Yes Siree, this list will certainly provoke more arguments! So get ready to nod your head or–so be it–shake your fist. Asterisk indicates courses that are public-access (and the photo is of Ballyneal, in Colorado, with yours truly doing on-site research.) To be considered, I must have played it, but I have played more than 1,100 American Golfweek Ballot Courses in the U.S. including the Top 200 in America and at least five courses in all fifty States.
Alaska – Moose Run Creek Course* – It’s also the toughest, most scenic, despite a couple of terrible golf holes
Arizona – The Rim Golf Club …somewhat atypical, but for me it’s the best, but there’s lots of worthy competition.
Arkansas – The private Alotian, Diamonte, and Chenal club courses make the short list for me.
Baltimore – If you like old, it’s Baltimore Country Club’s Five Farms. For new, it’s Caves Valley.
Big Island of Hawaii – Mauna Kea* still prevails, but a couple of exclusive new private clubs vie for attention.
Boston – The Country Club Composite Course wins with its history, but the area is so golf course-rich with many gems.
Chicago – Chicago Golf Club…Where the oldest is still the best, but I love Shoreacres too in another golf-rich region.
Cleveland – The Country Club & Kirtland vie for Best Classic Course while Sand Ridge captures the Modern Category.
Colorado – The Golf Club of Castle Pines, the Colorado Golf Club, and Ballyneal feature different strokes for different folks.
Connecticut – Country Club of Fairfield… Where simple outdoes the silly, slick putting surfaces of Stanwich.
Delaware – The two courses at Wilmington Country Club are tough to beat.
Florida Private – Seminole Golf Club…some things just don’t change.
Florida Central – World Woods Pine Barrens* the better of two great World Woods courses that must be played, but chased by Victoria Hills*, Isleworth, classic Mountain Lake, and Bay Hill*. Recently the Streamsong Resort comes in with three terrific layouts to tie it!
Florida Northern Public– TPC Sawgrass Stadium* has matured into an outstanding golf experience.
Hilton Head Island – The Dye Creations of Long Cove Club and Harbour Town Links* are my choices among a host of some really solid golf offerings.
Houston – The Champions Golf Club with its two stout tests gets my vote.
Idaho – Gozzer Ranch and the Club at Black Rock finish in a dead heat.
Iowa – Harvester* is the best followed by four very good courses in Des Moine – Des Moine G & CC, Glen Oaks, and Wakonda.
Indiana – Wolf Creek and Victoria National nose out Crooked Stick.
Kansas – Prairie Dunes is the easy classic choice, but Hallbrook, Flint Hills National, and Shadow Glen vie for the best modern one.
Kauai – The Prince Course* is the most formidable and memorable of some very good courses, but maybe the ‘improved’ Makai Course is the more playable.
Kentucky – I count Vahalla as one of Jack Nicklaus’ best designs.
Las Vegas – Shadow Creek* and Cascata* prove that expensive layouts still prevail.
Louisiana – Bluffs at Thompson’s Creek* is a wonderful routing on a good piece of property and it’s open to the public.
Long Island – Friendly Neighbors – National Golf Links and Shinnecock Hills are the best among a host of great ones like Maidstone and Garden City GC. Friar’s Head nips several newer entries.
Maui – The Plantation Course* at Kapalua shares honors with Wailua Gold*.
Michigan – too many favorites, but Crystal Downs wins. Michigan may have the most “best” public-access golf courses.
Minneapolis – St. Paul – If San Francisco has 5-6 really good courses, this regions has more than 25 with Interlachen and Hazeltine usually on the top of some very deep lists.
Mississippi – Old Waverly Country Club is a flat, tough, entertaining golf course, but Fallen Oak* may be the best.
Montana – Rock Creek Cattle Company has a terrific and challenging golf course while Old Works may be the best of the public offerings.
