7 Greatest Golf Courses In The US

Golf enthusiasts dream of playing on the most renowned courses in the United States, where history, challenge, and beauty come together.

Keep reading for a detailed exploration of what makes each of these courses truly exceptional.

Pine Valley Golf Club (Pine Valley, NJ)

Nestled in the heart of Pine Valley, New Jersey, Pine Valley Golf Club stands as a beacon of golfing excellence.

Known for its demanding layout and picturesque surroundings, this course is consistently ranked as the premier golf destination in the United States.

Overview of Pine Valley Golf Club

Pine Valley Golf Club is a private, members-only club that offers an unparalleled golfing experience.

Its design meticulously integrates the natural landscape, creating a course that is both beautiful and incredibly challenging.

Every hole presents a unique test, making it a favorite among serious golfers who crave a rigorous yet rewarding round.

Historical Background and Significance

Founded in 1913 by a group of Philadelphia golfers led by George Arthur Crump, Pine Valley has a rich history steeped in tradition.

Crump, along with renowned designers like Harry Colt, created a course that was revolutionary for its time.

The club has maintained its prestigious status for over a century, hosting numerous significant tournaments and events.

Pine Valley's storied past contributes to its mystique, attracting golfers from around the world who seek to experience its legendary fairways.

Detailed Description of the Challenging Layout

Pine Valley's layout is a masterpiece of golf course design.

The course spans rolling terrain with sandy soil, dense pine forests, and natural water hazards, all contributing to its complexity.

Each hole is uniquely crafted, requiring a strategic approach and precise execution.

  • Fairways and Greens: The fairways are narrow and undulating, demanding accuracy off the tee. The greens are small, fast, and well-protected by bunkers, making approach shots particularly challenging.
  • Hazards: Pine Valley is known for its deep bunkers and thick rough, both of which can quickly derail a round. The course also features natural water hazards that come into play on several holes.

Notable Holes and Their Features

  • Hole 5 (Par 3): This hole, known as “Hell's Half Acre,” is a long par 3 that requires a precise tee shot over a vast expanse of sand and rough. The green is small and elevated, making it difficult to hold even with a well-struck shot.
  • Hole 10 (Par 3): Often cited as one of the greatest par 3s in the world, this hole demands a long carry over a lake to a well-bunkered green.
  • Hole 18 (Par 4): The finishing hole is a true test, with a narrow fairway bordered by trees and a challenging approach to a green guarded by bunkers and water.

Tips for Golfers Tackling This Course

  1. Precision Over Power: Pine Valley rewards accuracy more than distance. Focus on hitting fairways and positioning your shots well for the best angles to the greens.
  2. Course Management: Plan your shots carefully, considering the placement of hazards and the best areas to miss. It's often wiser to lay up and play for position rather than taking unnecessary risks.
  3. Short Game Preparation: Given the small and fast greens, a solid short game is crucial. Spend extra time practicing chipping and putting to navigate the tricky greens successfully.
  4. Stay Calm and Patient: Pine Valley is designed to test even the best golfers. Staying patient and not letting a bad hole ruin your round is essential for enjoying the experience and scoring well.

Cypress Point Club (Pebble Beach, CA)

Perched on the rugged coastline of Pebble Beach, California, Cypress Point Club is celebrated for its breathtaking ocean views and dramatic course design.

This exclusive club is a golfing paradise that seamlessly blends natural beauty with strategic challenges.

Overview of Cypress Point Club

Cypress Point Club, a private and highly exclusive golf course, is known for its stunning scenery and impeccable design.

Designed by Alister MacKenzie in collaboration with Robert Hunter, this course is often regarded as one of the most beautiful and challenging in the world.

With only 250 members, gaining access to Cypress Point is a rare privilege, making it a dream destination for avid golfers.

Historical Background and Coastal Beauty

Opened in 1928, Cypress Point Club quickly gained a reputation for its unique combination of natural splendor and demanding golf.

Alister MacKenzie's vision was to create a course that utilized the existing landscape to its fullest potential.

The course's layout takes full advantage of the dramatic coastline, incorporating sand dunes, cliffs, and the Pacific Ocean into the golfing experience.

Over the decades, Cypress Point has maintained its status as a premier golf destination, often cited in top golf course rankings worldwide.

