The Top 10 Golf Courses I've Played That Make Other People Jealous They Haven't Played Them

Tony Roberts. Getty Images.

Picture this: you have a 10:30AM tee time at some private course you've been dying to play for years. Your buddy met a member at a mutual friend's bachelor party and sauced him up right, high-fiving him with the right amount of fake enthusiasm over a blackjack win, to get the invite. The member is a bit of a squid but that's ok, he belongs to the most gate-kept golf course within 200 miles. Plus, he generously told your buddy to bring a friend, and you got the look. You haven't slept for two days due to the excitement. 

After a quick range sesh and exactly two putts where you think, that's plenty, let's not waste it all before it counts, you stride to the first tee where you're handed a sweating transfusion with exactly the right hue of purple. You think… maybe this guy isn't such a squid after all. Maybe you underestimated him. Sure, his socks aren't even close to the right length, and his swing reflects the shoddy work of an underqualified physical therapist who restored his mobility after a car crash that was covered up due to his father's influence. But we're here, we're drinking, and the first hole is fucking pure—not a broken tee in sight; not a pitch mark or divot as far as the eye can see. 


And just as your spirits are set to soar, the member host tells you he added a fourth to round out the crew. You hear a golf bag plop down behind, and you turn to see a wiry, handsome dude who is stretching. But he's stretching in an incredibly intentional way. It's not for show; it's for what lies ahead. This is a routine. He is for real. 

And then you glance at his bag. The woods are adorned with logos that make your heart sink into your testicles. Cypress? Seminole? How the FUCK did he get on Fishers Island?! 

Your envy gives way to abject terror, for now the host is proposing a "fun little match" and asking for everyone's index. Little nassau, $100/$100/$200 with auto presses sound ok with everyone? Whelp, there goes the Peter Millar QZ you hoped to snag after the round. For right now, your index is somehow the lowest it has ever been, and the match is over before it has started, thanks entirely to the fact that this Bagger Vance-meets-Josh Richards STICK has intimidated you down to a quivering bucket of bait worms with his farmer's basket of the country's most coveted golf courses. 


This is a very specific list. These are not the 10 best golf courses I've ever played—although at least a few of these would be at the top of that list. I've dismissed public courses out of hand. Cabot, Bandon, and Streamsong are as good as it fucking gets, but anyone with enough money can go play them. The purpose here is instilling FOMO. Headcovers and logos on shirts or pullovers are like passport stamps that tell your friends where you've been, and, by extension, how much more connected you are than they are. Casually referencing a round you played at Augusta is effective, but conspicuously removing a putter cover bearing a Friar's Head insignia on every single green? That's power. 

And if you're annoyed that I'm also writing this to brag about sick golf courses I've played? You've made my point for me. 

10) Bayonne Golf Club

Bayonne, New Jersey

Maybe a bias here as this is my home club, but I actually think it should be on here. If you live in the tristate area and you're golf-obsessed, chances are you've heard of the mystical wonder that is Bayonne Golf Club. Perched upon dunes that descend to the pristine waters of the Hudson, Bayonne gives you Scottish links golf just a quick backstroke from lower Manhattan. It is my favorite place on earth and I've written of it fondly over the years at Barstool. Needless to say, I get my fair share of requests for a home-and-home. Problem is, I don't really need to play anywhere else. Every round here is special. 

9) The Country Club

Brookline, MA 


Hosting one of the great Ryder Cups in history as well as a bunch of U.S. Opens certainly helps raise the caché of any golf course. Add to that the scent of money so old that tips are handed out in coins you might find under your pillow after losing a molar. Where the starter won't hesitate to remind you to keep every stitch of your shirt tucked TIGHT in your above-knee length shorts and don't you even fucking dare check your cell phone. After all, it is the oldest golf-oriented country club in the country. You better mind your Ps and Qs, but that squirrel logo will speak volumes about your standing on the ladder of elite golf. 

8) Winged Foot

Mamaroneck, NY

Another one that has hosted a lot of tournaments, including U.S. Opens and PGA Championships. Winged Foot has trees that seem older than the game itself. For whatever reason, I felt the urge to speak only in whispers from the moment I stepped on property here. Greens are impossible. Rough is impossible. Do I love playing the course? Not really, but that's not the point. The logo is great. Those who know simply call it "Foot." Act like you know. 

7) The Creek 

Locust Valley, NY

I'm putting this ahead of Winged Foot and I'm sure a lot of people will disagree. But I have to say that I see a lot more Winged Foot hats than Creek hats around the golf world. Does that mean that more people have played guest rounds at WF than the Creek? Nah, it might mean that those who play Winged Foot are more likely to buy a hat there. But scarcity breeds envy, and the infrequency with which I spot a Creek logo just makes me think it's slightly more cool to get invited to play there. Plus, I LOVE this golf course. Gil Hanse did a massive and spectacular restoration a few years back and since then, this place has caught fire on the rankings of every top golf course list there is. Don't be surprised if it overtakes Piping Rock soon. Speaking of… 


6) Piping Rock

Locust Valley, NY 

The big sister club to the Creek, and only a few minutes away. I wanted so badly to put Creek ahead of Piping Rock. Truly, I did. But you just can't deny that Piping Rock still holds the edge when it comes to exclusivity, public perception, and possibly median member income—a few criteria we have to consider. I like the course, not as much as the Creek, but still plenty to consider it a great and wonderful place. You might argue that Piping Rock is so exclusive that you risk nobody recognizing the logo. But those who do will think your dad is a judge, senator, or THE TOP SURGEON FOR THAT BODY PART IN ALL THE LAND. 

