10 of The Best Public Golf Courses in America 

10 of The Best Public Golf Courses in America 

Being a club member at a private golf course definitely has a lot of advantages. However, there are just as many people who can’t afford it as there are ones who wouldn’t be able to golf often enough to make it worth it. You will find that often the members at private clubs are retired, and we can certainly see the appeal in golfing multiple times every week if you’re enjoying retirement. The vast majority of golf enthusiasts swing their clubs on public golf courses in America, and we believe ours here is the best public golf course in Palm Desert. 

We’re getting ready for the start of golf season in Palm Desert, and in this part of Southern California the cooler weather of fall creates a more comfortable environment for golfers on courses here. In other parts of America fewer people will be teeing off at this time of the year as it gets darker, colder, and wetter in fall but that’s not how it goes around here. We will be looking forward to seeing everyone who’ll be booking tee times online and we know it’s going to be a great golf season coming up here. 

Another big plus to being retired is the freedom you have to travel often, and America is a huge country full of places that are definitely worth visiting. We’ll be keen to see you if golfing in Palm Desert is something you want to do while you’re visiting California, but we’re going to share some of the best public golf courses in America here with this entry in hopes that you’ll be able to enjoy golf in other part of the country too. 

So here are some of them, and we’ll quickly say that this is not a definitive list. It’s more one that identifies the courses we like best, and you may think others deserve a nod instead. We’d like to hear of them and why you think they’re great spots for a round of golf too. 

10. Old MacDonald, Oregon

The Bandon Dunes of the Oregon Coast is a unique topographical area of the State, and the golf course at Old MacDonald makes our list here. It was opened in 2010, and features 6,944 yards of golf with vast greens, uniquely different angles of play and especially deep bunkers that reinforce how important it is to make good approach shots as you come out of the fairways and look to the green. The iconic Old MacDonald ghost tree is this course’s most distinguishing characteristic, and the sea in the air is definitely a part of the experience too.

9. Sand Valley, Wisconsin

This public golf course in Central Wisconsin was voted Golf Digest’s Best New Course of 2017 and golfers who live in and around Nekoosa love having a public golf course of this caliber available to them. There are 3 courses at Sand Valley resort, and they features a number of dual fairways, enormous greens, and even a hidden putting surface but what really distinguishes this course are the gigantic sand spits that inspired its name. The new Lido course opened this past June, and those who’ve played it say it has been put together exceptionally well.

8. Spyglass Hill, California

Pebble Beach is a household name in the circles of golf enthusiasts all over the country, but the namesake course isn’t the only gem in the vicinity. Spyglass Hill is a great public golf course too, and we definitely recommend a round there if you are passing through. The first 5 holes have you right aside the Pacific Coast and on a sunny day the atmosphere that creates is really something and then on the other side you have rows of Monterey Pines and there are a number of unique water hazards that add to the vibe and challenge your game in a nice way.

7. TPC Sawgrass, Florida

Putting The Player’s Club at Sawgrass in our top 10 will need no explanation. This iconic course was designed by Pete Dye in 1980 and uses what he called ‘grenade attack architecture’ with green ringed by random layout irregularities with lumps, bumps, and hollows that appear at random. And then of course the most famous hole here is the classic 17th and it’s island green that demands a golfer be in complete control of his or her approach shot. Several of the holes at TPC Sawgrass have recently been remodeled too.

6. Bethpage Black, New York

Suburban Long Island is about as far away as possible from our Palm Desert Golf course, and it’s where you’ll find one of the most renowned and popular public courses in the country. The Bethpage Black is known to be quite challenging, and it is one of five 18-hole courses at Bethpage with subtle angle and protective cross bunkers and especially long fairways that will demand you be good with your driver. These are just a small part of what makes golfing here special. The 2025 Ryder Cup is going to be hosted at Bethpage Black.

5. Shadow Creek, Nevada

Shadow Creek is definitely one of the most topographically unique golf courses in the USA, and especially in the way it’s something of an oasis in the desert north of Las Vegas. All the lush greenery, trees, and elevation changes isn’t natural in any way here, but you do get to enjoy the experience of a very classically green golf course while being right in the middle of the Nevada Desert. The only drawback here is that it’s expensive to play golf at Shadow Creek, but we recommend doing it at least once.

4. Whistling Straits, Wisconsin

What used to be old US Army Air Base along a flat stretch of Lake Michigan coastline is now the Whistling Straits golf course, and it definitely qualifies as one of the best public golf courses in America too. You can expect it to breezy on the fairways at any time, and they are rugged by design here. It has a rub-of-the-green identity that’s intentional too and a tip of the hat to golf courses in Ireland, and between that and much more it’s a unique place for a round of golf. We’ll mention as well that this course has over 1,000 bunkers so you may well be swinging your sand wedge more often at Whistling Straits.

3. Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Unique layouts can be what makes a golf course special and that’s exactly what you have here at this course in South Carolina. Kiawah Island was designed explicitly for the 1991 Ryder cup and its island-meets-lagoons design creates a different experience for players who are fortunate enough to be able to play a round here. Kiawah Island features holes that are edged by sawgrass and greens that have tricky slopes to them. Last but not least the perched fairways make it so that golfers can look out over the Atlantic surf and this really emphasizes the coastal charm of this public golf course.

2. Pinehurst No. 2, North Carolina 

We move up just one State into North Caroline for #2 on our list, and Pinehurst No. 2 is a good fit for our choice here given its name and the fact it is a very charismatic golf course that’s equal parts attractive and challenging. Vast bands of native hardpan sand go between the fairways and lines of pine trees give this course a distinctive visual identity, and golfers quickly come to see how these fairways are firm and fast. You need to be precise with short game, approaches, and putting here and it’s fairly standard for everyone to finish their round here with the exclamation that they’d love to do another 18 here. 

1. Pebble Beach, California

Call us biased as a Palm Desert golf course that’s in California, but as far as we’re concerned Pebble Beach is the best public golf course in America. There isn’t any other one that has the classic sea-meets-land charm, and what’s special about Pebble Beach is each hole has its own unique identity and there’s no better example than the 8th where every golf enthusiast in California will know exactly what you mean when you say you fired off a ‘prayer’ from the tee box on 8 that sits atop a 75-foot high bluff. Early birds definitely get the worm with tee times here because Pebble Beach is so popular, and that popularity is easy to understand.

We could list many more good public golf courses all across the country, but a blog entry can only be so long. So what we’ll say in conclusion is that you can’t go wrong visiting and enjoying a round at nearly all of them, and for Coachella Valley golf in the Palm Desert area we’ll put our hand up too in suggesting we’re an excellent choice for anyone who likes to golf in Southern California. Dining here is excellent too, and golfers who are also interested in Palm Desert homes for sale and would like to live on a golf course will want to learn more about the Villas here at Palm Desert.

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