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Best Public Golf Courses in New York

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New York State, one of the original thirteen pioneering colonies, is a state that is located in the northeastern United States. It is bounded by Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts to the east and Pennsylvania and New Jersey to the south. It is also sharing an international border with Canada to the north.

It is usually associated with the world-famous New York City or the greater New York metropolitan area (also known as the Tri-State Area, composed of New York City, Long Island, Mid and Lower Hudson Valley, New Jersey’s 5 biggest cities, and 6 cities from Connecticut).

New York City, considered as the world’s premier city, is a cultural melting pot and is widely recognized as the financial and media capital of the world. A gateway for legal immigration, New York City is also one of the most diverse and densely populated cities in the world. With a population of 8.6 million, it is home to approximately 40% of the entire state population. It is composed of the five boroughs, namely: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx.

New York State, whose state capital is Albany, enjoys a very diverse geography comprised of lakes, rivers, the Atlantic coast, mountain ranges such as the Appalachian and the Adirondack Mountains, valleys and the spectacular Niagara Falls to the north.

With such a diverse geography, a large population base with high disposable income, and a significant number of transient visitors passing through its doors, the state of New York is a prime location to build some of the most exciting golf courses in the country.

In this guide, we are going to list the top public golf courses in the state of New York, along with some semi-private courses that allow playing privileges for non-members after payment of green fees and other charges.

Best Golf Courses in New York

Rating: 4.95/5.0
Location: Farmingdale, New York
Holes: 18     Par: 71     Length: 7,468 yards

Golf is a sport where you are not directly competing with another individual, rather, you are actually competing against the course. The scoreboard is merely a side-by-side ranking of how well each of the players fared against their common adversary – the course itself.

In that regard, the Black Course at the Bethpage State Park in Long Island (about 30 miles east of Manhattan) is one of the toughest tests that you will ever have to pass. It consistently ranks among the best golf courses in the state of New York and is also listed among America’s 50 Toughest Golf Courses by Golf Digest magazine.

Bethpage State Park actually has five distinct 18-hole championship courses, namely the Yellow, Blue, Black, Red and Green courses. The Black Course (affectionately called “The People’s Country Club”) was originally designed by A. W. Tillinghast and opened in 1936, with subsequent renovations by Rees Jones in 1998 and 2008.

In the illustrious history of the US Open, the Bethpage Black was the first publicly-owned and operated course to have been chosen as a US Open venue. Some of the famous tournaments that have been held at this course over the years are the 2002 & 2009 US Open Championships and the 2012 & 2016 Barclays Tournament. It is also slated to hold the PGA Championship in 2019 and the Ryder Cup in 2024.

With a 152 slope rating, the Black Course is notorious for being one of the most difficult courses in the world. The average score here is almost a full stroke over par. There is an ominous sign near the first tee stating that it is an “extremely difficult course that is recommended only for highly skilled golfers”.

There is actually very little water that can be found on Bethpage Black. Its difficulty comes from a combination of factors such as the course’s length, very thick rough, waist-high fescue, forced carries, elevated tees, narrow fairways, greens with awkward pin placements, and a brutal course design teeming with massive, deep bunkers – both on the fairways and around the greens that require absolutely precise shots to avoid.

It will ease you in gently by starting with a somewhat pedestrian first three holes with only the 90-degree dogleg on the long par-4 first hole providing some level of difficulty. The real challenge begins from the fourth hole onwards. The 517-yard, par-5 fourth hole requires a precise shot from an elevated tee to a tight and heavily bunkered fairway, before aiming for a multi-tiered green fronted with massive bunkers. Fair warning: You will encounter so many bunkers on this course, you’ll be seeing them in your sleep long after your round is over.

Another memorable hole is the 478-yard, par-4 fifth hole which requires a precise tee shot to land on a tight spot on a dogleg-right fairway over a massive bunker, before finishing with a cardiac approach unto a 60-ft elevated green. It is so difficult that most players would be happy to finish this hole even with a bogey.

The course is immaculate and the state park scenery is absolutely breath-taking, but the pace may be slow on some days as they usually have a full schedule due to the course’s popularity. Carts are provided only until the starting tee, so be prepared to walk the entire round.

Bethpage Black definitely lives up to its lofty reputation as the premier golf course in New York, and one that should be on top of every serious golfer’s bucket list. 


Rating: 4.91/5.0
Location: Verona, New York
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,315 yards

The Turning Stone Resort is a prime golf resort destination in upstate New York that boasts of 72 holes composed of two 9-hole courses (the Pleasant Knolls and Sandstone Hollow) and three 18-hole championship courses (the Kaluhyat, Atunyote, and Shenandoah).

