.

#68: Camargo Club – Cincinnati, Ohio

Camargo Club Short Hole

One of the very best collections of template par 3s I’ve ever played. Camargo Club is truly special in the world of golf. It’s understated, quiet, and it doesn’t need to be loud or flashy to let the world know just how good it is. It was one of my first Raynors, and is the type of course that I can only imagine enjoying more and more with more plays.

Full Recap: Camargo Club – The Best Par 3 Templates in the World?

#67: The Golf Club – New Albany, Ohio

The Golf Club Hole 3

The all world, third hole at The Golf Club

Teeing it up at The Golf Club was one of the most pure experiences I’ve had on a golf course. You pull through the gates and you’re transported to another secluded world. A world where no one will bother you, where you nearly always have the course to yourself, and where Pete Dye displayed some of his very best (and earliest) work.

Full Recap: The Golf Club – An Uber-Exclusive Golfing Haven

#66: Erin Hills – Hartford, Wisconsin

Erin Hills Hole 3

Host of the 2017 US Open, Erin Hills is another very difficult walk, and the course, which can be stretched out to over 8,000 yards is no slouch either. There are some excellent stay-and-play deals, and if you live in the midwest, this is a must-play.

Worth Reading: Erin Hills: Home of the 2017 US Open and Best Golf Courses in Wisconsin.

#65: Oakland Hills (South Course) – Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Oakland Hills Country Club is one of the Top 100 Golf Courses in the US

The 11th was my favorite hole at Oakland Hills

There aren’t many major tournaments Oakland Hills hasn’t hosted. This struck a better balance of difficulty and hole variety, than say Medinah or Olympic – and the greens are some of the slickest I’ve ever putted on.

I haven’t played it since Gil Hanse’s revent remodel, so I imagine it’s even better now than it was when I had the chance to visit.

Full Recap: Oakland Hills (South Course)

#64: Baltusrol Golf Club (Lower) – Springfield, New Jersey

Baltusrol Lower Course Hole 5

The par 4, 5th hole on the Lower.

Few courses have the history and tournament pedigree of Baltusrol. And after a recent restoration to the Lower Course? It’s as good as it’s ever been. Just bring your A game, or plan for it to be a long day.

Full Recap: Baltusrol Golf Club: Unparalleled Championship History

#63: Ferry Point Golf Links – New York, New York

Ferry Point Golf Links

The 13th at Ferry Point with the Manhattan skyline in the background

I had a feeling Ferry Point was going to be good, but it ended up being even better than I’d expected it to be. The course is truly a links-style course in the middle of the city, and it was also one of the most enjoyable photography days I’ve had. Every hole is scenic in it’s own way, and the routing was both memorable and enjoyable with a wide variety of holes.

If you can put aside the polarizing politics of Ferry Point, you’ll be treated to one of the most enjoyable public courses on the east coast.

#62: Creek Club – Lake Oconee, Georgia

Creek Club Reynolds Hole 11

Whereas some purists will be mad I have certain courses so low, this is one where I imagine I’ll catch some heat for having it so high.

Creek Club is….wild. 

But you know what else it is? Fun. You hit shots on that course you’ll never see anywhere else. The greens are imaginative. And the whole place is a visual delight. It’s not a course I’d want to play every day, but when I do play it? I love it.

Full Recap: The Creek Club at Reynolds Lake Oconee: A Visual Masterpiece

#61: Old Sandwich – Plymouth, Massachusetts 

The approach on 13 at Old Sandwich.

The approach on 13 at Old Sandwich.

Old Sandwich was the part of our tandem of courses for our “Breaking Boston” Eighty Club event this year, and it lived up to all the hype. The course is fun and interesting, and the lodging on property is easily some of the best I’ve ever seen.

The Cape hole #5, is one of the most unique I’ve seen, and rivaled by only a few others in my book (Mid Ocean and Machrihanish)

#60: Bethpage (Black Course) – Farmingdale, New YorkBethpage Black Hole 4

What many consider Tillinghast’s best work, barely cracks my top 3 of his. Bethpage is another course everyone should play at least once, due to its accessibility and increasing lore in the golf history books. Expect lots of sand, extremely difficult rough, and a brutal walk that will leave you begging for more.

Full Recap: Bethpage Black

#59: Glens Falls Country Club – Queensbury, New York

Glens Falls Country Club

The opening tee shot at Glens Falls

Most people had never heard of Glens Falls until Tom Doak raved about it a few years back in his updated Confidential Guide.

Even with the high praise? Most people still haven’t heard of it.

The place is like stepping into a time portal. And when you’re done with the round? You’re left wondering two things: 

  1. How a course this good could fly under the radar for so long
  2. How on earth they built and played this roller coaster of a course way back in the 1920s

#58: Mid Ocean Club – Bermuda

An aerial shot of the 3rd green at the Mid Ocean Club

An aerial shot of the 3rd green at the Mid Ocean Club

Living on the west coast of the US, Bermuda wasn’t exactly on the top of my list of places to visit. However, after visiting twice for our annual Eighty Club Ryder Cup event, it’s now one of my favorite spots in the word.

The CB Macdonald Mid Ocean Club is phenomenal. It has the templates, it has the views, and everyone I met there is so laid back and chill – it’s exactly the type of place you’d like to be a member at and play over and over again.