Key Features of the Dramatic Holes Along the Pacific Ocean

The course features a variety of holes that highlight the natural terrain, with the back nine offering particularly spectacular ocean views.

The combination of coastal elements and meticulously designed fairways and greens creates a golfing experience unlike any other.

  • Natural Landscape: The course incorporates the natural sand dunes and cliffs, offering a variety of challenging lies and breathtaking scenery.
  • Ocean Views: Many holes provide panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, adding to the course's allure and challenge.

Famous Holes and Their Unique Challenges

  • Hole 15 (Par 3): This hole is one of the most famous par 3s in the world. It requires a precise shot over the ocean to a small green perched on a rocky outcrop. The wind and waves make it an incredibly challenging and memorable hole.
  • Hole 16 (Par 3): Following the 15th, the 16th hole is equally dramatic, demanding a long carry over the ocean to a green surrounded by bunkers and cliffs. It's a true test of skill and nerve.
  • Hole 17 (Par 4): This hole features a narrow fairway bordered by the ocean on one side and a cliff on the other, leading to a well-guarded green.

Insider Tips for Playing at Cypress Point

  1. Wind Management: The coastal location means wind can be a significant factor. Pay close attention to the wind direction and strength, particularly on the ocean holes.
  2. Club Selection: Accurate club selection is crucial, especially on the par 3s over the ocean. Take an extra club if in doubt to ensure you reach the green.
  3. Short Game Skills: The greens are well-protected and can be difficult to hold. A strong short game will help you save strokes around the greens.
  4. Focus on Accuracy: The course rewards precision over power. Focus on hitting fairways and positioning your shots well to navigate the challenging layout effectively.
  5. Enjoy the Scenery: While the course is challenging, take time to appreciate the stunning views and unique setting. The beauty of Cypress Point is a significant part of its charm and appeal.

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (Southampton, NY)

Situated in Southampton, New York, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is one of the oldest and most prestigious golf clubs in the United States.

Renowned for its classic design and challenging layout, it has hosted multiple U.S. Opens and remains a revered destination for golf enthusiasts.

Overview of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club

Founded in 1891, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is a private, member-owned club that prides itself on tradition and excellence.

The course is characterized by its rolling terrain, wide fairways, and strategically placed bunkers, offering a true test of golfing skill.

Its classic links-style design is both beautiful and demanding, appealing to golfers who appreciate the purity of the game.

Historical Significance and Multiple U.S. Opens Hosted

Shinnecock Hills boasts a rich history that dates back to the late 19th century.

It was one of the five founding clubs of the United States Golf Association (USGA) and has a storied legacy of hosting major tournaments.

The club has hosted the U.S. Open five times, with its first in 1896 and most recent in 2018.

Each tournament has added to the club's prestige, cementing its place as one of America's foremost golf venues.

Classic Design Elements and Course Layout

The course layout at Shinnecock Hills is a masterpiece of design, blending traditional elements with natural features.

Originally designed by Willie Davis, it was later redesigned by C.B. Macdonald and William Flynn, enhancing its classic feel.

  • Fairways and Greens: The fairways are wide but require precise positioning due to the strategic placement of bunkers and natural hazards. The greens are undulating and fast, demanding accuracy and touch with approach shots and putts.
  • Bunkers: The bunkers at Shinnecock Hills are deep and numerous, strategically placed to challenge even the best golfers. They add both visual appeal and difficulty to the course.
  • Wind: The course's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean means wind is a constant factor, affecting club selection and shot strategy.

Tips for Navigating This Difficult Course

  1. Wind Management: Always consider the wind direction and strength when planning your shots. Adjust your club selection and aim to account for gusts.
  2. Strategic Positioning: Focus on placing your shots in optimal positions rather than just hitting long. The fairways may be wide, but ideal landing spots offer better angles to the greens.
  3. Short Game Precision: With fast and undulating greens, a strong short game is crucial. Practice your chipping and putting to handle the challenging greens effectively.
  4. Bunker Skills: Be prepared to face numerous bunkers. Work on your bunker shots to ensure you can escape these hazards with minimal strokes.
  5. Course Management: Plan each hole carefully, considering the best strategy to avoid trouble and set up easier approach shots. Patience and smart play are key to scoring well at Shinnecock Hills.

Memorable Moments in Shinnecock Hills' History

Shinnecock Hills has witnessed numerous memorable moments over its storied history.

