The 10 Best U.S. Cities to Visit if You Love Golf
FROM BEAUTIFUL ISLANDS TO MAJOR CITIES, THESE DESTINATIONS ARE GREAT FOR THOSE LOOKING TO TEE OFF.
According to the National Golf Foundation, more than 37.5 million people picked up some clubs in 2021, including 3.2 million people who played golf for the very first time. While the sport's exponential growth can be linked to the pandemic where golf courses were open allowing "pods" of players to play a round together without being linked up with strangers, it's also likely that the game has seen major increases in play due to places like TopGolf popping up around the country.
For those who still want to get out and enjoy the great outdoors on 18 holes of play, there are incredible cities and courses all over the country that welcome players of all ages to make their way to the tee box. While choosing the best city for your next golf vacation, you'll want to consider the type of course you want to play.
With that in mind, here are 10 of the best cities in the U.S. for golf lovers. Keep reading to hear from travel and golf experts about where you're sure to play your best round, even if your best round is just the one where you're having the most fun.
READ THIS NEXT: The 10 Best U.S. Cities to Visit for Beer Lovers.
The Best U.S. Cities for Golf Lovers
1. Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island is one of the most breathtaking places in the south, with multiple golf courses, including a few that have holes that overlook the sandy beach.
"As we like to say around here, the South Carolina low country has attracted two types of people over the past 300 years, pirates and golfers," says Shane Sharp, a longtime golf writer. "The golf epicenter of the region is a combination of Hilton Head Island and the quaint inland town of Bluffton. There are nearly 40 courses carved through the stately live oaks and towering loblolly pines including the world-famous Sea Pines Resort, home of Harbour Town Golf Links and the PGA TOUR's RBC Heritage."
2. Pinehurst, North Carolina
Pinehurst is where majors are won and lost—the town often hosts the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship, and the Ryder Cup. It's also a great spot for amateur golfers to try their hand at some of the most challenging courses in the country.
"When a town, or a village, in this case, is referred to simply as 'The Home of American Golf,' you know it has serious game. In many ways, Pinehurst was the birthplace of resort golf in America," Sharp tells Best Life. "Eponymous Pinehurst Resort, with its nine regulation length courses and par-3 short course, The Cradle, is even dubbed the 'Cradle of American Golf.' And as of last year, it's also the future second home of the United States Golf Association. There are more than 30 golf courses in a 15-mile radius."
So no matter what type of course you're looking for or what your handicap is, you'll be able to find the right one for your crew to play at.
For more travel advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
3. Augusta, Georgia
Danny E Hooks/Shutterstock
When golf fans think of Augusta, they often think of the iconic yellow flags, white caddy suits, and epic finishes of The Masters. While the only people who can play at Augusta National Golf Club are members and their guests, The Masters is a golf tradition that every golf fan should try to make it to at least once in their lifetime.
"It's sort of hallowed ground! Host of The Masters, one of the world's most revered golf tournaments, Augusta lives and breathes golf, all thanks to a one-week golfing bonanza that rolls into town each April," says Chris Myles, the founder and CEO of Golf Cart Go.
If you really want to play a round in Augusta, the Forest Hills Golf Course is one of the more challenging public courses, with 18 holes and varying elevation throughout.
4. Phoenix-Scottsdale, Arizona
"Across the country in Arizona, the Phoenix-Scottsdale area is often considered one of the best places to enjoy recreational golf in the entire country," says Myles. In fact, the area is home to over 200 golf courses.
"On the drive through the jaw-dropping Sonoran desert between Phoenix and Scottsdale, you'll quickly notice that there seems to be an almost never-ending chain of golf courses. It's no surprise that Golf.com ranked the state second in the nation behind Florida in terms of its 'golfiness,'" he continues.
For a real challenge, try out The Boulders, which is set among towering red rock formations that are just as photogenic as the course itself.
5. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
"There are 90 golf courses along the Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach area. We are an easy drive from many mid-Atlantic and Southeast states, as well as having an international airport with nonstop flights to and from dozens of cities and accessible with one connection to the vast majority of the U.S.," says Melissa Beers, co-owner of My Journey Begins Travel, a full-service travel agency based in Myrtle Beach.
"One unique course is called World Tour [Golf Links], which is a collection of replicas of famous holes from courses around the world," she continues. There are two nine-hole courses, the Open Nine, where all of the holes are named after famous holes played during the British or U.S. Open, and the Championship Nine, where holes are inspired by The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship.
6. Orlando, Florida
Orlando is the theme park capital of the world, but it also has stellar golf courses that invite players of all ages and experience level to take a shot at a hole in one.
"For golfers, Orlando offers some of the top golf courses in the world such as Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club and Lodge, where there are 70 rooms available getting you away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy a warm family golf related atmosphere," says Bruce Miller, of Team Golfwell.
"The Links Course was designed by Jack Nicklaus at the Orlando Grand Cypress Golf Resort gives you the feel of playing St. Andrews in Scotland, only the weather is a lot more pleasant in Orlando," he tells Best Life.
Those looking to golf at one of the theme parks can do so at Walt Disney World, where there are three 18-hole courses and a nine-hole course.
7. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Some of the most renowned golf courses in the world are in and around Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Golf fans flock to this area not only to play where their favorite PGA players have won championships, but to experience the laid-back California lifestyle.
"There are more than a dozen golf courses within a ten minute drive of Carmel-by-the-Sea, most of which are renowned championship-level courses. Pebble Beach Golf Links, The Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill, and Quail Lodge are a few of the most notable,"says travel writer, Rose Campau.
8. San Diego, California
Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets of San Diego is easy if you know where to look. That's why most people head to the golf course for a quiet morning or afternoon where they can try their hand at some of the most challenging courses in California.
"Torrey Pines South is the most well-known golf course in the area, but the North course is just as scenic and much less expensive," says travel writer Agnes Groonwald. "Head into North County and the landscapes change from ocean panoramas to desert scenes. Maderas Golf Club in Poway offers lots of elevation change against the backdrop of a state-of-the-art facility for practice and post-play relaxing."
She also says that San Diego is great because the weather is usually good for the vast majority of tee times, and locals can get major discounts at championship courses.
READ THIS NEXT: 10 Best Cities in the U.S. for Outdoor Adventures.
9. Brainerd, Minnesota
Golfers looking for courses that make top 100 lists every year should head to Brainerd, Minnesota for a weekend getaway.
"It is about a two-hour drive north of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and in the heart of Minnesota lakes country," says Nick Serati, co-founder of the travel website Thrifty Traveler. "There are many courses up there and many of them often crack the list of Golf Digest's top 100 public courses list. And in my opinion, for the money, they are a pretty great value."
Serati says some of the best courses in the area are the Arnold Palmer designed Deacon's Lodge at Breezy Point Resort and The Classic at Madden's Resort. "There are somewhere around 15 other courses in the area and all of them are very good. Many of them are on or near the lakes in the area which creates a pretty unique setting for golf," he continues.
10. Charleston, South Carolina
One of the most beautiful cities in the south is Charleston, with its charming downtown, delightful restaurants, and of course, epic golf courses. The warm weather in the area allows golfers to play a round virtually all year, making this a great fall and winter destination for those looking for a weekend getaway.
"The major course that we have here is the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island. This course is used for major PGA tournaments. It has 10 holes that are seaside, the most in the Northern Hemisphere," says Shaun Hammond, owner and author of thetravelingdrifter.com.
While Charleston itself has seven courses, if you're willing to drive a little bit away from the city, there are 32 golf courses within just 20 miles of the city.