Reynolds Lake Oconee offers golf for days with five highly ranked public courses in Georgia, but which is best?

The golf stretches for days, but which course tops at the Georgia resort tops the Golfweek’s Best rankings?

The best part of any golf trip is all the golf – of course – followed by more golf, with a high chance of still more golf tomorrow. More shots, more greens, more of everything. Wake up before the sun, launch the day off the first tee, keep swinging until the cart attendants round you up in the dark. 

If the courses are of high quality, even better. Should they be ranked among the best in their state, greater still. 

But few resorts offer seemingly endless great golf within their confines. One or two courses are the norm, then players are forced to book elsewhere for that more-golf-all-the-time fanaticism. Only a handful of properties include enough golf to keep players swinging on highly rated and fresh-to-them courses for days on end. It’s not overly difficult to jump around from resort to resort if golfers plan well in advance, but there’s much to be said for the ease of use in finding one golf vacation spot with great holes stretching for days. 

Examples in the U.S. include Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon, home to five top-ranked 18-hole courses. Pinehurst and its smorgasbord of golf holes – anchored by the famed No. 2 – with five courses ranked inside the top 15 public-access layouts in North Carolina. Destination Kohler in Wisconsin and its four highly ranked courses that include Whistling Straits. 

And Reynolds Lake Oconee in Georgia, home to five of the top 15 public-access courses in Georgia on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list.

A massive Central Georgia property sprawling across some 12,000 acres on the shores of its namesake lake about 85 miles southeast of Atlanta, Reynolds Lake Oconee offers five courses open to guests of the on-property Ritz-Carlton hotel or cottages operated by the community, and club members have access to a sixth layout. That makes it 42,336 yards of golf in all, more than 24 miles. 

And after leaving the luxurious lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, none of it feels like a resort. That’s by design, and it’s a good thing. 

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The Ritz-Carlton at Reynolds Lake Oconee (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee)

Despite having the AAA Four Diamond/ Forbes Four-Star hotel and 50-plus multi-bedroom cottages, Reynolds Lake Oconee is at its core a residential community with more than 4,000 members. In recent years, 88 percent of total rounds on the courses consists of member-related play, leaving just 12 percent of tee times for short-term guests of the hotel and cottages, with no regular outside daily-fee play. That means players can be rewarded with a private-club experience on the five courses open to guests. 

Unlike many resorts, tee times are never rushed, going off in 12-minute intervals that help maintain pace of play instead of the industry’s frequent 9- to 10-minute intervals that can bog down a course. Reynolds’ practice ranges are uncrowded, the clubhouses never overrun, the courses typically in pristine condition. Throw in the Kingdom – an elite TaylorMade fitting and instruction center on property not far from the Ritz – and players have more golf options than would fit in a two-day trip.

It’s an old cliché from 1980s golf marketing to call daily-fee players a “member for the day,” but Reynolds actually delivers such a relaxed experience. The courses are operated for their members, and the hotel and resort guests are given a taste of that life. 

“We’re always going to be more club than resort,” said Dave Short, senior vice president of marketing, sales and strategic planning for Reynolds Lake Oconee. “You know, high-density resort play, it’s just not what our members are here for. We’re not in that game. We just happen to have in the center of our club one of the best hotels in the country.”

Owned by MetLife Inc. since 2012, the resort community is home to some 4,000 members and features everything from forested houses that start around $700,000 all the way into the realm of lakefront mansions on multi-acre lots that cost more than $9 million, Short said. About 40 percent of real estate transactions involve buyers from the Atlanta area, and Short said the other 60 percent represent a vast geographic range as the resort has trended younger in recent years with active professionals embracing a work-from-home ethos. 

It can be a huge change for big-city folks moving to what once was middle-of-nowhere rural Georgia, but Short said MetLife’s continuing capital improvements – new restaurants, leisure amenities, marinas and more – have made it a most-inviting lifestyle swap. “Our members will tell you,” Short said, “we’re 40 minutes from a Walmart but only five minutes from a Ritz-Carlton.”

And, seemingly, never even that far away from the next tee box. 

The six total courses stretch across the property: Great Waters designed by Jack Nicklaus and recently renovated; The Oconee by Rees Jones and closest to the Ritz-Carlton; The National with 27 rolling holes by Tom Fazio; a members’ favorite at The Preserve by Bob Cupp; The Landing by Cupp, just up the road from the main property; plus the members-only and quirky Creek Club by Jim Engh. 