Atunyote, which means “eagle” in Oneida language, is an 18-hole parkland-style course designed by renowned architect Tom Fazio. It is patterned after the Augusta National, with a distinctive country club atmosphere, and features wide open spaces, soft rolling hills, lakes, and waterfalls. The two-mile drive up to the stately clubhouse from the entrance gate below, showcasing the course’s routing and the beautiful scenery overlooking the Mohawk Valley, builds even more anticipation for an exciting round of golf ahead.

Opened only in 2004, the Atunyote Course immediately came to prominence when it hosted successive PGA Tour events from 2006-2010, effectively catapulting it to its current stature as the resort’s marquee championship course. It was included in Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses in 2017 and in Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in New York in 2017.

Each of the course’s holes has a corresponding bird name. The 520-yard, par-5 fifth hole (Kingfisher) features a classic risk-reward scenario. Safety-conscious players can place their tee shot and 2nd shot along the right portion of the left-turning fairway as they try to avoid the watery gorge running alongside the fairway. Big hitters can try to reach the green in two strokes by carrying their tee shot over the water. But it’s an extremely dangerous proposition as water, bunkers and thick rough are practically surrounding the tight target landing area all the way to the green.

The 250-yard 11th hole (House Wren), is a long par-3 laced with a pond, a stream and a bunker on the right side of the fairway up to the green. You must carry your tee shot over the pond and land on the left portion of the fairway in order to avoid any of those hazards. Saving par here should put a satisfying smile on your face.

Despite being relatively near to the New York metro area, the pace is usually not a concern here as not a lot of golfers actually come to play here. You can basically have the course to yourselves, with a lot of time to take some beautiful pictures or admire the scenery. When you add the upscale amenities, the country club atmosphere and the excellent service, then you have an amazing combination that all avid golfers should experience at least once.


Rating: 4.87/5.0
Location: Pound Ridge, New York
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,165 yards

Launched only in 2008, the Pound Ridge Golf Club is already collecting prestigious accolades and earning favorable comparisons to some of the other more famous, classic courses such as Pebble Beach and Whistling Straits.

Right on the border between New York and Connecticut and less than an hour drive from Manhattan, the Pound Ridge Golf Club is one of the most picturesque and most challenging courses that you could ever play on. There are numerous forced carries and blind tee shots that there’s nothing much you can do except to trust your yardage and hope that you land in a good spot with a clear shot to the next target.

The course is in good condition, although with virtually no flat lie anywhere on this course you will be needing your entire shot-making arsenal, with some possibly awkward and goofy stances to boot. The greens are undulating, sometimes overly so. Most of the fairways are very tight that there’s little room for error. The whole course is a maze of water hazards, bunkers, trees, rock outcroppings that come into play, and plenty of dramatic elevation changes.

One of the more memorable holes is the 173-yard, par-3 15th hole nicknamed the “headstone”. It requires you to carry your tee shot over a ridge unto the green with a rock formation at the back forming some sort of a wall. If you fall short of the green, your ball is gone. If you overshoot it even a little bit and it hits the rock behind, the ball promptly bounces away from the green and will be good as lost.

It’s a little bit pricey and out of the way, but if you are serious about testing your game then this is definitely a course that you should try at least once. For those who wish to experience a balance of fun and challenge at the same time, move up one spot from your usual tee to give yourself a fighting chance. Either way, do not miss the chance to play on this course if you are in the vicinity. It is truly one of the top golf courses in Westchester County. 


Rating: 4.83/5.0
Location: Saratoga Springs, New York
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,265 yards

Recognized by Golfweek as the second-best public golf course in the state of New York, the Saratoga National Golf Club is the modern course that stands out in an area better known for old-school courses.

Designed by former RTJ Sr. protégé Roger Rulewich and opened only in 2001, the course sits on an idyllic backdrop of forest and wetlands which is perfect if you are looking for some peace and quiet. Despite its relatively flat layout, this 7,265-yard course with a 147 slope rating is considered as the most difficult course in the Saratoga area.

There are numerous forced carries and the whole course is swarming with perpendicular and lateral hazards, elevated greens, and massive bunkers. After the turn, the course suddenly felt more isolated, as opposed to the front nine which had a more open layout despite having the forest in the background most of the time. The back nine also integrated more water, which definitely made the game way more interesting. Some of my favorite holes in this course are found on the back nine.

The 590-yard, par-5 13th hole has water crossing the fairway twice and also running alongside the entire left portion all the way up to the green. The entrance road borders the right side and is considered out of bounds. The green is guarded by water and a huge white sand backside bunker.
The 195-yard signature hole 15th is a very picturesque par-3 with the lake, trees, lakeside residences and even some boats occasionally passing in the background. With the island green as the centerpiece, this is a postcard hole that you’ll wish you could play more than once.