In the 1995 U.S. Open, Corey Pavin's remarkable 4-wood shot to the 18th green secured his victory, etching his name into the club's history.

The 2004 U.S. Open saw Retief Goosen's brilliant putting under intense pressure, showcasing the course's challenging greens.

In 2018, Brooks Koepka's back-to-back U.S. Open win highlighted the difficulty and prestige of Shinnecock Hills.

National Golf Links of America (Southampton, NY)

Located in Southampton, New York, the National Golf Links of America (NGLA) is revered for its strategic design and historical significance.

This course, often called “The National,” is a tribute to classic British golf courses and offers a unique and challenging experience.

Overview of National Golf Links of America

The National Golf Links of America is a private club known for its exceptional layout and strategic complexity.

Designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and opened in 1911, the course is a collection of “template holes,” each inspired by famous British and Scottish courses.

This approach has created a course that is both diverse and cohesive, providing a variety of challenges for golfers.

Influence of British Courses on Its Design

C.B. Macdonald, often considered the father of American golf architecture, drew heavily from his experiences with British courses.

His goal was to bring the strategic and aesthetic elements of these courses to America.

NGLA reflects this influence through its adaptation of iconic hole designs, such as the “Redan,” “Alps,” and “Eden.”

These templates ensure that each hole at NGLA presents a distinct and memorable challenge, while collectively forming a harmonious whole.

Breakdown of Strategically Designed Holes

The strategic design of NGLA is evident in every hole, where placement, strategy, and execution are crucial.

Macdonald's use of natural terrain and careful planning results in a course that rewards thoughtful play.

  • Variety of Holes: The course includes par 3s, par 4s, and par 5s, each designed to test different aspects of a golfer's game. The variety ensures that no two holes feel the same, keeping the round engaging and dynamic.
  • Strategic Hazards: Bunkers, water hazards, and undulating fairways are strategically placed to challenge golfers. These elements force players to consider their shots carefully and reward those who can navigate the course's complexities.

Noteworthy Holes and Their Characteristics

  • Hole 4 (Par 4, “Redan”): Inspired by the Redan hole at North Berwick, this par 3 requires a precise tee shot to a green that slopes away, making it difficult to hold. The green's defenses and contours demand accuracy and strategic thinking.
  • Hole 8 (Par 4, “Bottle”): This hole features two sets of fairway bunkers, creating a “bottle” neck. The key is to choose the right line off the tee to avoid these hazards and set up a favorable approach to the green.
  • Hole 13 (Par 4, “Eden”): Modeled after the 11th hole at St. Andrews, this par 3 is known for its deep bunkers and sloping green. The green's contours make putting a challenge, requiring precise approach shots.

Advice for Golfers Visiting This Course

  1. Study the Course: Familiarize yourself with the layout and strategy of each hole before playing. Understanding the historical inspirations and strategic elements will enhance your appreciation and performance.
  2. Shot Placement: Focus on shot placement rather than distance. NGLA rewards accuracy and thoughtful positioning, so plan your shots carefully to avoid hazards and set up easier approaches.
  3. Short Game Preparation: Given the challenging greens and bunkers, a strong short game is essential. Practice your chipping and putting to handle the complex green complexes effectively.
  4. Course Management: Approach each hole with a strategic mindset. Consider the best angles for your shots and avoid taking unnecessary risks. Patience and smart play are key to scoring well.
  5. Appreciate the Design: Take time to enjoy the unique design elements and historical significance of the course. NGLA is a tribute to golf's rich history, and appreciating its design can enhance your overall experience.

Oakmont Country Club (Oakmont, PA)

Nestled in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Oakmont Country Club is renowned for its fast greens, deep bunkers, and challenging layout.

This historic course has hosted numerous major championships, solidifying its place as one of the premier golf destinations in the United States.

Overview of Oakmont Country Club

Oakmont Country Club, established in 1903, is a private golf club that boasts a reputation for being one of the toughest courses in the world.

Designed by Henry Fownes, the course features a classic layout that demands precision and strategic thinking.

Oakmont is particularly famous for its lightning-fast greens and deep, penalizing bunkers, which test the skills of even the most experienced golfers.

History of Major Championships Held Here

Oakmont has a storied history of hosting major championships, having been the venue for nine U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships, and two U.S. Women's Opens, among other prestigious tournaments.

