Tag: Municipal Golf

U.S. Top 25 Municipal Courses: 2022

Incline Village, Lake Tahoe CA

Most everybody has heard of Bethpage, Chambers Bay and Torrey Pines—renowned municipal golf courses that have hosted the U.S. Open. But there are a great many fantastic muni courses throughout the country that are not quite as well known, and offer the golfing public an unforgettable opportunity to enjoy golf at its best. Take a look at our Top-25—perhaps you have one right in your own backyard.

Here’s a look at the top 25.

Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale NY
  1. Bethpage, Farmingdale, NY
  2. New York State Parks

Bethpage State Park is home to the world-renowned Black course, one of the crown jewels among so many great courses designed by A. W. Tillinghast. Bethpage offers far more than just the Black course, however, with 90 holes of golf including two additional Tillinghast designs (the Red and Blue Courses), a Deveraux Emmet design (the Green Course–later remodeled by Tillinghast), and the Yellow Course (designed by Alfred Tull).

The Park originally opened in 1935, and the courses were updated over the years by Francis Duane, a native New Yorker and architect of high regard who worked with Robert Trent Jones throughout the 1940’s and 50’s.

Rees Jones (“The Open Doctor”) was asked to retore the Black Course to its former glory in preparation for the 2002 U.S Open, and he made additional updates for the 2009 Open.

The Black Course also hosted the Barclays Championship in 2012 and 2016 as well as the PGA Championship in 2019.

  GolfDay Rating: 100

Chambers Bay, University Place WA
  1. Chambers Bay, University Place, WA
  2. Pierce County

Built on the shores of Puget Sound, Chambers Bay is a classic links course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Host to the 2010 U.S. Amateur and then the U.S. Open in 2015, Chambers Bay also offers a top-notch practice facility as well as the Chambers Bay Academy with a variety of outstanding junior golf programs.  

GolfDay Rating: 100

Gold Mountain, Bremerton WA
  1. Gold Mountain, Bremerton, WA
  2. City of Bremerton

When John Harbottle III passed away suddenly in 2012 at the age of 53, he left us with two wonderful course designs to remember him by, the Olympic and Cascades at Gold Mountain Golf Club. Sculpted from the magnificent terrain and majestic pines of northwestern Washington, each course is demanding yet playable, and kept in beautiful condition by course superintendent Abel Anderson.

GolfDay Rating: 100

Torrey Pines, San Diego CA
  1. Torrey Pines, San Diego, CA
  2. City of San Diego

With breathtaking views from the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, the North and South courses at Torrey Pines, originally designed by William F. Bell, are something special. An annual PGA tour venue with the Farmers Insurance Open, Torrey Pines also hosted the 2008 U.S. Open where Tiger Woods had one of his most memorable victories.

GolfDay Rating: 100

RTJ Golf Trail: Cambrian Ridge, Greenville AL
  1. Cambrian Ridge, Greenville, AL
  2. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

Since each of the courses at all eleven locations on the RTJ Golf Trail are outstanding, it’s hard to single out Cambrian Ridge as the best of the group—but suffice it to say that you will not be disappointed. With 3 amazing nine-hole courses (Loblolly, Sherling and Canyon) along with a terrific 9-hole par 3 track, Cambrian Ridge should be at the top of the list when you plan your trip along the Trail.

GolfDay Rating: 99.1

TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale AZ
  1. TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, AZ
  2. City of Scottsdale

TPC Scottsdale offers desert golf at its finest, with two great tracks designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. The Stadium course is host to the Waste Management Phoenix Open each year, one of the most popular and exciting stops on the PGA Tour. When you reach the par 3 sixteenth hole you may still hear echoes of the raucous cheering from the massive “coliseum” crowd.   

