Golfweek’s Best 2022: Top public and private courses in South Carolina

Which layouts top the public-access and private course rankings in South Carolina?

South Carolina is one of the most popular golf destinations in the country, with top layouts stacked alongs the Atlantic coast. From major-championship sites to PGA Tour venues to elite private clubs, the Palmetto State’s golf offerings are a gift that just keeps giving. Keep scrolling to see the best of them.

Golfweek’s Best offers many lists of course rankings, with that of top public-access courses in each state among the most popular. 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.

Also popular are the Golfweek’s Best rankings of top private courses in each state, and that list for South Carolina’s private offerings is likewise included below.

MORE: Best Modern | Best Classic | Top 200 Resort | Top 200 Residential | Top 100 Best You Can Play

(m): Modern course, built in or after 1960
(c): Classic course, built before 1960

Note: If there is a number in the parenthesis with the m or c, that indicates where that course ranks among Golfweek’s Best top 200 modern or classic courses. 

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Ever dream of saving an abandoned golf course? A retired Alabama prison officer made it happen at Alpine Bay

Ever dream of saving an abandoned golf course? An Alabama prison officer made it happen.

ALPINE, Ala. – Ever seen an abandoned golf course and wondered, is it still possible to play golf there? Is it salvageable? How much would it take to reopen, at what cost?

With hundreds of courses having closed in the U.S. after 2008’s market meltdown, there are plenty of such overgrown properties – including dozens of layouts by famous designers. Nothing comes from many of these properties except memories and maybe a few dreams of golf renovation.

Rarely, those dreams of resuscitating an abandoned layout become reality. It just takes the right person.

Enter Tony Parton, a former federal corrections officer living in rural Alabama. He had no plans to take over a failed course. But he loved golf – and one particular layout.

It was called Alpine Bay. The majority of Alabama golfers never heard of it, and most of the minority who knew of it never bothered to play it. They couldn’t tell you how to get there or even if it was still open.

Alpine Bay Golf Club in Alpine, Alabama, after the course was salvaged and reopened (Golfweek)

Located in east-central Alabama 44 miles east of downtown Birmingham near the southern shore of Logan Martin Lake (part of the broad Coosa River water basin), Alpine Bay Golf Club originally was planned to have two 18-hole courses. But as funds for a major resort development were lacking, only one of the two courses opened in 1972.

That course had a lot going for it: a par-72, 6,518-yard championship layout designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., namesake of Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail that was built decades later. Moreover, Jones built it with assistance of his son Rees Jones, then in his early 30s, who became a prizewinning course designer and brand name in his own right, as well as young Roger Rulewich, the architect who two decades later would actually design most of the courses on the Trail.

Troubled financially from the start, Alpine Bay – with its one course and a sparse nearby population – struggled year after year to stay in business. Although a beautiful layout in a brilliant natural setting, Alpine Bay was hard to reach even from Birmingham, with at least part of the drive on winding, lonely two-lane roads. After barely managing to stay alive for decades, it was shuttered in 2014.

The closing of Alpine Bay caused hardly a ripple in the golf world, even in Alabama. But the place had built a loyal following. Namely, Tony Parton. And Alpine Bay’s closure did not end Parton’s love affair with the layout. One summer evening in 2016, he and his wife, Jan, took a walk along the abandoned course.

Course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., left, with Alpine Bay Golf Club owner Tony Parton (Jim Hansen/Golfweek)

“When we got to what had been the eighth green [a par 3 over a small lake],” he remembers, “we were shocked at the abysmal condition of the course. It was all grown over, just terrible, with weeds and wild plants growing waist-high and the original grass all but dead.”

The Partons committed themselves to pulling up the worst of the weeds on just the one green. “We came back several nights in a row, working to uncover what was left of the golf course we loved.”