Its first U.S. Open in 1927 was won by Tommy Armour, and its most recent, in 2016, saw Dustin Johnson claim victory.

These events have cemented Oakmont's reputation as a true test of golfing excellence, with its challenging conditions often producing memorable moments and dramatic finishes.

Description of Fast Greens and Challenging Bunkers

One of Oakmont's defining features is its greens, which are among the fastest in the world.

The putting surfaces are meticulously maintained, often running at speeds that can intimidate even professional golfers.

This requires players to have exceptional touch and feel with their putting.

The bunkers at Oakmont are another signature element.

They are deep, strategically placed, and numerous, creating significant obstacles throughout the course.

The famous “Church Pews” bunker, located between the third and fourth fairways, is particularly daunting, with its series of narrow grass strips dividing deep sand traps.

Notable Holes and Their Impact on the Game

  • Hole 1 (Par 4): This opening hole sets the tone for the round with a narrow fairway and a green surrounded by bunkers. Accuracy off the tee and a precise approach are crucial.
  • Hole 3 (Par 4): Known for the Church Pews bunker, this hole demands a well-placed drive and a strategic approach to avoid trouble.
  • Hole 8 (Par 3): This long par 3 features a green that slopes severely from back to front, making it one of the most challenging par 3s in major championship golf.
  • Hole 18 (Par 4): The finishing hole is a dramatic uphill par 4 with a narrow fairway and a green that slopes from back to front. It has been the site of many memorable championship moments.

Strategies for Playing at Oakmont

  1. Master the Greens: Spend extra time on the practice green to get a feel for the speed. Focus on your putting stroke and lag putting to avoid three-putts.
  2. Avoid the Bunkers: Study the course layout and plan your shots to steer clear of the numerous bunkers. If you do find a bunker, practice your sand shots to ensure you can escape efficiently.
  3. Accurate Tee Shots: Prioritize accuracy over distance off the tee. The narrow fairways and deep rough make it essential to keep the ball in play.
  4. Strategic Approaches: Aim for the safe part of the greens, even if it means longer putts. The slopes and speeds of the greens make aggressive play risky.
  5. Stay Patient: Oakmont is designed to challenge and frustrate. Stay patient, manage your emotions, and focus on one shot at a time to navigate the course successfully.

Augusta National Golf Club (Augusta, GA)

Augusta National Golf Club, located in Augusta, Georgia, is synonymous with golfing excellence and tradition.

As the home of The Masters, one of golf's most prestigious tournaments, it offers an unparalleled experience of beauty, challenge, and history.

Overview of Augusta National Golf Club

Founded by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, Augusta National Golf Club opened in 1933 and has since become one of the most famous golf courses in the world.

Designed by Alister MacKenzie and Jones, the course is known for its immaculate landscaping, challenging layout, and the annual spectacle of The Masters Tournament.

Membership is highly exclusive, and the course itself is renowned for its strict adherence to tradition and continuous improvements.

Home of The Masters and Its Prestige

The Masters, held annually in April, is one of golf's four major championships and the only one played at the same course each year.

The tournament is steeped in tradition, from the iconic green jacket awarded to the winner to the ceremonial opening tee shots by golf legends.

The prestige of The Masters adds to Augusta National's allure, drawing the best golfers in the world and millions of viewers globally.

Iconic Holes and Pristine Conditions

Augusta National is famous for its meticulously maintained fairways, azalea-lined holes, and lightning-fast greens.

Each hole is unique, but several stand out for their iconic status and challenges:

  • Hole 12 (Golden Bell, Par 3): Part of Amen Corner, this short par 3 features Rae’s Creek in front of the green and is notorious for its swirling winds, making club selection difficult.
  • Hole 13 (Azalea, Par 5): This hole demands a risk-reward decision, with golfers needing to decide whether to lay up or go for the green in two, with Rae’s Creek guarding the front.
  • Hole 16 (Redbud, Par 3): Known for its dramatic Sunday pin placements and the chance for spectacular hole-in-ones, this par 3 features a large pond and a sloping green.

Historical Significance and Memorable Moments

Augusta National has been the site of many historic moments in golf.

Jack Nicklaus’s improbable win in 1986 at age 46, Tiger Woods’s record-breaking 12-shot victory in 1997, and Phil Mickelson’s emotional first major win in 2004 are just a few examples of the dramatic and memorable events that have unfolded here.

