America Top Residential Golf Courses

By Mark Brown

A quick scan of the entire list of America’s Best,” makes it quite evident that the cream has risen to the top, as the best 10  residential courses were designed by  the modern era’s (1980 to present for this exercise) six most prominent architects or design teams: Crenshaw & Coore, Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Weiskopf & Morrish – and the golfers’ favorite, Tom Fazio, has designed 3 of the 10. In the ranks of “America’s Best Residential Courses,” the “name game” is clearly in vogue, and underscoring this situation are some additional eye-opening figures.


Of America’s Best Residential Golf Courses, Fazio (28) and Nicklaus (18) account for nearly half of the Best 100 courses, and if you add Dye (7), Weiskopf and Morrish (9) and the Jones’ (Rees, Trent Sr. and Trent Jr.) it comes to a grand total of 68 of the 100. Even so, there are a number of other rising and accomplished current-day architects who are making outstanding contributions to the world of golf course design, including Tom Doak – who currently has several marvelous courses and new sites scattered around the U.S. ,and elswhere – Arnold Palmer& Ed Seay, Bob Cupp, John Fought, Davis Love III, Greg Norman, Steve Smyers, Bobby Weed, Mike Hurdzan & Dana Frye, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Jim Engh, Brian Silva, Gil Hanse, Steven Kay, Tom Watson, Ken Dye, Jerry Pate, Mark McCumber David Kidd, Kyle Phillips and Mike Strantz, known for his extremely creative designs that often push the envelope – not unlike a young Pete Dye.

 Predictably, of the top six designers, only one, Pete Dye made it to the top without a famous architectural father (or uncle) or a highly-successful PGA Tour career. Dye, along with his side-kick and boss Alice, cashed in his insurance sales career, and starting from scratch, resurrected the rather stagnant golf course architecture business with his innovative designs at The Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio and Harbour Town Links on Hilton Head Island in the late 1960s.

 Dye then sparked the golf course development boom of the 1980s and ‘90s, which culminated with  unprecedented construction levels of 350 to 400 golf courses per year from 1988 through 2000. Since 2001, the pace of golf course construction has slowed considerably to about 170 courses annually with nearly half of this total being driven by the continued development of golf and residential communities. Golfer or not, luxury country club living is one of the most significant lifestyle phenomenas of the past 25 years. It is literally changing the fabric of American culture with, seemingly, no end in sight. The majority of growing, or in some cases over-grown, hot spots are located in the four states mentioned above.

 In South Carolina, the most popular golf and residential communities are located in the greater Hilton Head Island area, Myrtle Beach with 120 courses and counting and Charleston, a charming historical city. Moving south to Florida, the First Coast area, stretching from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach has a number of new golf communities, followed by Vero Beach, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and Jupiter. On the Gulf Coast, starting in the south and traveling north is the golf haven of Naples, followed by  Saratoga, Tampa Bay, Citrus County and the Nature Coast which is beginning to develop, and  the panhandle of Florida with its sparkling white sand beaches and a growing number of resort and private communities.

 In the wild West, our first stop is the sprawling metropolis of Scottsdale, Arizona in the colorful Sonoran desert, which has more upscale golf club communities than any region in America. Northwest, toward the Grand Canyon, is Flagstaff in the dramatic high desert, and then west to California’s Coachella Desert and the glamorous communities of Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Indian Wells where golf and fame are the games. Then it’s westward ho to Rancho Santa Fe in the outskirts of San Diego, and north to the Monterey Peninsula and Carmel Valley. After that it’s northeast to the breath-taking beauty of Lake Tahoe for both golf and skiing, and the last leg of the golf and residential tour is northwest to Sonoma and Napa Valley in the heart of California wine country.

We can’t forget, however several pockets of memorable golf and differing lifestyles. To the East, there’s the influential mid-Atlantic region consisting of Virginia, Maryland and the nation’s capital. Due west and a bit south from there you can’t miss the mastery of Donald Ross and others in the historic sand hills of Pinehurst, North Carolina, and a little farther north is the quaint town of Asheville and the North Carolina mountains where Ross, Ellis and Dan Maples and countless others have carved some great golf holes out of the foothills and valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Out West it’s impossible to overlook the glorious mountain moon-tops of Colorado and the golden golf mecca of Las Vegas, which has been the fastest growing golf and residential city in the U.S. during the last five years, with the golf courses to prove it. Just check-out our cover photo of Southern Highlands, one of Vegas’ finest courses designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones and his son Robert Trent Jones II.

So whether your journey goes east or west, to the coast or to the mountains, great golf abounds in “America’s Best” golf and residential communities.  

Click Below to...

  1. America' s Top Residential Golf Courses
  2. Nicklaus on Residential Golf Courses
  3. Golf Course Design
  4. Interviews & Profiles of Golf Course Architects
  5. Trends in Golf Community Living
  6. State-of-the-Art Amenities
  7. Profiles of Golf Communities
  8. Insider information on new communities in the planning or construction phases
  9. New private clubs in spectacular settings
  10. Equity membership fees around the country
  11. Real Estate prices and trends in different areas of the country
  12. Best Places to Live
  13. Best Values in Real Estate & Memberships
  14. Communities where homes don’t infringe on the golf
  15. Communities with great Practice & Learning Facilities
  16. Resorts with Real Estate & Fractional Ownership
  17. Communities with more than one golf course
  18. Great Clubhouses
  19. Communities with walking courses and caddies
  20. Communities with most spectacular settings
  21. Communities close to major cultural centers
  22. Communities with model home program and/or built homes for sale
  23. New concepts in community master planning, and neighborhoods
  24. Mark Brown on the Game of Golf
  25. Mark Brown on the Major Championships and the PGA Tour
  26. Communities with the best “Golf Experiences”
  27. Mature communities with a lot activities and programs
  28. Hidden Gems & Locations