Each of the five public-access layouts plays at times along the shore of the massive Lake Oconee, a massive reservoir constructed by Georgia Power in 1979 with 374 miles of shoreline. Great Waters features the most holes along the lake and receives much of the attention, ranking No. 2 among all public-access layouts in Georgia. But each of the layouts has received restorations and renovations since MetLife took over the property, and to focus only on the highest-ranked Great Waters – or The Oconee based on its easy proximity to the Ritz – would be a mistake. 

Reynolds Lake Oconee
The National Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Georgia (Courtesy of Reynolds Lake Oconee/Brian Oar)

“For a hotel guest, it’s easy to walk out the front door and go over to The Oconee, so that’s pretty popular, and Great Waters is very popular with guests because of its notoriety and profile as a Nicklaus Signature course,” said Short, a single-digit handicapper. “But once you get beyond those two, you can find a lot to like about The National, you can find a lot to like about The Creek if you know a member who can get you there, and I think The Landing is one that doesn’t get nearly enough recognition. It’s an extraordinary golf course.”

Short spent an afternoon chasing birdies and telling jokes at the Creek Club with this writer during my recent sampling of all six courses in three days – that’s a lot of golf, and I wouldn’t necessarily suggest such a trip because to focus only on golf is to miss too much else of what the resort offers. But golf is what I do, and following are my takes on the resort’s five public-access courses. 

Cabot buys Castle Stuart Golf Links in Scotland with plans for a new name and a new course by Tom Doak

Canadian-based developer Cabot plans to expand Castle Stuart with a new Tom Doak-designed layout.

Cabot, the developer that leaped into the world of golf with Cabot Cape Breton in Nova Scotia and has expanded beyond the Canadian border with projects in Florida and St. Lucia, has added to its portfolio, this time in the Scottish Highlands.

Cabot will announce this week that it has acquired Castle Stuart Golf Links and its accompanying resort amenities near Inverness, Scotland. The property will be rebranded Cabot Highlands.

Opened in 2009 with a design by Gil Hanse and the late Mark Parsinen, with holes that feature Moray Firth on one side of several fairways and bluffs to the other side, Castle Stuart Golf Links ranks No. 4 on Golfweek’s Best list of modern courses in Great Britain and Ireland.

In 2024 that course will be joined by a second 18, Cabot said, this one to be built by Tom Doak. The property also is home to a new short course that is open now for preview play and officially will open in 2023.

Castle Stuart Cabot Highlands
Castle Stuart Golf Links in Scotland will be renamed Cabot Highlands. (Courtesy of Cabot)

“Castle Stuart has been considered a benchmark of exceptional Scottish golf since it first opened thirteen years ago,” Ben Cowan-Dewar, CEO and co-founder of Cabot, said in a media release set for Tuesday that will announce the acquisition.  “We are honored to be a steward of the land and carry the original vision for the property forward. Our goal is to create unforgettable memories in magical places, and there are few places in the world more awe-inspiring than the Scottish Highlands.”

The property will feature boutique accommodations, and Cabot said real estate will be a major part of the expansion with sales expected to begin in 2023. The property will feature upscale cabins that homeowners can rent to resort guests when the owners are not in residence. Featured activities for guests and property owners will include hiking, cycling, fishing, falconry, horseback riding and more. The property’s features include views of Kessock Bridge and Chanonry Lighthouse

“I couldn’t think of a better partner than Cabot to lead our next chapter,” said Stuart McColm, general manager of Castle Stuart and the forthcoming Cabot Highlands. “The work that’s been done at Cabot Cape Breton on the courses and within the community speaks for itself, and I know our beloved founder, Mark Parsinen, would be proud of the plans ahead to fulfill his original vision for the destination. Not only is this significant golf news, it is also a major boost for the regional economy of the Highlands.”

Cabot has been busy announcing expansions in the past couple years. The company took off in 2012 in Nova Scotia with Cabot Links, a Rod Whitman design that ranks No. 2 on Golfweek’s Best list of modern Canadian courses. That course was joined in 2015 by Cabot Cliffs, a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design that ranks No. 1 on that modern Canadian list.

In the Caribbean, the Coore and Crenshaw design at Cabot St. Lucia is slated to open in early 2023. In Canada, the company announced last year the development of Cabot Revelstoke in British Columbia, which will feature a course designed by Whitman that is scheduled to open in 2024. And in Florida, Cabot has purchased the former World Woods, rebranded it Citrus Farms and is having its two courses renovated by Kyle Franz and the team of Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns with a planned reopening in 2023.

