It is widely accepted that the best golf course in America is one of two. Either the stunning cliff-top course of Cypress Point in the Monterey Peninsula of California. Or the sensational, yet penal, Pine Valley in New Jersey.

Both of these golf courses are consistently ranked in the top 2 in most authoritative golf course rankings. There are however always the odd exceptions when another course squeezes its nose in. 

See also: What are the best golf courses in California? and What are the best golf courses in New Jersey?

With around 15,500 golf courses, there is no country which has more golf courses than America. So it stands to reason there are going to be some absolute top class tracks to choose from. 

Selecting which is the best golf course, is a purely subjective exercise. What one person likes, the other may not. But there are a handful of courses which time again come out on top of the Top 100 rankings.

Cypress Point Golf Club, Monterey, California

Other usual suspects include the William Flynn designed Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, New York as well as Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania. The National Golf Links of America, also on Long Island, New York, is always around the Top 5 as is the East course at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania.

See also: What are the best golf courses in Pennsylvania?

Three of the most authoritative top 100 golf course rankings for the USA are;

What is the most prestigious golf course in the U.S.?

The most prestigious golf course in the United States is Augusta National Golf Club, in Augusta, Georgia. The course is the home to the annual Masters tournament, which attracts the world’s greatest golfers. This is where the coveted green jacket is at stake. 

There are just 300 members at the club and it is reputed the entrance fee ranges from $300,000 to $500,000. Ironically, there are many people who could probably afford this, but it’s getting an invite which is the tricky part.

See also: What are the best golf courses in Georgia?

Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia

There are of course many other exclusive golf clubs in America. The likes of Pine Valley and Baltusrol in New Jersey, and Oakmont and Merion in Pennsylvania all command close to, or over six figure initiation fees. They are also invite only. 

There are others like Cypress Point on the Monterey Peninsula which literally has 250 members. This is without doubt one of the most desired golf clubs to be a member of in the world. It’s appeal is even greater being one of the best golf courses in the world. That said, al of those mentioned above are some of the best golf courses in America.

However, the list goes on. There are so many golf clubs in the United States which command a six figure entrance fee with a membership on invite only.  

What are the top public golf courses in America?

The best public golf course in the United States is Pebble Beach Golf Links, located on the Monterey Peninsula. The course has a prime spot on the rugged California coastline. Over the years it’s hosted countless major golf tournaments, including the U.S. Open.

There are however many other great public golf courses in America. Right up there, also on the Pacific coastline but up in the state of Oregon, is the outstanding resort of Bandon Dunes, where you will find the sensational Pacific Dunes, designed by Tom Doak. 

Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey, California - Photo credit Evan Schiller
Photo credit Evan Schiller

Whistling Straits in Wisconsin is a former PGA Championship and Ryder Cup host venue, and can be enjoyed by everyone. As can the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort in South Carolina, just a short drive from downtown Charleston.

When talking about the best public golf courses in America, you can’t forget about Pinehurst No.2, the Donald Ross designed epic in Pinehurst, North Carolina. As a multiple host venue to major championships, this is a special place. 

What is the most difficult golf course in the United States?

There is one golf course which consistently gets ranked as being the hardest in America, and that is Pine Valley in New Jersey. This is penal golf exemplified and is renowned the world over as the ultimate test in golf. 

Pine Valley was originally routed by George Crump, a hotelier from Philadelphia, with the help of the prolific Harry Colt. In more recent times, it was given a well needed renovation by Tom Fazio. 

The course opened for play in 1919 and quickly established its reputation for being one of the most challenging courses open for play. Pine Valley is immensely intimidating, knowing very few people will break 80 playing here, let alone 70. 

Poor shots get punished horribly whilst straight hitting is essential as is hitting it long. There are lengthy carries over sand and water to be navigated and your approach play has to be spot on. 
Another golf course considered one of America’s most difficult, is the Ocean course at Kiawah Island Resort. Just south of Charleston on Kiawah Island in South Carolina, this sensational layout has hosted the crème de la crème of major golf tournaments including a Ryder Cup and major championships.

As you would expect of a golf course designed by the legendary architect Pete Dye, the Ocean course is a beast to play. 

Kiawah-Island-The-Ocean-Course-16, Charleston, South Carolina

The fairways are narrow, there is little respite if you miss them and you’ll likely get battered by the wild Atlantic winds. Oh and the course can be extended to around 8,000 yards. That said, this is bucket list golf and being a public course, it is open to everyone.


America is truly blessed when it comes to having great golf courses. So much so, no country has more golf courses in the world’s top 100 golf course rankings than the United States.

There is a large percentage of courses which are private, which makes looking at the Top 100 rankings an aspirational pastime rather than a realistic tick list of golf courses to play. This is also why such emphasis is placed on the best public golf courses lists, which is less of a challenge on the Continent. 

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