5 Best Public Golf Courses In The US

Golf enthusiasts, rejoice! Here are the five best public golf courses in the U.S. for 2024: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Pinehurst No. 2, The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, and Bethpage Black.

Keep reading for a detailed look at what makes each of these courses a must-play destination.

Pebble Beach Golf Links (California)

Pebble Beach Golf Links is a golfer's paradise, celebrated for its breathtaking ocean views and challenging layout.

This iconic course has earned its place among the world's best, offering an unforgettable experience for those fortunate enough to play its hallowed fairways.

Overview of Pebble Beach Golf Links

Pebble Beach Golf Links, located on the stunning Monterey Peninsula in California, is renowned for its historical significance and prestigious reputation.

Since opening in 1919, it has been the site of numerous major championships, including six U.S. Opens, the most recent in 2019.

This rich history contributes to its allure, making it a bucket-list destination for golfers worldwide.

Course Design and Layout

Designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, Pebble Beach features dramatic cliffs and spectacular Pacific Ocean views that create a visually stunning and challenging golfing experience.

The layout capitalizes on the natural beauty of the coastline, with several holes running directly along the ocean, offering both scenic beauty and strategic complexity.

Key features include:

  • Seaside holes: The course boasts several holes that play along the rugged coastline, with the 7th, 8th, and 18th holes being particularly notable for their picturesque and challenging designs.
  • Cliffside greens: Many greens are perched on cliffs, adding an element of risk and reward to approach shots.
  • Ocean views: Nearly every hole offers some view of the Pacific Ocean, enhancing the visual appeal and overall experience.

Playing at Pebble Beach

Navigating the challenging layout of Pebble Beach requires careful planning and execution.

Here are some tips for making the most of your round:

  • Embrace the challenge of the coastal winds: Wind can be a significant factor, especially on the seaside holes. Pay attention to wind direction and strength when selecting clubs and aiming shots.
  • Focus on precision over power: The course rewards accurate shots more than long drives. Prioritize hitting fairways and greens rather than going for distance.
  • Practice your short game: The small, undulating greens demand excellent chipping and putting skills. Spend extra time on the practice green to get a feel for the speed and breaks.

Best times to visit: The weather at Pebble Beach is generally mild year-round, but the best times to visit are typically from late spring to early fall when conditions are most favorable.

Be aware that fog can occasionally roll in, adding an extra layer of challenge to your round.

Booking information and fees: Due to its popularity, booking a tee time at Pebble Beach well in advance is essential.

Green fees are among the highest in the world, reflecting the course's prestige and demand.

As of 2024, expect to pay upwards of $600 for a round, with additional costs for caddies and other services.

Reservations can be made online through the Pebble Beach website or by contacting the resort directly.

Local Amenities and Attractions

Beyond the golf course, Pebble Beach offers a range of amenities and attractions to enhance your visit.

Nearby accommodations: The Pebble Beach Resort provides luxurious lodging options, including The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay, and Casa Palmero.

These accommodations offer convenient access to the course and stunning views of the coastline.

Dining and leisure activities: The resort features several high-end dining options, such as The Bench, Stillwater Bar & Grill, and Roy's at Pebble Beach.

Additionally, visitors can enjoy spa services, shopping, and exploring the scenic 17-Mile Drive, a picturesque road that winds through the area, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the famous Lone Cypress.

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Oregon)

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, located on the scenic Oregon coast, offers a pure links golf experience that transports players to the classic courses of Scotland and Ireland.

This renowned resort features five distinct courses, each providing unique challenges and breathtaking views, making it a must-visit destination for golf enthusiasts.

Overview of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is a premier golfing destination known for its authentic links-style courses set against the backdrop of the rugged Pacific coastline.

The resort boasts five world-class courses: Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails, Old Macdonald, and Sheep Ranch.

Each course offers a unique blend of natural beauty and strategic design, making Bandon Dunes a versatile and captivating golf experience.

