Texas, the Lone Star State, is the second largest state in the United States in terms of area and population. It is located in the country’s South Central region and is one of four states that share the border with Mexico. It is home to a sizable Spanish-speaking community owing to its past affiliation with Mexico, although English is still the predominant language. Some of its major cities include Austin (the state capital), Houston (the largest city), San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth and El Paso.
Economically, the state of Texas was historically identified with the cattle, cotton and lumber industries. The discovery of significant oil deposits at the turn of the 20th century initiated an unprecedented economic boom which they have leveraged to diversify into other industries. Today, the state of Texas has 54 of the Fortune 500 companies, second among all states. If it were a separate country, it would be the 10th largest economy in the world in terms of GDP.
Although Texas is commonly identified with the dry, arid landscape of the southwest, only less than 10% of its land area is actually classified as desert. It is a geographically diverse land consisting of coastal swamps, forests, plains, rolling hills, deserts, prairies, grasslands, mountains, and canyons.
With a diverse landscape, highly variable weather across different parts of the state, and a very sport-minded population base with high disposable income, Texas is a prime location for setting up the best golf courses this side of the Rio Grande.
In this guide, we are going to list the best public golf courses in Texas along with some daily fee semi-private courses.
Best Golf Courses in Texas
Location: Frankston, Texas
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,117 yards
Pine Dunes Resort and Golf Club is a good three-hour drive from the nearest metropolitan area (Dallas/Fort Worth), but this is one trip that is absolutely worth it if you want to experience one of the best golfing destinations in the state of Texas. Since it opened in 2001, Pine Dunes has been consistently receiving accolades from the most notable golf publications, the latest of which was being named as the #1 Golf Course to Play in Texas by Golfweek magazine who also awarded it the coveted 4 ½ Star rating.
This 18-hole championship course in balmy eastern Texas sits in the middle of century-old pine trees and four small lakes, providing golfers with the perfect combination of an exhilarating getaway amidst a supremely peaceful setting. It is so isolated that you will likely encounter herds of deer at any point during your game.
Numerous obstacles are strategically placed throughout the course with multiple sand bunkers accompanying almost every hole. Accuracy is an absolute requirement due to the very tight fairways leading to most of the holes. Any slight miscalculation is almost an automatic offering to the good ol’ spirits of the majestic pine forest.
Barely warming up into your round, you will be meeting the dreaded 463-yard, par-4 fourth hole which many regard as the course’s toughest hole. It requires pulling off a perfect drive off the tee to land on a tight spot on a dogleg left fairway while trying to avoid the thick brush of trees and the fairway bunker. Once you successfully negotiate that, the approach to the green is no walk in the park either, as it is also guarded by massive bunkers on either side.
The 605-yard 11th hole is another interesting layout. This long par-5 features massive fairway bunkers that is further complicated by a vast waste area in the middle, effectively dividing the layout into two halves. The next half does not get any easier as even more bunkers crowd the fairway and the area around the green.
The course refuses to let you off easy, as the par-5 finishing hole features a sharp 90-degree turn in the middle that requires a precise drive off the tee to land at a tight spot to gain a window towards the heavily-bunkered green.
With a no-frills clubhouse and practical amenities, this is not a luxury resort by most definition. But if you come for the golf and the spectacular views, then it is difficult to top the Pine Dunes Resort and Golf Club as the best golf course in East Texas.
Location: Lajitas, Texas
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,418 yards
Remotely situated near the Mexican border in southwest Texas, Black Jack’s Crossing at Lajitas Golf Resort is about six to seven hours drive from San Antonio or Austin, and about a nine-hour drive from Dallas. If you come with a group of eight or more, however, you may avail of their private air charter service which will cut the travel time to approximately 90 minutes from anywhere in the Texas Triangle.
Nestled comfortably in the foothills of Big Bend National Park, this 18-hole championship course designed by PGA Hall of Fame golfer Lanny Wadkins straddles the Chisos Mountain range overlooking the Rio Grande and the Chihuahuan desert.
With a scenery straight right out of a John Wayne movie, complete with tumbleweeds and succulent cacti, Black Jack’s Crossing opened in 2011 as a desert destination course with an old frontier ambiance. Built on the site of a former military outpost along the Rio Grande, it has been voted as the #1 Most Beautiful Golf Course in Texas by Golf Magazine.
