Ask a golfer or fan of the sport what are the best golf courses in America and you might come up with an assortment of answers. However, many of the finest courses in the country are very difficult to visit. Take two of the world’s best for example: New Jersey’s Pine Valley Golf Club membership is a male only and only opens the course to visitors once a year for an amateur event and California’s Cypress Point Golf Club refused to alter its strict membership requirements and no longer hosts PGA events. While it’s difficult to omit these two exclusive golf courses, it’s hard to argue the following five are not among the best golf courses in America, all hosting PGA events that are open to the public.
Augusta National Country Club
2604 Washington Rd.
Augusta, Ga. 30904
Founded by legendary amateur golfer Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, Augusta National is one of the world’s most famous golf courses. Each spring, the legendary club hosts what many consider golf’s most prestigious tournament, the Masters. The winner of the Masters, whose past winners include Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, is awarded the green jacket, one of the most coveted prizes in the sport. The 18-hole, par-72 course covers 7,435 yards and has been the scene of several dramatic moments in history, including Gene Sarazen’s “shot heard round the world” in 1935, Jack Nicklaus’ signature moment at the 16th hole at the 1986 Masters that at age 46 earned himself a record six green jackets, and Tiger Woods’ chip shot at the 16th on his way to his fourth Masters win in a sudden death playoff. Membership to Augusta National Country Club is by invitation only and in 2012 admitted its first two women members: former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and prominent South Carolina financier Darla Moore. Although membership or playing the course is out of reach for most golf fans, they’ll say the Masters is the one tournament they have to witness at least once in their lifetime.
Oakmont Country Club
1233 Hulton Rd.
Oakmont, Pa. 15139
Known as the oldest top ranked golf course in the country, Oakmont has hosted 11 Grand Slam events, including a record eight U.S. Open and two U.S. Women’s Open championships. Located 14 miles from Pittsburgh, Oakmont is consistently ranked in the nation’s top five best courses, as well as one of the most challenging. Established in 1903, the par-71, 7,255-yard course features more than 200 bunkers, fast greens and arguably America’s best par 4 course, at the 456-yard 18th hole. Like Augusta National, Oakmont Country Club has been the site for several historic moments in golf, such as club member Sam Parks Jr.’s upset win at the 1935 U.S. Open, Jack Nicklaus’ first professional win at age 22 at the 1962 U.S. Open and Johnny Miller’s record 8-under par 63 at the 1973 U.S. Open–the lowest score in the history of the sport’s four major tournaments, also known as the Grand Slam of Golf.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
1700 17 Mile Dr.
Pebble Beach, Calif. 93953
Ranked as America’s top public golf course by Golf Digest, Pebble Beach is also considered one of the world’s most beautiful. Much of the 6,828-yard, par-72 course from the furthest tee features breathtaking views of the rugged California coast, including the 109-yard par-3 seventh hole and the magnificent 543-yard, par-5 18th hole, described as the “greatest finishing hole in golf.” Pebble Beach has hosted six Grand Slams events and annually draws large crowds and celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Peyton Manning to the popular AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. A few minutes from Pebble Beach is Cypress Point Golf Course, consistently ranked among the world’s top three courses but because it’s private it is not as accessible as its neighbor. Pebble Beach Golf Links is one of five courses owned by Pebble Beach Resorts, including Spyglass Hill and the Links at Spanish Bay, noted as one of the world’s toughest courses.
80 Carolina Vista Dr.
Pinehurst, N.C. 28374
Described as the “Cradle of American Golf,” the fabulous Pinehurst Resort boasts eight golf courses, including the famed Course No. 2, host to several major tournaments. In fact No. 2 recently hosted both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open. It was the first time in the history of the sport that both championships were played on the same course in the same year. Ranked third on the “Top 100 Golf Courses You Can Play” by Golf.com, Pinehurst No. 2 is a 7,565-yard, par-70 course with 41 acres of picturesque fairways, 111 sand bunkers and fast, undulating greens. Among other major tournaments Pinehurst No. 2 has hosted are the 1936 PGA Championship, 1951 Ryder Cup and the U.S. Open Championship in 1999 and 2005. Visitors can book reservations for the landmark Carolina Hotel or the three other luxury accommodations.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
200 Tuckahoe Rd.
Southhampton, N.Y. 11968
Currently ranked fifth on Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the World, Shinnecock Hills is America’s oldest incorporated golf club. When first established in Southampton in 1891, the club allowed women to become members, making it the first golf club to do so. One of the five founding members of the United States Golf Association (USGA), Shinnecock Hills has hosted a number of major events, including the both second U.S. Amateur Championship and second U.S. Open in 1896. More recently, the 6,996-yard, par-70 course played host to the 2004 U.S. Open Championship and has been selected to host the 2018 U.S. Open. The most acclaimed hole is the 194 yard par-4 seventh hole, also known as the Redan hole, with a right to left slope proving to be one of the toughest holes in golf.
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Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.