5 Best Public Golf Courses In California

California boasts some of the finest public golf courses in the world, offering breathtaking views and challenging play.

Here are the top five: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pasatiempo Golf Club, Torrey Pines Golf Course – South Course, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and TPC Harding Park.

Keep reading for a detailed explanation of what makes each of these courses stand out.

Pebble Beach Golf Links (Pebble Beach)


Pebble Beach Golf Links, located in Pebble Beach, California, is renowned for its stunning coastal views and challenging holes.

Often considered the top public golf course in the state, it has garnered a legendary reputation in the golfing world.

The course has a rich history, having hosted numerous prestigious tournaments, including multiple U.S. Opens, which cements its status as a premier golfing destination.

Course Highlights

Pebble Beach Golf Links is celebrated for its iconic holes, particularly the 7th and 18th.

The 7th hole is a short par-3 that plays downhill to a green surrounded by breathtaking ocean views, making it one of the most photographed holes in golf.

The 18th hole, a par-5, runs along the coastline and is known for its dramatic beauty and challenging layout.

The course design expertly integrates natural coastal features, creating a layout that is both beautiful and demanding.

Golfers are treated to spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean throughout their round, adding to the course's allure.

Green Fees

Playing at Pebble Beach Golf Links comes with a premium price tag.

Current green fees range from $595 to $625, reflecting the course's top-tier status and unmatched location.

While this is higher than many other public courses, the experience and prestige of playing at Pebble Beach justify the cost for many golf enthusiasts.

Tournaments and Events

Pebble Beach has a storied history of hosting prestigious tournaments.

It has been the site of multiple U.S. Opens, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and other significant events.

Hosting these high-profile tournaments elevates the course's prestige and maintains its position as a must-play destination for serious golfers.

Tips for Golfers

To make the most of a visit to Pebble Beach, it is best to plan your trip during the spring or fall when the weather is typically more favorable, and the course is in optimal condition.

When playing the challenging holes, such as the 7th and 18th, it's crucial to focus on precision and course management.

On the 7th hole, consider the wind and club selection carefully due to its short length but exposed location.

For the 18th hole, staying focused and managing risk is key, as the fairway hugs the coastline, making it both beautiful and formidable.

Booking a tee time well in advance is highly recommended due to the course's popularity.

Pasatiempo Golf Club (Santa Cruz)


Pasatiempo Golf Club, located in Santa Cruz, California, is a classic golf course renowned for its beautiful design and challenging layout.

Designed by the legendary Alister MacKenzie, the same architect behind Augusta National, Pasatiempo showcases his genius through its strategic design and natural integration with the landscape.

The course's historical significance and exceptional maintenance make it a must-play destination for golf enthusiasts.

Course Highlights

Pasatiempo Golf Club features several notable holes and unique design elements that captivate golfers.

One of the standout holes is the 16th, known for its deep barranca that must be navigated with precision.

The course's layout incorporates significant elevation changes, which add a level of complexity to gameplay.

Golfers will encounter a variety of uphill and downhill shots that require careful club selection and strategy.

The scenic views at Pasatiempo are another highlight, with the Santa Cruz Mountains providing a stunning backdrop to the lush fairways and well-manicured greens.

The unique terrain, characterized by natural ravines and undulating fairways, further enhances the golfing experience.

Green Fees

Playing at Pasatiempo Golf Club comes with a price range of $275 to $300.

While this may seem steep, the value for money is evident in the course's impeccable maintenance, historical significance, and challenging design.

Compared to other top courses, Pasatiempo offers a blend of affordability and high-quality golfing experience.

Historical Significance

Pasatiempo has a rich history, having been established in 1929.

It quickly gained a reputation as one of the finest courses in the country, attracting numerous notable figures in golf history.

The course has hosted several significant events, contributing to its storied past.

Alister MacKenzie's influence is palpable throughout the course, with strategic bunkering, undulating greens, and a layout that challenges golfers of all skill levels.