Both the front nine and the back nine start in the valley and then rise dramatically through the mountains of Big Bend. With an elevation reaching up to 2,200 feet you will be treated to stunning panoramic views all throughout the round. It has a very challenging layout characterized by drastic elevation changes, deep sand bunkers, dogleg fairways, forced carries over rock and cactus, some blind tee shots, and undulating greens that call for more than a six shooter’s load out of your shot-making arsenal.
The 649-yard, par-5 eighth hole requires a precise drive to the fairway that’s so far down below, you practically have to squint to see it from the highly elevated tee. The par-3 13th hole is so steep that it requires practically just a chip shot (and allow gravity and physics to do the rest) to reach the bunker-surrounded green. The prettiest view has got to be from the 14th green overlooking the mighty Rio Grande and the nearby Santa Elena Canyon.
The course is in excellent condition. There are water stations and restrooms every few holes and the staff are so attentive that they can service your needs anywhere in the course if you place a request.
The owners intended Lajitas Golf Resort to be a “pure Texas” getaway for the city dwellers out East. The surrounding landscape, building architecture, and furnishings reinforce that theme along with the various other outdoor activities that the resort offers such as vista-viewing while horse-back riding, skeet shooting, and dining under the stars with traditional cowboy fare over grill and barbecue.
Engage with the locals as you stroll around the resort property. They will be happy to trade old frontier stories to last for days, which will surely include the amusing account of the beer-guzzling goat mayor of Lajitas called Clay Henry. So gather your group and plan that trip to this unique destination as soon as you have the chance. This is a desert golfing experience that should be on any avid golfer's bucket list.
Location: El Paso, Texas
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,307 yards
Imagine the range of possibilities that you can do if you find yourself stuck with a long layover at an airport. You can go shopping, sight-seeing, watch a movie, or sample the local cuisine. Apparently, you can add playing a round of golf into that list if you are passing through El Paso International Airport in western Texas.
The Butterfield Trail Golf Club is a 7,307-yard, 72 par premium public golf course located a stone’s throw away from the airport. Designed by the world-renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio, this hybrid parkland/links style course has been entertaining both locals, tourists, and transient visitors alike since 2007.
It has been included among “America’s Best New Courses” by Golf Digest in 2008 and “Best Municipal Courses in America” by Golfweek in 2010. It can best be described as ‘when parkland meets links and had a baby’. It is characterized by the lush, well-watered and exceptionally-maintained grounds of a parkland course combined with the sand dunes, rolling terrain, mounds, undulations, and exposure to the harsh elements reminiscent of a links course.
Management is exceptionally proud of the course’s hole diversity as they claim that each and every hole is virtually a signature hole and has affectionately assigned each one with its own moniker to make the distinction. Every hole has its own set of features and challenges that make them stand out from one another. We’ll go one step even further by saying that these are actually some of the most unique holes that you could find, not only in El Paso but in the entire state of Texas.
Almost from the get-go, the course promptly challenges you with a risk/reward scenario on the 543-yard, par-5 second hole with a dogleg left upper fairway. Big hitters may attempt to reach the green in two by carrying the vast waste area near the green on their 2nd shot. Or you can play it safe by going for the right side of the fairway to avoid the waste area. Even then, you still won’t have a clear lane towards the green as the huge greenside bunker blocks your path and effectively shrinks your target landing area.
My favorite is the 170-yard, par-3 10th hole (dubbed the Deadman’s Hole) where you have to avoid the vast waste area to the left of the green. Failing to clear this would mean a 25-foot drop below the green. You will be passing through juniper trees, natural vegetation and a bridge on your walk to the green which makes this one of the most memorable moments during the round.
The finishing hole (called the Cottonwoods) will not allow you to just fade peacefully into the horizon. The 566-yard, par-5 18th hole features a classic risk/reward scenario on your 2nd shot after executing the downhill tee. If you get into a favorable position you can carry your 2nd shot over the water and aim directly for the peninsular green if you’re feeling lucky. If not, the safer play would be to lay up towards the left side of the fairway although it doesn’t necessarily leave you with an easier approach as the green is still fronted by bunkers and surrounded with water. How you perform on this concluding hole will leave a lingering impression of how you played the entire round, as you retire to the clubhouse for that much-needed refreshment.
If you ever pass through El Paso International Airport, make sure to leave enough time before your return flight to catch a round of golf at the best golf course in El Paso, the Butterfield Trail Golf Club.