#57: St. Andrews (Old Course) – St. Andrews, Scotland

The Old Course at St. Andrews during sunrise

From an architectural stand point, the Old Course is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) courses in the world. From a history standpoint? It’s unparalleled.

Any golfer will get goosebumps when you stand on the first tee. But I think this is a course that takes many plays and/or lots of study to truly understand its greatness (outside of its obvious importance in the history of golf).

The course itself isn’t overly scenic, and it’s quite flat. If you were to take an average golfer and have them play The Old Course, and say, Tobacco Road (without knowing anything about either), I’d be willing to bet at least half of them would choose the latter as their favorite.

#56: Pumpkin Ridge (Witch Hollow) – North Plains, Oregon

The scary 2nd shot on the short par 5, 14th at Witch Hollow.

The scary 2nd shot on the short par 5, 14th at Witch Hollow.

I may be slightly biased on this one, considering it’s my home course – but the setting and variety here is fantastic.

The par 5 14th is one of the best short par 5s in the world, and while it may not have the length to host a modern-day US Open, it’s a course that can still challenge some of the best players in the world, which it did for years hosting the Korn Ferry season finale and the first US LIV event in 2022.

#55: Trump International Golf Club – Aberdeenshire, Scotland

14 from the tips.

This might have been the longest, toughest, most difficult walk of my life. – partially due to the torrential wind and rain, I’m sure. But I found this to be a more difficult walk than both brutes like Yale and Bethpage Black.

I was surprised by just how good Trump’s course here really was. It has a modern take on links golf that kept things interesting and fun, even if I thought my lungs were going to give out at times.

Full Recap: Trump International Scotland

#54: Galloway National – Absecon, New Jersey

The 17th at Galloway National

The 17th at Galloway National

On the outskirts of Atlantic City, Galloway is a course that’s largely flown under the radar. It’s always been in perfect shape when I’ve been, and while it’s one of the more difficult courses I’ve played, I still found it very enjoyable and full of memorable holes.

The short par 4 12th, and par 3 17th are two in particular that really stand out, and it’s one of the most underrated courses in the country in my opinion.

#53: Pronghorn (Nicklaus Course) – Bend, Oregon

This starts one of my favorite stretches of holes anywhere 12-15.

This starts one of my favorite stretches of holes anywhere 12-15.

This was the course that started it all for me. My very first top 100 public course I played. I love Bend and Pronghorn. The course has a few of my favorite holes in Oregon (12-15) and is a treat to play every time I have the opportunity.

Not to be missed on a trip to Central Oregon

Full Recap: Pronghorn (Nicklaus Course)

#52: Winged Foot (West Course) – Mamaroneck, New York

Winged Foot West Hole 9

After having the good fortune of playing the East Course in 2017, to be invited back to play the West in 2018 was a real treat (thanks Chris!).

We had an absolute Chamber of Commerce day, and the West might have been the most well-manicured course I’ve ever played. It was exactly as I expected, long and challenging, but frankly, I think I preferred the quirkier East Course.

Full Recap: Winged Foot Golf Club: The Finest 36 Hole Club in the Country?

#51: The Valley Club of Montecito – Montecito, California

Valley Club of Montecito Hole 14

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

Playing at The Valley Club is a really special experience. The club itself has one of the best vibes I’ve ever seen. The membership is more laid back than you’d expect, and the clubhouse is one of the all time greats.

Things get even better once you hit the course. A nearly original Mackenzie design shows off a unique routing, excellent bunkering, and a course that won’t overwhelm you with difficulty – in the best way possible.

#50: Ballyneal Golf Club – Holyoke, Colorado

Sunset at Ballyneal Golf Club

Ballyneal is close to the most remote golf course I’ve ever played. I mean, it’s out there.

It’s the ultimate destination club, and fortunately, their golf course makes every second of the journey worth it. It feels like a links course in the middle of nowhere, and that’s because, well, that’s essentially what it is.

There are no tee boxes at Ballyneal, so each round feels very much like a game of “choose your own adventure.”

#49: Crosswater Golf Club – Sunriver, Oregon

The 9th hole at Crosswater

The 9th hole at Crosswater

I usually play Crosswater in Sunriver, Oregon a few times a year, and love it every time.

It has a solid variety of holes, forcing you to be very strategic at times (4th hole with extremely shallow green), and to flat out bomb it at others (687 yard par 5, 12th). While I do wish there were a bit more elevation at times, it’s underrated in PNW golf – especially if you catch one of their $99/night stay and play deals.

Full Recap: Crosswater Golf Club

#48: Banff Springs Golf Course – Banff, Alberta

Banff Springs Hole 14

I’ve played golf in some pretty spectacular places. Pebble, Punta Espada, the Maldives – but Banff Springs may have the most dramatic backdrop for golf I’ve ever seen. Towering peaks around every corner, and unlike many courses in amazing settings – the course is every bit as good as the scenery.

Full Recap: Playing Banff Springs Golf Club: As Spectacular as Golf Gets

#47: California Golf Club of San Francisco – San Francisco, California

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

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

Cal Club as most people affectionately call it, has some of the most brutal (and beautiful) bunkering I’ve ever seen – no surprise, considering Alistair Mackenzie helped with them. This course has flown under the radar until more recently, but it’s among the best courses in a state full of phenomenal golf.

