You’re spending a day in one of America’s great big cities and you have time for one round, where do you play?

Let’s first address and discuss America’s great big cities. I can’t ever see changing my top 5, but there’s certainly room for debate once you get to 6 thru 10. Although I’m coming off yet another year of at least 200 days on the road, regretfully, I still haven’t spent a lot of time in Nashville or Charleston, but I’m told (often) that they are contenders. As for the golf near cities on my list, I offer a mix of courses you have to play regardless of the price (Shadow Creek in Vegas), and in some cases, I offer a course that’s simply insane value (Coronado in San Diego). Either way, I hope this list helps with future quick trips.

Bethpage Red
1. New York City – Bethpage – Black

For me, NYC is the Secretariat of cities in America. The runaway and undisputed champ. It’s the leader in culture, live entertainment, food, logistics, nightlife and breakfast spots. In terms of golf, and if you’re truly an avid golfer, you’re going to want to check Bethpage Black off the bucket list. About 45 minutes from the city, it’s an easier get from either one of the airports (JFK and LaGuardia). There are a few ways of getting tee times and there are several articles on how to do it. In the end, it’s going to be worth it. Might I suggest showing up early on a shoulder-season weekday and be willing to wait it out as a walk up. Chances are, you won’t wait long. If, for some reason, you can’t get on Black, the Red Course is an exceptional and convenient plan B.

2. San Francisco – TPC Harding Park

What might be the greatest municipal in a major city, Harding Park has it all: Location, history, aesthetics, accessibility and a short course. My plan B would be Lincoln Park, if, for no other reason, the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the 17th tee.

Goat Hill Park
3. San Diego – Coronado Golf Course

Always on my list for best value golf in America, I send everyone in need of a great golf experience in San Diego to Coronado. At $35, it’s insane bang for the buck. It’s full of locals who are passionate about their golf and their course and I’ve always found them willing to share both. If I had time and a National Rental Car, I’d head north on Interstate 5 and stop in at Goat Hill Park where John Ashworth and the city of Oceanside is delivering on one of the coolest vibes and one of the most quirky and testy courses in the country. And I can’t say enough good things about the Loma Club, a 9-hole par-3 course that’s super close to the airport and is on my list of best short courses in the country.

4. Chicago – Cantigny Golf Club

I’m always so pleasantly surprised by the trips I take to Chicago: A Cubs game, Pearl Jam concert, restaurants, hockey, and basketball. Heck, even the bean is worth a quick visit. And although it sounds like the Tiger/Rolfing/Obama project is on hold for now, there’s plenty of good public golf to pick from. You can’t go wrong at Cantigny, which has 27 holes, a caddie program and just the right vibe you want from a quick round of golf. Same could be said for The Glen Club, which is a little more expensive but a super user-friendly Tom Fazio design.

5. Boston – George Wright Golf Course

Having spent some time in Boston this summer, I was reminded how little I know about the country’s history. Having now done The Freedom Trail, not to mention a tour through Harvard’s campus and a trip to Fenway Park, we left better educated on the how and why Boston is such a great city. If I were to play one round of golf, you can’t go wrong at George Wright, the blue-collar muni that was designed by Donald Ross and can be played by a non-resident for less than $50. If you’re willing to get out of the city a bit, Red Tail Golf Club always gets great reviews.

6. Austin – Lions Municipal Golf Course
Lions Municipal

One of the more compelling and ongoing stories in golf is Lions Municipal’s fight for life. On the outskirts of Austin proper, the fate of Lions Muny is in the hands of the University of Texas. And although Ben Crenshaw is a loyal Longhorn, he grew up playing at “Muny,” so Gentle Ben is dug in against his alma mater and he’s determined to save his roots. As the first golf course to desegregate in the south (1951), there’s a much deeper and more historical layer to all that’s at stake here, but for the purpose of this article, if and when you’re in Austin, go play Muny, talk to some locals and show your support. Golf, green space and this community can’t afford to lose this critical match. My Plan B in Austin would probably be Wolfdancer Golf Club at Hyatt Lost Pines.

7. Denver – Commonground Golf Course

Home of the Colorado Golf Association and incredibly close to the city, Commonground is a Tom Doak design for less than $50 and it offers the Solich Caddie and Leadership Academy. In other words, when setting up your tee time, reserve a caddie and help shape the future of a deserving kid. My plan B in the Big D is Arrowhead Golf Club, which is a spectacular routing in and around the base of the Rocky Mountains.

8. Los Angeles – Rustic Canyon Golf Club

To be from Northern California it has always been hard to love Los Angeles, but regardless of the bias, there are too many good things about LA not to have it in my top 10. Beaches, music, scenery, seafood and movie mystique, just to name a few. Given the traffic anywhere and on any given day and time, there’s no such thing as a quick round golf, but I’d play Rancho Park for the overall experience and I’d make the drive to Rustic Canyon for an upgrade on golf and to cash in on what is serious value.

9. Miami – Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne

I like Miami, Vegas and New Orleans for the same amount of time and generally for the same social opportunities. I’m in and out in two days and never sleep at night. Hard to beat Miami’s beach scene, diverse culture, food, art, music festivals and boat shows. I’ve always loved the golf and tranquility of Cranden Park on Key Biscayne, which also serves as sweet relief from trials and tribulations of South Beach. For good value, an unexpected and impressive history, you might want to consider the Country Club of Miami. I prefer the West Course.

10. Las Vegas – Shadow Creek Golf Course

Unfortunately, there are too many courses in America that are charging north of $200 and not delivering on a memorable experience. Chances are, those courses are suffering a slow death, or they’ve been sold and they’re reworking their focus, their courses and their business models. I will say, that although Shadow Creek is barely accessible (must be staying at an MGM property and even then, tee times are only available at limited times two days a week), if you were to get one of those times, and if you’re looking for a high roller experience in the form of golf, Shadow Creek actually delivers. The service, conditioning and feeling as though you’ve flown to Florida, is a little like what you’d get at Bali Hai, but Shadow Creek is infinitely better. And I like the overall Shadow Creek experience to Cascata. I send buddies trips to Paiute, and no one has ever complained. TPC Vegas is a good option, but if I wanted to keep it simple, quick and close to The Strip, I’d take a cab to TopGolf.


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