Course Design and Layout

The original Bandon Dunes course, designed by David McLay Kidd, sets the standard for the resort with its blend of natural beauty and challenging play.

The course features rolling dunes, native vegetation, and stunning ocean views, creating a rugged yet visually stunning landscape.

Key features include:

  • Natural Beauty: The courses are designed to highlight the natural coastal terrain, with wide fairways, undulating greens, and deep bunkers.
  • Rugged Coastal Terrain: The courses incorporate the natural contours and elements of the landscape, providing a true links golf experience reminiscent of the classic courses in Scotland.
  • Variety of Challenges: Each course at Bandon Dunes offers distinct challenges, from the strategic bunkering and expansive greens of Old Macdonald to the cliffside vistas and undulating fairways of Pacific Dunes.

Playing at Bandon Dunes

Playing at Bandon Dunes requires adapting to the unique characteristics of each course and embracing the natural elements.

Here are some tips and insights for navigating the resort's courses:

  • Adapt to Wind and Weather: The coastal location means wind and weather can significantly impact play. Be prepared to adjust your strategy based on conditions.
  • Focus on Course Management: Each course demands careful planning and shot placement. Take time to study the layout and aim for safe landing areas.
  • Embrace the Links Style: Unlike traditional American courses, Bandon Dunes offers a true links experience with firm, fast fairways and challenging bunkers. Practice low, running shots to adapt to the conditions.

Booking information and fees: To ensure you secure a tee time, it's advisable to book well in advance, especially during peak seasons.

Green fees vary by course and season, with rates typically ranging from $100 to $300.

Packages and stay-and-play options are also available, providing flexibility and value for visitors.

Local Amenities and Attractions

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort offers a range of amenities and activities to enhance your visit.

On-site accommodations and dining options: The resort provides several lodging options, including The Lodge, The Inn, and The Grove Cottages, each offering comfortable accommodations with easy access to the courses.

Dining options range from casual to fine dining, with notable venues like The Gallery Restaurant, Pacific Grill, and McKee's Pub, all offering delicious meals and stunning views.

Activities and sightseeing in the area: Beyond golf, Bandon Dunes offers various activities and attractions.

Visitors can explore the beautiful Oregon coastline, enjoy hiking and biking trails, or take part in guided nature walks.

The nearby town of Bandon offers additional dining, shopping, and cultural experiences, making it a well-rounded destination for visitors.

Pinehurst No. 2 (North Carolina)

Pinehurst No. 2 is a legendary golf course known for its rich history and challenging design.

Located in the heart of North Carolina, this iconic course has hosted numerous major championships and continues to be a top destination for serious golfers.

Overview of Pinehurst No. 2

Pinehurst No. 2, often referred to as the “St. Andrews of American golf,” is steeped in history and tradition.

Designed by the renowned Donald Ross, it opened in 1907 and has since been the site of multiple prestigious tournaments, including three U.S. Opens, the most recent being in 2014.

The course is revered for its strategic design and demanding play, making it a must-visit for golf enthusiasts.

Course Design and Layout

Donald Ross, the mastermind behind Pinehurst No. 2, crafted a course that challenges even the most skilled golfers.

One of the most distinctive features of the course is its turtleback greens, which are elevated and sloped to repel errant shots.

Key features include:

  • Turtleback Greens: The elevated, convex greens require precise approach shots and excellent putting skills. Missing the green often results in challenging recovery shots from closely mown areas or bunkers.
  • Strategic Layout: The course emphasizes strategy over power, with wide fairways that offer multiple lines of play but demand careful shot selection to navigate hazards and position for the best approach angles.
  • Natural Aesthetics: Ross designed the course to blend seamlessly with the natural sandhills landscape, incorporating native vegetation and natural contours to create a visually appealing and challenging layout.