Full Recap: Best Golf Courses in California

#46: Pronghorn (Fazio Course) – Bend, Oregon

The 8th hole on the Fazio Golf Course at Pronghorn outside of Bend, Oregon

This was from the ladies tees, but had a particularly cool angle of the cave.

The Fazio course at Pronghorn gets very little play, and as such is in immaculate condition. Its views of the Three Sisters mountains are unparalleled, and the par 3 8th over an ancient lava tube is one of the best and most unique par 3s you’ll ever play.

Full Recap: Pronghorn (Fazio Course)

#45: The Creek Club – Locust Valley, New York

The Creek Club Hole 16

No, the other “Creek Club”

Before my round at The Creek, I admittedly didn’t know a whole lot about it – and I’m glad I didn’t. The surprises kept coming around every turn, leading to a very memorable experience.

The view going over the crest on 5 is one of golf’s all-time great reveals.

Some might knock it for a weak opener (which has improved with a recent Hanse reno), but I actually found the first 5 holes (save for a pretty weak Eden hole) to be very good – and things only got better from there. I can only imagine how good it is now post-renovation.

#44: Blackwolf Run (River Course) – Kohler, Wisconsin

5th hole on the River Course at Blackwolf Run

One of the most fun tee shots in all of golf.

When I think of the River Course, the first word that comes to mind is fun. Dye uses bunkers and water, to weave you through a tapestry of different landscapes, and he gives you multiple options on every hole – with the best example of this being the three distinct fairway options on the par 4, 9th.

Full Recap: Blackwolf Run (River Course)

#43: Philly Cricket Club (Wissahickon Course) – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philly Cricket Club hole 18

The fantastic 18th at Philly Cricket Club.

Possibly with the exception of Pinehurst #2 or Sleepy Hollow, I’m not sure there has been a more celebrated restoration in America than the Tillinghast designed Wissahickon course. It’s just so good.  You’re engaged all the way through the round, and there isn’t a weak hole on the property.

Check out: Philly Cricket Club: A Classic Reborn

#42: Colorado Golf Club – Parker, Colorado

Colorado Golf Club Hole 2

I knew I was going to like Colorado Golf Club before I even set foot on the property. It’s Coore Crenshaw on a beautiful piece of land, and some super unique holes.

CGC is also one of the best match-play courses I’ve ever played, and it has some excellent risk-reward short par 4s and par 5s.

Full Recap: Best Golf Courses in Colorado

#41: Myopia Hunt Club – Hamilton, Massachusetts 

The 12th at Myopia Hunt outside of Boston.

The 12th at Myopia Hunt outside of Boston.

Walking off the highly unique short par 4, first hole, I knew I was going to like this course. It goes up, it goes down, it goes short, it goes long. Its tradition and history is deep and the course itself is extremely special.

With that said, it seemed on nearly every hole drives I thought were pretty good ended up in bunkers I didn’t know were there 🙂

#40: Quivira Golf Club – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Quivira Golf Course Hole 6

When you hear about Quivira, usually it’s all about the crazy cliff-side holes.

What people don’t tell you? 

The rest of the course is VERY good as well.

I expected 2 or 3 really fun holes, and for the rest of the course to be mediocre. 

With the exception of a slightly anti-climactic finish, I don’t think there was a single hole I didn’t enjoy.

Check out: Quivira Golf Club: A Seaside Rollercoaster

#39: Tobacco Road – Sanford, North Carolina

Tobacco Road Hole 9

Tobacco Road is one of the most polarizing courses in the US.

Personally? I love it. It’s unique, rebellious, and has hole designs I’ve never seen anywhere else.

In fact, it’s so good, I’m still trying to convince some of my golfing buddies to fly across the country to play it with me for a repeat visit.

Full Recap: Tobacco Road and Best Golf Courses in North Carolina

#38: Kingsbarns – Fife, Scotland

The 15th at Kingsbarns

The 15th at Kingsbarns

When I played Kingsbarns the Scottish fog was out in full force (as were the flashing red guidance lights) – but didn’t get in the way of a wonderful experience.

Kyle Phillips did a tremendous job of blending old and new, and making a course that’s one of the most fun and enjoyable in Scotland.

#37: Sleepy Hollow Country Club – Scarborough, New York

Sleepy Hollow Hole #16

Sleepy Hollow has recently been completely transformed back to its former glory by Gil Hanse – and it’s a sight to behold. Most people have seen the phenomenal par 3 16th, but unless you’ve played it you don’t realize just how good the land, views, and interest of the holes are.

It’s 100% deserving of all the praise it’s been getting over the last couple of years, and is truly one of the best golf courses in New York, if not the country.

#36: Pacific Dunes – Bandon, Oregon

It may be short, but it's also one of the most scenic par 3s in golf!

It may be short, but it’s also one of the most scenic par 3s in golf!

There have been countless debates about the best courses at Bandon. The fact you can justify saying any one of their 5 courses is the best is a testament to how good the golf is there.

But for me? While I really enjoy Pacific, there are a couple others at the resort I like even more.

Check out: How I Broke 80 at Bandon in the Coolest Way Possible

#35: Riviera Country Club – Los Angeles, California

Riviera Country Club Hole 9

Picture perfect view on 9.

There are certain clubs who have a greatness that you can’t quite quantify or identify without experiencing it. I found Riviera to be one of those clubs. If you’re a diehard about golf course architecture, this is one of those “must study” courses. As everything from concept to execution is a masterclass in golf course design.