During one of their first trips to the abandoned layout, Tony got a phone call from his friend Mark Calhoun, also a previous regular at the golf course. “Mark asked where I was,” Parton remembers. “I said, ‘You’ll never believe me, but I’m at Alpine.’ ”

Calhoun got in his pickup truck and drove right out to the spot where Tony was power-mowing weeds and grass. “Mark and I took a close look at what had been the green, trying to figure out what we could do about it,” Parton said. When the tall grass on the former green was mown to a reasonable length, they realized, “There was hope for this course.”

Alpine Bay Golf Club in Alpine, Alabama (Golfweek)

The 144-acre property that was the golf course, practice range, putting green and small clubhouse had been for sale for months. Parton quickly called the realtor and made an offer. The price tag was $144,000. The process took only a few months. By early 2017, Parton, then retired from the federal prison system, put together enough money to take over the course.

Buying Alpine Bay was one thing, but getting it ready for golfers was something else. The next step in the process was to get more people on board. With Calhoun’s help, Parton established Alpine Group LLC. A handful of investors boosted the value of the limited liability company to $520,000. Still not much to run a golf course.

It took five months of diligent restoration and backbreaking work to get the course ready for play. “No words can describe the emotions of watching golfers tee off at the course for the first time,” Parton said.

In the 12 months following its reopening in the summer of 2017, the semiprivate Alpine Bay Golf Club acquired 60 members. Today it is home to just more than twice that many, virtually all of them from the surrounding communities of Lincoln, St. Clair, Vincent, Coosa Pines, Harpersville, Childersburg, and Talladega. Right at 15,000 rounds have been played on the course each of the past two years, with peak green fees reaching just $46 on weekends and holidays.

Still, Alpine Bay is the Rodney Dangerfield of Alabama golf – it gets no respect. Rarely does anyone from Birmingham, Montgomery or Huntsville make the drive to play. Most golfers in the state still have never heard of Alpine Bay, and those who have heard of it dismiss Alpine Bay as no longer in business or not worth playing.

Alpine Bay Golf Club in Alpine, Alabama (Golfweek)

To demonstrate the long-forgotten and ignored virtues of the Alpine Bay golf course, Golfweek included a day at Alpine Bay in its 2021 Architectural Summit near Birmingham honoring the legacy of Robert Trent Jones Sr. The summit was attended by 44 of Golfweek Best’s course raters. By and large, the raters, who came from as far away as Northern Ireland, found Alpine Bay more than deserving of their visit. The course’s conditioning still needed substantial work, but the bones of the course are outstanding. In many respects, it is a truer example of a classic Robert Trent Jones Sr. layout than any of the courses on the Trail.

Putting in a special appearance that day was Robert Trent Jones Jr., the eldest son of Trent Sr., along with Jr.’s own son, Trent, the chief operating officer of Robert Trent Jones II, Inc.  This was the first time for either Jones Jr. or Trent to visit the course that Jones Sr. had designed a half-century earlier.

Alpine Bay Golf Club in Alpine, Alabama (Golfweek)

As Jones Jr. went around the course with Parton, he was constantly reminded of the characteristics that were typical of his father’s designs. In an impromptu talk after the round, he said that Alpine Bay “deserved a much better fate than it has gotten, so far.”

Truth is, if made a part of the Robert Trent Jones Trail – and updated and refined accordingly – Alpine Bay could become one of the more remarkable and unique golfing destinations in the state of Alabama.

But perhaps it is better to keep it as the neglected hidden treasure that it is –the way Parton has loved it.

Golfweek’s Best 2022: Top public and private courses in Rhode Island

The smallest state in the union packs an oversized golf punch, especially when it comes to its private courses.

Rhode Island, the smallest state, packs a pretty oversized punch when it comes to golf courses, especially its lineup of private layouts. Four of the five highest-ranked private courses in the state rank among the top 100 on either Golfweek’s Best Modern or Classic lists of courses in the U.S.

Golfweek’s Best offers many lists of course rankings, with that of top public-access courses in each state among the most popular. 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.

Also popular are the Golfweek’s Best rankings of top private courses in each state, and that list for Rhode Island’s private offerings is likewise included below.

