The 10 Best Public Golf Courses in the Northeast

One of the best parts of golf is going out onto the course with friends and enjoying the game together. Public golf courses let you do just that (without the exclusivity and high membership prices of private golf courses). If you live in the Northeast or are planning a vacation to the area, here’s a hand-picked list of the best public golf courses in the Northeast.

From municipal courses that run on a straight-fee system to resort courses that are still public but with a higher price tag, use this list as a planning shortcut. So grab your gear and get ready to experience some of the best golf courses in the U.S. (without needing to pay an annual due).

The 10 Best Public Golf Courses in the Northeast

These golf courses were all featured on Golf Digest’s list of 100 best public golf courses. Some of the golf courses on the list are openly accessible and some of them are traditionally private courses that you’ll need to do some workarounds to get on (for example, purchasing a stay-and-play package).

Bethpage State Park (Black), New York

Though Bethpage State Park Black (or Bethpage Black as it’s commonly referred to) is a public golf course, it is almost sure to challenge golfers of any skill level. Having hosted the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, the course is no longer the patchy track that it was before and is now somewhere where you need to verify your handicap even to book a tee time! Bonus: the 2025 Ryder Cup will also be at Bethpage Black.

Chambers Bay, Washington

With windswept greens and firm fairways (that Jones famously referred to as “hardwood floors”), Chambers Bay is a challenging golf course that is sure to test every club in your bag. Not only has the course been named as the best new public course in 2008, but it has also hosted various impressive events, including the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the 2015 U.S. Open. If you decide to visit it, just make sure to bring enough golf balls in your bag!

The Greenbrier (The Old White), West Virginia

Designed by Charles Blair Macdonald, the Greenbrier is a golf course that will give you as close of a feel to European golf as possible. Several of the holes are inspired and modeled from some of the most famous ones in Europe. After Lester George restored The Greenbrier, it became even more esteemed and found itself ranking for Golf Digest’s Best New Remodel of 2007. It has hosted a PGA Tour event called Military Tribute every year until 2020.

Gamble Sands G.C., Washington

Designed by renowned golf course architect David McLay Kidd, Gamble Sands is meant to be a fun course where you can potentially even shoot your own personal best. It is located in the center of Brewster, Washington, on over 100 acres of fescue grasses, offering golfers panoramic views of mountains and rivers on every hole. With massively wide fairways, huge greens, and three reachable par 4s, it’s certainly possible that you’ll be adding a score to your record books at Gamble Sands.

Golden Horseshoe G.C. (Gold), Virginia

Designed by the father-son duo Robert Trent Jones and Rees Jones, Golden Horseshoe Gold gives golfers a taste of classic golf while featuring the latest in course design, including modern turf, new grass, and even upgraded bunkers. In the 60s, Golden Horseshoe was ranked as one of the most challenging golf courses in the country, but today it has made it onto the list of America’s 50 Most Fun Public Courses.

The Yale Golf Course, Connecticut

When it comes to the best public golf courses in the Northeast, no list is complete without the Yale Golf Course. Ranked #83 in the World by Golf Magazine and the #1 College Course in America by Golfweek, the Yale Golf Course is recognized as one of the best works by legendary course architects C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor.

At the Yale course, you’ll find massive rolling greens, deep and wide bunkers, as well as tricky fairways that will constantly keep you on your toes. The Yale Golf Course has been home to some special events as well, including the Nike Connecticut Open, two USGA Junior National Events, and the NCAA Regionals.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort (Mystic Rock), Pennsylvania

Designed by Pete Dye and dream of Joseph Hardy, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort’s Mystic Rock golf course is one of the best golf courses in the country. On top of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains, Mystic Rock stretches across acres and acres of land, offering players spectacular golf and incredible views. There’s really no other course that can top Mystic Rock when it comes to enjoyable mountain courses in the states.

Bulle Rock, Maryland

Home of the LPGA Championship from 2005 to 2009, Bulle Rock spreads over 275 acres and offers no amenities other than pure golf. With a challenging yet fair layout, Bulle Rock is truly Maryland’s #1 public golf course and offers players a little slice of golf heaven. The great thing is that it’s also quite accessible! Bulle Rock is open to the public daily and has a rate structure that gets more and more people to experience its beauty.

New Kingsmill Resort (River), Virginia

Bordering the calm James River, The River Course at Kingsmill Resort is one of Pete Dye’s lesser-known courses. Don’t let its lack of fame fool you, though. The River Course has been home to the PGA Tour’s Michelob Championship from 1981 through 2002 and currently hosts an LPGA event. It offers golfers a course that isn’t hard on architectural features and instead feels like it was built from the natural movements of the land.

You usually must be a member of Kingsmill Resort to play, but you can also be an overnight guest and gain access to the course. Not too far from Williamsburg attractions and Yorktown Beach, the course is an easy day trip for vacationers.

New Spring Creek G.C., Virginia

Winding through a property of pine and hardwood trees, New Spring Creek was the winner of Golf Digest’s Best New Public Course Under $75 in 2007. Elegant, practical, and unique are all words that will come to your mind when you play Spring Creek, though its design also allows it to be accessible to players of any skill level. With the first nine moving through nature and the second nine moving along the Spring Branch Stream, you’ll find yourself appreciating golf and the beauty of the outdoors more after visiting New Spring Creek.

Head Out to One of These Public Golf Courses in the Northeast

Golf is a fantastic sport that offers beautiful tracks that should be accessible for all. Luckily, with the courses on this list, you’ll be able to experience excellent golf without having to deal with pesky membership fees and annual dues.

If you happen to live close to one of these (or are near for a visit), be sure to drop by and see if you can book around. The golf will be incredible, and you’ll make some memories that you’re sure to hold onto for a long time.

Featured Image Credit: Creative Commons/daveynin