Castle Stuart Cabot Highlands
The namesake castle at Castle Stuart, around which Tom Doak will build a new course slated to open in 2024 as past of the property’s rebranding as Cabot Highlands (Courtesy of Cabot)

The new layout at Cabot Highlands will be the first by Doak for the company. That course will play around the property’s namesake 400-year-old castle and across expansive land with several holes along the water, Cabot said. Doak plans to start construction in 2023.

“I’m thrilled to partner with Ben Cowan-Dewar and the Cabot team,” said Doak, who has built courses around the world, including The Renaissance Club in Scotland. “We have been searching for the perfect destination for years. Our goal is to create a distinctly Scottish golf experience that appeals to players at all levels with an authentic links-style course that puts the golf holes front and center.”

Architect David McLay Kidd breaks ground on GrayBull, a new Dormie Network course in Nebraska’s Sandhills

The Scottish architect tackles the Sandhills, a geologic region blessed with great golf terrain.

David McLay Kidd made a name for himself by building a course in a far-flung outpost far from any major cities. His Bandon Dunes layout was the fuel that propelled the resort of the same name into the national spotlight a little more than 20 years ago, despite the effort required for golfers to reach the now-famous destination on the southern coast of Oregon.

Now Kidd is tackling a new project in a region known for out-of-the-way yet exceptional golf: The Nebraska Sandhills. But his new course might be a little easier to reach than most of the top destinations built in the Sandhills in recent decades.

Kidd and his crew have broken ground on the private GrayBull, a Dormie Network project just north of tiny Maxwell, Nebraska – less than a 30-minute drive from North Platte and its commercial airport. The site is in the southern reaches of the Sandhills, more than an hour south of several top courses such as Sand Hills Golf Club (Golfweek’s Best No. 1 Modern Course in the U.S.) or Prairie Club (with the Dunes, the No. 1 public-access layout in Nebraska).

Kidd just had to cross a river to find it.

A road stretches past GrayBull, a new Dormie Network golf course in Nebraska being built by David McLay Kidd. (Courtesy of the Dormie Network)

Dormie Network is a private course operator based in Lincoln, Nebraska. Currently available to its members are six courses spread about the central and eastern regions of the country: ArborLinks in Nebraska City, Nebraska; Ballyhack in Roanoke, Virginia; Briggs Ranch in San Antonio, Texas; Dormie Club in West End, North Carolina; Hidden Creek in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey; and Victoria National in Newburgh, Indiana. Members of the network have access to each course – many of which rank highly among private clubs in their states – and its amenities, which include on-site cabins.

Dormie began considering the addition of a new facility near North Platte several years ago, starting the search south of the Platte River. Kidd was recruited to scout one proposed site, but he didn’t like what he saw that far south.

“The Sandhills of Nebraska, which are the famed area where Sand Hills (Golf Club) and Prairie Club and Dismal River and others are, are all north of the Platte River, not to the south,” said Kidd, who has built more than 20 courses around the world. “The first time I went there and we crossed the river headed south, I immediately thought, ooh, this is not the direction I want to be going in. I want to be going north, not south.”

To the south, Kidd said, he saw steep terrain with dense vegetation and heavy soils – “Not great golf terrain.” He and his group turned the car and headed north across the river into the Sandhills, starting a long search for a new site for what will become GrayBull.

The site of the new GrayBull in Nebraska in the southern reaches of the Sandhills

After months of seeing proposed sites that didn’t tick all the boxes – great golf terrain, sandy soil, unspoiled views ­– Kidd was pitched a parcel that was part of a ranch. He loved it from the moment the topo charts loaded on his computer, and the Dormie Network set about acquiring almost 2,000 acres from the rancher.

“I learned that bad ranch land turns out to be great golf land,” Kidd said with a laugh. “The ranchers on the Sandhills want relatively flat land because they want the cattle to just eat all the grass and not exercise, so they just keep putting on weight. We golfers don’t want the flat land. We want the rumply sand with ridges, hummocks, holes, bumps and all that going on. The cows would be climbing up and down hills all day, damn near getting exercise. That’s no use. Skinny cows are no good. …

“This site, it’s like the Goldilocks thing: not too flat, not too steep. It’s kind of in a bowl that looks inwards, and there are no bad views. It’s wide open, no big roads, no visual contamination – ticks all the boxes.”

The site for GrayBull, a new Dormie Network golf course being built by David McLay Kidd (Courtesy of the Dormie Network)

Kidd and his crew broke ground in June with an unspecified target opening in 2024. It will become Dormie Network’s seventh facility, and unlike many Sandhills courses, it will not require a long drive from the North Platte airport.

