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Best Public Golf Courses in Ohio

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Ohio, affectionately called the Buckeye State, is a Midwestern state that is part of the North American Great Lakes region. It is bounded by Pennsylvania to the east, Lake Erie to the north, Indiana and Michigan to the west and northwest, and Kentucky and West Virginia to the south and southeast.

Its strategic geographic location and highly-developed highway network are critical in linking cargo and businesses from the Northeast to the Midwest. The state capital is Columbus, which is also geographically located right at the center of the state. Other major cities include Cincinnati (home of the University of Cincinnati), Cleveland (home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), Dayton (home of Wright State University), and Akron (home of LeBron James).

Ohioans have a hardworking, no-nonsense approach to life, as well as a profound love for the company of others. Much of the territory is composed of plains and plateaus but that hasn’t held Ohioans from building some of the best golf courses in select areas where there is enough variety to build great courses. They are even willing to go to great lengths and move massive amounts of soil to shape the desired layout and contours out of an otherwise flat land, just to have a great course.
There are more than 800 golf courses in the state of Ohio and majority of them are daily fee courses. In this guide, we are going to list the best public golf courses in Ohio along with some semi-private courses that allow playing privileges to non-members in exchange for green fees and other related charges. 

Best Golf Courses in Ohio

Rating: 4.91/5.0
Location: Nashport, Ohio
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,243 yards

Located just 40 miles from downtown Columbus, the Virtues Golf Club is the only public course in Ohio that has been included in Golf Digest’s “America’s Greatest 100 Courses” list for 2017-2018. Previously known as the Longaberger Golf Club, this 7,243-yard 18-hole property has a challenging layout that meanders from a ridge top down to the valley.

Nicely secluded from all sorts of urban activities or real estate developments, you will be treated to spectacular panoramic views from every hole. It is characterized by generally wide fairways that lead to impeccable greens usually surrounded by mature trees. The course is in excellent condition from the tee to the greens.
Dramatic elevation changes, water hazards, and sand bunkers are strategically placed all throughout the course to provide the required challenge to satisfy players with all kinds of talent, from beginners to seasoned pros. You will be needing your entire shot-making arsenal as you face both uphill and downhill shots, as well as numerous dogleg fairways.

The signature hole is the 563-yard, par-5 fourth hole which features an elevated tee rising 150 feet above the fairway. The green is guarded by a pond in front and a pair of bunkers on the side. This is a difficult course to handle on your first visit. So a couple of visits as well as choosing the right tee will be absolutely helpful for you to have a fun and satisfying time on this course.

To cap it off, they have a great clubhouse and a wonderful staff with top-notch service. Just some of the reasons why the Virtues Golf Club is considered as the best public golf course in the state of Ohio.

Rating: 4.86/5.0
Location: Lebanon, Ohio
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 6,963 yards

Conveniently located just a half hour drive from Cincinnati and a short 20-minute drive from Dayton, the Shaker Run Golf Club is a 27-hole facility that is subdivided into three different 9-hole sections, providing you the unique opportunity of being able to experience the property via three distinct 18-hole championship course combinations: The Lakeside/Meadows, Meadows/Woodlands, and Woodlands/Lakeside.

This quaint Warren County countryside property off Interstate 75 was originally launched as an exclusive membership facility in 1979 until it was opened for public access in 1994. The original combination was the Woodlands/Lakeside course, designed by the renowned golf course architect Arthur Hills. To this day, the Woodlands/Lakeside course is still regarded by many as the best combination among the three. It has been recognized by Golf Digest as the 6th best public course in Ohio.

Judging by its name, you can expect an abundance of trees and water all throughout the course. It also features rolling hills and drastic elevation changes, which is a pleasant surprise considering that the surrounding properties are actually flat farmland and cornfields. Hole variation is exceptional and you can expect a combination of sand traps, doglegs, and water to provide the needed challenge and obstacles for a fun and satisfying round.

The Woodlands nine is composed of tight, tree-lined shots with lots of dramatic elevation changes. The most memorable hole from this leg is the 203-yard, par-3 fifth hole where a smallish green appear to be perfectly reachable from an elevated tee perched about 120 feet above, only to find out that the prevailing wind may adversely affect your shot to leave it well short of the green – subsequently depositing your ball into the creek or off against the retaining wall below.