Pasatiempo's contributions to golf culture are substantial, offering a glimpse into the golden age of golf course architecture.

Tips for Golfers

Navigating Pasatiempo requires strategic thinking and a keen understanding of the course's nuances.

Golfers are advised to pay close attention to the elevation changes and plan their shots accordingly.

On holes like the 16th, precision is key to avoiding the barranca and achieving a good score.

The best times of year to play Pasatiempo are during the spring and fall, when the weather is mild, and the course conditions are optimal.

Booking a tee time in advance is recommended, especially during peak seasons.

Torrey Pines Golf Course – South Course (La Jolla)


Torrey Pines Golf Course – South Course, situated in La Jolla, California, is one of the most renowned public golf courses in the United States.

Known for its spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and challenging layout, it is a prominent venue in professional golf, hosting the annual Farmers Insurance Open and having been the site for the 2008 and 2021 U.S. Opens.

Course Highlights

The South Course at Torrey Pines is famous for its demanding layout and breathtaking scenery.

Designed by William F. Bell and later redesigned by Rees Jones, the course features wide fairways, deep bunkers, and large greens.

One of the key holes is the par-4 12th, which requires a precise tee shot to avoid the deep canyon on the left and a well-placed approach shot to a heavily guarded green.

Another standout is the par-5 18th, offering a dramatic finish with the Pacific Ocean in the backdrop and a green that challenges golfers with its undulating surface.

The course’s coastal cliffs provide stunning panoramic views, making every round a visual delight as well as a test of skill.

Green Fees

Green fees at Torrey Pines vary significantly between residents and non-residents.

For residents, the fees range from $202 to $252, while non-residents can expect to pay between $252 and $316.

Given the course’s popularity and prestige, booking a tee time well in advance is essential, particularly for non-residents.

Non-residents are also encouraged to check for any available packages or off-peak rates to optimize their experience.

Tournaments and Events

Torrey Pines has a rich history of hosting major golf tournaments.

The course is a regular venue for the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open, attracting top players from around the world.

Its reputation was further solidified by hosting the U.S. Open in 2008, where Tiger Woods famously won in a dramatic playoff, and again in 2021.

These high-profile events have a significant influence on the course’s difficulty, as it is maintained to championship standards, ensuring that it remains a formidable challenge for all golfers.

Tips for Golfers

Playing at Torrey Pines South Course requires strategic planning and preparation.

Golfers should familiarize themselves with the course layout to effectively navigate its challenges.

Given the course’s length and the potential for windy conditions, it is advisable to bring a range of clubs and be prepared for a variety of shots.

The greens can be fast and undulating, so practicing putting beforehand can be particularly beneficial.

The best times to play are during the spring and fall when the weather is mild, and the course conditions are ideal.

Additionally, considering the popularity of the course, securing a tee time well in advance, especially during peak seasons, is crucial.

Spyglass Hill Golf Course (Pebble Beach)


Spyglass Hill Golf Course, located within the Pebble Beach Resorts in Pebble Beach, California, is renowned for its challenging layout and stunning scenic beauty.

Known for its reputation as one of the most difficult courses in the region, Spyglass Hill combines a mix of coastal sand dunes and dense Del Monte Forest, providing a unique and memorable golfing experience.

Course Highlights

Spyglass Hill is famous for its varied terrain, which creates a diverse and challenging golfing experience.

The course begins with holes that traverse sand dunes along the Pacific Ocean, offering breathtaking views and challenging wind conditions.

As players progress, the course moves into the Del Monte Forest, where tight fairways and strategically placed bunkers demand precision and skill.

Key holes include the par-5 1st hole, which offers a stunning ocean view from the tee and a challenging approach to a well-guarded green.

The par-3 3rd hole is another highlight, requiring a precise shot over a scenic yet daunting sand dune.

The 17th hole, a par-4, is known for its tight fairway flanked by dense forest, making accuracy paramount.

Green Fees

Green fees at Spyglass Hill range from $415 to $435, reflecting its status as a premier golfing destination within the Pebble Beach Resorts.