GolfDay Rating: 98.9

The Highlands of Elgin, Elgin IL
  1. The Highlands of Elgin, Elgin, IL
  2. City of Elgin

Located about an hour northwest of Chicago, this Larry Packard original design is a wonderful track. The course was updated by Ken Killian and Dick Nugent, and most recently by Keith Foster and Art Schaupeter to keep the layout current and challenging. The Highlands also offers a lighted grass driving range to hone your game in spring, summer and fall, and an indoor golf simulator for the winter chill.

GolfDay Rating: 98.8

Tanglewood Park, Clemmons NC
  1. Tanglewood Park, Clemmons, NC
  2. Forsyth County

Tanglewood includes two terrific Robert Trent Jones, Sr. eighteen-hole layouts (Championship and Reynolds) as well as an eighteen-hole par 3 course. The championship course was the scene of Lee Trevino’s thrilling victory over Jack Nicklaus in the 1974 PGA Championship. A lighted grass driving range and complete short-game practice facility provide a perfect place to work on your game. 

GolfDay Rating: 97.9

Breckenridge Golf Course, Breckenridge CO
  1. Breckenridge Golf Club, Breckenridge, CO
  2. Town of Breckenridge

Whenever Jack Nicklaus designs a golf course, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a stiff test–and Breckenridge is no exception. Three tough nine-hole courses (Beaver, Bear and Elk) with gorgeous mountain views, first rate practice facilities and a variety of Junior golf programs provide residents and visitors alike with the opportunity to experience a bit of golfing heaven.

GolfDay Rating: 97.2

Incline Village,Incline Village NV
  1. (Tie)Incline Village, Incline Village, NV
  2. Incline Village and Crystal Bay/General Improvements District

Incline Village offers both an eighteen-hole championship course and eighteen -hole executive course (Mountain Course). Robert Trent Jones, Sr. did the original designs, and they have been updated by Robert Trent Jones, Jr, and Kyle Phillips, so it’s no surprise that the layouts are second to none. In addition to the great courses and beautiful views of Lake Tahoe, Incline Village also includes a Golf Academy that includes programs tailored for lady golfers and juniors.  

GolfDay Rating: 97.1

RTJ Golf Trail: Magnolia Grove, Mobil AL
  1. (Tie)Magnolia Grove, Mobil, AL
  2. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

Magnolia Grove is another gem on the RTJ Golf Trail, offering 2 Eighteen Hole courses (Falls and Crossings) as well as a beautifully manicured eighteen-hole par 3 course. As with all of the RTJ courses, the practice facilities are pristine—and The Lakewood Club (another RTJ beauty in Point Clear), is not far as well.      

GolfDay Rating: 97.1

RTJ Golf Trail: Grand National, Opelika AL
  1. Grand National, Opelika, AL
  2. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

The RTJ Golf Trail is the golfer’s gift that keeps on giving. Grand National includes two fantastic eighteen-hole courses (Links and Lakes) plus an eighteen-hole par 3 course, picture perfect practice facilities and accommodations at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort & Spa.

GolfDay Rating: 96.6

TPC Harding Park, San Francisco CA
  1. TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, CA   
  2. City of San Francisco

PGA Tour architect Chris Gray did a masterful job bringing the TPC course at Harding Park back to the original vision of Willie Watson, who also designed the Olympic Club and holds a special place in golf history. In addition to the TPC course, Harding Park includes “The Fleming Nine,” an executive nine-hole course designed by Jack Fleming, an outstanding course designer in his own right and one of the most important figures in the history of San Francisco golf. 

TPC Harding Park hosted the PGA Championship in 2020 as well as the WGC American Express Championship (2005), WGC Match Play Championship (2015) and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship for the Champions Tour (2011-2013).  

GolfDay Rating: 96.4

Mooresville Golf Club, Mooresville NC
  1. Mooresville Golf Club, Mooresville, NC
  2. Town of Mooresville

The original nine holes at Mooresville were designed by Donald Ross, with an additional nine added by J. Porter Gibson in 1978. Kris Spence remodeled and updated the course in 2016, and today the residents of Mooresville enjoy a wonderful course that is both challenging and playable. Mooresville Golf Club also offers a top-of-the line practice facility, men’s and lady’s golf leagues, and a terrific junior golf program. 