Kidd said the course will continue in his ethos of playability, a mantra he has preached since building a handful of courses more than a decade ago that were deemed too difficult for most players. His more recent efforts – particularly the public-access Gamble Sands in Washington and Mammoth Dunes at Sand Valley in Wisconsin – have been lauded for their fairway widths, creativity and playability. Kidd said GrayBull will retain those sensibilities, even if he does add a few more testing shots, especially around the greens.

A diagram for a proposed hole at GrayBull, a new Dormie Network golf course in Nebraska being built by David McLay Kidd (Courtesy of the Dormie Network)

“The landscape is so expansive, it’s hard to imagine building a 30-yard-wide fairway and it not looking ridiculous in the landscape,” the native Scot said. “For sure, the golf course is going to be brawny. I would want it to be forgiving for the average guy when they make mistakes, but I also think the Dormie Network is for golfers … who are probably a little more into it than the guy who makes that once-in-a-lifetime trip somewhere. I’d think these golfers are a little better players, so we’ll adjust accordingly but not by a whole lot. We still want it to be super fun, and we still want them to be able to screw up a little and still get back into the game to some extent.

“The site is extremely unique. It’s like nothing I have ever seen before. Because of that, the golf look, the golf feel, the golf design will be responding to the site. I don’t think anyone who plays Mammoth Dunes or Gamble Sands will show up and say this is an exact copy of those because the site is so different. But, will my ethos change massively? No. I will be staying in my lane, creating golf of that ilk – broad fairways with tight aggressive scoring lanes with wide areas to recover.”

David McLay Kidd (Golfweek files)

GrayBull likely will become a big part of the golf discussion of the Sandhills, a geologic region blessed with incredibly rolling and bouncy terrain that has exploded onto any well-versed traveling golfer’s radar since the opening of Sand Hills Golf Club in 1995. And GrayBull is not alone as a new development in the state, as architects Rob Collins and Tad King of Sweetens Cove fame plan to open the public-access Landmand Golf Club on the eastern side of the state, not in the Sandhills but also on dramatic land.

“(Bandon Dunes developer and owner) Mike Keiser proved that a good location for golf design was more important than a good location for demographics,” Kidd said when asked about building in far-flung locations instead of near larger cities. “The demographics were surmountable, but a poor golf site was not. You just can’t build a good golf course if the site doesn’t allow it. Doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it, chances are the golf course will almost always be inferior because you started with a poor site. …

“The Sandhills are incredible for golf, and this is by far the largest site I’ve ever been given for one 18-hole golf course. Everywhere you look there’s a golf hole.”

Eureka Earth photos show heavy lifting to No. 13 at Augusta National, and maybe a new, longer tee

Eureka Earth photos appear to show a new, longer tee box on the famed par 5 at the home of the Masters.

The architects are at it again at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, with the par-5 13th having been stripped of grass, what appears to be drainage work laid under the fairway and the very real possibility that the famed dogleg-left will play longer in the 2023 Masters.

Eureka Earth, a Twitter handle of Augusta-based flight instructor David Dobbins, frequently posts aerial photos of Augusta National. His latest shots posted to Twitter on Monday show the 13th fairway receiving heavy construction work and what could be a new tee box on land that was purchased in recent years from the adjacent Augusta Country Club.

Augusta National made no comment on the work being done – early privacy in such matters of course renovation is customary for the exclusive club.

If it is a tee box being constructed behind a row of trees that currently grows behind the longtime back tee, the hole could be stretched some 40-60 yards. In recent years the par 5 named Azalea has played 510 yards, but strong players with modern equipment have been able to bash the ball down the left side of the dogleg to set up short irons and sometimes even wedges into the green for the second shots. Many players tee off with a 3-wood to more easily hit a big draw than with a modern driver, and they still often have irons in their hands for approach shots into the green in two.

If the construction shown in Eureka Earth’s photo is a tee box that is put into play, players would be required to hit a tee shot of at least some 310-330 yards to get around the corner of the dogleg, guarded by tall pine trees and a creek, to set up any chance to reach the green in two shots. Even for most modern pros, that means driver off the tee.

Eureka Earth’s photos show what appears to be a squared-off area in recently cleared dirt behind the row of trees. The trees would have to come down, if it is indeed a new tee box, providing players a chute through which they can hit their tee shots.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said in his press conference ahead of the 2022 Masters that there was no timetable for when the club might stretch the 13th hole, but he did say it was a possibility. “That’s something that certainly we have considered and will continue to consider,” Ridley said.

