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Best Public Golf Courses in Kentucky

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Kentucky, otherwise known as the “Bluegrass State” due to the widespread presence of bluegrass in many pastures owing to the state’s fertile soil, is part of the East South Central States.

Kentucky used to be a part of Virginia until it officially became a separate state in 1792. It is bordered by seven states from the Midwest and the Southeast which is primarily based on the division imposed by the Ohio River to the north and the Mississippi River to the west.

The state capital is Frankfort, but the major cities are Louisville and Lexington which are both located in the Bluegrass Region of Central Kentucky. It is a land that is rich in natural resources and has a diverse environment ranging from lakes, rivers, forests, gorges and fertile pasture lands.

Kentucky is blessed with relatively warm, humid summers and moderately cold, snowy winters. It is famous for the Kentucky Derby, coal mining, bourbon distilleries, tobacco, moonshine, college basketball, automobile manufacturing, and bluegrass music.

With such diverse landscape, favorable weather, and passionate sports fans with a propensity for the outdoors, it is no wonder that golf has also gained a loyal following in the state of Kentucky. There are over 200 courses all over the state, with more than half classified as public courses.

In this article, we are going to rank the best public golf courses in the state of Kentucky along with some semi-private courses that allow non-member playing privileges for a daily fee.

Best Golf Courses in Kentucky

Rating: 4.86/5.0
Location: Shepherdsville, Kentucky
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,112 yards

Situated 23 miles from downtown Louisville, Heritage Hill Golf Club is among the most impressive public golf courses in the state of Kentucky.

Opened in 2007, the course has received numerous recognitions from prestigious golfing publications. It was the top-rated course on Golf Advisor’s list of “Best Public Golf Courses in Kentucky” for two consecutive years, and recognized as the 10th best course in the state among all public and private courses.

This championship course is filled with exciting challenges that any serious golfer would surely want to participate in and experience for themselves. With five sets of tees and a versatile layout, the Heritage Hill G.C. makes sure that all players, regardless of skill level, will have a fun and exciting time playing on this track.

Course designer Douglas Beach peppered the layout with various obstacles to keep the 18-hole course engaging and interesting at every turn. Ranging from elevated tee boxes to steep bunkers and intimidating water hazards, Heritage Hill G.C. will leave a lasting impression on you that you’d want to be back here at the very next possible opportunity.

Among the most notable holes is the 555-yard, par-5 10th hole, featuring a dogleg left fairway and eight strategically-placed deep sand bunkers that make for an obstacle-like layout. The green is fronted by multiple bunkers, which means that falling short would wreak havoc on your scorecard. This is a hole that demands pinpoint accuracy and an excellent gameplan.

Heritage Hill G.C. features one of the most scenic and spectacular closing holes in all of Kentucky. The 377-yard 18th hole is a very makeable par-4 that requires a short carry over water on your approach to the green. This is a hole which is as exciting to play as it is absolutely beautiful in terms of the knockout scenery.

The course is in excellent shape from the first tee to the 18th green. They also have great amenities and a very well-trained and courteous staff. Just a great time all the way ‘round. The Heritage Hill Golf Club definitely lives up to their top billing as one of the premier courses in all of Kentucky.

Rating: 4.82/5.0
Location: Union, Kentucky
Holes: 18     Par: 71     Length: 6,724 yards

Since its debut in 1994, Lassing Pointe Golf Course has been highly regarded by local and visiting players alike. It has been named by Golfweek magazine as the best public golf course in Kentucky. 
Conveniently located in northern Kentucky, Lassing Pointe Golf Course is only minutes away from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and a short drive from some parts of Cincinnati.

Designed by famed course designer Dr. Michael Hurdzan, this world-class 18-hole course features some of the most exciting and interesting holes in the state, alongside some of the most breathtaking scenery that you could find. Elevation changes, thick trees lining the fairways and surrounding the greens, deep bunkers, and gorgeous yet treacherous water hazards are just some of the obstacles that come into play to make this track one of the most challenging courses to play in the entire state.

Barely warmed up, you will immediately be tested by the tough 185-yard, par-3 2nd hole. A water hazard meanders from the side of the fairway and cuts across your path three times on the way to the green. You need to reach the green directly off the tee if you want to realistically finish with a par or birdie. Otherwise, you can just steer clear of the lateral water hazard to be able to have a chance at finishing with a par on a safer play.

My favorite hole is the 187-yard, par-3 14th hole which necessitates a carry over a wide pond off the tee in order to reach the green on the other side. This is a hole that requires ball control and precision. It is simultaneously one of the toughest and most beautiful holes in the entire track.

