The 50 best golf courses in the Northeast: Ranking the region’s best designs

national golf links of america

National Golf Links of America is golf's most fun (and perhaps most exclusive) tee time.

William Tyler Smith

GOLF Magazine recently unveiled its 2020/2021 Top 100 Courses in the United States, and to showcase the country’s geographic diversity, GOLF has, for the first time, broken the country into four regions and ranked the top 50 in each. Each region is shockingly diverse — and overflowing with exquisite golf. To introduce each region, we called upon a star architect to help.

The Appeal of Golf in the Northeast | By Gil Hanse

The Northeast is where golf took root in this country and where so many of its historic moments took place: Bobby Jones’ grand slam, Francis Ouimet’s heroics in Brookline, Hogan’s 1-iron at Merion, the Massacre at Winged Foot. Are we Northeast golfers a touch stuffy, maybe a bit arrogant? Perhaps! But only because we have the greatest collection of courses in the country.

It started with the glaciers, which left behind heaving, golf-ready ground, rock outcroppings and sand — beautiful sand. The result, all these centuries later, is a rich and diverse collection of the finest examples of golf course architecture anywhere, from the parkland courses around New York, to the scruffy windblown coastal courses of Long Island, to the New England coast, to the pine barrens of New Jersey, to the farm fields of Pennsylvania 

When I close my eyes and think of golf in the Northeast, it is a crisp fall day, the leaves are changing and native grasses blowing in the wind. It is the idyllic American golfing landscape. 

The top 50 golf courses in the Northeast

1. Pine Valley — Pine Valley, N.J. (George Crump/H.S. Colt, 1918)

Pine Valley’s superb bunkering and stunning vistas make it an easy choice as no. 1 in both the region and the U.S.

Jon Cavalier

2. Shinnecock Hills — Southampton, N.Y. (Howard Toomey/William Flynn, 1931)

Shinnecock maintains its throne as one of the world’s purest player tests.

Joann Dost

3. National Golf Links of America — Southampton, N.Y. (C.B. Madonald, 1911)

Many lust after National Golf Links of America for its vistas and routing, but its playability is perhaps its true calling card.

William Tyler Smith

4. Oakmont — Oakmont, Pa. (Henry Fownes, 1903)

Even outside of the famed “church pews,” Oakmont features some of the world’s artful bunkering.

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5. Merion — Ardmore, Pa. (Hugh Wilson, 1912)

6. Fishers Island — Fishers Island, N.Y. (Seth Raynor, 1926)

Fishers Island exists in its own world — a ferry ride away from the mainland. The result is pure golf bliss.

Larry Lambrecht

7. Friar’s Head — Baiting Hollow, N.Y. (Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw, 2003)

Friar’s Head is one of the “new” kids on the Hamptons golf scene, but make no mistake about it, this Coore/Crenshaw design is a timeless gem.

Channing Benjamin

8. Winged Foot (West) — Mamaroneck, N.Y. (A.W. Tillinghast, 1923)

9. The Country Club (Clyde/Squirrel) — Brookline, Mass. (TCC Members/Willie Campbell, 1899)

10. Somerset Hills — Bernardsville, N.J. (A.W. Tillinghast, 1918)

11. Garden City — Garden City, N.Y. (Devereaux Emmet, 1899/Walter Travis, 1906)

Garden City is Devereaux Emmet’s design opus, a picturesque venue with surprising playability.

Patrick Koenig

12. Maidstone — East Hampton, N.Y. (John Park/Willie Park Jr., 1922)

13. Bethpage Park (Black) — Farmingdale, N.Y. (A.W. Tillinghast, 1935)

“The People’s Country Club” is far from a proletarian test of golf mettle. This daunting Tillinghast design is both stunning and unrelenting.

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14. Sleepy Hollow — Scarborough, N.Y. (C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor, 1913/A.W. Tillinghast, 1929/Gil Hanse, 2017)

Gil Hanse’s brilliant 2017 restoration at Sleepy Hollow gave new life to the course’s signature hole, the punchbowl 16th, replete with a green complex that represents a thumbprint.