It’s difficult yet playable, tough yet fair, and the Redan 4th is one of the toughest par 3s I’ve played. Simply put, while I was unsure going into it, Riviera is every bit as good as it is made out to be.

#34: Gleneagles (Kings Course) – Gleneagles, Scotland

The 5th at Gleneagles Kings Course

There were a handful of big surprises on my last Scotland trip, but none were as big as the Kings Course. This was literally a matter of “we have some time, where in Scotland can we drive and go play a round?”

We randomly decided on Gleneagles, and almost played the Centenary course instead. What a mistake that would have been. The Kings course was very diverse, with fantastic long holes, short holes, wide fairways, narrow fairways – it made you think throughout the whole round.

We barely got the whole thing in before dark, and I’m amazed this course doesn’t get more attention than it does –  it was that good.

#33: Atlanta Country Club – Marietta, Georgia

Atlanta Country Club Hole 18

Hole 18 at Atlanta Country Club at Sunset with a couple eagle putts.

Hands down, the number one best surprise of 2017. I arranged a tee time at Atlanta Country Club on short notice while down for the Masters after a couple other scheduled rounds fell through.

I didn’t know a whole lot about it, but had heard nothing but good things. The way the course weaves through a canyon makes for a unique setting, and I felt like I had strategic decisions to make on nearly every hole. Highly underrated and worth playing when in the area.

#32: Cruden Bay – Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Cruden Bay Hole 14 Green

You want to talk about adventure golf? It doesn’t get much more adventurous than this. It’s amazing this course was built so long ago, because it has so many features that I love in the more modern courses I play – you know except for so many blind shots.

There are few things as rewarding in golf as the view from the 9th tee box after the hike to get up there.

#31: The Course at Yale – New Haven, Connecticut

Yale Hole #9 Biarritz

The famed Biarritz hole at Yale

I think Yale may be the most underrated course in the world.


So many of the traditional raters will knock it for being rough around the edges and for having poor conditioning. But the course itself? Is phenomenal.

With Gil Hanse doing a course renovation soon, you can bet Yale is finally going to get the recognition it’s due.

Playing Yale? Check out more of the best golf courses in Connecticut.

#30: TPC Sawgrass – Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

The world famous island green, hole 17

I liked TPC Sawgrass much more than I expected to. While it’s always on Top 100 lists and among the Top 10 of the best public courses in the US, I haven’t met many people who truly raved about it.

But I think it’s a fantastic test of golf that while challenging, is also really enjoyable. The water wasn’t as penal as I expected it to be and the greens were the fastest I’ve ever putted on. Regardless of what anyone says, the 17th is truly a bucket list hole.

Check out: TPC Sawgrass Review

#29: Winged Foot (East) – Mamaroneck, New York

Winged Foot East Hole #3

The par 3 third at Winged Foot East

To be totally honest, I really didn’t think I was going to like Winged Foot East. I thought it was going to be a long, hard championship course that while great for the pros, would be a brutal and tedious for someone like me.

Boy was I wrong. Winged Foot had memorable par 3s, great risk-reward short par 4s and was a real treat to experience the history of the Club.

Check out: Winged Foot Golf Club: The Greatest 36 Hole Golf Club in America?

#28: Whistling Straits – Kohler, Wisconsin

Whistling Straits Hole 6 Approach

One of the most well-known, and highly ranked public courses in the country, Whistling Straits is grand in every sense of the word. Each of the 4 par 3s rests on the banks of Lake Michigan, and if the views don’t distract you and kill your round, the nearly 1,000 bunkers on the course most likely will.

Full Recap: Whistling Straits

#27: Arcadia Bluffs – Arcadia, Michigan

Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club in Michigan is one of the Top 100 Golf Courses in America

The 11th at Arcadia

Is Arcadia Bluffs the most strategic course? Nope. Is it a holy grail to quality golf architecture? Ha, not a chance. But this is one of those courses, where the overall experience and fun factor make you forget about all of that. I can remember every hole on the course, the views are second to none, and there aren’t many rounds where I’ve had more fun than here.

And yes, personally, I enjoy it more than that other course across the lake 🙂

Full Review: Arcadia Bluffs

#26: The Golf Club at Black Rock – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Black Rock Hole 11

The 11th hole at The Golf Club at Black Rock

This was the first top 100 course I ever played, and is another one where I could see purists cringe – but there’s no denying the course is incredibly fun and scenic at the same time.

The par 4, 11th hole with an approach in between two waterfalls is one of the most unique holes you’ll ever play, and there are at least 3 or 4 other holes that would be in contention for a top 100 holes list.

After another play recently, I was reminded why I enjoy this golf course so much.

Full Recap: The Golf Club at Black Rock

#25: Boston Golf Club – Hingham, Massachusetts

Pretty much the whole course looks like this: dramatic.

Pretty much the whole course looks like this: dramatic.

My Boston whirlwind a few years back was fun because we got to play 4 of the best courses in the city (make that country): Essex County, Myopia, Boston, and The Country Club. Everyone we talked to had a different opinion on how these ranked. I knew I would love Boston. I like modern course designs, and Hanse did an incredible job crafting memorable and strategic holes.

#5, “Shipwrecked,” is among the best short par 4s in golf – and if you know me, you know I love short par 4s!

I got back there this summer for our Eighty Club “Breaking Boston” event and I enjoyed the course as much as ever.