The club is unlikely to make any announcement about the hole until much closer to the Masters in April, assuming the recent aerial photos do show a new tee box. Much work was done to the course last year and Eureka Earth captured photos of the work in progress, most noticeably to the 11th and 15th holes, but Augusta National officials did not comment on the renovations until February.

Eureka Earth also recently shot photos of heavy lifting on the par-3 course, with the possibility that several holes will be adjusted before the traditional par-3 event the Wednesday before the Masters starts in 2023.

The private course, ranked No. 3 among all classic courses in the U.S., is closed each summer, and the club normally takes on a variety of projects to the layout.

Watch: Cliffside 18th at McLemore in Georgia offers stunning views, thrilling shots

McLemore sits at No. 5 in Georgia on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list.

RISING FAWN, Ga. – The 18th hole at McLemore in northern Georgia isn’t for the faint of heart. Just as its altitude might trigger a response in anyone afraid of heights, the golf hole itself requires plenty of strategy and fearlessness off the tee and from the fairway.

Designed by Rees Jones and Bill Bergin, the 435-yard par 4 sits on a cliff’s edge 1,200 feet above the valley floor below. Telling golfers to stay right on the hole would be silly and obvious, because it’s perfectly clear that any kind of pull or hook off the tee will send a ball off the cliff’s rocky face into the forest below. It’s a stern test on one of the most scenic sites for a golf hole anywhere in the game.

The rest of the course climbs even higher from that cliff, providing views for miles across a valley full of farms and barns – on a clear day it’s possible to see more than 50 miles as the mountains continue to rise to the northeast. And the closing hole offers the best of those views – have your camera ready on the drive from the 17th green to the 18th tee.

McLemore sits at No. 5 in Georgia on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list, making it a can’t-miss in a stacked golf state. And as the property is located near Lookout Mountain within an easy drive of Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tennessee, McLemore provides a great escape into the beginnings of the Appalachian Mountains.

Raymond Floyd to reimagine bunkerless Raptor Bay course in Florida as new Saltleaf Golf Preserve

Renamed Saltleaf Golf Preserve, the layout will feature a main 18-hole course and a family-friendly nine-hole short course.

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Raymond Floyd’s vision for the original Raptor Bay golf course in Estero, Florida, went against the grain versus many Sunshine State developments.

The retired four-time major champion wanted to embrace the Florida habitat and keep the course as traditional as possible.

“I’ve always been fond of trying to lay a golf course out as a part of the natural environment and let nature be its beautiful thing that it is,” Floyd said.

Now, 22 years later, the course will be reborn as Saltleaf Golf Preserve after London Bay’s purchase of the golf club in 2020. London Bay held a groundbreaking for the course on Tuesday with plans to open for play in 2023.

The course will be the first major construction project of London Bay’s Saltleaf village, a 500-acre coastal community on Estero Bay with plans for more than 800 residencies.

Bringing Floyd and golf course architect Harry Bowers back to reimagine their original course was a no-brainer, according to Mark Wilson, the founder of London Bay and developer for the project.

“This course was loved by so many people and gets an awful lot of use,” he said.

Saltleaf Golf Preserve will feature an 18-hole championship course as well as a nine-hole, family-friendly short course.

“This is the very first step of the development of Saltleaf,” Wilson said.

Floyd explained that he got his start designing golf courses as a teenager with his father.

“My philosophy has always been traditional,” he said. “I like to not change the land where it doesn’t look like it belongs, and so many golf courses, through the years, there’s so much earth moved, when you go to play it, it just doesn’t belong in the environment.”

That’s why the public-access Raptor Bay doesn’t have any formal bunkers, an element that will remain in the new project. The layout does feature plenty of sand in the form of exposed waste areas, but no traditional sandy pits.

“(Raptor Bay) has been really, really well received and your resort play loves it, it speeds up play, it’s great for your maintenance, so that was so successful,” Floyd said. “Now that we’re redoing and building another 18 holes, we’re going to take that same theme and carry it through.”

Floyd’s design philosophy had appeal for the developers.

“The way that he used all the natural beauty and so on was really important,” Wilson said.

Wilson, Floyd, Raptor Bay golf director Mark Wilhelmi and others spoke at the groundbreaking before taking the ceremonial photo, complete with shovels and hard hats.