MORE: Best Modern | Best Classic | Top 200 Resort | Top 200 Residential | Top 100 Best You Can Play

(m): Modern course, built in or after 1960
(c): Classic course, built before 1960

Note: If there is a number in the parenthesis with the m or c, that indicates where that course ranks among Golfweek’s Best top 200 modern or classic courses. 

Golfweek’s Best 2022: Top public and private courses in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is full of highly ranked private clubs, while Pete Dye left his imprint at the top of the state’s public-access golf scene.

Want to play the best public-access golf courses in Pennsylvania? The legacy of legendary architect Pete Dye has you covered. Want to play the best private courses in the Keystone State? You have some of the top classic layouts in the country from which to choose, but for most of us, good luck getting a tee time at those ageless beauties.

Dye designed Mystic Rock at Nemacolin, a sprawling resort 90 minutes southeast of the Pittsburgh airport. Mystic Rock opened in 1995 and underwent an expansive renovation in 2021 by longtime Dye associate Tim Liddy. Built on beautifully rolling terrain, Mystic Rock is No. 1 in the state on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list for public-access layouts. It also ties for No. 10 among all courses owned or operated in conjunction with casinos in the U.S.

Nemacolin is also home to Shepherd’s Rock designed by Dye and the No. 5 public-access course in the state.

On the private side, Oakmont Country Club and Merion Golf Club steal much of the limelight, each having hosted multiple national championships. But they are hardly alone as outstanding private clubs in Pennsylvania. Each of the top 20 private courses in the state ranks among the top 150 on either Golfweek’s Best Modern or Classic course lists, with 1960 being the year that splits those two prestigious lists.

Golfweek’s Best offers many lists of course rankings, with that of top public-access courses in each state among the most popular. 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.

Also popular are the Golfweek’s Best rankings of top private courses in each state, and that list for Pennsylvania’s prestigious private offerings is likewise included below.

MORE: Best Modern | Best Classic | Top 200 Resort | Top 200 Residential | Top 100 Best You Can Play

(m): Modern course, built in or after 1960
(c): Classic course, built before 1960

Note: If there is a number in the parenthesis with the m or c, that indicates where that course ranks among Golfweek’s Best top 200 modern or classic courses. 

* New to or returning to list

Golfweek’s Best 2022: Top public and private courses in Oregon

One resort dominates the rankings of best public-access golf courses in Oregon.

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort dominates the top of the Golfweek’s Best public-access course rankings in Oregon, with layouts designed by Tom Doak (Pacific Dunes, Old Macdonald), Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (Bandon Trails, Sheep Ranch) and David McLay Kidd (Bandon Dunes). No other destination in the United States offers so many highly ranked layouts as Bandon Dunes.

Golfweek’s Best offers many lists of course rankings, with that of top public-access courses in each state among the most popular. 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.

Also popular are the Golfweek’s Best rankings of top private courses in each state, and that list for Oregon’s private offerings is likewise included below.

MORE: Best Modern | Best Classic | Top 200 Resort | Top 200 Residential | Top 100 Best You Can Play

(m): Modern course, built in or after 1960
(c): Classic course, built before 1960

Note: If there is a number in the parenthesis with the m or c, that indicates where that course ranks among Golfweek’s Best top 200 modern or classic courses. 

* New to or returning to list

Golfweek’s Best 2022: Top public and private courses in Ohio

Both the top-rated public and private courses in Ohio have a long history of hosting top-tier competitions.

Both the top-rated public-access and private courses in Ohio enjoy a rich history of top competitions.

Firestone Country Club’s South Course, which tops the list for public-access layouts in the state, has hosted three PGA Championships, several PGA Tour events including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational for many years, and the Senior Players Championship. In large part a private club, Firestone offers tee times to public golfers who book a stay-and-play package. And the South Course isn’t alone, as Firestone’s two other courses also rank among the best public-access layouts in the state.

On the private side, Muirfield Village hosts the annual Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour. Operated by Jack Nicklaus, the club has also hosted the 1987 Ryder Cup, the 1992 U.S. Amateur, the 1998 Solheim Cup, the 2013 Presidents Cup an the 1986 U.S. Junior Amateur.