While the fees are high, they are comparable to other top courses in the area and are justified by the exceptional maintenance and challenging layout of the course.

Maintenance and Conditions

Spyglass Hill is meticulously maintained, ensuring top-notch playing conditions year-round.

The course is renowned for its pristine greens and well-kept fairways, providing a high-quality experience for golfers.

Seasonal variations can affect playing conditions, with the spring and fall typically offering the best weather and course conditions.

During the winter, golfers might encounter wetter conditions, while summer can bring warmer temperatures and increased winds, particularly on the coastal holes.

Tips for Golfers

Playing Spyglass Hill requires strategic thinking and adaptability to the varied terrains.

For the sand dune holes, golfers should be prepared for windy conditions and aim to control their ball flight to avoid the penalizing rough.

In the forested sections, accuracy off the tee is crucial to navigate the narrow fairways and avoid the dense trees.

To fully enjoy the scenery, golfers are encouraged to take their time and appreciate the stunning coastal views, especially on the opening holes.

Bringing a camera or smartphone to capture the breathtaking vistas is recommended.

Additionally, booking a tee time well in advance is advised, given the course's popularity and high demand.

TPC Harding Park (San Francisco)


TPC Harding Park, located in San Francisco, California, is a celebrated municipal golf course that provides a championship-level experience.

Nestled along the shores of Lake Merced, it is known for its stunning scenery and challenging layout.

Harding Park holds a significant place in the golfing community, offering both locals and visitors the opportunity to play on a course that has hosted major professional tournaments.

Course Highlights

The layout of TPC Harding Park is both strategic and scenic, with rolling fairways, well-placed bunkers, and large, undulating greens.

One of the most notable holes is the par-4 18th, which features a challenging approach shot over a corner of Lake Merced, demanding precision and nerve.

The course also boasts beautiful views of Lake Merced, particularly from the back nine, which adds to the overall aesthetic and challenge of the round.

Golfers will find the course's tree-lined fairways and strategically placed hazards both challenging and rewarding.

The design encourages strategic shot placement and thoughtful club selection, ensuring that golfers of all levels find the course engaging.

Green Fees

Green fees at TPC Harding Park are relatively affordable for a course of its caliber.

Prices typically range from $300 to $350, which is reasonable considering the championship experience it offers.

The course is accessible to both local residents and visiting golfers, with tee times available throughout the year.

Booking in advance is recommended, especially during peak seasons and before major tournaments.

Historical Significance

TPC Harding Park has a rich history, having hosted numerous significant tournaments, including the 2020 PGA Championship.

This event showcased the course's ability to challenge the world's best golfers and brought international attention to this municipal gem.

Over the years, Harding Park has played a vital role in San Francisco’s golfing community, providing a high-quality public course that maintains the standards of a private club.

The course’s historical significance is further highlighted by its past role in the Presidents Cup and the WGC-American Express Championship, solidifying its reputation as a venue capable of hosting elite competitions.

Tips for Golfers

When planning to play TPC Harding Park, the best times are during the spring and fall when the weather is mild and the course conditions are optimal.

The course can be challenging due to its length and the often windy conditions, so preparing for a variety of shots is essential.

Navigating the course successfully involves strategic thinking and careful shot placement.

Golfers should focus on accuracy off the tee to avoid the many trees and bunkers that line the fairways.

On the greens, attention to the undulating surfaces and careful reading of putts will help in managing the course’s complexities.

Overall, bringing a range of clubs to handle the varying distances and conditions is advisable.

Additionally, taking the time to enjoy the scenic views, especially those of Lake Merced, can enhance the overall experience.


Playing at these top public golf courses in California offers a blend of stunning scenery, historical significance, and challenging play.

Each course, from Pebble Beach to TPC Harding Park, provides a unique golfing experience that caters to enthusiasts of all levels.

Whether you're seeking the thrill of coastal views or the strategy of complex layouts, these courses are must-visit destinations for any golf lover.