GolfDay Rating: 96.0

RTJ Golf Trail: Oxmoor Valley, Birmingham AL
  1. Oxmoor Valley, Birmingham, AL
  2. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

Another great pair of eighteen-hole courses on the RTJ Golf Trail (Ridge and Valley). Add to that a wonderful eighteen-hole par 3 course, outstanding practice facilities, and terrific accommodations at the near-by Renaissance Resort Hotel, and you have a perfect day on the links.

GolfDay Rating: 95.4

RTJ Golf Trail: Silver Lakes, Glencoe, AL
  1. Silver Lakes, Glencoe, AL
  2. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

Located about 80 miles northeast of Birmingham, the 3 nine-hole courses at Silver Lakes offer a stiff test of golf (Backbreaker, Heartbreaker and Mindbreaker). You can also sharpen your short game on a nine-hole par 3 course, and work on the driver and long irons on a beautiful grass range.  

GolfDay Rating: 95.0

RTJ Golf Trail: Capitol Hill, Prattville AL
  1. Capitol Hill, Prattville AL
  2. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

If you are enjoying a golf trip on the RTJ Golf Trail, Capitol Hill offers first rate accommodations at the Montgomery Marriott Prattville Hotel & Conference Center. Of course, the golf is shear perfection as well, with 3 demanding 9-hole courses (Judge, Legislator and Senator).

GolfDay Rating: 94.9

Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club, Grand Teton National Park WY
  1. (Tie) Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club, Jackson, WY
  2. Grand Teton National Park

Gorgeous views, roaming wildlife and a perfect golf course—what could be better. Bob Baldock originally designed the course back in 1961, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. made revisions and updates in 1974, and Robert Trent Jones, Jr. added the finishing touches in 2007. Accommodations include the Jackson Lake Lodge as well as a wonderful RV Park.

GolfDay Rating: 94.8

Heron Lakes Golf Club, Portland OR
  1. (Tie) Heron Lakes, Portland, OR
  2. City of Portland

Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Robert Trent Jones, Jr. collaborated on two wonderful eighteen-hole tracks at Heron Lakes (Greenback and Great Blue). Located along the Columbia River just outside of downtown Portland, Heron Lakes also offers a Ladies Golf Association, junior golf camps and first-rate practice facilities.   

GolfDay Rating: 94.8

Neshanic Valley Golf Course, Branchville NJ
  1. Neshanic Valley Golf Course, Branchville, NJ
  2. Somerset County

When Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry completed these wonderful 27 holes in the farmlands of western New Jersey, their next project was Erin Hills, a true masterpiece and site of the 2017 U.S. Open. In addition to three splendid 9-hole courses, Neshanic offers a 9-hole executive “Academy” course as well as a grass driving range, putting and chipping greens with bunkers and 2 additional practice holes.   

GolfDay Rating: 94.7

Pecan Hollow Golf Course, Plano TX
  1. Pecan Hollow Golf Course, Plano, TX
  2. City of Plano

Billy Martindale and Don January laid out Pecan Hollow back in 1973 and the course was remodeled and updated in 2010 by D.A. Weibring and Steve Wolford. In addition to a terrific eighteen-hole course, Pecan Hollow also includes a 5-hole par 3 course, lighted grass driving range and junior golf academy

GolfDay Rating: 94.4

Trump Golf Links-Ferry Point, Bronx NY
  1. Trump Golf Links-Ferry Point, Bronx, NY
  2. City of New York

Jack designed another stiff test of golf, this time complete with beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline for residents of New York and visitors alike. Ferry Point also offers a manicured driving range and short game facility that’s as good as it gets, along with being home to the Michael Breed Golf Academy

GolfDay Rating: 94.3

RTJ Golf Trail: Ross Bridge, Hoover AL
  1. Ross Bridge, Hoover, AL
  2. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