Golfweek’s Best offers many lists of course rankings, with that of top public-access courses in each state among the most popular. 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.

Also popular are the Golfweek’s Best rankings of top private courses in each state, and that list for Ohio’s prestigious private offerings is likewise included below.

MORE: Best Modern | Best Classic | Top 200 Resort | Top 200 Residential | Top 100 Best You Can Play

(m): Modern course, built in or after 1960
(c): Classic course, built before 1960

Note: If there is a number in the parenthesis with the m or c, that indicates where that course ranks among Golfweek’s Best top 200 modern or classic courses. 

* New to or returning to list

Golfweek’s Best 2022: Top public and private courses in North Dakota

Wide-open skies and a river valley add to the scene at the No. 1-rated public course in North Dakota.

The Links of North Dakota, opened in 1995 near the small city of Ray, is the top-rated public-access golf course in North Dakota. Built by Stephen Kay on bluffs above Lake Sakakawea – part of the Missouri River – the Links of North Dakota features panoramic scenery that includes the river valley and rolling hillsides.

Golfweek’s Best offers many lists of course rankings, with that of top public-access courses in each state among the most popular. 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.

Also popular are the Golfweek’s Best rankings of top private courses in each state, and that list for North Dakota’s private offerings is likewise included below.

MORE: Best Modern | Best Classic | Top 200 Resort | Top 200 Residential | Top 100 Best You Can Play

(m): Modern course, built in or after 1960
(c): Classic course, built before 1960

Tropical Storm Nicole, forecast to become a hurricane, threatens a Florida golf industry already battered by Ian

Many Florida golf courses suffered in Hurricane Ian, and now comes a potential double whammy with Nicole.

ORLANDO – Tropical Storm Nicole, forecast to become a hurricane before making landfall somewhere Wednesday night or early Thursday morning in South Florida, threatens to bring potentially damaging high winds and heavy rains to hundreds – possibly thousands – of golf courses along the eastern coast of the U.S.

The storm was over the Bahamas on Wednesday morning with sustained winds of 70 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 10 a.m. report. It was forecast to reach the U.S. somewhere just north of West Palm Beach near the golf hot spot of Jupiter, home to many golf professionals. The storm is then forecast to cross Florida toward a region just north of Tampa and into the Gulf of Mexico before curving to the northeast into Georgia.

The storm’s projected path is likely to change slightly, as most tropical systems do, making it difficult to predict exactly which specific areas will be greatly impacted. And while most attention is – and should be – focused on any potential human toll and the threat of general property damage, there definitely will be impacts to a Florida golf industry that already suffered greatly from Hurricane Ian in September.

The National Hurricane Center’s 10 a.m. Wednesday projections for the path of Tropical Storm Nicole, which is forecast to become a hurricane before reaching Florida on Nov. 9 or Nov. 10 (Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center)

While Ian blasted Fort Myers and Florida’s southern Gulf Coast before crossing the state headed northeast, Nicole threatens to head northwest, crossing Ian’s path somewhere south of Orlando. While the greatest damage to golf courses is likely near landfall, there exists a serious threat where this week’s storm crosses paths with Ian’s track, making for a forbidding “X marks the spot” of potential flooding, tree damage and temporary closures in the center of the state.

In all, there are more than 1,200 courses in Florida. Except for those in the Panhandle to the northwest, few Florida course operators will escape some level of impact – ­ranging from a simple loss of tee time sales all the way to suffering catastrophic damage – from either Ian or Nicole. Because of Florida’s great amount of courses, more than one in 12 courses in all of the United States was impacted just by Ian.