#24: Estancia Club – Scottsdale, Arizona

Estancia Club Scottsdale

If you ask anyone these days to name their favorite architect, I’d be surprised if 1 in 10 were to say Tom Fazio.

Yet, as I’ve played more and more of his top-tier courses, I continually find myself counting them among my favorites. It’d be interesting to add up how many of each architect are on my list, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he tops the list.

Estancia is beautiful, fun, and the whole experience is a memorable one. It’s not hard to see why it’s consistently ranked among the best in Arizona.

#23: Quaker Ridge Golf Club – Scarsdale, New York

Quaker Ridge

Each time I play Quaker Ridge I enjoy it more and more. And while I still don’t like the OB bordering the first 8 holes, there’s no denying that the course is fun, challenging, and unique.

Oh, and it may have the best back-to-back par 3s in the world at 9 and 10.

Ok, save for Cypress Point…

#22: Pasatiempo – Santa Cruz, California

Pasatiempo Hole 8 Small

Pasatiempo was my first Mackenzie course, and is another one Golf Digest doesn’t have ranked highly. While there may be a few pedestrian holes, more often than not the course is world class with some of the best bunkering I’ve ever seen.

16 is among the top green complexes I’ve seen. This is one of the most underrated courses by traditional measures that’s on my list.

#21: Loch Lomond – Alexandria, Scotland

The spectacular par 3, 5th at Loch Lomond Golf Club

The spectacular par 3, 5th.

There’s no denying that part of the allure of Loch Lomond is that it is so hard to get an invitation to play. Next to Merion, it was probably my most anticipated round of 2016, and it didn’t disappoint.

The setting right on Loch Lomond and within the national park is spectacular, and I found the course to be engaging all the way through. I wasn’t expecting to like the inland holes as much as I did, either.

It’s becoming pretty clear that I’m a big fan of modern parkland courses – and this is among the best examples I’ve played.

Full Recap: Loch Lomond: The Most Private Club in Europe

#20: Hudson National – Croton-on-Hudson, New York

Hudson National Hole 10

Hudson was the first top private I played in the NYC area and it exceeded very lofy expectations. Fazio created a unique, and fun course that uses elevation change to create a true adventure of a golf course.

Full Review: Hudson National

#19: San Francisco Golf Club – San Francisco, California

The par 3 11th at San Francisco

The par 3 11th at San Francisco

This proves I don’t just like modern designs. SFGC was one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had on a golf course. It’s one of Tillinghast’s earliest designs, and similar to Somerset Hills, stands out as being quite a bit different than his other work.

It took me two years to get on the course, but a really big thank you to the two people who helped make this happen. I sincerely hope we can do it again one day, and that I can find a way to return the favor!

#18: Peachtree Golf Club – Atlanta, Georgia

Peachtree Golf Club

There are very few places I’ve been more excited to play than Peachtree. 

The course is truly one of the more special experiences in golf, and I’m not sure I could name a bad hole on the property. 

It’s a tough invite to get, but if you get the chance to play, you’ll have a lot to look forward to.

#17: Somerset Hills – Bernardsville, New Jersey

Somerset Hills Hole 12 2 Small

When you think of Tillinghast you think of ball-busting courses like Bethpage Black. Somerset is much more subdued and friendly – and I loved it. From the beautiful and severe #2 redan hole, I was hooked.

Integrating features of the land, like the old horse race track on the property make it all the more special.

Last year someone commented on my top 100 list “I lost all respect for your list and your credibility when I saw how highly you had Somerset Hills ranked.”

Clearly, that person must not have ever actually played the course.

Full Recap: Photo Tour of 2015 NYC Trip

#16: Diamante Dunes – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Diamante Dunes is the #1 Cabo San Lucas golf course.

Standing back behind tees on 15. Quite possibly my favorite golf photo I’ve ever taken.

Diamante is the top-ranked course in Mexico, and for good reason. It’s essentially a links experience in the desert, and was unlike anything I’d experienced before. The views were amazing, and the “all-inclusive” atmosphere makes for a gluttonous, but incredibly rewarding experience.

I also took what might be my favorite golf photo I’ve ever taken here.

Full Recap: Diamante Dunes

#15: Bandon Dunes – Bandon, Oregon

The 6th on Bandon Dunes

The 6th on Bandon Dunes

I used to have Pacific Dunes ranked ahead of Bandon, but having played them both a few times since, I just keep finding myself enjoying Bandon Dunes more. The ebb and flow of the course from inland to water constantly keeps you entertained and excited for the next leg of the journey.

Full Recap: Bandon Dunes

#14: Maidstone Club – East Hampton, New York

The 14th at Maidstone is unreal.

The 14th at Maidstone is unreal.

I’ve heard complaints that Maidstone has a weak opening and a weak finish – but I didn’t think so. I thought the course eased you into the round beautifully, and then smacked you in the face with some world-class holes.

It’s not overly long or difficult by today’s standards, but it had just the right amount of personality and quirk to make me fall in love with it.

Full Recap: Maidstone Club: An Unforgettable Experience

#13: Gozzer Ranch Golf & Lake Club – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Gozzer Ranch Hole 12

Recently I was able to play Gozzer Ranch for the first time, and it 100% met my admittedly high expectations. Everything about Coeur D’Alene is laid back and has a truly relaxing vibe. Gozzer felt the same way, and it just happened to do it with world-class infinity greens and views for days.