Ross Bridge is the seventh location on the RTJ Golf Trail that we’ve included among the top 25 municipal golf facilities in the country (and they all could easily be listed). While Ross Bridge opened for play in 2005 after Robert Trent Jones passed away, Roger Rulewich and Bobby Vaughn created a masterpiece in his honor. In the addition to the fabulous eighteen hole course, the practice facilities are first class and wonderful accommodations are available at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Resort & Spa

GolfDay Rating: 94.2

Chaska Town Course, Chaska MN
  1. Chaska Town Course, Chaska, MN
  2. City of Chaska

Only ten minutes from Hazeltine National (host of the 1970 and 1991 U.S. Opens as well as the PGA Championship in ’02 and ’09), Chaska Town Course is one of the finest municipal facilities in the country. Featuring an 18-hole championship course designed by Arthur Hills and a wonderful Robert Trent Jones, Sr. executive layout, Chaska also offers a complete practice facility and variety of junior golf programs.

GolfDay Rating: 93.9

Thunderhawk Golf Club, Beach Park IL
  1. Thunderhawk Golf Club, Beach Park, IL
  2. Lake County Forest Preserve

Illinois boasts some of the best public golf in the country, and Thunderhawk is right at the top. Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designed another masterpiece, and the residents of Beach Park are lucky indeed. Along with the great eighteen-hole layout, the practice facilities are superb and the scenery is beautiful (Thunderhawk is recognized by the Audubon Society as a Signature Sanctuary Course).    

GolfDay Rating: 93.9

Heatherwoode Golf Club, Springboro OH
  1. (Tie) Heatherwoode Golf Club, Springboro, OH
  2. City of Springboro

Denis Griffiths created the terrific layout at Heatherwoode in 1991, including a comprehensive practice facility that includes a grass range with target greens, putting and chipping greens with bunkers, and an indoor golf simulator with club fitting for when the snow begins to fly. 

GolfDay Rating: 93.9

Texas Star Golf Course, Euless TX
  1. (Tie) Texas Star Golf Course, Euless, TX
  2. City of Euless

Only minutes from Dallas-Forth Airport and less than an hour from downtown Dallas, Texas Star is a challenging Keith Foster masterpiece that will keep you coming back. If you were under the impression that Texas courses are pretty much flat, the Star will dispel that notion immediately with elevation changes throughout the course, tall trees and picture postcard scenery. Texas Star also offers top-notch practice facilities, including a grass driving range, putting and chipping greens and bunker.

GolfDay Rating: 93.8

Cherokee Run Golf Club, Conyers GA
  1. (Tie) Cherokee Run Golf Club, Conyers, GA
  2. City of Conyers

Cherokee Run was designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, opening for play in 1995. The magnificent eighteen-hole layout was carved among tall Georgia pines, and offers a strong test of golf with a course rating of 74.5 and a slope of 144. Cherokee Run also features first rate practice facilities, including a grass range with targets and complete short game facilities.

GolfDay Rating: 93.8

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Best Muni Golf: Illinois Tops the Chart

Harborside International Golf Center, Chicago IL

When most of us think about Illinois golf, images of Medinah Country Club, the U.S Open and the Ryder Cup come immediately to mind. Or Tiger winning 5 times at Cog Hill (Western Open—1997, 1999 and 2003, BMW—2007 and 2009).

What you may not know, however, is that Illinois is #1 when it comes to public municipal golf. Of the 146 Muni courses in the Illinois, 65 received a GolfDay Rating of 80 or higher, and 11 received a rating above 90.

The GolfDay Rating

The GolfDay Rating is based on a variety of criteria, including the stature of the architect who did the original design, updates that have been done since the course was built, USGA Course and Slope Ratings, current local and national rankings by Golf Digest, Golfweek, and Links Magazine (as well as other authoritative sources), the quality and diversity of practice facilities, general course conditioning, and current course reviews.