Florida has hundreds of golf courses along Nicole’s projected path. Just among Golfweek’s Best ranking of top public-access courses in Florida, the storm’s landfall could impact PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens and its No. 8-ranked Champion Course (site of the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic each year) as well as the resort’s other courses; PGA Golf Club’s 14th-ranked Wanamaker Course and 21st-ranked Dye Course in Port St. Lucie; Trump National Doral Miami’s Blue Monster (No. 15); Turnberry Isle’s Soffer Course (No. 16) in Aventura; possibly the waterfront Crandon Park (No. 19) at Key Biscayne; and The Breakers’ Rees Jones layout (No. 22) in West Palm Beach.

Among top-ranked private courses in Florida near the projected landfall are No. 1 Seminole in Juno Beach; No. 4 John’s Island Club’s West Course in Vero Beach; No. 5 Indian Creek in Miami Beach; No. 6 The Bear’s Club in Jupiter; No. 9 McArthur in Hobe Sound; No. 10 Loblolly in Hobe Sound; No. 12 Medalist in Hobe Sound; No. 13 Pine Tree in Boynton Beach; No. 14 Trump International in West Palm Beach; No. 16 High Ridge in Lantana; and No. 19 Country Club of Florida in Village of Golf. Those are just the courses ranked in the top 20 among Florida’s private clubs ­– there are dozens more private courses near projected landfall.

Golf carts at Sanibel Island’s The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club caught fire Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, several weeks after Hurricane Ian passed by. The Dunes suffered significant damage when Ian slammed in Southwest Florida on Sept. 28. (Photo by Mike Dopslaff/Special to USA Today Network)

As Nicole crosses the Florida peninsula, the projected path takes it just beyond Streamsong Resort, home to three highly ranked courses. As Nicole nears Tampa, it is likely to halt play in this week’s LPGA Pelican Women’s Championship at the private Pelican Golf Club in Belleair near the coast west of Tampa. Just down the street from Pelican is Belleair Country Club, where a major restoration is underway of that club’s Donald Ross-designed West Course. Farther north of Tampa, work is underway on a renovation to the two courses at World Woods, which recently was rebranded as Cabot Citrus Farms.

The storm’s effects already were felt with Wednesday-morning squalls north of the projected path near Orlando, where some courses are still recovering from Ian’s massive rainfall. Some courses in this area are still repairing washed-out bunkers and haven’t completely dried out more than a month after Ian passed not far to the south.

Anyone with golf travel plans this week to Florida should check with their air carrier to see if cancelations are in effect, as several airports in the Sunshine State have closed or will close Wednesday, with potential reopenings yet to be determined. Orlando International Airport announced it will close at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and several regional airports in Central Florida likewise have announced closures. Palm Beach County Airport in South Florida also announced a closure Wednesday morning. Other closures and extended delays are likely around the state.

As Nicole turns north after passing Tampa, its nearly 1,000-mile projected path will take it over central Georgia between Atlanta and Augusta, then into South Carolina and north along the Appalachian Mountains through North Carolina, Virginia, beyond Washington DC and toward New York before passing back into the Atlantic Ocean. With heavy rains likely and severe flooding possible, that projected path will hamper operations and possibly cause damage at more than a thousand golf courses along the way.

Even for golf courses that don’t suffer severe damage from floods, many layouts in year-round golf environments already have begun winterizing efforts, such as spreading rye grass that could be washed away in heavy rains. Results potentially include the expense of reseeding and a downturn in seasonal turf conditioning.

In Florida, the most likely damage will be downed trees and flooding. Many courses along Nicole’s projected path already are suffering from saturated ground in the wake of Ian, making it even more likely that root systems of trees are weakened and trees can topple. Not even counting the dozens of courses that suffered Ian’s greatest damage near Fort Myers, many others are still working to repair bunkers that were wrecked by more than a foot of rain in a 24-hour period – several courses just south of Orlando still have standing water along fairways from Ian.

Most course superintendents along the projected path will spend Wednesday and Thursday readying their courses for the rain and wind, moving loose items and even taking down signage. But there’s only so much that can be done – it’s impossible to board up a whole golf course. The days preceding a hurricane or tropical storm in Florida are always an uncomfortable period of scrambling, waiting, watching weather reports and hoping for the best.