“We’re all familiar with a kid on Christmas Eve who can’t wait for the next morning,” Wilhelmi said. “Well, I’m a balding, 52-year-old kid that is six-and-a-half months away from opening the coolest thing on Earth, and I can’t wait.”

Follow News-Press Sports Reporter Dustin Levy on Twitter: @DustinBLevy. For additional coverage of sports across Southwest Florida, follow @newspresssports and @ndnprepzone on Instagram.

Check the yardage book: The Country Club Composite Course for the 2022 U.S. Open

See StrackaLine’s maps of the classic layout near Boston with holes from two courses that create a stern test of tiny greens, deep rough.

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The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts – site of this week’s 122nd U.S. Open – opened in 1893 as a three-hole layout. Willie Campbell, a Scot and head professional at the club, extended the course to nine holes and then to 18 in 1899.

Several designers have worked on The Country Club over the decades, most recently Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner before the 2013 U.S. Amateur.

The layout used for the U.S. Open – which features small greens and thick rough among its considerable challenges – is actually a composite of two courses, the Main course and the club’s Primrose nine. Three holes of the Primrose (No. 9 Primrose playing as No. 9 of the Composite, a combo of Nos. 1 and 2 Primrose playing as No. 13 on the Composite, and No. 8 Primrose playing as No. 14 of the Composite) will be used for the national championship.

The Composite ranks No. 1 on Golfweek’s Best 2022 list of top private courses in the state, and it is No. 24 among all classic courses built in the U.S. before 1960. It will play to 7,264 yards with a par of 70 for the Open.

Thanks to yardage books provided by StrackaLine – the maker of detailed yardage books for thousands of courses around the world – we can see exactly the challenges the players face this week. Check out the maps of each hole below.

Check the yardage book: St. George’s Golf & Country Club for 2022 RBC Canadian Open

Take a peek at the StrackaLine yardage book for this week’s PGA Tour stop.

St. George’s Golf & Country Club in Etobicoke, Canada – site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open – was designed by legendary Canadian golf architect Stanley Thompson and opened in 1930 not far from Toronto.

St. George’s ranks No. 2 on Golfweek’s Best ranking of classic courses built before 1960 in Canada. The club has worked with architect Ian Andrew since 2013 to restore the course. The course will play to 7,014 yards with a par of 70 for the 2022 RBC Canadian Open. 

Thanks to yardage books provided by StrackaLine – the maker of detailed yardage books for thousands of courses around the world – we can see exactly the challenges the players face this week. Check out the maps of each hole below. 

Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play 2022: Top 100 U.S. public-access courses ranked

Where are the best places you can play golf in the U.S.? Our rankings of the best 100 public courses for 2022 will be your guide.

Welcome to the Golfweek’s Best 2022 list of the Top 100 Best Courses You Can Play in the U.S.

Each year we publish many lists, with this selection of public-access layouts among the premium offerings. Also extremely popular and significant are the lists for Top 200 Classic Courses, Top 200 Modern Courses, the Best Courses You Can Play State by State and Best Private Courses State by State.

The hundreds of members of our course-ratings panel continually evaluate courses and rate them based on 10 criteria on a points basis of 1 through 10. They also file a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings are averaged to produce these rankings. The top handful of courses in the world have an average rating of above 9, while many excellent layouts fall into the high-6 to the 8 range.

All the courses on this list allow public access in some fashion, be it standard daily green fees, through a resort or by staying at an affiliated hotel. If there’s a will, there’s a tee time.

Each course is listed with its average rating next to the name, the location, the year it opened and the designers. Also included with many courses are links to recent stories about that layout.

KEY: (m) modern, built in 1960 or after; (c) classic, built before 1960. Also included with many courses are links to recent stories about that layout.

* Indicates new to or returning to this list.

Golfweek’s Best Private Courses 2022: State-by-state rankings of private courses

The best of the best. State-by-state rankings of the best U.S. private golf courses in 2022.

Welcome to Golfweek’s Best 2022 list of top private golf courses in the U.S., as judged by our international panel of raters.

The hundreds of members of that ratings panel continually evaluate courses and rate them based on 10 criteria on a points basis of 1 through 10. They also file a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings are averaged to produce these rankings.

All the courses on this list are private and don’t accept daily-fee or resort play.

KEY: (m) modern, built in 1960 or after; (c) classic, built before 1960. For courses with a number preceding the (m) or (c), that is where the course ranks on Golfweek’s Best lists for top 200 modern and classic courses in the U.S. Also included with many courses are links to recent stories about that layout.

* indicates new or returning to the rankings