The three consecutive finishing holes of the Lakeside nine is as challenging as they are scenic. From the greens of the 16th until the 18th you will be provided excellent vantage points of the lake which is already a bonus in itself. But their challenging layout provides double the satisfaction.

The 540-yard, par-5 17th dogleg left hole is bordered by the lake to its left up until the green. You have to maneuver your tee shot to avoid the water on the left and the massive bunker near the fairway landing area. The 2nd shot and the approach does not get any easier as you contend with the green being tucked behind a mound, a tree obstructing your line of sight, as well as numerous bunkers and the water behind effectively surrounding the green.

Rating: 4.82/5.0
Location: Ravenna, Ohio
Holes: 18     Par: 70     Length: 6,936 yards

Kent State University’s home course, the Windmill Lakes Golf Club, is located six miles from the campus and has been named among the “Best Golf Courses in Ohio” by Golf Advisor for four consecutive years from 2014-2017. With large undulating greens, 40 sand bunkers, and seven lakes incorporated in its layout, this par-70 course provides ample challenge not only to the Kent State University men’s and women’s golf teams but to all players with varying skill levels.

There are only two par-5 holes but it is adequately compensated by the numerous long par-4s which require precise drives off the tee as well as great long iron skills on the second shots.

The 182-yard, par-3 second hole requires that you land the ball on the right side of the green to steer the ball towards the center. It’s easier said than done, however, when you have to contend with the lake, a front-side bunker, and trees obstructing your driveline.

There are three other cleverly designed par-3s, but my favorite hole is the 379-yard, par-4 13th hole which requires you to draw your tee shot to get over the huge fairway bunker while avoiding the water at the approach area. Once you are safe, the shorter distance will make the approach shot considerably easier even with the green-side bunkers. A birdie is perfectly achievable from thereon. 

Rating: 4.77/5.0
Location: Painesville, Ohio
Holes: 18     Par: 70     Length: 6,623 yards

Another charming par-70 course making it into our list is the Little Mountain Country Club out of Painesville, Ohio. Situated less than 30 miles from downtown Cleveland, the Little Mountain CC combines spectacular views of Lake Erie with a mostly fun layout comprised of wide fairways, strategic bunkering, and generous greens.

It has outstanding hole diversity which keeps players guessing from hole to hole, despite the fact that the property is located on a relatively flat terrain. The residential units within the property are visible from some of the holes, however, so this is not exactly one of those idyllic golf courses with unspoiled natural vistas.

You will conclude your round with a scenic walk-off towards the clubhouse after conquering the bunker-fortified 18th green. A good way to end the game and an even better way to start the rest of your experience at the Little Mountain Country Club. After your round, you can retire at their clubhouse’s patio which has a full bar and a captivating vista of the 18th green. It is a favorite spot of patrons and locals alike due to their great food and excellent service.

Be sure to play a round or two at the Little Mountain Country Club if you are in the area. It is one of the best public golf courses in northeast Ohio. 

Rating: 4.72/5.0
Location: Canton, Ohio
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,015 yards

Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, course designer Brian Huntley was able to create this beautiful 18-hole course from the desolate remains of an old quarry. Due to its origins, the Quarry Golf Club has inherited specific land formations that are actually beneficial in creating the features for a fun and challenging golf course such as vast waste areas, 100-ft cliffs, streams, and very deep lakes.

With a little more earthmoving and landscaping the site has now been turned into a wooded forest with the final course layout boasting of beautiful tree-lined fairways, strategic bunkers, water hazards, rock outcroppings, and lush bent-grass grounds from the tee to the green.

One of the most memorable holes is the 162-yard, par-3 Hole No. 9 where the lake effectively divides the layout and a humongous front-side bunker is guarding the green. Actually, this is not a particularly difficult hole. I just happen to love beautiful par-3 layouts over water. If you are able to stick your landing on the green off the tee, you may even snag a birdie here.

The course concludes with the dramatic risk/reward 436-yard, par-4 Hole No. 18 with a curving fairway and the lake running the entire left side of the hole. Big hitters can try reaching the green in two by carrying the water on the 2nd shot. If you manage to pull it off, you’re in for a possible birdie.