Your best chance for a birdie would be at the 369-yard 16th hole. It’s a very manageable par-4 that is inundated with water on the right side of the fairway and around the green. Just remember to keep your tee shot towards the left side of the fairway and try to avoid the two bunkers on your approach to the green, and you’ll be on your merry way.

This is a course that should be experienced by every serious golfer. Aside from the beautiful course, bulk of its appeal actually comes from its laid back, almost private club kind of atmosphere, capped off by their wonderful staff and top-notch amenities.

Bonus tip: The Saratoga Race Course is just a short drive from the Saratoga National Golf Club. So if you’re a horse racing fan, be sure to schedule your game during the racing season. You can play 18-holes in the morning and attend the races in the afternoon. It should be one memorable experience with your friends and family. 


Rating: 4.78/5.0
Location: Apalachin, New York
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,104 yards

If you are hankering for a links style golf course, the Links at Hiawatha Landing in Apalachin, New York is a prime candidate to meet your desire. Located 15 miles west of Binghamton, it is a comfortable day trip for players living in New York or Pennsylvania.

With the Susquehanna River in the foreground and the Catskill Mountains in the background, this course offers the typical links challenges with its sloping hills, desolate sand bunkers, undulating greens, and fescue grasses populating a firm, sandy terrain while being exposed to the elements. Of course, the original Scottish landscape (where the game originated) will always be harsher – but this is as close as you can possibly get without having to cross the Atlantic.

It has been consistently cited among the “Top 3 Public Access Golf Course in New York” by Golfweek magazine. This is actually a very playable course, even for beginners and high handicappers.

Although water is prominently featured in seven holes, there are no forced carries or blind shots. This is a good ol’ fashioned fun course that can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be depending on which tee you choose to start from.

The finishing holes at the 17th and 18th is one of the best finales in any golf course. The concluding hole is a 523-yard, par-5 hole featuring a sharp dogleg left which you need to negotiate while weaving away from a huge pond dominating the left side of the fairway.


Rating: 4.74/5.0
Location: Victor, New York
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,051 yards

You can always count on the grounds at the Ravenwood Golf Course to be in excellent condition all throughout the year. It is something that they have been consistently noted for, and it’s something that is certainly appreciated by the greater golfing community.

Located 20 miles south of Rochester, this 7,051-yard, par-72 course is recognized as one of the top golf courses in the Finger Lakes region. Golf Digest listed it as among the top 5 “Best New Public Golf Courses” in 2003.

Designed by Robin Nelson, utmost care was taken to ensure that the natural beauty and contours of the original terrain be incorporated into the final layout without necessarily sacrificing the course’s intended difficulty. Hole diversity is exceptional. Each hole has its own unique features that make it singularly stand out from the others, yet somehow seamlessly combining to paint one whole ideal representation of a golf course, with the requisite breath-taking vistas in the background.

Uneven hills, water hazards, and a barrage of white sand bunkers come into play. The first nine holes are comparatively easier than the back nine which is composed of tricky par-3s, daunting par-4s, and long par-5s.

My favorite hole is the 169-yard, par-3 14th hole which requires an accurate tee shot over a pond. Stick the landing and you’re in play for a birdie. Hit the back of the green and the mounds and bunkers will suddenly complicate things for you.

You cap off your round with the spectacular 571-yard, par-5 18th hole that features seven massive bunkers on the fairway and the approach area. Once you successfully manage to clear them, you will be gifted with a pretty straightforward flat green waiting for you at the end. 


Rating: 4.69/5.0
Location: Bolton Landing, New York
Holes: 18     Par: 70     Length: 6,809 yards

Tucked between the mountainside and Lake George, the Sagamore Resort Golf Club is a par-70 course that delivers on the promise of breath-taking vistas and a challenging layout that is expected of an upscale resort course. Golf Digest recognizes it as among the Top 5 Best Golf Courses in New York, while Golfweek magazine cited it as one of the “Best 100 Resort Courses in the United States”.

One of my favorite holes is the beautiful 217-yard, par-3 third hole which seems straightforward at first glance but is actually mildly uphill, and the woods or the bunkers can easily gobble up your ball if you make any miscalculation in trying to land the elevated green.

The 495-yard, par-5 sixth hole is another memorable hole featuring an uphill drive and a fairway that bends left as you try to secure an angle towards the green. If you make the slightest mistake on your approach, the surrounding trees and massive bunkers are ready to complicate matters on any errant shot.