Playing at Pinehurst No. 2

Navigating Pinehurst No. 2 requires a combination of skill, strategy, and patience. Here are some tips for playing this iconic course:

  • Master the Turtleback Greens: Focus on precision with your approach shots to avoid the challenging recovery situations that come with missing these elevated greens. Practice your short game extensively to handle the tightly mown areas around the greens.
  • Strategic Tee Shots: Use the wide fairways to your advantage by positioning your tee shots for the best angle to approach the greens. Pay attention to pin placements and plan your shots accordingly.
  • Adapt to Firm Conditions: The course is typically maintained with firm fairways and greens, making it crucial to adjust your game to these conditions. Practice hitting low, running shots to maximize control and accuracy.

Best times to play: Pinehurst No. 2 can be enjoyed year-round, but the best times to play are during the spring and fall when the weather is most favorable.

Summers can be hot and humid, while winters are mild but occasionally cold.

Booking information and fees: Given its prestige, securing a tee time at Pinehurst No. 2 requires advance planning.

Green fees are premium, reflecting the course's reputation, with rates generally ranging from $300 to $500 depending on the season.

Booking can be done through the Pinehurst Resort website or by contacting their reservation desk.

Local Amenities and Attractions

Pinehurst Resort offers a range of amenities and activities to enhance your visit.

Accommodations within Pinehurst Resort: The resort provides several lodging options, including The Carolina Hotel, The Holly Inn, and The Manor Inn.

These accommodations offer comfort and convenience, with easy access to the golf courses and other resort amenities.

Dining and other activities in Pinehurst: The resort features multiple dining options, ranging from casual to fine dining, including The Carolina Dining Room, 1895 Grille, and The Deuce.

Additionally, Pinehurst offers a variety of activities such as spa services, tennis, croquet, and exploring the charming village of Pinehurst, which boasts boutique shops, historical sites, and additional dining options.

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island (South Carolina)

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is a premier golfing destination known for its stunning seaside holes and challenging conditions.

This legendary course has hosted numerous prestigious championships and continues to attract golfers from around the world with its unique design and breathtaking views.

Overview of The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is one of the most prestigious golf courses in the United States, renowned for its dramatic setting and challenging play.

Designed by the legendary Pete Dye, the course has hosted several major championships, including the 1991 Ryder Cup and the 2021 PGA Championship.

Its reputation as one of the toughest and most scenic courses in the world makes it a must-play for any serious golfer.

Course Design and Layout

Pete Dye designed The Ocean Course to be both visually stunning and incredibly challenging.

The layout features numerous seaside holes that run parallel to the Atlantic Ocean, providing stunning views and a constant breeze that adds to the difficulty.

Key features include:

  • Seaside Holes: Many of the holes are situated directly along the coastline, offering panoramic ocean views and a unique playing experience.
  • Wind Challenges: The course is exposed to strong coastal winds, which can significantly affect play and require strategic adjustments.
  • Strategic Design: Dye's design incorporates numerous bunkers, water hazards, and undulating greens, demanding precise shot-making and thoughtful course management.

Playing at The Ocean Course

Playing at The Ocean Course presents a unique set of challenges, particularly due to the strong winds and strategic design.

Here are some strategies and tips for navigating this renowned course:

  • Adjust for Wind: The coastal winds can vary in strength and direction, often requiring players to adjust their club selection and shot strategy. Learning to play knockdown shots and keeping the ball low can be advantageous.
  • Course Management: Given the strategic bunkering and water hazards, it's crucial to plan your shots carefully. Aim for safe landing areas and avoid taking unnecessary risks.
  • Short Game Focus: The undulating greens demand a strong short game. Spend extra time practicing your chipping and putting to handle the challenging greens effectively.

Best times to visit: The best times to play The Ocean Course are during the spring and fall when the weather is mild and conditions are optimal.

Summers can be hot and humid, while winters are generally mild but can occasionally be windy.

Booking information and fees: Due to its popularity, it is advisable to book tee times well in advance.

Green fees are reflective of the course's prestige, typically ranging from $300 to $400.

Reservations can be made through the Kiawah Island Golf Resort website or by contacting the resort directly.

Local Amenities and Attractions

Kiawah Island offers a range of amenities and activities that complement the golfing experience at The Ocean Course.