Location: The Colony, Texas
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,127 yards
With the Old American Golf Club, designers Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard set out to create their own masterpiece while paying homage to the classic layouts created by legendary architects such as A.W. Tillinghast, Donald Ross, Perry Maxwell and Seth Raynor during the so-called “Golden Age of Golf Architecture” circa 1910-1935.
The underlying principle for their classic designs was they retained much of the original landscape’s contours and natural attributes while crafting the most strategic and diverse layouts at the same time. This is exactly what Leonard and Davis have successfully accomplished with this par-72, 18-hole course that does not only capture the aesthetic qualities, but also the period-appropriate ambiance and typical challenges presented by its predecessors.
Set against the scenic Lake Lewisville, the course is kept in immaculate shape and the bunkers are deliberately kept in their “natural” state in keeping with the designers’ aim to simulate the conditions of the classic American golf courses, which means you can’t expect your ball to have a consistently playable lie or surface at all times.
More than half of the 18 holes played along the lake or had a view of the lake, and they were made all the more memorable because of it. The concluding holes from the 16th to the 18th hole is probably the most exciting stretch of the entire round. It finishes with the 553-yard, par-5 18th hole which features an elevated tee and a dogleg left fairway swarming with bunkers until the green perimeter area.
There’s a high probability that you will be encountering some wildlife such as wild turkeys, deer, coyotes, or even the famous Red Tail Hawks (which nests on some of the trees along the fairway) during your round. Some historical artifacts dating back to the turn of the 20th century are also prominently displayed throughout the property such as a classic steel railroad bridge and an old American barn.
Do not miss the chance to partake of some nostalgic round of classic American golf when you are in the DFW area. The Old American Golf Club is definitely one of the best golf courses in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro.
Location: Lubbock, Texas
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,207 yards
Located on the West Texas panhandle and rising out of the plains of a former cotton field, golf course architect Tom Doak and his team moved more than a million yards of soil to form the desired contours, routing, and layout of their ideal golf course basically from scratch. A noted minimalist, he stepped out of his comfort zone to simulate the more diverse geographic landscape of areas to the east and south of Lubbock while also taking into consideration the variable strong winds of the area in order to achieve this masterpiece.
The 18-hole, par-72 course is intended to challenge the best collegiate golfers in the country and it successfully manages to do that and can even extend that challenge to an even wider spectrum of players including seasoned professionals. It has been recognized as the #2 Best Course You Can Play in Texas and the #3 Best Campus Course by Golfweek magazine.
This is a links-style course, which means that you will have to include the strong winds in your game plan. Case in point, the 177-yard, par-3 third hole looks straightforward on paper. But if you don’t compensate for the southerly wind going against your tee shot, chances are you will probably fall short of the green and fall right into the very deep bunkers in front.
The 220-yard, par-3 10th hole is another very interesting hole. The green is fronted by a pond along with bunkers in front and on the sides. With the southerly wind at your back, it will be next to impossible to stick the landing on the green even if you manage to carry the water and the front bunker. Most players will be forced to squeeze their tee shot through the very tight opening between the bunkers to reach the green.
The 578-yard, par-5 risk/reward finishing hole provides a thrilling climax if you are competing within your group and the scores happened to be close. After going over a shallow ravine off the tee, you can go big by carrying the wider portion of the pond and aim to land directly on a narrow green with backside bunkers ready to collect your ball if the landing doesn’t hold.
The safer play involves carrying the narrower portion of the pond into a landing area on the left side of the green. This leads to a nearer, more controlled approach which is relatively safer even if the green is still surrounded by bunkers.
This makes for a dramatic finish that will surely be discussed over and over at the nineteenth hole. Whether you are the hero or the goat of the story, depends on the option that you will be taking here. A par is usually enough to secure a victory. If you went for the risky play and somehow managed to pull it off, you will be the hero of the story. If you went big and fell short, however, then better prepare for the never-ending ‘Tin Cup’ jokes.
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 6,926 yards
Perched atop the highest point in San Antonio with a commanding view of the Texas Hill Country and the Alamo City, the Palmer Course is one of two 18-hole championship courses along with the Resort Course, that is owned by the La Cantera Resort & Spa.
Although the Resort Course is the more famous course among the two because of its 15-year run as a PGA Tour tournament venue, the Palmer Course is actually fast-becoming the more preferred course by more discerning golfers as it offers a more difficult challenge and some of the most breath-taking views that can be had in this corner of the Texas Triangle.