Each year, The Masters provides new chapters in the rich history of Augusta National.

Insider Tips for Experiencing Augusta

  1. Plan Your Visit: If you're fortunate enough to attend The Masters, plan ahead. Tickets are limited and highly sought after. Make sure to secure accommodations well in advance.
  2. Explore the Grounds: Take time to walk the entire course. Each hole has its own beauty and challenge, and viewing them in person provides a deeper appreciation.
  3. Amen Corner: Spend time at Amen Corner (holes 11, 12, and 13), where many pivotal moments in The Masters have occurred. This area is both picturesque and strategically important.
  4. Practice Round Access: If possible, attend a practice round. These days are less crowded, and players often interact with fans more, providing a unique experience.
  5. Merchandise and Souvenirs: The Masters Shop offers exclusive merchandise that isn’t available elsewhere. Plan a visit early to avoid the rush and secure your souvenirs.
  6. Enjoy the Concessions: The food at Augusta is famously affordable and delicious. Don't miss the iconic pimento cheese sandwiches and other Southern treats.

Merion Golf Club (East Course) (Ardmore, PA)

Merion Golf Club's East Course, located in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, is celebrated for its rich history and challenging yet fair design.

Known for hosting numerous major championships, this course combines historical significance with a diverse array of holes.

Overview of Merion Golf Club (East Course)

Merion Golf Club, established in 1896, has two courses, with the East Course being the more famous.

Designed by Hugh Wilson and opened in 1912, the East Course is a masterpiece of golf architecture.

It’s renowned for its strategic design, requiring precision and skill from golfers.

The course is relatively short by modern standards, but it makes up for it with narrow fairways, small greens, and well-placed hazards.

Historic Significance and Notable Events

Merion's East Course has a storied history, having hosted five U.S. Opens, the most recent being in 2013.

It was also the site of Bobby Jones's Grand Slam victory in 1930.

These events have etched Merion into the annals of golf history, showcasing the course's ability to test the world's best players.

The club's history is not just about championships; it’s also about the evolution of golf course design and maintenance, setting standards that many other courses follow.

Diverse Range of Holes and Their Unique Features

The East Course at Merion is known for its variety, with each hole presenting a unique challenge.

  • Hole 1 (Par 4): This opening hole is deceptively challenging, with a narrow fairway and a green guarded by bunkers. Accuracy off the tee is crucial to set up a manageable approach.
  • Hole 5 (Par 4): Known as one of the toughest holes on the course, this long par 4 requires a precise drive to avoid the creek on the left and a solid approach to a well-protected green.
  • Hole 11 (Par 4): A short par 4 that tempts players to go for the green from the tee, but strategic bunkering and a small, tricky green make it a risk-reward hole.
  • Hole 17 (Par 3): This iconic par 3 features a challenging tee shot over a quarry to a sloped green. Club selection and accuracy are paramount.

Key Holes to Watch Out For

  • Hole 1: Sets the tone for the round with its narrow fairway and bunkered green.
  • Hole 5: A long par 4 that demands both length and precision, often considered one of the toughest on the course.
  • Hole 11: A classic risk-reward hole that challenges players to balance aggression with caution.
  • Hole 17: An iconic par 3 that tests nerves and precision with its dramatic quarry carry.

Advice for Playing at Merion

  1. Prioritize Accuracy: The East Course at Merion rewards precise play. Focus on hitting fairways and greens to avoid the well-placed hazards.
  2. Study the Greens: Spend extra time on the practice green to understand the subtle breaks and fast pace of Merion's putting surfaces.
  3. Manage Your Risk: On holes like the 11th, weigh the risk and reward carefully. Sometimes playing it safe can yield better results than aggressive shots.
  4. Course Knowledge: If possible, play a practice round or study course maps to familiarize yourself with the layout and strategic elements of each hole.
  5. Short Game: Work on your chipping and bunker play, as the small greens and deep bunkers at Merion will challenge your short game skills.


The greatest golf courses in the United States, from Pine Valley's challenging layout to Augusta National's iconic beauty, offer a rich blend of history, strategic design, and unforgettable experiences.

Each course presents unique challenges and scenic views, providing golfers with opportunities to test their skills and revel in the sport's heritage.

Whether tackling Oakmont's fast greens or enjoying the coastal vistas at Cypress Point, these courses are a testament to the enduring allure and prestige of American golf.