Teeing Off at the Best: The Top 20 Golf Courses in New York

According to the song, New York is so good they named it twice. Quite possibly the reason for this was to highlight the distinction between the city and the state of the same name.

New York city, located in the southern tip of New York state, is the largest and easily the most densely populated metropolitan area in the United States of America, comprising almost half the state’s total population.

The city is a global financial, media, trading, sporting and cultural center as well as an important international diplomatic hub which plays host to the headquarters of the United Nations. It comprises five boroughs – the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

Financially, the city has the highest GMP (gross metropolitan product) of any in the world – a staggering $2.1 trillion, which is larger than that even of most developed countries. It also boasts more billionaires than any other city worldwide.

New York state sits in the north-east of the United States, bordering with Canada. It also abuts the US states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont, as well as having a maritime border with Rhode Island.

It incorporates the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains as well as part of the wider Appalachians, and is part of the Great Lakes region.

The Golfing Tradition in the United States of America

We know that the sport of golf originated in Scotland. Large-scale migration across the Atlantic meant it was inevitable that it would find its way to the United States quite early on in its development.

One story has it that the first organized game of golf to take place in the US was played in 1786 (by Scotsmen) on Harleston Green, an undeveloped piece of pasture in South Carolina.

In the early days of the sport it was most likely played without a defined number of holes, themselves crudely dug from the ground and being of no specific size. Later in the same year the South Carolina Golf Club was established.

However there is another account given which cites Albany, New York, as the home of American golf. According to this version of events a round of “kolf” was played by Dutch settlers at Fort Orange.

Whatever its origins, golf in the USA is now a major sport and the country boasts some of the world’s greatest players. Every two years the Ryder Cup is played between elite American golfers and the best competitors from throughout the continent of Europe.

Today there are estimated to be some 15,500 golf courses in the United States, more than anywhere else in the world, of which around 11,500 offer public access, with some 9,400 country club businesses currently in operation.

What is more, American golf courses are ranked among the very best anywhere on the planet. Many of these are in the state of New York, others within easy reach of it.

What are the 20 Best Golf Courses in New York?

Opinions vary, and ratings come from a range of different sources, and so all anybody can do is express an opinion on the relative merits of the many New York golf courses based upon the knowledge and expertise of the various golfing authorities.

Of course, some of the top ranked courses used by patrons from New York lie outside the state boundaries.

But within the state itself, the following stand out from amid a crowded field of worthy challengers:

1. National Golf Links of America, Southampton

Founded in 1908 under the direction of Charles B. Macdonald, the construction of this famous golf course was overseen by local engineer Seth Raynor.

Raynor had studied many of the designs in Scotland and England and sought to replicate the quality that he found there.

This private 253-acre course is situated on Southampton’s Peconic Bay and includes many holes specifically modeled on Scottish designs.

2. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton

The venue of five US Opens since 1986, most recently in 2018, this golf course designed by William Flynn and Howard Toomey was three years in the making.

An established club with old traditions, its build was assisted by 150 Native Americans from the neighboring Shinnecock Reservation, overseen by Scottish golfing design professional Willie Davis.

3. Shenendoah Golf Club, Turning Stone

Although originally built in 2000, the Shenendoah was rerouted and renovated in 2016.

It is Turning Stone’s most heavily played eighteen-hole course, and hosted the 2006 PGA Professional Championship.

This playing field alternates between open space, wetlands and parkland offered shelter by woodland areas.

4. Fishers Island Club, Fishers Island

Set on a narrow island between a national estuary of Long Island Sound and a collection of ponds and lakes, this club offers beautiful, natural scenery amid a diverse haven for flora and fauna.

Almost every hole gives up breathtaking views of its own. Founded in 1927, the course was laid out by Seth Raynor and has been undergoing restoration under the able direction of Gil Hanse since 1995.

As an island, this is usually accessed by ferry or by air.

5. Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck

Two top twenty golf courses in one, named simply West and East, both of them designed by A.W. Tillinghast and founded in 1923. The West course has been said to have been one of his greatest ever creations.

Laid out through heavy meadowland, the invitation-only course is considered one of the most demanding in the whole of the United States. The venue hosted the 2020 US Open.

6. Friar’s Head, Riverhead

Designed in 2003 by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, this golf course much favored by none other than Phil Mickelson enjoys marvelous views of Long Island Sound and has been constantly refined to adapt to modern day visitor expectations.

There are some distinct course requirements, such as the obligatory use of caddies and a preference for participants walking as oppose to using golf carts.

7. St. George’s Golf & Country Club, Satauket

Set out by Devereux Emmet in 1917 and modestly restored earlier this century by Gil Hanse, this otherwise unchanged course in East Satauket was partially a response to the creation of the National Golf Links in Southampton, of which Emmet had been one of the founding members.

The course length is a mere 6,200 yards.

8. Trump Golf Links, Ferry Point

Undoubtedly one of the most famous public golf courses in New York, the multiple award-winning Trump Golf Links nevertheless operates an unforgettable luxury corporate experience.