Patrick Koenig

15. Quaker Ridge — Scarsdale, N.Y. (A.W. Tillinghast, 1926)

16. Oak Hill (East) — Pittsford, N.Y. (Donald Ross, 1921/Andrew Green, 2020)

17. Myopia Hunt — So. Hamilton, Mass. (H.C. Leeds, 1898)

18. Winged Foot (East) — Mamaroneck, N.Y. (A.W. Tillinghast, 1923)

19. Old Sandwich — Plymouth, Mass. (Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw, 2004)

Old Sandwich is another Coore-Crenshaw heart-stopper nestled into gorgeous New England terrain.

Evan Schiller

20. Eastward Ho! — Chatham, Mass. (Herbert Fowler, 1922)

21. Piping Rock — Locust Valley, N.Y. (C.B. Macdonald, 1911)

Piping Rock is home to one of Long Island’s oldest (and purest) Golden Age designs.

Piping Rock

22. Plainfield — Plainfield, N.J. (Donald Ross, 1916)

23. Kittansett — Marion, Mass. (William Flynn/Fred Hood, 1922)

24. Pikewood National — Morgantown, W. Va. (J. Robert Gwynne/John Raese, 2009)

25. The Creek — Locust Valley, N.Y. (C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor, 1923)

The Creek Club is quintessential Long Island golf: gorgeous, timeless and remarkably exclusive.

Larry Lambrecht

26. Essex — Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. (Donald Ross, 1917)

27. Baltusrol (Lower) — Springfield, N.J. (A.W. Tillinghast, 1922)

28. Ridgewood (W/E) — Paramus, N.J. (A.W. Tillinghast, 1929)

We can’t decide which part of Ridgewood Country Club is most spectacular, its golf or its distant views of New York City.

Evan Schiller

29. Baltimore (Five Farms East) — Baltimore, Md. (A.W. Tillinghast, 1926)

30. Hollywood — Deal, N.J. (Walter Travis, 1915)

31. Newport — Newport, R.I. (William F. Davis, 1899/A.W. Tillinghast, 1924)

32. Glens Falls — Queensbury, N.Y. (Donald Ross, 1920)

Glens Falls is a newcomer on GOLF’s Top 100 Courses list, but everything about this century-old Donald Ross routing screams ‘old-school.’

Patrick Koenig

33. Aronimink — Newton Square, Penn. (Donald Ross, 1928)

34. Mountain Ridge — West Caldwell, N.J. (Donald Ross, 1929)

35. Sebonack — Southampton, N.Y. (Jack Nicklaus/Tom Doak, 2006)

Sebonack is dramatic, sensational and oh-so-tricky. In other words, a perfect nod to its designers Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak.

Larry Lambrecht

36. Baltusrol (Upper) — Springfield, N.J. (A.W. Tillinghast, 1922)

37. Philadelphia Cricket (Wissahickon) — Flourtown, Pa.

38. Fox Chapel — Pittsburgh, Pa.

39. Lancaster — Lancaster, Pa.

40. Whippoorwill — Armonk, N.Y.

41. Boston — Hingham, Mass.

Larry Lambrecht

42. St. George’s — East Setauket, N.Y.

43. Wannamoisett — Rumford, R.I.

44. Atlantic — Bridgehampton, N.Y.

45. Wykagyl — New Rochelle, N.Y.

46. Sankaty Head — Nantucket, Mass.

47. Pete Dye — Bridgeport, W. Va.

48. Congressional (Blue) — Bethesda, Md.

You might remember Congressional in Bethesda, Md. for Rory McIlroy’s first major championship breakthrough. We’ll remember it for its beauty and architectural mettle.

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49. CC of Fairfield — Fairfield, Conn.

50. Huntingdon Valley — Huntingdon Valley, Pa.

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