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Golfweek’s Best 2022: Top public and private courses in New York

New York features the deepest lineup of elite private clubs in the United States.

Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, site of two U.S. Opens (2002, ’09) and one PGA Championship (2019) as well as the next Ryder Cup (2025) in the U.S., is the top-rated public-access golf course in New York.

Built by famed course designer A.W. Tillinghast in 1935, the Black is almost as famous for its sign on the first tee that warns players that the test they are about to face is “extremely difficult.” And besides ranking No. 1 among New York’s public courses, the Black is No. 27 on the 2002 Golfweek’s Best list for all classic courses built in the U.S. before 1960.

It’s hardly alone as a top-tier course in New York, particularly when private courses are considered. New York offers the deepest lineup of exceptional private courses in the country, and each of the top 20 private clubs in the state ranks in the top 100 on either Golfweek’s Best modern or classic lists.

Golfweek’s Best offers many lists of course rankings, with that of top public-access courses in each state among the most popular. 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.

Also popular are the Golfweek’s Best rankings of top private courses in each state, and that list for New York’s prestigious private offerings is likewise included below.

MORE: Best Modern | Best Classic | Top 200 ResortTop 200 Residential | Top 100 Best You Can Play

(m): Modern course, built in or after 1960
(c): Classic course, built before 1960

Note: If there is a number in the parenthesis with the m or c, that indicates where that course ranks among Golfweek’s Best top 200 modern or classic courses. 

* New to or returning to list

Photos: Tripp Davis completes renovation of Atlanta Athletic Club’s Riverside Course

See photos of the complete rethinking of the Riverside Course at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Architect Tripp Davis has completed a renovation to the Riverside Course at Atlanta Athletic Club that includes entirely new playing surfaces and the rerouting of six holes.

Northeast of Atlanta in John’s Creek along the Chattahoochee River, the private club had three goals in the renovation: update infrastructure from tee to green to allow for heightened playing conditions, accentuate the Riverside terrain in a more natural way and enhance the playing interest and enjoyment.

A major part of the job included rebuilding and repositioning tees, green and bunkers. Davis also reshaped areas to improve drainage that goes along with a new irrigation system. Fairways were sand-capped and replanted with Zorro Zoysia, the primary roughs covered with Tiftuf Bermudagrass and the farther reaches of the rough seeded with a fescue blend. Some trees were also removed.

Holes No. 3, 4, 5, 12, 13 an 14 were rerouted to make better use of the land, Davis said.

“I wanted the visual perspective the golfer has while playing to be more interesting, which on this site meant getting the ground to flow with and embrace the overall landscape,” Davis said in a media release announcing completion of the project.  “With the great trees, the rolling land, distinct ridge lines and the river, it is such a majestic site, and we wanted the golf course to look and feel like it is just a part of that. Rerouting the holes was a vital part of this. …

“Riverside can be set up to be a very enjoyable course for the membership on a daily basis, but we instilled design elements that will allow high-level events to test the best players in the game. We can grow the rough a little, speed up the greens and use a variety of tougher hole locations to present a complete test. … Riverside now has a more classic feel and playing quality, like a 1920s-era course that hasn’t been touched, which is exactly what we were trying for. I am incredibly pleased with how the work turned out. In fact, it is better than I thought it could be. While we certainly tweaked small details, we did not change much from the original basic plan we developed. It all just fit.”

The Riverside Course was site of the 1990 U.S. Women’s Open won by Betsy King and the stroke play rounds for the 2014 U.S. Amateur. The club is also home to the Highlands Course, which has hosted numerous national championships. The club was founded in 1898 in Atlanta but moved to its current site in 1967.

“Tripp has done an excellent job reimagining Riverside by making better use of the land, creating a unique style and making the course both fun and interesting to play,” John Stakel, board member and chairman of the Riverside Renovation Committee at the club, said in the media release. “The infrastructure work will allow our director of agronomy, Lukus Harvey, to dial in playing conditions, notably allowing the course to play firmer and faster most of the year.”

Check out the photos of the renovated course below.