A signature Jack Nicklaus design, it sits in the heart of the Bronx, offering panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline and of the Throggs Neck and Whitestone Bridges.

9. Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale

Laid out by A.W. Tillinghast and restored by Rees Jones, the famous Black course on Long Island ominously warns at the first tee that it is “only for highly skilled golfers”.

Tiger Woods, when winning the US Open in 2002, would presumably have fitted that description.

Golf Digest magazine expressed the view that Bethpage, operative since 1936, “has to be the best municipal course in America”.

10. Oak Hill, Rochester

Originally designed by Donald Ross, more recent improvements carried out by Andrew Green have enhanced putting surfaces and improved drainage in time for the 2023 PGA Championship.

Famed in particular for its showpiece East course, Oak Hill Country Club has been said to provide the fairest, if the most challenging of all the venues on the US golfing circuit.

It is the only golf club to have played host to the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup, US Amateur, US Open, Senior US Open and Senior PGA Championship.

11. Quaker Ridge Golf Club, Scarsdale

Another course which, having been designed during the early years of the twentieth century, has subsequently been given a makeover – by A.W. Tillinghast in 1926 and by Gil Hanse much more recently.

Located in very close proximity to Winged Foot golf club, this much underrated course in New York boasts Jack Nicklaus and Peter Dye amongst its fans.

Ben Crenshaw described it as “truly a Tillinghast gem”.

12. Maidstone Club, East Hampton

Situated on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, Maidstone stretches across the famously playable Gardiner Peninsula.

The original course dates right back to 1891, and has been refashioned sympathetically by Willie Park Junior.

At first a nine-hole course, it was extended to eighteen holes during the 1920s.

13. Garden City Golf Club, Garden City

The course first opened in 1897 in what was then sprawling countryside, but progressive development has since placed it truly in a suburban context.

The design by Walter Travis and Devereux Emmet is old school, as is the controversial men-only policy which it still enforces today.

The topography and design could be said to be minimalist, although tilted greens allow for some generous scoring.

14. Sebonack, Southampton

Close to both Shinnecock Hills and the National Golf Links, the astounding beauty of the natural scenery overlooking Great Peconic Bay is matched only by the thoughtful and artistic design of this course built by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak.

It opened in 2006 and at $650,000 for membership might be considered at the high end of any exclusive market, although accommodation is included.

15. Whippoorwill, Armonk

If you’re wondering why the strange name, it is so called after a nightjar whose dulcet tones can be heard around the course. Established in the 1920s by Donald Ross, it was redesigned by the noted Seth Raynor just a few years later.

The eighth hole is its most feted, a 226-yard par-three although to achieve it is surprisingly challenging.

16. Kaluhyat Golf Club, Turning Stone

Built in 2003 by Ty Butler and Robert Trent-Jones Junior, this picturesque casino course combines spectacular views, lakes and tricky elevations with the very best in gaming and hospitality.

It was recently voted one of the friendliest golf courses in the United States.

17. The Creek, Locust Valley

After being opened in 1923 this course was straightaway dubbed “The Million Dollar Club” in recognition of the exclusive nature of its membership. Descending to the Long Island Sound coastline, it boasts some amazing views across to Stamford and Greenwich.

A restoration was undertaken by Gil Hanse in 2011, in collaboration with C.B. Macdonald.

18. Leatherstocking Golf Course, Cooperstown

Devereux Emmet created this authentically contoured, award-winning course beside the shores of Lake Otsego, in upstate New York, some way back in 1909.

This luxury resort offers accommodation at its own Otesaga Hotel with an inclusive golfing package.

19. Piping Rock, Locust Valley

A C.B. Macdonald creation from 1911, working in partnership once more with the engineer Seth Raynor. Necessarily routed around polo fields, the layout is masterful if not entirely conventional.

The name was taken from a stone situated along an ancient trail around the location.

20. Glens Falls, Glens Falls

A Donald Ross course originally designed over nine holes in 1912, this largely unchanged venue (apart from the upgrade to eighteen holes, also performed by Ross) rests some thirty minutes from Saratoga Springs. Incredibly, it has only quite recently come to experience the acclaim that it truly deserves.

Finding the Best Private and Public Courses in New York

New York is without doubt one of the greatest locations for golf either in the United States or indeed the world. Naming the best twenty is highly subjective, and in no way does justice to the sheer breadth of quality which exists throughout the state, and indeed just outside the state but within easy reach.

If there is one negative it is merely that, overwhelmingly, the most sought-after locations are not open to the wider public. An exclusive culture pervades, and private membership fees can be prohibitive bordering upon the absurd.

It is undoubtedly the case that, in New York, money buys quality and that even the best public golf courses come nowhere close to replicating what is on offer from the private, monied sector. Nevertheless, in terms of player experience and provision there is possibly nowhere else in the world which offers such a range of golfing excellence as does the empire state.

Phil Andrews
Phil Andrews

Phil Andrews is an English-language article writer and author of the 1970s nostalgia fiction novel The Best Year Of Our Lives. His special interests are current affairs, economics and sport - in particular soccer, boxing and golf.

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