Best golf courses in Alabama, according to GOLF Magazine’s expert course raters

Shoal Creek

Shoal Creek tops the list of Alabama's best courses.

Courtesy Photo

For every great course that made GOLF’s 2020-21 ranking of the Top 100 Courses in the U.S., dozens of more must-plays were left on the outside looking in — including at least a handful in your home state. Some of these designs just missed out on a Top 100 nomination, others finished deeper down the ranking, but all are worthy of your time. To shed light on the best courses in every state, we broke out the full results of our Top 100 Courses polling into state-by-state lists. Here’s a closer look at Alabama.

Alabama golf by the numbers:

Number of courses and U.S. rank: 238 (26)*
Number of golfers per capita rank: 37*
Average public-course greens fees: $ out of $$$*
Average daily temp and rank: 62.8 (7)
Annual precipitation and rank: 58.3 in. (4)

*Source: National Golf Foundation

Best Alabama golf courses (2020/2021)

1. Shoal Creek (Shoal Creek)

2. CC of Birmingham – West (Mountain Brook)

3. The Ledges (Huntsville)

4. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Grand National – Links (Opelika) [P]

Book a tee time at RTJ at Grand National.

5. Kiva Dunes (Gulf Shore) [P]

Book a tee time at Kiva Dunes.


1 = GOLF Top 100 Course in the U.S.
2 = GOLF Top 100 Course in the World
3 = GOLF Top 100 Resort
P = Resort/public golf course

Ed. note: Some courses were omitted from our rankings because they did not receive enough votes.

Course spotlight: Shoal Creek (Shoal Creek), ranked 1st in Alabama. Jack Nicklaus’ first solo design remains one of his best. The course moves through a densely wooded valley between Oak and Double Oak Mountains where you seldom see another group of golfers. Shoal Creek has a really good set of par-3s and par-5s, with some nice par-4s as well. The course moves with the land and is an easy walk with gently undulating bentgrass greens (one of the few with bent this far south). — GOLF Top 100 Course Rater

Kiva Dunes, the 5th-ranked course in Alabama, is open to the public.

How we rank America’s best golf courses

For the newly released 2020-21 U.S. list, each panelist was provided a list of 489 courses. Beside that list of courses were 11 “buckets,” or groupings. If our panelists considered a course to be among the top three in the country, they ticked that box. If they believed the course to be among Nos. 4-10 in the U.S., they checked that box, followed by 11-25, 26-50, and so on.

Panelists were also free to write in courses that they felt should have been included on the ballot (we had fewer than a handful of such additions in the U.S. vote).

Points were assigned to each bucket; to arrive at an average score for each course, we divide its aggregate score by the number of votes. From those point tallies, the courses are then ranked accordingly. It is an intentionally simple and straightforward process. Why? Because it invariably produces results that are widely lauded. Like the game itself, there’s no need to unnecessarily overcomplicate things.

For much more on how we rate courses, click or tap here.

Meet our course raters

We empower and hold accountable a group of 97 well-traveled — and well-connected — golfers/aficionados, each capable of expressing their own sense of design excellence at the highest level. The group is seasoned and experienced — we look for raters who know what’s out there, what’s changing and what’s coming down the pike. And from judging posts across four continents, our panelists are positioned to place courses from different regions around the globe into proper context, one of the main reasons GOLF’s Top 100 Courses rankings are the most esteemed in the game.

Other ranking outlets employ thousands of raters. Our less-is-more approach creates a more meaningful and thoughtful list. Think about it: When you plan a golf trip, do you call every golfer you know for their take? No. You contact a handful of people whose opinions you value most.

Meet our full crew of panelists here.

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