The 441-yard, par-4 finishing hole presents a thrilling layout in the midst of a stunning scenery. It features a sweeping fairway and a green that is surrounded by trees and water, making it essentially an island green. The elegant clubhouse beckons you from the background. 

Rating: 4.77/5.0
Location: Burkesville, Kentucky
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,023 yards

Dale Hollow Lake Golf Course is among the most beautiful courses in Kentucky. Not only does it have a fun and exciting layout, it also offers some of the most beautiful scenery emanating from the elevated vantage points and inherent beauty of the mountain and forest that it has been carved out of.

Named among the top 10 “Best Public Golf Courses in Kentucky” by Golf Advisor for two consecutive years, this gorgeous course was designed by course architect Brian Ault and was opened in 2003. The track is designed to be fun and exciting for all players, regardless if you play twice a month or twice a year. Just be sure to select the appropriate tee to suit your skills and you will have an absolute blast of a good time with this course.

It features 61 strategically placed sand bunkers, dramatic elevation changes, and daunting water hazards, among other obstacles. But the most threatening hazard could be the breathtaking views, so you better not be distracted if you want to finish with a decent score. If you happen to be here during sunset, the awe-inspiring views from the greens alone are worth the price of the green fee.

The Zoysia grass fairways and Bentgrass greens are always kept in tip-top shape. The par-3 11th hole is among the most memorable holes in the entire layout. The fairway is basically replaced with a gigantic bunker, requiring you to carry almost the entire 194 yards from the tee all the way to the green. This is not a risk/reward hole as there are no safe options available. The rest of the fairway is also lined with trees and does not offer any strategic advantages. On this hole, you just have to take a deep breath and just muster the courage to let ‘er rip.

Dale Hollow Lake Golf Course is a family-friendly place that also offers other outdoor recreational activities such as water skiing, scuba diving, fishing, and swimming. Make the trip to Burkesville and have a grand time with your friends and family. It will be absolutely worth it.

Rating: 4.71/5.0
Location: Georgetown, Kentucky
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 6,842 yards

The lovely semi-private Cherry Blossom Golf Course & Country Club is only three miles away from downtown Georgetown. It is also a few minutes away from Lexington and only an hour’s drive from Louisville, or even from some points of the neighboring state of Cincinnati coming off I-75.

Selected as the “#1 Public Golf Course in the State of Kentucky” by Golfweek Magazine for seven consecutive years (2004-2011), Cherry Blossom G.C. features 38 deep sand bunkers, sparkling blue waters that come into play on eight holes, majestic mature trees, and the occasional elevation changes that all provide quite the challenge in varying degrees for players of all skill levels.

One of my favorite holes is the 138-yard, par-3 12th hole which features an island green reminiscent of the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Needless to say, this is a hole that requires absolute precision and ball control. You have to stick the landing or risk falling off the green. Falling short is not an option.

The front nine has an easier layout than the back nine. If you wish to finish with a decent score, you have to load up on the front nine as those strokes can easily be wiped out by the much more difficult back nine. The 17th and 18th holes are some of the most challenging holes in the entire state. If you even make it out of the last two holes with a par then you’re a legit player.

The 438-yard, par-4 18th hole is the course’s signature hole. It requires a significant carry over water off the tee. A ridiculous amount of strategically placed bunkers on the fairway and surrounding the green makes it a very formidable adversary even for the most seasoned pro. This hole will force you to pull out all the rest of your clubs from the bag if you haven’t already. Playing against the wind further complicates matters.

Cherry Blossom Golf Course and Country Club also has top-notch amenities and some of the nicest staff that you’ll ever meet. Make it a part of your itinerary if you pass by Central Kentucky, it is one of the best golf courses in the entire state.

Rating: 4.67/5.0
Location: Jeffersontown, Kentucky
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 6,905 yards

Launched in 1967, Charlie Vetinner Golf Course has been receiving constant praise and recognition from the players and prestigious golf publications through the years. Competing with over 200 other golf courses in the entire state, it is recognized as the 7th Most Challenging Course in Kentucky. Don’t fret, however, as the course comes with four sets of tees to provide just the right level of fun and excitement for players of all ages and skill level.

The 18-hole layout is composed of Bentgrass greens and Zoysia grass fairways spread over gently rolling hills. Aside from the tree-lined fairways, the track is peppered with various obstacles strategically placed all throughout the course with up to 50 white sand bunkers, a creak that snakes across several holes, and ponds on holes nos. 5, 14 and 18 all providing the needed challenge for a very exciting round.

Aside from the golf course, Charlie Vettiner G.C. also comes with excellent amenities and other recreational activities to make for a memorable time with your friends and family such as a fishing lake, hiking trails, and a playground. Overall, it is one of the best golf courses in northern Kentucky. 