Compared to its older sibling, The Palmer Course has more dramatic elevation changes, narrower fairways, exciting hill-side routing, and blind tee shots to make it a worthy challenger to golfers from all skill levels, even PGA Tour professionals. It is a course which puts more premium on accuracy, although there are some holes that also require some lengthy drives.
But the absolute attraction here is actually the spectacular views. Nowhere else in San Antonio can you witness such majestic panoramic views. There are holes which are also accompanied by the sight and sounds of lakes, streams, and waterfalls. One of the signature holes is the 188-yard, par-3 fourth hole which requires you to carry your tee shot over a lake to get to the opposite green which is fronted by a waterfall. Absolutely marvelous!
The view from the 10th green, which is situated on top of a steep ravine, is another Instagram-worthy moment. Before ending the round, you will be treated to an amazing view on the downhill par-4 concluding hole as you approach the 18th green with the pond, streams and the beautiful Palmer Course clubhouse in the background.
The Palmer Course has been listed No. 1 on the “Top Courses in Texas” list by Golf Advisor in 2017. But don’t just take their word for it. Book a trip to the La Cantera Resort with your friends and family and catch a round or two at the Palmer Course to decide for yourself. It will be absolutely worth it.
Location: The Colony, Texas
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,002 yards
Resting comfortably along the coastline of Lake Lewisville, the Tribute Golf Club encompasses 18 holes of links-style course that has been named as the #1 Public Golf Course in the Dallas Area by Golf Digest in 2005. Designed by renowned course architect Tripp Davis, it was created as a tribute to the great British Open course where the sport traces its origins, hence the name.
For the most part, the Tribute Golf Club manages to nail that. The course condition, sand dunes, windswept bunkers, sea-washed grasses, water hazards, undulations, firm and fast greens, and very strong winds truly approximate the playing conditions of the Open.
Wrapping up the entire experience is the par-4 finishing hole that is reminiscent of the legendary Old Course at St. Andrews starting with the Swilken Bridge replica near the tee and concluding with the dramatic walk towards the Scottish-inspired clubhouse at the end.
The course is in great condition and everyone on their staff are very friendly. And if you like bird-watching there’s an incredible amount of bird activity here. Gulls, Kestrels, Northern Harriers, and Red-Tailed Hawks can all be seen from time to time. You can also see other wildlife species roaming around such as geese, ducks, rabbits, and deer.
Overall, it’s a truly great experience. If you are a serious student of the history of the game and you would like a bit of a challenge, this is the closest thing to experiencing what it’s like to play at the hallowed course of St. Andrews. So don’t miss the opportunity to play at the Tribute Golf course if you are in the DFW area. It is one of the must-play courses in Texas if you are an avid golfer.
Location: Humble, Texas
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,422 yards
Being the home of a PGA Tour event since 2006 and because it was built to approximate the great Augusta National, you can guarantee that the course conditions and quality of play at the Tournament Course of the Golf Club of Houston will be impressive. And it doesn’t disappoint.
The Golf Club of Houston, originally launched as an exclusive membership facility in 2002 called the Redstone Golf Club, has two 18-hole championship courses, namely: The Member Course (opened in 2002) and the Tournament Course (opened in 2005). Roughly two years after opening, the facility was renamed to the Golf Club of Houston and was subsequently opened for public access.
The more prominent course, the Tournament Course, has been the home of the Houston Open for the past twelve years. It has the distinction of being one of only eleven public courses nationwide to host a PGA Tour event. This Rees Jones/David Toms-designed course offers exceptional hole diversity with an assortment of clever par-3s, demanding par-4s and grueling par-5s.
There are several risk/reward holes that will either test your patience or awaken the devil-may-care attitude in you. The 335-yard, par-4 12th hole is one such hole. With a deep and receptive green, you will be tempted to go directly for the green on your 2nd shot in hopes of finishing with a birdie. With the green teetering on the edge of the lake to the right, however, you must pull off a very precise shot otherwise your ball finds a new home in the bottom of that water. The safer play would be to just stick to the left side of the fairway until you reach the green and hope to save par from there.
The 484-yard, par-4 18th hole provides a fantastic conclusion to the round with some exciting play and a stunning vista to boot. With the gorgeous lake bordering the entire left side of the hole in play, you will be forced to carry your tee shot over the water while trying to avoid the huge fairway bunker at the landing area. With the green having the pond on the left and a massive bunker on its right, the approach shot is no easy picking either. Saving par here would be a little victory.