On-site lodging options: The resort provides luxurious accommodations, including The Sanctuary Hotel, which offers oceanfront rooms and world-class amenities.

There are also various villas and rental homes available for those seeking a more private stay.

Dining and recreational activities on Kiawah Island: The resort features several dining options, from casual to fine dining.

Notable restaurants include The Ocean Room, specializing in seafood, and Jasmine Porch, known for its Southern cuisine.

Beyond golf, visitors can enjoy a variety of recreational activities such as tennis, biking, kayaking, and exploring the island's pristine beaches and nature trails.

Bethpage Black (New York)

Bethpage Black, located in Farmingdale, New York, is one of the most challenging and revered public golf courses in the United States.

Known for its rigorous layout and storied history of hosting major championships, it offers a true test for golfers of all skill levels.

Overview of Bethpage Black

Bethpage Black has earned a reputation as one of the toughest public golf courses in the country.

Designed by A.W. Tillinghast and opened in 1936, it has hosted several prestigious tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2009, and the PGA Championship in 2019.

The course is famous for its difficulty, with a warning sign at the first tee advising only highly skilled golfers to play.

Course Design and Layout

The course design by A.W. Tillinghast is a masterpiece of strategic golf architecture, featuring narrow fairways, deep bunkers, and fast, undulating greens.

Key features include:

  • Narrow Fairways: Precision is crucial off the tee, as the fairways are tightly lined with thick rough that can easily swallow errant shots.
  • Deep Bunkers: The bunkers at Bethpage Black are both numerous and strategically placed, requiring accurate approach shots and proficient sand play.
  • Undulating Greens: The greens are known for their speed and subtle breaks, challenging even the best putters.

Playing at Bethpage Black

Conquering Bethpage Black requires careful planning, skill, and mental fortitude.

Here are some tips for tackling this formidable course:

  • Focus on Accuracy: Given the narrow fairways and penal rough, accuracy off the tee is paramount. Prioritize hitting fairways over distance to avoid difficult recovery shots.
  • Master Bunker Play: With deep bunkers guarding many greens, honing your sand play is essential. Practice hitting high, soft bunker shots to save strokes around the greens.
  • Study the Greens: The undulating greens can be deceptive. Spend time on the practice green to get a feel for the speed and subtle breaks, and approach putts with caution.

Best times to play: The best times to play Bethpage Black are in the late spring and early fall when the weather is mild and the course is in peak condition.

Summer can be busy, and tee times can be hard to come by, while winter conditions can make the course less enjoyable.

Booking information and fees: Securing a tee time at Bethpage Black can be challenging due to its popularity.

The course operates a reservation system that allows booking up to seven days in advance for New York residents and up to 48 hours in advance for non-residents.

Green fees vary, with residents typically paying around $75 on weekdays and $150 on weekends, while non-residents can expect to pay $150 on weekdays and $200 on weekends.

Local Amenities and Attractions

While Bethpage Black is the main attraction, the surrounding area offers various amenities and activities for visitors.

Nearby accommodations: There are several lodging options near Bethpage State Park, ranging from budget-friendly hotels to more luxurious accommodations.

Popular choices include the Courtyard by Marriott in Farmingdale and the Hilton Garden Inn in Melville.

Dining and local points of interest: After a round at Bethpage Black, golfers can enjoy a variety of dining options in the nearby towns of Farmingdale and Melville.

Local favorites include the Black Course Grill at the clubhouse, serving classic American fare, and Trento, an Italian restaurant known for its delicious cuisine.

Additionally, visitors can explore local attractions such as Adventureland amusement park, Old Bethpage Village Restoration, and the nearby beaches on Long Island's South Shore.


In summary, the five best public golf courses in the U.S. for 2024 offer exceptional design, playability, and unforgettable experiences.

From the breathtaking ocean views at Pebble Beach to the challenging greens of Pinehurst No. 2, each course provides a unique test for golfers.

Plan your visit to these iconic destinations and enjoy the best public golf America has to offer.