Golf can be seriously private, but GOLF’s list of Top 100 Courses You Can Play is not. This year, our expert group of course raters sat down with a simple goal: to build a list of the greatest courses you (yes, you) can tee it up at in a moment’s notice. The end result is list as varied as the courses it encompasses, from Bandon Dunes to Bethpage Black.
But why keep the memories to just one of our 100 greatest tracks? Whether it’s by way of a classic point-A-to-B-to-C road trip, a stay at an iconic resort (with or without side trips) or a stopover in the concrete jungle, knocking three or more Top 100 Courses You Can Play off your wish list is doable in one fell swing. Start packing.
Best East Coast golf road trips
Metro New York road trip
Top 100 Courses: Bethpage Black (#5) and Red (#66; Farmingdale, NY), Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point (#95; Bronx, NY)
Drive: Ideally, it’s 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan to Ferry Point and an hour to Bethpage … ideally. With traffic, it could be a lifetime, especially if the Long Island Expressway, aka “the World’s Largest Parking Lot,” isn’t exactly cooperating.
Dine: There’s no shortage of iconic NYC spots, from the bagels and smoked fish at Russ & Daughters (est. 1914) to John’s Pizza (no slices!) to soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai, never mind world-class fine dining; this would require a separate Top 100 list.
Diversion: This ain’t the greatest city in the world for nothing, people! Among the endless cultural possibilities, consider the New York Botanical Garden, 10 minutes from …
Detour: … Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The oldest public course in America dates back to 1895 and is a must for golf history buffs.
Resort trip to Pinehurst
Top 100 Courses: Pinehurst (No. 2, #2; and No. 4, #26), Tobacco Road (#35; Sanford, NC), Mid Pines (#41; Southern Pines, NC), Pine Needles (#44; Southern Pines, NC)
Drive: Ease into the Pinehurst Resort’s lap of luxury. Tobacco Road is a mere half hour away, with Mid Pines and Pine Needles even closer.
Dine: The third-generation family-owned Pik N Pig, in nearby Carthage, is the place for authentic, slow-smoked Eastern North Carolina barbecue; the pulled pork, made with just the shoulder rather than the whole hog, isn’t optional, it’s a must.
Diversion: Moore County is chockablock with talented artisans; the most renowned might be the century-old Jugtown Pottery, where you can get a killer keepsake that’s not a golf shirt. The Tufts Archives at the Givens Memorial Library has tons of interesting info on Donald Ross and early golf in America.
Detour: Kyle Franz is currently restoring Southern Pines, a former Elks course now under the Pine Needles Resort’s umbrella; set to be finished in September, it might well make the next Top 100 Courses You Can Play list. Also not to be missed: Pinehurst’s nine-hole par-3 sensation from Gil Hanse, The Cradle.
Road trip to Coastal South Carolina
Top 100 Courses: Kiawah Island (Ocean Course, #6; Kiawah Island, SC), Harbour Town (#16; Hilton Head, SC), May River (Palmetto Bluff, #45; Bluffton, SC), The Dunes (#53; Myrtle Beach, SC), Caledonia (#84; Pawleys Island, SC)
Drive: Heading south, Caledonia’s a little under an hour from Dunes Club. It’s two more hours to Kiawah Island, then another 2:15 to May River and a final 45 minutes from there to Harbour Town. No sweat!
Dine: Dirty Don’s Oyster Bar and Grill in Myrtle Beach would be worth it for the name alone, never mind the suitably tropical, dive-y vibe, but the oysters are a true slurp of the ocean. Between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, See Wee is a must-stop for top-notch Southern comfort food. On Hilton Head Island, the upscale bistro Lucky Rooster Kitchen + Bar offers both comfort food and adventurous fine dining.
Diversion: Hilton Head Island’s Coastal Discovery Museum will deepen your understanding of and appreciation for the area’s natural beauty. If inspired to get on the water, Outside Hilton Head can get you outfitted for kayaking, paddleboarding and fishing.
Detour: Just off Hilton Head Island, you’ll find local hangout Old South, whose water-laden back nine has as much of an island feel as anything on HHI itself.
Resort trip to Streamsong
Top 100 Courses: Streamsong Red (#19), Blue (#27), Black (#39)
Drive: The no-need-to-leave resort is about 90 minutes from the airports in Tampa and Orlando.
Dine: The chops and dry-aged steaks at Restaurant 59 in Streamsong’s Red & Blue clubhouse will make you almost as happy as shooting a 59.
Diversion: Outdoorsmen, behold: The guided bass fishing here is some of the best anywhere. If you catch an eight-plus pounder, you’ll be welcomed into the state’s Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. The 12-station sporting clays range is among the Southeast’s finest, too.
Detour: In February, the new Glove Bar opened out of the Black clubhouse, servicing the two-acre, 18-hole putting course called The Gauntlet, where the tee markers double as drink holders; more practice can also be had at its Roundabout short course.