When spring arrives it’s always fun to hit a local golf course with friends to tee off and take in the beautiful weather. But every once in a while, you should flip the script and try something different – organize a fun solo or group trip for a change of scenery and to golf where the pros go! Guess what? Half the work is already done because we’ve pulled together a list of our favorite – albeit some challenging – East Coast golf courses. Get ready because we’re about to give you the skinny on seven, well-renown courses on the Eastern Seaboard where you can master your swing.
Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Why Play: The stunning Ocean Course at Kiawah Island first became popular during the 1991 Ryder Cup with stars like Seve Ballesteros winning holes with double bogeys. Yes, it's that tough, but it’s also breathtakingly beautiful with most holes offering views of the Atlantic Ocean. Most memorable is the 17th hole, a par-3 over water that saw more bogeys than pars in 1991. The Ocean is just one of seven courses at the Kiawah Island Resort where the service is fantastic, the accommodations are luxurious, and the clubhouse is warm and friendly.
Wow Factor: It not only hosted the world’s golfing elite during the 1991 Ryder Cup, but it also hosted two of the world's best actors (Matt Damon and Will Smith) during the filming of golf movie The Legend Of Bagger Vance.
Pinehurst No. 2 Course, Pinehurst, North Carolina
Why Play: The Pinehurst Resort, with eight superb courses, is widely considered the home of American golf. The No. 2 course has hosted the U.S. Women's Open and three U.S. Opens with a fourth scheduled for 2024. It’s also held the 1951 Ryder Cup, two U.S. Amateur Championships, two PGA Tour Championships and many other major golf tournaments. Great holes are plentiful here, but the one thing every golfer will want to do is try to hole the 16-feet putt on the 18th green that the late, great Payne Stewart holed to win the 1999 U.S. Open. The course wanders through avenues of majestic pine trees. You’ll appreciate the superb service throughout the whole Pinehurst Village, and the Golf Academy is one of the best on the East Coast. And if you really want to get your grub on, you should grab breakfast at the Carolina (one of three hotels at the Resort). It’s almost as legendary as this golf course.
Wow Factor: Located on rolling Carolina sandhills, this course is known for being a “thinker’s” layout, so golfers will need to be strategic here. It’s not exactly for novice golfers.
Bethpage Black, Long Island, New York
Why Play: Bethpage Black, one of five public courses in Bethpage State Park, became the first public course to host a U.S. Open in 2002, where pro golfer Tiger Woods was crowned the winner. The course proved so tough and the event so successful that the popular golf competition returned there in 2009. The course is beautiful, but you may need to get there well before dawn to join the queue for a tee time. Best holes include the par-3 third, the long par-5 fourth and the signature 18th. As a true public course the other amenities aren’t as good as you'd find at most top U.S. courses, but it is still one of the best in the world.
Wow Factor: Because this golf course is located in Bethpage State Park, there’s plenty more beyond golf to capture your imagination, including the scenic hiking trails, secluded picnic spots, tennis courts and polo facilities.
TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium course), Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Why Play: Home of the Players Championship on the PGA Tour, the Players Stadium course at Sawgrass is a Pete Dye design that will challenge even the best golfers. The most memorable hole is the signature 17th, a short par-3 just 137 yards from the very back tee. With a green almost completely surrounded by water, this is where the fans gather during the Players to watch the pros suffer. Don’t miss out on the state-of-the-art TOUR Academy, where some of the game's best instructors will fix your swing. Oh, and you can’t beat relaxing at the palatial clubhouse after your game.
Wow Factor: For the ultimate bragging rights, the par-3 17th is regarded as one of the most famous and terrifying holes in the world. Play at your own risk!
Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Why Play: Every year, the week after the Masters, the PGA Tour visits the beautiful Harbour Town for the Verizon Heritage tournament. This was pro-golfer Jack Nicklaus' first course design in collaboration with Pete Dye. The first 16 holes have narrow fairways and small greens hemmed in by lagoons, bunkers, oaks, pines and palmettos, while 17 and 18 play alongside the waters of Calibogue Sound. Part of the Sea Pines Resort Harbour Town is supplemented by two other great courses, a Golf Academy ranked in the top 10 in the U.S., and a luxurious boutique hotel called The Inn at Harbour Town.
Wow Factor: The iconic candy-cane-striped lighthouse behind the 18th green.
The Homestead (Cascades course), Hot Springs, Virginia
Why Play: Consistently ranked high amongst America's 100 best courses, the Cascades course at the Homestead is stunning. It’s also rated the best course in Virginia and the finest mountain course in the U.S. Routed through whole forests of mature trees, and with the Allegheny Mountains as a backdrop, the Cascades' jaw-dropping beauty can distract a golfer from his/her game - particularly in the fall when many of the trees show off beautiful hues of red, yellow, orange and golden brown. You cannot leave without enjoying the full Homestead experience, which includes a stay at the elegantly traditional Southern hotel, a visit to the luxurious hot springs spa, and an array of indoor and outdoor activities.
Wow Factor: Cap off a day of golf with some fine dining at the grand Homestead Dining Room, complete with formal and traditional service and some classic Virginian cuisine. Pack your best jacket and tie because you’ll have to wear them to get in this joint.
Sea Island (Seaside course), St. Simons Island, Georgia
Why Play: Originally designed in 1929 by famed architects Harry Colt and Charles Allison, the Seaside course was renovated by Tom Fazio in 1999. Another stunningly beautiful course with several holes running next to the Atlantic Ocean, Seaside is home to the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic. Seaside may not be too long, but it is very challenging and it may be worth a visit to the Resort's Golf Learning Center before you tee off. Instructors at the Center include four of Golf Digest's top 50 in the U.S. Hey! Why not improve your game and learn from the best.
Wow Factor: Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Sam Snead and Humphrey Bogart all played here, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair stayed at the Resort.