They have outstanding practice facilities with a driving range as well as four separate greens with bunkers and chipping areas for honing your short game. And the course atmosphere is really peaceful and serene, it’s amazing to think that this is located just a short drive from the downtown area. So go where the pros play and book a round or two at the Golf Club of Houston – Tournament Course whenever you are in the area. It is definitely the best golf course in Houston.
Location: Grapevine, Texas
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,017 yards
Regardless if you are a Dallas Cowboys fan or not, the NFL-themed Cowboys Golf Club stands on its own merits as an outstanding golf course that is definitely worth trying out if you are somewhere in the Dallas area. Located a mere six miles from DFW Airport and a short 30-minute drive from downtown Dallas, it is an ideal destination for business travelers and visitors who want to catch a quick round in the midst of a tight schedule.
They have a unique all-inclusive pricing structure that includes meals at the clubhouse (before and after your round), including all on-course food and beverages (excluding tobacco and alcohol). There is a really cool snack shack to serve you after the 7th and 11th hole, and the cart girl is constantly making the rounds the entire time. So you will have absolutely no excuses except to focus on your play.
This is definitely a shotmaker’s course where the driver is not always automatic from the tee. The rolling hills, drastic elevation changes, water hazards, and strategically placed sand bunkers make this a very tough course for mid-to-high handicappers. Consider moving to the next tee from where you usually play, if you want to offset the course difficulty.
I love risk/reward holes. The 163-yard, par-3 dogleg left third hole is the epitome of such a scenario. You can go big by carrying the pond in front and try to hold it on the green so that you don’t fall into any of the three massive bunkers at the back. If you manage to stick the landing, a birdie is perfectly achievable. The safe play is to go for the middle of the fairway to gain an angle for the approach to the green. This will take the pond and the green-side bunkers out of play, but a par is probably the best that you could muster out of this play.
Another interesting hole is the par-3 17th hole which is a straight drive from the tee, except that you have to contend with the wide pond and massive bunkers fronting the green. Big hitters can go directly for the green by going over the water and the front-side bunkers to try to earn a birdie. Cautious players will elect to reach the green in two and hope to save par.
This is a beautiful and challenging course, especially for single-digit handicappers. The only reason we did not rate it higher on this list is due to the occasional airplane noises caused by its proximity to the DFW Airport. But if you don’t mind that, then you must include the Cowboys Golf Club in your to-do list. It is one of the best golf courses in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Location: Lost Pines, Texas
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,205 yards
Have a round of golf while enjoying the Texas wilderness at the Wolfdancer Golf Club of the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa. Located 20 miles east of Austin, this 72 par course provides a challenging yet satisfying experience for golfers of all skill levels.
It was named among the “Best Courses to Play in Texas” by Golfweek in 2017. This is a very challenging and eccentric course. You may need a couple of visits to familiarize yourself with the terrain and net your typical score.
The signature hole, the 6th, named the “Cascades” is a very picturesque par-3 that features three ponds, a cascading waterfall, and green-side bunkers. It will take accuracy and ball control to land on the small green and keep your ball from falling off. By the way, try your best not to be distracted by the beautiful scenery if you want to finish this hole in regulation or under.
The 155-yard, par-3 12th hole called “Top of the World” may be the course’s most breath-taking hole as you are afforded a 180-degree panoramic view of the course from the tee, along with views of the resort, the river, and the horizon. But the show-stopping action is equally enthralling. With two massive front-side bunkers leaving only a very narrow opening, you practically have to thread the needle to let your ball pass. Accuracy is at a premium here, as a slight deviation to the left or right will surely land you in one of those bunkers.
The back nine is relatively flat compared to the front nine, so you will have a chance to make up for your bad score in front and still have a realistic chance of netting a decent score at the end of your round.
Texas has some of the best and most popular public golf courses in the country. We have listed the top ten here based on our own research and personal experience. Ranking golf courses is a highly subjective and variable undertaking, however. In that sense, there could be as many variations of coming up with your own list as there are actual golf courses. But for the most part, the best ones will usually place prominently on everyone's list albeit possibly in different order.
In this regard, we would like to hear from you if you agree with the courses on our list. And if you happen to have an entirely different list, that is perfectly natural. As we have mentioned, it can be a subjective pursuit. So, drop us a message as we are interested in hearing your thoughts. We will respond to you as soon as possible.