Rating: 4.63/5.0
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,079 yards

When you are in the Lexington/Georgetown area, don’t pass up the chance to play at the Kearney Hill Golf Links. It is a Scottish links-inspired 18-hole course located just seven miles north of Lexington. 
Kearney Hill Golf Links has hosted several prestigious golf tournaments such as the PGA Senior Tour and the Amateur Public Links Championship for both male and female. Golf designer Pete Dye flawlessly blended the area’s natural terrain with a very thrilling layout punctuated with his signature roller-coaster greens. It is rated among the top 10 best public golf courses in Kentucky.

With dramatic elevation changes, deep bunkers, water hazards, narrow fairways, undulating greens, and thick trees surrounding many holes, it is safe to say that this is a course that will definitely test your skills.

One of the most memorable holes is the 348-yard, par-4 6th hole, with six huge bunkers lined up on each side of the fairway. Just hold your shot straight and steady and you’ll be okay. You may even be able to come away with a possible birdie.

The penultimate hole, the 433-yard, par-4 17th, features two huge water hazards on either side of the fairway with bunkers on the fairway and fronting the green. This is a hole that will leave a lasting impression on you as you head towards the end of your round, leaving you wanting more and looking for the next available opportunity to come back and play. 

Rating: 4.58/5.0
Location: Pineville, Kentucky
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,037 yards

Wasioto Winds at Pine Mountain State Park Golf Course is a 7,037-yard premier golf course designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan that is widely regarded as among the best public golf courses in Kentucky. It has also been awarded the 3rd spot on Golfweek’s “Best in Kentucky” list.

There are numerous impediments incorporated into Wasioto Winds’ layout, with the vast majority of them being water. Although there are bunkers placed all throughout the course, dense well-managed trees outlining the holes and narrow fairways, Wasioto’s element is definitely the water and it provides the highlight in many of the holes.

It showcases three different lakes that weave in and out of several holes, and merge with other streams and large areas of wetlands. Much of the water is lined with tall grasses on the borders.

One of my favorite holes is the 455-yard, par-4 12th hole which allows you the pleasure of a magnificent view from the elevated tee, before promptly leading you to a cardiac downhill drive towards the fairway below. This is a course that favors the highly strategic player with pinpoint accuracy. Hole Nos. 5 and 15 require some very precise and controlled shots into the green, otherwise you will end up carding a score way over par. Most of the holes provide a bailout, however, if you know your way through the course. So it would be worthwhile to make several visits to truly appreciate this great layout.

The front nine is much more difficult than the back nine. Don’t worry if you lose a few strokes early on as you will be afforded several opportunities to earn them back once you make the turn.

Wasioto Winds’ finishing hole is also their signature hole. The massive 639-yard, par-5 18th hole features a narrow fairway bordered by water on the left and thick, dense trees on the right. You have to tip-toe your way favoring the right side of the fairway until you are forced to carry the water just in front of the elevated green on your approach shot. This is a hole that certainly deserves its signature hole title as it perfectly encapsulates the exciting play and beautiful scenery that the Wasioto Winds G.C. is offering.

Rating: 4.54/5.0
Location: Burnside, Kentucky
Holes: 18     Par: 71     Length: 6,394 yards

General Burnside State Park is Kentucky’s sole island park. The 18-hole premier golf course is located in General Burnside Island, south of Pulaski County. It is surrounded by the famous Lake Cumberland.

General Burnside State Park Golf Course has a magnificent layout that has earned it numerous accolades from prestigious golf publications. It has consistently placed among the “Best Public Golf Courses in Kentucky” list of Golf Advisor for three consecutive years.

The 6,394-yard track includes a variety of strategically placed bunkers, thick trees lined along the majority of the holes, intimidating water hazards, and narrow fairways. You will be tested early with the 136-yard, par-3 3rd hole featuring a narrow fairway sandwiched between a thick line of trees, leading to a bunker-fronted green.

One of the most exciting holes is the 342-yard, par-4 10th hole featuring a gorgeous pond in front of the tee. The green is surrounded by massive bunkers on either side and dense trees on the periphery. This is a makeable birdie opportunity for the strategic and disciplined player but will punish other wayward players.

Being situated in an island has a few perks. The whole island itself looks like a huge island green when viewed from the top. You will have views of the water all throughout your round and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, especially if you happen to be there at sunset. Put this course on your to-do list when you are visiting Kentucky. It is a unique course that should be experienced by all avid golfers. 

