For the golf enthusiasts, the thrill and excitement is purely about the game itself. Golf on a warm, sunny day with your friends on a big, lovely course cannot be beaten can it? People golf for a variety of reasons. Some like to clear their minds, others enjoy the leisurely recreation. After all, what other game is played on 200 acres or more? Baseball, softball, football and soccer fields all have rigid lines. But in golf, you get this immense open space to play in. Golf courses not only provide a playing field but offer a tranquil setting in which you can relax and unwind whilst playing a precision sport. However, some golfing greens are undoubtedly more beautiful than others.
Below is our top picks of best golf courses in the United States, and what makes these courses truly exceptional.
The Valley Club of Montecito, California
Nestled in between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains, the very beautiful Valley Club of Montecito is one of the most appreciated golf courses in the United States, the beauty of which cannot be described in mere words. Alister MacKenzie truly deserves all the recognition that his remarkable design work at the Valley Club has consistently garnered for 70 years. All the great golfers from Hogan to Player to Woods have spoken of its delights. One of the defining characteristics of the Valley Club is the signature MacKenzie greens. In addition to the subtle breaks and the mountain/ocean effect, the greens are also small.
While MacKenzie gets all the credit for the charm of the Valley Club, Robert Hunter deserves similar recognition for the construction of the course and indeed by extension, some of the subtlety that makes this already spectacular course so alluring. The Hunter’s on-site presence during the construction work and long time participation at the Valley Club accounts for a lot of the subtle sophistication that is present at the course to this day.
Yeamans Hall Club, South Carolina
Yet another quiet Seth Raynor classic dating to 1925, the restored classic architectural features mix in with a charming low country setting to provide one of golf’s great experiences. The Charleston-area spread sprawls over a huge area, allowing for plenty of strategic options via width, angles and bunker placement. This part of the country has retained its uniqueness and character and has resisted the homogenization that has largely swept most parts of the country. Tucked away just north of Charleston, this alluring beauty is very discrete and isolated. The tranquility of the course is emphasized by the low country setting, complete with vast marshes and live oaks drenched in Spanish moss.
The Club takes its name from a previous landowner, Sir John Yeaman, who was the colonial governor of South Carolina back then. The master plan for this property was put together by Fredrick Law Olmstead, Jr., son of New York’s Central Park designer. The ongoing transformation of Yeamans Hall that commenced in the late 1980s and continues to this day is one of the most remarkable ones in golf and deserved to be remembered and appreciated. Tom Doak was brought in several years ago to restore the greens back to Raynor’s original designs and the end result was a superior set of greens with interesting spines of the kind that Seth Raynor was so fond of.
Pine Valley Golf Club, New Jersey
There’s no secret as to why the Pine Valley is one of the best and most exclusive golf clubs in the world, owing to which it has been ranked No.1 in the world by GOLF Magazine since 1985. As renowned architect Tom Doak once expressed, “Deep down, it’s still golf’s most awesome experience, a shining example of golf architecture in the raw so that even the color-blind can understand it. The course possesses more truly outstanding holes than any other I’ve seen.” In addition to it being the best in golf, Pine Valley served as a central gathering point for architects to discuss and analyze specific design features during the Golden Age of golf course design.
Each year, Pine Valley opens its gates to the public on the final Sunday in September – not to play, but to watch the final round of the annual Crump Cup and to just wander the fairways, greens and penal hazards of a course that’s been frequently been ranked No.1 in the world by Golf Digest. For those who are passionate about the game and most likely will never get the chance to play at Pine Valley, this is a great opportunity for the golf enthusiasts to take a glimpse of the golf’s most exclusive and the best.
Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia
Yet another architectural classic designed by the great Alister MacKenzie, the Augusta National Golf Club is one of the most famous golf clubs in the world. Since 1934, it has played host to the annual Masters Tournament, one of the four major championships in professional golf, and the only major played each year at the same course. The course was formerly a plant nursery and each hole on the course is named after the tree or shrub with which it has become associated. Unlike most other private or public golf courses in the United States, the Augusta National has never been rated.
The golf club’s exclusive membership policies have drawn criticism, particularly because of the no African-American policy until 1990, as well as a former policy requiring all caddies to be black, which was omitted from the club’s bylaws in 1959. Also, the club has never had a women member in its 78-year history. The club began granting membership to women in August 2012.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton
The oldest incorporated golf club in the United States, the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club has been ranked as the 6th best course on earth by the Golf Magazine. The 122-year-old course has hosted the nation’s most prestigious golf tournament four times, and is scheduled to host again in 2018. It was founded in 1891 by wealthy New York businessmen who were introduced to the game during a visit to France in 1890. William Vanderbilt and a group of his Long Island associates had discovered golf while staying in the resort town of Biarritz. So taken were the Americans by this fantastic sport, they hired Willie Dunn to build them a course in Southampton.
Shinnecock’s uncluttered landscape is one of the most compelling in golf. The sense that Shinnecock is one of the best hits the very moment you arrive here. Soaking up the historic ambiance from the club’s iconic weatherboard clubhouse, expectant golfers look down upon a course draped marvelously across the windswept undulations of Suffolk County. Ultimately what makes Shinnecock such an outstanding golf course is the absence of any pedestrian moments and the fact that so many world-class holes complement its glorious landscape. If it isn’t the best course in America, it certainly is one of the leading contenders.