Full Recap: Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club

#12: Fishers Island Club – Fishers Island, New York

Believe it or not, this was one of the less foggy periods of time.

Fishers Island wins the award for one of the more difficult courses to get to, as after your drive or train ride to New London, you board a 45 minute ferry to the island – and another 10-minute drive to the Club.

You’re rewarded for your expedition however with the crown jewel of architect Seth Raynor’s repertoire. It’s one of the most scenic courses on the planet, and has some excellent template holes – including a Double Plateau that is one of my favorite greens in the world.

Check out: Fishers Island Club: A Very Remote and Memorable Round

#11: Muirfield Village – Dublin, Ohio

The 2nd at Muirfield Village

The 2nd at Muirfield Village

“Jack’s Place” was so much more than I thought it would be. It felt like “Augusta Jr.” in regards to everything from infrastructure to conditioning, and while a brutal challenge I found the course to be more fun and varied in its routing than I’d anticipated.

Each hole led to a new surprise, which had me saying “oh, now this is cool.” And that’s a sign of a good course in my book.

Check out: Muirfield Village Golf Club: It’s Basically Baby-Augusta

#10: Oak Hill Country Club (East Course) – Rochester, New York

Oak Hill East Hole 13

Oak Hill East exceeded all of my expectations, and is very deserving of being in the top 100 in the world.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to love Oak Hill. I expected nothing but a super hard, parkland course, that just kind of lapped back and forth the property.

The reality? Yes, it’s a very hard course. But man, Oak Hill has such a good variety of holes. The new bunkers are beautiful. The elevation is more dramatic than you expect. This course is so good.

Full Recap: Oak Hill Country Club: Is it Donald Ross’ Best?

#9: Punta Espada Golf Club – Cap Cana, Dominican Republic

Hole #2 at Punta Espada Golf Club

Ok, I see what they mean. The view from upper tee box on #2

And the award for biggest surprise of 2019? Hands down Punta Espada. The trip came together just a week or two before I left, but this course had it all for me. It weaved out to the ocean and back no less than 4 times. Had dramatic tee shots over the water, was strategic, but more than anything it was one of the most fun golf courses I’ve ever seen.

Casa de Campo getz most of the fame and haz the history, but Punta Espada might be the true crown jewel of the Caribbean.

Check out: Punta Espada Golf Club: The Crown Jewel of Caribbean Golf

#8: Castle Stuart – Inverness, Scotland

Castle Stuart Hole 17

Castle Stuart is modern links at its finest. Infinity greens, risk-reward par 5s, and a handful of dramatic holes you simply won’t see anywhere else.

I’d be curious to play some of the links courses that I’ve ranked above it again, because it would not surprise me to see this rise even higher in the future – it’s that good.

#7: North Berwick – East Lothian, Scotland

North Berwick is one of the most historic golf courses in Scotland, and one of the top 100 in the world.

This might be my favorite green in the world.

Often overlooked by many on Scotland trips in favor of Open Rota courses, North Berwick is one that should never be missed. It’s home to the original redan green, and at just over 6400 yards won’t scare anyone with its length.

However, the quirkiness of the course made me fall in love with it. The 16th psuedo-biarritz green might be my favorite green in the world, and the 13th green tucked behind a stone wall is something you won’t find anywhere else.

Full Recap: North Berwick

#6: Los Angeles Country Club (North Course) – Los Angeles, California

LACC North Hole 4

LACC North Hole 4

While unfortunately, we were only able to experience LACC during one of the wettest LA days on record – it didn’t dampen the experience of one of the best golf courses I’ve ever played.

The routing is genius and always leaves you a little disoriented as to where you are on the property. The holes are memorable, and the devilish little tongue on the short par 3, 15th – is one of the coolest pin locations I’ve seen on a golf course – making it only 78 yards long.

#5: Bandon Trails – Bandon, Oregon

Bandon Trails Hole 14

The plaque which marks where Mike Keiser decided to build the resort, is located near the 14th tee on trails along one of the hiking trails.

In my previous top 25 list many years ago, Bandon Trails was the outright winner. Many were surprised, as traditionally, it’s the lowest-ranked of the five courses at Bandon.

But my rationale? It’s the most unique.

Hundreds of courses have ocean views.

Very few weave dunes, meadows, and forests together in a way that flows so well. And as for 14? I don’t hate it as much as everyone else. Just calls for a different strategy!

Full Recap: Why Bandon Trails is One of the Most Underrated Courses in the US

#4: Royal Dornoch – Dornoch, Scotland

The par 3, 10th at Dornoch

The par 3, 10th at Dornoch

What’s there to say about Dornoch? It’s one of the oldest courses in the world, and the more courses I play, the more I see course architects that have been heavily influenced by the course. Tom Watson once said it’s “the most fun he’s ever had on a golf course.” 

For me, it’s not hard to see why. It’s a bit of a trek to get there, but totally worth it.

Full Recap: Royal Dornoch

#3: Merion Golf Club (East) – Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Merion Hole 13

To put it simply, Merion has everything I look for in a golf course. Unique, fun holes. A bevy of short par 4s, and does all of this while still being strategic, and providing a true challenge and test of golf.

I knew before I played it that Merion would either shoot to the top of the list, or I’d find it wasn’t my style and would consider it overrated.