Monterey Peninsula California – Public Pebble Beach and private Cypress Point Club are followed closely by the Monterey Peninsula Country Club, but the others are all worthy of play.
Myrtle Beach- Caledonia Golf & Fish Club* This is a course nearly everyone including me likes and The Dunes*.
Naples – Calusa Pines -this Hurdzan-Fry course has it all edging out another of their designs, Naples National.
New Jersey – Pine Valley Golf Club wins in a landslide over many other terrific layouts.
New Mexico – Black Mesa* edges out Paa Ko Ridge* and the duo at Las Campanas.
North Dakota – The Links of North Dakota*, Hawktree*, and Bully Pulpit* make for a solid 3-way competition and very differing styles.
Ohio – The Columbus duo of the Muirfield Village Golf Club and The Golf Club edge out the classic courses such as Camargo, Moraine, and Brookside.
Oklahoma – While I have no problem with Southern Hills or Oak Tree National as championship venues, my favorites end up being two Tom Fazio courses – Karsten Creek and GC of Oklahoma with Cedar Ridge being a real ‘sleeper.’
Orange County California – Pelican Hill Ocean* is not the hardest, but the prettiest and most expensive of the lot.
Oregon – Take your pick from any of the four courses at Bandon Dunes*, but for a classic parkland championship venue, it tough to beat Eugene CC.
Palm Springs Area – PGA West Stadium*, Stone Eagle, Larry Ellison’s Porcupine Creek, and The Tradition win my votes while The Madison Club provides the best service. This area tends to be “resorty” with many enjoyable, yet look-alike layouts – not these.
Pennsylvania – Is a tie between venerable stalwarts, Philly’s Merion East Course and Pittsburgh’s Oakmont Country Club in a dead heat, but how can you beat the three sublime layouts at Saucon Valley?
Philadelphia – Pine Valley Golf Club, enough said already…America’s Best too!
Pinehurst Other Than Pinehurst Country Club* – Pine Needles* and Tobacco Road* are my choices.
Pocono Mountains – Modern Huntsville and the vintage CC of Scranton win out.
Reno-Tahoe – Lahontan Golf Club, Clear Creek Tahoe Golf Club, and Martis Creek are the cream of the crop.
Rhode Island – dominated by the classic likes of Newport, Wannamoisett, Misquamicut and more while Carnegie Abbey and Newport National* top the moderns.
St. Louis – Bellerive Country Club edges out St. Louis CC and Old Warson by a nose.
San Diego – Barona Creek* edges out Meadows Del Mar*, Aviara*, Maderas*, and Torrey Pines*.
San Francisco – It’s long been a tie between the venerable San Francisco Golf Club, penal Olympic Lake Course, and the renovated California Golf Club, but the California Golf Club with its renovation may be the best!
San Francisco North of the Gold Gate – Nicklaus’ best in California, the Mayacama Golf Club, takes the prize for modern with The Meadow Club since its restoration claims the vintage prize.
South Dakota – Magnificently unique Sutton Bay is an easy choice. (Sadly this course has had to be relocated to another part of the property.)
Tennessee – The Honors Course and The Golf Club of Tennessee edge out classic Holston Hills.
Texas – Dallas National is the new gunslinger in town though Whispering Pines is the quiet gem.
Texas Public – Crown Colony* is simply a terrific wooded parkland layout.
Utah – For all of the gorgeous high-end private courses, I might give the nod to the 27 holes at Sand Hollow.
Vermont – Ekwanok is the standard.
Washington – Chambers Bay*. The “new kid on the block” takes the prize, but Washington has so many other sublime layouts that go beneath the radar.
Westchester County New York, – Winged Foot West over Quaker Ridge by a nose, but there are at least a half-dozen more that qualify among my favorites.
Wisconsin – This is becoming a “Wow State” for public golf with Blackwolf Run*, Whistling Straits*, Lawsonia Links*, and Erin Hills*, but don’t overlook the private Milwaukee CC or Blue Mound.