There are a handful of locales that every golfer dreams of living. First and foremost would be St. Andrews, Scotland. The townsfolk there have unbelievably affordable access to the venerable Old Course.
Then there is the thought of being a resident near Pebble Beach, or a local in the Village of Pinehurst, and of course, Augusta, Georgia.
Augusta swells each year as the sporting world descends on this small Georgia city about two hour's east of Atlanta. Some residents rent out their homes for the week for a princely sum. Area private clubs pad their coffers with premium member-for-a-day packages. The green jacket is handed out on Sunday evening and then Augusta just becomes another small American city with a bunch of golf-loving residents and enough Waffle House stools to accommodate all.
Little big cities are hot right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some big-city dwellers to consider going to a smaller city where they can have a little elbow room. Remote work has reduced the need to be in San Francisco or Chicago or New York City. For golfers, little cities are some of the best metro areas in the country to reside in. There's still just enough cultural stimulation, commutes are reduced, housing costs are less of a burden and you can typically find a private or semi-private club with reasonable dues.
So where are the best little cities in the U.S. for golfers? To narrow it down, I've scanned Nielson 2020 data, looking at the U.S. markets ranked No. 75-125 in households, - which gives us market populations between 200,000 and 365,00 TV homes. (Using Nielson also means that small cities piggybacking off large metros aren't considered). I've paired these markets with data from our golf course directory to come up with a list of the best little cities to live for golfers.
I've also included Zillow's typical home value estimate for each city, should you be considering a 2020 jettison to a new zip code.
Do you live in a little big city that is great for golf? Tell us where and how you like it in the comments!
Nielson market rank: 108 | TV homes: 240,270 | Number of golf courses (within 30 miles): 46 | Typical home value: $121,054
There are many benefits to being a golfer living in Augusta. You've got volunteer or employment opportunities at The Masters or you can operate a business or side hustle that benefits from the event. Then there is the hope that one day you'll rub elbows with a member and get a chance to play the course.
But how about the local golf scene? Between Augusta and Aiken there are both prestigious and historic private and public golf courses. Aiken Golf Club blends history with fabulous value, while Augusta's municipal course is enjoying strong reviews in 2020. | More Augusta, Georgia and Masters content
Nielson market rank: 121 | TV homes: 209,210| Number of golf courses (within 30 miles): 56 | Typical home value: $280,683
Michigan's "Cherry Capital" has an astonishing amount of area golf given the cruelly short summer season. Multi-course golf resorts with daily-fee access range from Arcadia Bluffs to Shanty Creek Resorts and Grand Traverse Resort. There are loads of affordable one-offs too, like Elk Rapids, Champion Hill and Gaylord Country Club. Kingsley Club and Crystal Downs are the privates worth schmoozing a member for.
Nielson market rank: 89 | TV homes: 315,400 | Number of golf courses (within 30 miles): 92 | Typical home value: $190,654
Savannah golfers have the best of both worlds: loads of local golf options and a nearby world-class destination, HIlton Head Island and the many clubs along the way on Highway 278 in Bluffton. Next to the historic city, The Club at Savannah Harbor is the best staycation golf experience while Crosswinds Golf Club is a wonderful local facility with an affordable and fun 18 holes and a short course with night golf.FROM $217 (USD)SAVANNAH, GA | Enjoy 2 nights' accommodations at The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa and 2 rounds of golf at The Club at Savannah Harbor.
Nielson market rank: 85 | TV homes: 327,530 | Number of golf courses (within 30 miles): 28 | Typical home value: $336,611
About 90 minutes south of Denver on the Front Range, Colorado Springs has a golf identity all of its own, led by the iconic Broadmoor, plus several other private clubs that double as resorts like Cheyenne Mountain and the Garden of the Gods. Military golfers can enjoy the exceptional golf at the Eisenhower Air Force complex.
Public golfers with no hookups never fear, however. Patty Jewett is a fine 27-hole muicipal, while a short drive away are excellent publics like Four Mile Ranch and Bear Dance Golf Club.