Luckily, in this case, it was the former that prevailed.

Full Recap: Merion Golf Club: Weird Flagsticks, World Class Golf

#2: National Golf Links of America – Southhampton, New York


Deciding on #1 vs #2 was probably the most difficult decision I had to make with this list. NGLA is one of the most special places I’ve ever been. The course is one world-class hole after another, and the setting is about as good as it gets.

Depending on the day this could very well take the top spot, but on this day it just barely gets edged out.

#1: Pebble Beach – Monterey Peninsula, California

The iconic 7th at Pebble.

The iconic 7th at Pebble.

I should preface this by saying, I had lowered my expectations for Pebble after hearing so many people say it’s overrated.

I’m sorry, Pebble Beach is an absolutely phenomenal golf course. Not only are the water holes unique and beautiful, but even the inland ones (with one or two exceptions) were still world-class.

Someone recently told me Pebble beach was boring. If you think Pebble Beach is boring, I can’t imagine what course you would say is fun.

For me, I’ve yet to see a better combo of fun and excellence in architecture and design. It’s that good.

Full Recap: Pebble Beach, a Camaro, and an MVP

Thanks for tuning in to this year’s Top 100! It’s been fun receiving so many messages with your thoughts and own preferences.

There are 42 comments

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  1. John Steinberg

    Love seeing Yale on here. Grew up playing it and the layout is second to very few. Conditions to vary but if you’re there in a year they are hosting a NCAA Regional it is MINT.

  2. Connor Burchfield

    Thoughts on harbour town in Hilton head? One of the most enjoyable tracks I’ve ever played and seems to follow the definition of fun you’ve laid out.

    • Sean Ogle

      Unfortunately when I was in Hilton Head, the course was closed for Heritage prep, so I havent been able to play it yet. But from what I heard, it looks like one I’ll enjoy.

      • Marc Rubinstein

        I’m a little late to this article but we definitely have similar tastes with Pebble, Merion, Punta Espada, LACC, and Muirfield Village being high on my list too. You have a few that I haven’t played and vice versa that I’m sure we’d both enjoy given the chance. I also love Tobacco Road and agree that Bandon Trails is the best of the group when judging hole by hole.

  3. John

    Great list and I understand these are based on where you’ve gotten. By this list I’m guessing you haven’t been to Fishers Island or really much of the Met Section other than Old Oaks. Plans for 2017? I may be able to help with some spots..

    • Sean Ogle

      Yeah I’ve played a handful of courses in NJ and Long Island, but not a ton in that exact area.

      Clearly I have yet to play Fishers haha.

      Plan on heading out in the spring most likely, have connections at some great spots there now that I didn’t have the last time out. Would love to chat more, shoot me an email [email protected]

  4. Stan

    Sean, nice list and great photography!
    To be honest I skimmed by most of the list as I cannot afford nor would I ask to be invited to a exclusive course. I’m a long time volunteer at many USGA events from US opens, senior, LPGA, ameature, and first tee events. I’ve instructed junior golf, I’m a Vet, worked all of my life and frankly have little to no chance of traveling the world playing many of these courses. As an example – if I were to travel to Scotland some of the places you rate would not be available to me or some of your readers.
    The reason I’m writing is not to knock your list but to ask for another slant showing a ‘top five’ public affordable list by region. For example if I’m traveling to a area what courses are in reach and are still on you fun list.

  5. Nathan Carr

    What makes a course fun? IMO: the challenge, shots requiring strategy, risk/reward, and playability. Fun can also be affected by how you’re playing, how the conditions impact play, and who you are sharing the 4+ hour experience with.
    That’s why I would have Chambers Bay a little higher on my list. It’s big, bold, and makes you play shots you don’t get to play elsewhere. Doesn’t hurt that I was able to enjoy my round with my sons.
    Having just played Pebble I agree. My only complaint is that the surroundings border on distracting. Golf almost seems secondary.
    I noticed an absence of island golf on the list. Mauna Kea would be up there for me.

    • Sean Ogle

      Ah man, your comment was the first one that made me realized I left a course out – Bay Course at Kapalua. Although I played it in 2006, so probably shouldn’t count.

      Other than that I really havent played much island golf. Would like to get out to Hawaii sometime soon.

  6. Rick Roe

    Royal County Down, Royal Portrush easily accessible and must plays. Just got back from a golf excursion in Australia. Played Cape Wickham, Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Metropolitan, Ocean Dunes, Barnbougle Dunes, Lost Farms, Victoria, and New South Wales. Trip of a lifetime. Cape Wickham and New South Wales are all world!

  7. Rick Williamson

    Played both Wolf Creek and Tobacco Road in 2016, after reading about them on you web site. Must say they are both absolute joys to play, regardless of what you shoot. Played Wolf Creek in 30-40 mph winds, and played Tobacco Road in a steady drizzle. Neither could dampen my enjoyment of playing these wonderful tracks.

  8. Ray DeMaio

    Sean, just wanted to shoot out a note and tell you how much I enjoyed your list/review.
    Got the chance to play Pebble this past July on a 65th birthday trip/present from the honey and couldn’t agree more of its #1 standing. Best week of my life: played Pebble on Friday, SpyGlass on Saturday, SFGC on Monday and Harding Park Tuesday. Home run; keep up the great work.