5) Sleepy Hollow

Briarcliff Manor, NY

Best logo in golf. It's hard to describe how much I love this course. The club house looks like a Victorian estate and the pro shop knows exactly what it's got. Sleepy Hollow has received a lot of press lately as they hosted the Mid-Am last year, and it feels a lot more welcoming than some of the others above it on this list. But universally, everyone who plays here loves the course, and they're not just saying it. God, a round in October with the leaves turning and the Hudson reflecting that autumn light? Be still, my heart. 

4) Oakmont

Plum, Pennsylvania


Holy Jesus, what a place. You feel like you're walking through history, with shrines and plaques and photos to feast upon if you love the heritage side of golf. So many U.S. Opens. So consistently one of the top five golf courses in the country. TWO great logos (another squirrel!) Plus, the people here are… kind? There's something about Pittsburgh that breeds down-to-earth people who appreciate nice things. I played here once and was set up with total strangers who, after one round, became instant friends and we continue to meet up for golf to this day. This is my second favorite golf course to play on this list, even though it beat the absolute shit out of me. 

3) National Golf Links of America

Tuckahoe, NY 

It genuinely hurts me to put NGLA anywhere but #1 on any list, as it is unequivocally my favorite golf course in the world. I've shot my career low here twice, which of course meant that I spent so much time shopping in the pro shop that the guy behind the counter started to feel embarrassed on my behalf. The logo is great and the colors work with everything. If there is a better southside, I'm yet to taste it. 

But this is not a list of favorites. To refresh, this is a list of courses that will instill utter rage among those around you when they realize you have played these courses and they have not. A list of flauntability. The top peacocks. And for better or worse, there are two that sit above National. 

2) Pine Valley

Pine Hill, NJ 

Well, well, well. Bet you're wondering What the absolute fuck could be ahead of Pine Valley? Not so fast, eager beaver! Don't scroll down yet. Let me give you my thoughts on PV, for I have many. 

This is, perhaps, the quintessential course for this list. Year after year, Pine Valley is ranked as the #1 golf course in the country. At this point, I wonder if it will ever be supplanted. Being #1 by every magazine and website of note is enough to make any golfer salivate over the prospect of playing it. I say this humbly (just kidding)—it was an absolute privilege to be invited and to play this magnificent course. 


That said, the course is the hardest golf course I've ever played in my life. It embarrassed me. I was legitimately ashamed for about 85% of my round. There were times when I wanted to die. I actually thought about snapping my 9-iron shaft over my knee and using the splintered end to puncture my jugular, to put myself out of everyone else's misery. But then I remembered I play KBS C-Taper Tour X-Stiff shafts, and I worried I wouldn't actually succeed in breaking it over my leg. Which would leave a horrific bruise, and only embarrass me further. So instead I started drinking. 

I believe this is true of a lot of guests who play there. It is so utterly intimidating that to gather oneself takes an otherworldly level of focus or indifference. If you play badly, which you probably will, you feel like you're letting the course down somehow. It deserves better than you and you don't deserve to be there. All these thoughts swirled as I prepared to chunk yet another wedge. 

This story seems to be a common experience for a lot of people who go. But one after another, we line up to enter the tiny pro shop and buy our merch. For you are outside your goddamn mind if you think shooting 114 will stop me from buying a hat. I don't deserve it, but it's not for me; it's for everyone I ever meet on a golf course to know… I played a round at Pine fucking Valley.  

And finally…

1) Ohoopee Match Club

Tattnall County, Georgia

It has to be Ohoopee Match Club. If you know, you know. If you don't, you may never know. OMC has one of the smallest memberships of any golf club I've ever heard of. When I played it, it might have been 58 members total. You've got a better chance of breaking in to Buckingham Palace and combing the King's hair than you do of playing a round here. As such, there is no limit to how much you should spend in the pro shop. I bought so much gear there that I had to ship it home. We played a morning round and then borrowed some fishing gear and fished in the stream before the family-style dinner, which was the best food I've ever had at a golf club. Then it was on to some night putting on the practice green. Everything about Ohoopee is done to the highest degree. The caddies, the food, the booze, the bedrooms. It's incredibly relaxed, and we didn't even feel ashamed to admit that we had flown commercial to get there. 

The onion logo has a case to make against Sleepy Hollow for top logo in golf. It's guaranteed: if you're on a golf course and someone sees you wearing an Ohoopee logo, they will come over to ask "how good is that place?" And you'll just shake your head and smile. For sometimes, saying less is the best way to preserve the mystique of a place. 

Besides, that poor bastard will never get there. Let him dream his dreams. 

Bonus: the top courses I long to play, but have not played yet, that would help me feel less jealous of those who have played them.

1. Cypress

2. Augusta (obviously) 

3. Fishers Island

4. Sand Hills

5. Nanea

6. Merion

7. Seminole

8. LACC 

9. Friar's Head

10. Chicago Golf Club