Consideration is also given for facilities that offer junior golf programs, a golf academy or golf leagues. Resort ratings also include a factor for the variety of courses located at the property, as well as the quality of accommodations. The GolfDay Rating is structured on the same basis as a test score—from 0 to 100. Over 90 is outstanding, 80–89 is very good and 70-79 is above average.

The Highlands of Elgin, IL

The Top 11

  • Harborside International Golf Center, Chicago
    Holes: 36
    2 Eighteen Hole Courses (Port/Starboard)
    Architect: Dick Nugent
    USGA Course/Slope Rating
    Port: 74.6/137
    Starboard: 74.5/134
    Practice Facilities: Expansive Grass Driving Range with Targets, Wedge Range, Putting and Chipping Greens with Bunkers and Golf Academy.
    GolfDay Rating: 98.9
  • The Highlands of Elgin, Elgin
    Holes: 18
    Architect: Larry Packard/Dick Nugent/Ken Killian/Keith Foster/Arthur Schaupeter
    USGA Course/Slope Rating: 73.7/139
    Practice Facilities: Lighted Grass Driving Range with Targets, Putting and Chipping Greens with Bunker and Indoor Golf Simulator.
    GolfDay Rating: 98.8
Thunderhawk Golf Club, Beach Park IL
  • Thunderhawk Golf Club, Beach Park
    Holes: 18
    Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
    USGA Course/Slope Rating: 74.2/141
    Practice Facilities: Grass Driving Range, Putting and Chipping Greens with Bunker.
    GolfDay Rating: 93.9
  • Arrowhead Golf Club, Wheaton
    Holes: 27
    3 Nine Hole Courses: East/West/South
    Architect: Stanley Pelchar/David Gill/Greg Martin
    USGA Course/Slope Rating
    East:    36.4/133
    West:   36.2/133
    South: 36.5/135
    Practice Facilities: Driving Range, Putting and Chipping Greens with Bunkers (3).
    GolfDay Rating: 92.3
  • Schaumburg Golf Club & Academy, Schaumburg
    Holes: 27
    Architect: Bob Lohman
    USGA Course/Slope Rating:
    Tournament: 35.5/129
    Baer: 35.5/126
    Player’s: 34.8/128
    Practice Facilities: Driving Range with Targets (Grass Saturday and Sunday, Mats Monday through Friday), Putting and Chipping Greens. Learning Center with Indoor Golf Simulators (3).
    GolfDay Rating: 91.9
Shepherd’s Crook Golf Course, Zion IL
  • Shepherd’s Crook Golf Course, Zion
    Holes: 18
    Architect: Keith Foster/Kevin Hargrave
    USGA Course/Slope Rating: 72.1/130
    Practice Facilities: Putting and Chipping Green.
    GolfDay Rating: 91.2
  • Mount Prospect Golf Club, Mount Prospect
    Holes: 18
    Architect: Davis Esler
    USGA Course/Slope Rating: 70.3/135
    Practice Facilities: Grass Driving Range with Targets Greens, Wedge Range, Putting and Chipping Greens with Bunker.
    GolfDay Rating: 91.0
Mt. Prospect Golf Club, IL
  • Sunset Valley Golf Club, Highland Park
    Holes: 18
    Architect: Dick Nugent/Ken Killian/Bob Lohman
    USGA Course/Slope Rating: 72.2/134
    Practice Facilities: Warm Up Nets, Putting and Chipping Green.
    GolfDay Rating: 90.9
  • Glencoe Golf Club, Glencoe
    Holes: 18
    Architect: Dick Nugent/Ken Killian/Bob Lohman
    USGA Course/Slope Rating: 72.3/133
    Practice Facilities: Grass Driving Range with Targets, Putting and Chipping Greens.
    GolfDay Rating: 90.7
Fox Bend Golf Course, Oswego, IL

The Top 50 Muni’s in Illinois

With so many great municipal courses to play, the folks in Illinois are fortunate indeed.

And if you are visiting the Prairie State, it won’t be hard to find a great track without breaking the bank!

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