  9. Stéphane

    Nice list Sean ! I also ranked courses I played and applied about the same process than you.
    If I could play only one single last round, where would it be ? And a second ? and a third …

  10. Bill Wallace

    Tobacco Road was the only course where you actually said it was a good “value”. So many of these are un-attainable for the “average, public golfer” you claim to be aiming for. Outside of Tobacco Road, there probably aren’t five other courses here that can be played for less than 100 dollars. This was more like a Joe Passov, “I get to play for free, in exchange for a good review”, list. All about exclusivity and big-name designers. I’d have lots of fun as a guest at these courses, too.
    P.S. I’m not griping, just pointing out that it is, in fact, very much like a Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, ranking. Though you do occasionally remind us that it is a highly personal list based on “fun-factor”. Hope you have a great 2017 (honestly), as I will continue to try to beat my own previous “117 straight calendar months played” streak here in the cold northeast. I did enjoy the photos, and the mention of some lesser known tracks. Merry Christmas. Bill W.

  11. Andrew

    Bravo Sean. It was your article about Royal Dornoch which convinced me to head up there this year during my first golf trip to Scotland, and I had the time of my life. All I can honestly say is Thank You. It was the best course I’ve ever played. You were spot on with North Berwick and Cruden being up there too. I’m off to Cape Wickham in Feb, so keep an eye on my Insta account (@golfaholic1) for the results! Season’s Greetings….

  12. WillB


    I think you’d like the Highlands course at Primland, in Southwest Virginia (about an hour north of Greensboro/Winston-Salem; two hours from Pinehurst). If you go in mid/late October, the fall colors are fabulous. And the course is top-notch.

  13. Dawson

    Make it a priority to get to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. According to Matt Ginella, Cabot Cliffs is better than Pebble. Cabot Links is also phenomenal and while there enjoy a Canadian Classic from famed architect Stanley Thompson and play Highlands Links. Awesome blog, really enjoyable! Keep up the great work.

  14. bill

    Druids Glen in Ireland. Great course with a lot of interesting views and shots.
    It would be helpful if you had simple list of these courses that I could print out and have a single sheet to review for potential future rounds.

  15. Jed

    Underrated course up a little west of Tacoma has to be Gold Mountain (Olympic Course). Fantastic variety of holes and has plays host to several big tournaments. If you haven’t gotten to play it I highly recommend!

  16. Dan

    Love the list. I disagree with where you have pinehurst 2 ranked. Just played again last week. It is a course that requires good iron play and patience. Since I did not have either that day I did not score well. Thought pinehurst # 4 was great as well. I also thought Shenandoah was the best course at turning stone.

  17. Paul Seifert

    Great post, Sean! Have you had a chance to get to Sand Valley yet? I’m curious where you’d fit the first (Coore/Crenshaw) course in on this list. I think they did a great job of keeping it FUN foremost. Let me know next time you’re in Wisconsin and let’s get a round or two together. -Paul

  18. Rick Freeman

    If you ever venture into NW North Carolina please try Cedarbrook CC in Elkin, NC 28621 336-835-2320 Zim Zimmerman head pro for years and years and lives on course. 18 holes that will test every shot in your golf bag. It has a beautiful view of the Blue Ridge Mountains which is part of the Appalachians.
    C Rick Freeman

  19. Rex Reese

    I think you’ll find that Ballybunion is the best 36 holes on the same beach.

    The Old Course is the hardest you’ll play and the toughest walk under normal conditions (blowing 20 and sideways rain).

  20. Emmett

    I love seeing a top golf course list that includes fun as part of the criteria. That said, surprised Tobacco Raod isn’t ranked higher. That place is very unique and had many memorable, fun shots across all 18 holes. Keep up the good work!

  21. Andrew Abruzzese

    Very nice list. I’d like to get your opinion on Pine Valley. Let me know when you’re in the area.

  22. Maxim

    Played Yale this year. Loved, loved, loved it though the conditioning was criminal in places. Hanse will give it deserved attention.

    Atlanta Country Club is decent. But some of its membership are toxic-level nouveau riche personalities, which gets old.

    Agree 100 percent about Merion.

  23. Chuck S

    Love seeing a list like this. While I do really enjoy lists like golf digest’s top 100 courses, this list comes from a very different perspective. I wish there were more lists coming from the perspective of the golfer’s enjoyment. I am just recently back into golf after a long hiatus, but have dove in head first. Hopefully one day I will get to travel and experience many courses. For now, I am hoping over the next couple years to explore courses in the southern jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, maybe even Maryland area, I hear are good.

  24. Simon

    Fantastic list, and as ever a great read. Love the quality of article on this web site. Great to see a Singapore course make the cut… but dang… I wish you had played more courses in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Tasmania has a few courses which I think would make you cry… Think Pebble Beach with Kangaroos and Aussie cheek. Now you’ve got to travel and come see for yourself… Oh, and the rest of Australia has a few holes of interest…! 🙂 A good American friend once told me “Western Australia has the weather California pretends it has.” Pack your clubs, and come review!

  25. Austin Wright, PGA

    I have played a handful of these, including the Pebble Courses, I personally have my top 5 as:

    Old Head- Kinsale Ireland
    Monterey Peninsula CC- Cali
    Spyglass Hills- Cali
    Pebble Beach
    Valhalla- Louisville KY.

    I’ve also been fortunate enough to play others on this list, I hope to play them all at some point. Ireland/Scotland golf is just different

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