The best golf courses in Pennsylvania, according to GOLF Magazine’s expert course raters
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 Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania golf by the numbers:
Number of courses and U.S. rank: 670 (7)*
Number of golfers per capita rank: 29*
Average public-course greens fees: $ out of $$$*
Average daily temp and rank: 48.8 (30)
Annual precipitation and rank: 42.9 in. (21)
*Source: National Golf Foundation
Best Pennsylvania golf courses (2020/2021)
1. Oakmont (Oakmont) [1, 2]
No course thrives more on looking mean and playing vicious. The beauty of Oakmont is how it doesn’t doll itself up, and yet to a purist the view from the crest of the hill on 15 is as breathtaking as any in the country. The barren landscape possesses virtually no trees or water, just drainage ditches that traverse the land. There are few daunting carries and the greens are huge, so what’s the big deal? The question is answered at the 1st, with a green that follows the natural contours and slopes away from the player. Let the beating commence! For a course famed for its difficulty, what gets lost in the shuffle is the brilliance of its short par-4s.
2. Merion (Ardmore) [1, 2]
What makes Merion so distinctive is its remarkable variety. Some par-4s are short, others are monsters. One par-3 is tiny, at 115 yards; the others measure 236, 246 and 256 yards. The famous par-4 11th, where Bobby Jones clinched the 1930 Grand Slam, is slashed by a creek, while the par-4 16th demands a shot over an abandoned stone quarry. In short, Merion has everything, including newly installed sub-air and irrigation systems that lend more control over the firmness and speed of the playing surfaces. The recently expanded greens have created a plethora of new hole locations around the greens’ perimeters, and the player’s chess match with the clever design is more intense than ever.
3. Aronimink (Newtown Square) 
Donald Ross always thought Aronimink would be his masterpiece. Over the years, a who’s who of great architects gently tweaked this suburban Philly classic, and while the course never lost its greatness, bits of Ross’s genius were slowly chipped away. Almost 20 years of patient restoration — most recently led by Gil Hanse — have brought Ross’s original vision back to life. Today, the famous Tudor clubhouse overlooks a course with larger greens and more treacherous bunkers that is once again the “supreme test” Ross intended.
4. Philadelphia Cricket – Wissahickon (Flourtown)
5. Fox Chapel (Pittsburgh)
6. Lancaster (Lancaster)
7. Huntingdon Valley (Huntingdon Valley)
8. C.C. of Scranton (Clarks Summit)
9. Rolling Green (Springfield)
10. Sunnehanna (Johnstown)
11. Saucon Valley – Weyhill (Bethlehem)
12. Philadelphia C.C. – Spring Mill (Gladwyne)
13. Allegheny C.C. (Sewickley)
14. Saucon Valley – Old (Bethlehem)
15. Manufacturers (Fort Washington)
16. Lehigh (Allentown)
17. Laurel Valley (Ligonier)
18. Gulph Mills (King of Prussia)
19. Stonewall – Old (Elverson)
20. Saucon Valley – Grace (Bethlehem)
Ed. note: Some courses were omitted from our rankings because they did not receive enough votes.
Course spotlight: Country Club of Scranton (Clarks Summit), ranked 8th in Pennsylvania. A fabulous Walter Travis course featuring a wonderful routing that explores a diverse topography along with a great set of greens. How good would this course be with a proper Travis restoration (a la Hollywood)? — GOLF Top 100 Course Rater
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.