Rating: 4.49/5.0
Location: Alexandria, Kentucky
Holes: 18     Par: 71      Length: 6,235 yards

A.J. Jolly Golf Course is the little golf course that could. At only a little over 6,200 yards from the tips, this is a course that is more akin to beginners and high-handicappers than the more seasoned veterans. Still, the A.J. Jolly Golf Course provides enough challenge if you play from the back tees and you will have amazing vistas to accompany you all throughout your round.

It has been ranked by Golf Advisor as second among all public and private courses on their 2017 list of the “Top Golf Courses in Kentucky”. Designed by William H. Diddel, the course’s exciting layout flows along the terrain like it is a natural part of the original landscape. The grounds are always kept in excellent condition. Majestic and colorful trees line the fairways of almost every hole on this course.

Plenty of water hazards lurk around several holes, providing both an element of tranquillity and danger. Deep sand bunkers, dramatic elevation changes, and uneven lies are constant companions all throughout your round.

One of my favorite holes is the 184-yard, par-3 8th hole featuring a pond right smack in the middle. Despite the intimidating water hazard staring right at you on the tee, it is actually not a particularly long carry so you will have a realistic chance of coming out with a birdie if you manage to control your landing and stay on top of the putting surface.

Its signature and most nerve-wracking hole is the 318-yard, par-4 18th hole featuring a picturesque elevated tee with a pond right in front of it and compounded even more by the lake along the entire length on the left side of the fairway. That means that you will have to carry your tee shot over water to clear the pond while trying to avoid the lake on the left side of the fairway. Once you hurdle that, however, there is little resistance left as the green is practically open with no bunkers or other obstructions protecting it from being attacked. It is actually a great birdie opportunity for the more experienced and disciplined players.

Rating: 4.45/5.0
Location: Louisa, Kentucky
Holes: 18     Par: 71     Length: 6,630 yards

‘Good things come to those who wait’ is an adage that can best describe the feeling of most golfers who have persisted on making the long trip to this remote facility. Situated 20 miles from Ashland and hours away from other major cities in Kentucky and the neighboring states of Cincinnati and Ohio, Eagle Ridge Golf Course provides a worthy test of skill even for the most seasoned golfers amidst a bevy of breathtaking views and abundant wildlife.

Opened only in 2003, the course designers have managed to create an exciting layout while retaining the abundant resources and natural contour of the terrain. Even the considerable wildlife endemic in the area occasionally show up throughout your round. It has been named by Golf Digest as one of the “Best Golf Courses You Can Play” in the country, and has also landed a spot on Golf Advisor’s list of the “Best Public Golf Courses in Kentucky” in 2017.

The staff are well-trained and friendly and they have top-notch amenities all throughout. The course is kept in perfect condition at all times. But the course itself is anything but friendly. Despite the stunning vistas and beautifully laid-out track, this may be one of the most difficult layouts that you have ever played on. It is certainly one that will demand that you use all the clubs in your bag before the round is over.

Despite the wide fairways and the relatively short yardage, the layout puts a lot of premium on strategy and great shot positioning. This is a very hilly course with uneven lies basically all throughout. There are frequent elevation changes and some of them are just unbelievably difficult.
Players who are looking for a challenge or just looking to hone their skills will find a worthy challenge in the Eagle Ridge G.C. while beginners and high-handicappers can take chances with the forward tees or just enjoy the amazing scenery and wildlife.

It offers great hole diversity all throughout. One of the most notable holes is the 577-yard, par-5 7th hole which features a hidden green off a sharply-angled fairway. The more adventurous players will try to make it to the green on the third shot even if the green is partly hidden, hoping to get a birdie. The safe play is to approach the green on your 4th shot, when the green is already directly visible. But this play will only net you a par, at best, and it is not an entirely safe option either as there are numerous bunkers that line the front of the green.

The Eagle Ridge Golf Course at Yatesville Lake State Park is a hidden gem that is absolutely worth the trip if you are up for a serious challenge, or just looking for a peaceful commune with nature to recharge your batteries. 

Wrap up

Kentucky is home to some of the most passionate people who also happen to have a propensity for the great outdoors. When you add a favorable climate and a diverse terrain, it is but natural that many of the most beautiful and challenging golf courses in the country also reside in the “Bluegrass State”.

There are more than 200 courses spread all throughout the state, with the vast majority classified as public courses. What we have listed here is a ranking of the best public golf courses in Kentucky based on institutional and player reviews, along with our own personal experiences.

We acknowledge that this is a subjective matter that is based on a lot of variables. We would like to hear your thoughts if you think we missed some of your own personal favorites in our list. Ultimately, however, what is most important is that you go out there and enjoy the wonderful game of golf for yourself.

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