The safer play would be to just follow the fairway’s layout, reach the green in three and close the hole with a par. With no greenside bunkers, the safer option can be deemed almost routine, which I personally find boring. So let the adrenaline guide you on this one and just go for the riskier play. The game is just more fun when you take some calculated risks from time to time. 

The Quarry Golf Club is situated just six miles southeast of downtown Canton. Do not miss the opportunity to play one of the best public golf courses in Ohio whenever you are in the area.

Rating: 4.66/5.0
Location: Batavia, Ohio
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,145 yards

A true labor of love, the Stonelick Hills Golf Course was personally designed by its owner Jeff Osterfeld with the aim of providing an upscale golf environment to the general public and some select members. By routing through densely wooded hills, and winding through ponds and lakes, he was able to achieve the harmonious balance of providing players with a fun and challenging game yet also allowing them to feel the peace and serenity of a blissful walk through nature, all at the same time.

Since it opened in 2004, the Stonelick Hills GC has garnered numerous recognitions from the prestigious golf publications over the years. It was ranked #2 Best Public Course in Ohio in 2015. They have a handsome and stately clubhouse with some of the friendliest and nicest people on their staff. By the time you meet their course mascots, the lovable bisons named Divot and Duff somewhere around the first hole, you know you’re in for something truly unique and special.

Stonelick Hills GC has excellent hole diversity and some of the most spectacular natural views in the Tri-State Area. The course itself is not overly difficult but neither is it a pushover. It has that perfect mix of tough and easy holes, along with some risk/reward holes, and a good amount of elevation changes. Accuracy is at a premium, but just aim for that 150-yard marker off the tee on every hole and you’ll have lots of fun the whole time.

The finishing holes on the front and back nine are absolutely gorgeous. Laid out over multiple lakes with a clear view of the clubhouse as you head for the green, these are simply the best holes of the entire layout.

The 559-yard, par-5 Hole No. 9 has a lake bordering the left side of the fairway and an island green with a huge bunker at the end. You have to carry your approach shot over the water and be able to exercise enough ball control to not let that ball fall off.

The 591-yard, par-5 18th hole is almost similar to the 9th except that it’s not an island green this time. The green is only bordered by water to its left side. You might think that that would be easier compared to the 9th, but it’s also longer so you may have to add some more uumpf into your tee shot and 2nd shot to realistically end up with a par.

Add this one to your bucket list. It’s the best public golf course in the Cincinnati area.

Rating: 4.61/5.0
Location: Streetsboro, Ohio
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,462 yards

Boulder Creek Golf Club is arguably the best public golf course near the city of Cleveland. Located just 30 minutes away from the downtown area, this 18-hole parkland course features dramatic elevation changes, water hazards, uneven lies, and up to 64 sand bunkers to make for a truly exciting round of golf. It is also built on top of 200 acres of naturally beautiful property with lakes, fountains, waterfalls and mature trees all providing a magnificent backdrop throughout the course.

Course designer and property owner Joe Salemi made sure to follow the natural contours and topography of the area without compromising on the desired playability and difficulty that he wanted for the layout. It has been recognized as one of the “Best Courses You Can Play” in Ohio by Golfweek magazine.

One of the most memorable holes is the 402-yard, par-4 second hole. You have to execute a precise shot off the tee to land between the fairway bunkers and gain an angle for the succeeding approach to the green. Other than three backside bunkers and the lake behind, the green is basically unprotected from the front. If you can manage to land on the green without the ball rolling off to the bunkers, then you’re in a great position to make a birdie.

Boulder Creek’s signature hole is the 175-yard, par-3 17th hole which features a beautiful island green. This is an Instagram-worthy moment as well as a great opportunity to snag a birdie if you manage to stick the landing off the elevated tee.

Rating: 4.54/5.0
Location: Zanesville, Ohio
Holes: 18     Par: 70     Length: 6,508 yards

At 6,508 yards, par-70, EagleSticks Golf Club is a course that is partial to accuracy and control than to length or power. Built out of 150 acres of hilly agricultural property near Zanesville, this compact 18-hole course features gently sloping fairways, frequent elevation changes, and undulating greens with views of a mature woodland containing oak, maple, ash, walnut, and cherry trees alongside a gorgeous cascading waterfall.