Nielson market rank: 97 | TV homes: 277,560 | Number of golf courses (within 30 miles): 98 | Typical home value: $174,702
A lifetime on the Grand Strand may not be long enough to play all the area courses from Brunswick County to Georgetown (I lived here for 18 months and barely scratched the surface, it seems). Some 21st century contraction has reduced the local amount to below 100 courses, but that's still more than any other little city we analyzed. Locals may have to jostle with tourists at many clubs, especially in the winter when double-teeing off No. 1 and 10 is commonplace. But there are only a handful of truly private clubs in the area.
Nielson market rank: 81 | TV homes: 343,353 | Number of golf courses (within 30 miles): 39 | Typical home value: $294,346
Wisconsin makes a pretty convincing case as one of the best northern golf states thanks in part to recent high-profile additions like Kohler, Erin Hills and Sand Valley. The college town and state capital of Madison has some great picks as well that are more in line with local budgets. University Ridge in Verona is a Champions Tour host and one of the better collegiate courses in the Midwest.
Nielson market rank: 91 | TV homes: 309,250 | Number of golf courses (within 30 miles): 46 | Typical home value: $343,243
Charleston boasts a historic city center and a slew of golf courses along the lowcountry coast, highlighted of course by Kiawah Island, a major championship and Ryder Cup host. It's a past haunt of architect Seth Raynor, who has left behind some of his best work at nearby Yeamans Hall and near the city center at the Country Club of Charleston. Public golfers also have a reason to be excited as the Charleston Municipal course renovation nears the finish line.FROM $177 (USD)KIAWAH ISLAND, SC | Enjoy 5 nights' accommodations in a Resort Class Villa at Kiawah Island Golf Resort and play 4 rounds of golf at Osprey Point, Turtle Point, Cougar Point and Ocean Course.
Nielson market rank: 76 | TV homes: 361,750 | Number of golf courses (within 30 miles): 55 | Typical home value: $169,297
This Western New York city on the shores of Lake Ontario between Buffalo and Syracuse boasts a rich golf history. It is the birthplace of Walter Hagen and boyhood home of Robert Trent Jones Sr., while it's also hosted huge golf events. There are a wealth of golf courses in the metro area like the prestigious 36-hole Oak Hill Country Club, which most recently hosted the 2019 PGA Championship. 55 area courses include a chunk of semi-private clubs with easy public access.
Nielson market rank: 104 | TV homes: 254,040| Number of golf courses (within 30 miles): 39 | Typical home value: $409,375
Residents of Reno enjoy lower taxes and property values compared to across state lines in the coveted High Sierra Mountains and Lake Tahoe. The north shore is home to the upscale Truckee golf mecca. Its elevation and dry climate give it a longer golf season compared to cities further north or higher up.
Locals can enjoy the ultimate in summer mountain golf on Tahoe's north shore at clubs like Incline Village, Old Greenwood at Gray's Crossing, and then in the shoulder season, bask in a longer golf season around Reno-Sparks, home to a smattering of notable semi-private facilities like ArrowCreek, Wolf Run, LakeRidge and 36-hole RedHawk Golf Club. | Trip Planner: Reno-Lake Tahoe
Ask Golf Advisor: How to play Pebble Beach for less
Nielson market rank: 124 | TV homes: 207, 020 | Number of golf courses (within 30 miles): 26 | Typical home value: $543,963 (Salinas)
Here's a dream golf pocket to reside in. The Monterey-Salinas market on the Monterey Peninsula is made up of a collection of towns both inland (more affordable) and along the coast (good luck). Local golfers can take advantage of last-minute access to Pebble Beach golf links and enjoy the excellent Bayonet-BlackHorse facility in Seaside. Monterey Pines and Pacific Grove Golf Links are two wonderful value plays with local vibes.FROM $1,037 (USD)MONTEREY, CA | Enjoy 3 nights' accommodations at The Lodge at Pebble Beach™ and 4 rounds of golf at Pebble Beach Golf Links™, Spyglass Hill™, Pasatiempo & Bayonet Golf Courses.