10 best 'little' U.S. golf cities

From Augusta to Reno, these unsung, smaller U.S. cities have major golf scenes. Ready to become a resident?
Golf fans know about Augusta National, of course, but there's more to the city of Augusta, Ga., than meets the eye.

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!

  1. The Riverwalk in Augusta, Ga.

    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

  2. Grand Traverse Resort boasts sleek accommodations with stunning lake views.

    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.

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    Plan your getaway to northern Michigan with our exclusive golf packages to the best properties.

  3. Visitors take a carriage tour in Savannah, Georgia, known for its beauty and historic architecture.

    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 $227 (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.

  4. View from the Will Rogers Shrine high above The Broadmoor's 36 holes.

    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.

  5. The par-3 ninth at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club offers a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean.

    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.

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  6. Swimmers pass in front of Monona Terrace as the state capitol is seen in the background during the Ironman Madison.

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. A detailed shot of an acorn tee marker prior to the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York.

    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.

  9. The biggest little city in the world is a worthy golf home base.

    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

  10. Up Next

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    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.

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
8 Comments
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Pittsburgh, PA. A little city with many courses within a 30 mile radius of the city limits - in all direction. A golf season that can stretch from March to December, great property values. While our older courses tend to be a bit on the short side (below 7,000 yds) and without the surrounding property to expand, our newer courses are very well designed, not repetitive or boring. Your article (again) tended to make note of the exclusive Country Clubs (which most people don't have access to) and give short shrift to the privately owned (usually by a family)- open to the public courses, and the muni's. Sadly, Pittsburgh has only 1 course inside the city limits, and it is crap (but also home to our First Tee program). Even more sadly, they recently had to decide between using a vacant property as either a new golf course or housing development, they chose housing.

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Mesquite, Nevada

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That's why we started our Golflabel CITY2CITYGOLF 8years ago...
Basically we a Top50 of European cities...
www.city2citygolf.nl

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St.. Augustine not on the list? World golf village, TPC at sawgrass. Can play year round. From the inexpensive munis to world class.

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How you not include Honolulu?

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How you not include Honolulu?

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Too big (#66)

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Sheboygan, Wi

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10 best 'little' U.S. golf cities