Designed by well-known Ohio architect Dr. Michael Hurdzan, it has been recognized by Golf Advisor as among the Top Courses in Ohio for three consecutive years, from 2015-2017. It has a total elevation of up to 100 feet, which means that there are ample opportunities to enjoy the panoramic views from the course’s mostly elevated tees and for exciting action because of frequent uneven lies.
The 591-yard, par-5 11th hole is the course’s signature hole. A creek effectively divides the fairway into two while the green is well-protected by two huge bunkers and a stream to its left. With an intimidating downhill tee shot, you must place the ball well before the fairway creek and try to reach the green in three by squeezing in between those front-side bunkers.

But what really takes EagleSticks over the top is their vaunted staff friendliness. It is one of the main reasons why they are consistently listed as one of the best public golf courses in Ohio. Golf Advisor has actually listed them among the Top 25 Friendliest Courses in the US in 2015. 

Rating: 4.49/5.0
Location: Ashville, Ohio
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 7,071 yards

Sandwiched between the Scioto River on one side and the Little Walnut Creek on the other, Cooks Creek Golf Club is a charming 18-hole course south of Columbus with a layout that is both aesthetically pleasing and competitively challenging enough to satisfy all golfers of varying skill levels and interests. It was previously known as the Raintree South Golf Club before it was re-acquired by the Cook family a couple of years ago.

Since then, there has been a steady stream of positive reviews with regards to the improvement in the course conditions, maintenance, service, amenities and overall ambiance compared to the previous management. The challenging layout was always a strong point for the course, however, and it remains to be so. It has been listed by Golf Advisor among the “Top Courses in Ohio” in 2017.

Because of its proximity to two major sources, it is natural for water and wetlands to be incorporated in much of the course’s layout. The designers (Dr. Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry, and John Cook) were successful in marrying a wonderfully diverse hole layout into the area’s original landscape and natural, wooded terrain. The bentgrass greens and fairways are exceptionally well-maintained. 

My favorite hole was the 553-yard, par-5 tenth hole with its elevated tee, contour variations, elevation changes and a green that is protected by a creek and tall native grasses. With a dogleg layout and bunkers on the fairway and around the green, this is a hole that is beautiful as it is challenging. The pair of long par-3s on the 6th and 15th are also very memorable because of their challenging layout and the breath-taking beauty of the surrounding scenery and water hazards. 

Rating: 4.445/5.0
Location: New Philadelphia, Ohio
Holes: 18     Par: 72     Length: 6,971 yards

Oak Shadows Golf Club encompasses 200 acres of countryside tranquility surrounded by rolling hills, majestic trees, and vast areas of protected wetlands. Located in New Philadelphia, it is eastern Ohio’s premier 18-hole public golf course. It was also recognized by Golf Advisor as the #7 top course in Ohio for 2017.

One of the most memorable holes is the 515-yard, par-5 sixth hole with its classic risk/reward set-up. Big hitters can try to reach the green in two if they are confident of being able to hold the ball on the small green upon landing. Otherwise it will be another one among many balls that have been offered to the lake spirits, as water actually surrounds the green from all sides except the front entrance. The safe play is to follow the left side of the fairway until you reach the green wherein you are almost assured of a bor..., er, safe par.

You conclude the round with the 549-yard, par-5 18th hole. Despite the wide fairway, you still need to be careful as the left side is out of bounds and a lateral hazard borders the right side. With the wind at your back, big hitters can directly go for the green in two. The green is fronted by a lake and a perpendicular bunker. If you’re not in a rush, you can elect to place the ball between the two lakes about 70 yards from the green for the best approach.

If you ever pass by New Philadelphia or Tuscarawas County, be sure to book a round or two at the Oak Shadows Golf Club. It is the best public golf course in eastern Ohio. 

Wrap up

Ohio is not known as a hotbed for great golf courses due to its relatively flat terrain which is not ideal for building the most challenging layouts. But that doesn’t mean that there are no great courses to be found here as there are still select areas with interesting landscape variations where great and challenging courses can be constructed in the state.

We have listed the top public golf courses here, based on gathered reviews by the playing public, recognition from prestigious golfing publications, as well as from our own personal experience. This is by no means an exhaustive and definitive list, however, as we acknowledge that this is a very subjective and highly variable process.

We encourage you to send us your own list of golf courses which you believe should have made it on the list. We would be glad to hear from you and we’ll be responding to you as soon as possible.

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