This is a resort destination that offers a lot of other outdoor sports activities along with top-notch amenities. Check out their very detailed and comprehensive website to have an idea of all the packages that the resort offers. A complimentary shuttle ride is provided from the resort to the golf course. Stay in one of their luxurious accommodations and plan a trip there with your friends or family for that one truly memorable golfing getaway. 


Rating: 4.65/5.0
Location: Cooperstown, New York
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 6,401 yards

Cooperstown is the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. If you are a baseball buff and an avid golfer, you can head on out there and combine a visit to the Hall of Fame with a round of golf at the stunning Leatherstocking Golf Course on the same trip.

Laid out along the coastline of the famous Otsego Lake, Leatherstocking GC has been around for more than a century. It remains a highly-loved golfing institution to this very day. It has been ranked as the 3rd Top Golf Course in New York by Golf Advisor as recently as 2017.

The trio of water-laced holes from the 16th to the 18th is one of the most picturesque and challenging finishing stretches that can be found anywhere. The 515-yard, par-5 final hole is one of the most interesting holes I’ve ever played on. You tee off from an island tee and try to land on the fairway coming from the side. You must be very careful not to overshoot it as you’ll miss the fairway entirely, and that ball will be good as gone.

Designed by Devereux Emmet, the course is cleverly divided into sections. The first eight holes are valley holes, while 9th to 12th are mountain holes, then you come back down for the next three valley holes, before finishing with the majestic water-laced trio for the final stretch.


Rating: 4.60/5.0
Location: Montauk, New York
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 6,976 yards


Situated way out there at the easternmost tip of Long Island and at least 120 miles away from downtown New York, Montauk Downs State Park GC is worth the long drive past “the other” famous Long Island course, just to experience its fun and exciting layout along with the challenges brought about by the course’s unique location. The winds from the nearby Atlantic coast are so strong at times that it brings a certain level of unpredictability to the course.

The course was originally opened in 1927 and subsequently renovated by the renowned father-son tandem of Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Rees Jones in 1968. Golfweek listed it among the top public golf courses in New York state.

It utilizes water hazards, uneven grounds, deep bunkers, along with the natural obstacles of the landscape to provide the difficulty. The signature hole is the 221-yard, par-3 12th hole which requires a strong drive to directly reach the elevated green while carrying a large swath of thick fescue grass below and avoiding massive bunkers surrounding the green.

Another memorable hole is the 459-yard, par-4 18th hole which leads directly towards the unique pyramid-shaped clubhouse.


Rating: 4.54/5.0
Location: Bronx, New York
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,407 yards

Location, location, location. That is the favorite mantra of real estate tycoon and current president Donald Trump whose company operates the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point (although it is officially owned by the city). That is exactly the singular advantage that this course wields over its competitors as it is uniquely situated right inside bustling New York City. It is only 10 minutes away from Manhattan and easily accessible from all the boroughs.

Built out of a former landfill and designed by the great Jack Nicklaus, the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point is a 7,407-yard, par-72 links-style course located in the Bronx that offers views of the East River, Whitestone Bridge and that unmistakable Manhattan skyline as a backdrop all throughout your round.

On the very same year that it opened, it was immediately named the 2nd Top New Public Course by Golf Digest in 2015. They also recognized it as the 4th best golf course in New York in 2016.

Nicklaus has successfully transformed the site into an accurate representation of a links course with its rolling hills, water hazards, mounds, pot bunkers, fescue grass, and undulating greens. It also has wide and forgiving fairways, as well as large greens which make this course very playable for players of all skill levels, especially if you play from the appropriate tees. Its greens and fairways are always kept in pristine condition.

Even though they are still operating out of a temporary clubhouse, the service here is top-notch and the food offering is excellent. They also have an outstanding practice facility. Green fees do not include cart fee, but this is a perfectly walkable course, so that option is entirely up to you.

This is the ultimate golfing experience in an urban setting. If you are used to scenic natural landscapes as a backdrop, the sight of the majestic Manhattan skyline while you are playing is an absolutely surreal experience that is worth trying if you are an adventurous and avid golfer. 


Wrap up


New York has more than 1,000 golf courses in the entire state ranging from little-known, out-of-the-way gems to some of the country’s most beautiful and toughest courses. Courses like the Bethpage Black, Oak Hill Country Club, and Shinnecock Hills have all become popular staples in some of the most prestigious tournaments in the country.

Blessed with a wonderfully diverse geography, from the Niagara Falls to the north, to the Appalachian and Adirondack mountain ranges, great valleys, lakes, and rivers, it is no wonder that some of the best public golf courses in the United States can be found here.

Whether you only have a New York minute or if you have more time for leisure on your hands, there is something here for players of all skill levels that will satisfy either your need for a challenge or some much-deserved rest and recreation.   

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Abraham

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