Ranking the six public U.S. Open venues, from Pebble Beach to Bethpage Black

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Playing any U.S. Open venue is a special day. Whether you're shanking at Shinnecock Hills or making bogeys at Baltusrol, you're going to brag about and cherish playing a course spectacular enough to host our national championship.

I've been lucky enough to tee it up at all six public U.S. Open golf courses. They're all cool in their own way. Some provide better experiences than others. Let's be honest: Would you rather play the South Course at Torrey Pines than Pebble Beach Golf Links? Yeah, I didn't think so.

I've ranked them from last to first for this story simply based on my total experiences at each club. It's not a coincidence that I've played the top three courses multiple times. Once I got a taste, I wanted to visit again and again.

If you've played any of the six, how would you rank them? If you haven't, why not rank them in order of which ones you want to play the most? Let us know in the comments below.

6. South Course at Torrey Pines, La Jolla, Calif.

Rees Jones renovated Torrey Pines South in preparation for the 2021 U.S. Open, his last project as the "Open Doctor".

U.S. Open host: 2008 (Tiger Woods) and 2021.
This ranking comes with a caveat. Just about everything went against me the day I played Torrey Pines South in the late 1990s, several years before Rees Jones redid the course, much to Phil Mickelson's chagrin. It was scruffy back then, like a $50 muni. The check-in process was chaotic. The golf professional who was supposed to set up my tee time forgot, forcing the staff to squeeze me in as a walk-up single. All day, my foursome battled a gray overcast marine layer. There were no views of the coastal cliffs TV viewers enjoy so much. Hopefully when I return, Torrey Pines can win me over with a little more sun, better service and improved playing conditions.

5. Bethpage Black, Farmingdale, N.Y.

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U.S. Open host: 2002 (Woods), 2009 (Lucas Glover).
Getting a tee time at Bethpage Black has gotten easier since I visited in 2015. Gone is the phone system that often left out-of-state residents shut out from making a tee time. Today, you can simply go online and book. It's much more 2021 than 1985. The check-in remains amazingly awkward for first-timers. Golfers walk into the clubhouse and have no clue as to which line to get in. It's golf's version of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Thankfully, they've stopped giving golfers receipts at check-in to hand to the starter. I lost mine and had to go back through the line again. It took almost 15 minutes to print a new receipt and cancel out the old one. Under the new system, every golfer gets a bracelet. As for the golf on the A.W. Tillighast course, the warning sign at the first tee sets the tone for the day. There's just no way to shoot to your handicap. The rough is juicy. Almost all the greens are elevated. The bunkers look intimidating. It's rare I want to go back to a course where I couldn't break 90. Bethpage Black is one of them. Getting tortured is part of the fun. | Tips for booking Bethpage Black Tee Times

4. Erin Hills Golf Course, Erin, Wis.

Erin Hills in Wisconsin hosted the 2017 U.S. Open.

U.S. Open host: 2017.
I've visited Erin Hills Golf Course -- located 30 miles northwest of Milwaukee -- twice, almost a decade apart. The experiences couldn't have been more different. The first time in 2010, I arrived late in the day, joining a twosome that included Alex Miceli, formerly of Golfweek. We played about seven holes before the mosquitoes became unbearable at dusk. Walking the glacier-cut hills the next day proved to be a backbreaker, literally. My back gave out during a round the following day in the Wisconsin Dells, an injury that forced me to hang up the clubs for several weeks that summer. My second visit in June, 2019, couldn't have been more special. I lucked out with the weather, my playing partner, the caddie and even made par on arguably the two toughest holes - the par-5 7th and par-3 9th. Both visits I stayed in the small dormer rooms in the lodge above the Irish Pub. All my meals at the pub and on the porch overlooking the entire property have been excellent. I like that Erin Hills continues to improve the amenities for overnight guests. They've opened the caddie barn in the evening to stay-and-play golfers, who can hang out playing pool, ping pong, Golden Tee and more. A putting course - lit for night play - opened in 2019. | Local Golf Advisors talk Erin Hills

3. Chambers Bay, Tacoma, Wash.

The 14th tee shot on "Cape Fear" is one of the most intimidating moments at Chambers Bay.

U.S. Open host: 2015.
I'm a big fan of Chambers Bay, the Pierce County muni managed by Kemper Sports and conceived by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Jay Blasi. I played it three times from its opening to the lead-up to the 2015 U.S. Open, watching it evolve as the USGA continuously tinkered with every last detail. Every time I visited, I played at least one temporary green due to inconsistent fescue greens. I recently played the new poa greens and they're excellent. The day starts with a shuttle ride from the small clubhouse set on a ridge into the bowels of the old rock quarry. The wild dunes and shaping within this bowl tend to blow away anybody who's never been to Scotland or Ireland. It's so different from anything they've seen. Some golfers consider the runners and cyclists using the park's trails and the train running along the shore to be a nuisance during the round. To me, those encounters authenticate Chambers Bay's ties to links golf. As far as unique golf experiences go, Chambers Bay rates among the best in America. The one minor complaint is it's a monster walk. If my dad and best buddy -- two very mediocre golfers -- can do it, then so can everybody else. | Chambers Bay eyes second U.S. Open following greens renovation

2. Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst, N.C.

Pinehurst No. 2 hosted both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women's Open in 2014.

U.S. Open host: 1999 (Payne Stewart), 2005 (Michael Campbell), 2014 (Martin Kaymer).

Whenever anybody used to ask me about overrated courses, Pinehurst No. 2 always came up. I didn't fall in love with the Donald Ross design the first time I played it in 1999 prior to the first U.S. Open in the Sandhills. It felt like a five-hour calculus test. There was no charm, as far as I was concerned, only rough and impossibly tough greens. My opinion flip-flopped after seeing the 2011 redesign by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in the fall of 2013. Pinehurst has been revived, not only strategically but also visually. The "sandscapes" filled with wiregrass that line the fairways make the entire setting come to life. The greens are still a menace. I putted off two of them: Once into a deep bunker that tragically ended in a BIP, Ball in Pocket. The chance to stay at the Carolina Hotel, followed by a drink and chipping into the fireplace at the Pine Crest Inn in the village, is a big part of Pinehurst's allure.

1. Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey Peninsula, Calif.

A look back from the ninth green reveals the beauty of Pebble Beach Golf Links.

U.S. Open host: 1972 (Jack Nicklaus), 1982 (Tom Watson), 1992 (Tom Kite), 2000 (Woods), 2010 (Graeme McDowell), 2019 (Gary Woodland).
I've played Pebble Beach Golf Links four times -- in 2003 and 2009 and twice in 2019 -- almost always bathed in exquisite sunshine. There are few words to describe the majesty of playing along Stillwater Cove. I remember feeling anxious each time. You start thinking long before the round about the holes and shots you've seen on TV a hundred times. Critics might be able to argue that the $575 green fee is overpriced. What they can't call Pebble Beach is overrated. Not all of the inland holes are great, but they're all different. The new driving range built in 2014 is a big step up. Four greens were redone for the 2018 U.S. Amateur and 2019 U.S. Open. That Open -- the 100th anniversary of Pebble Beach -- was special. | Tips for booking a Pebble Beach tee time

12 Min Read
May 12, 2015
Golfers love to play where the pros play. Why not play where they face the most pressure? These 32 courses that hosted a major championship are open to the public. Here are the courses I'd like to play the most.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Fortunate enough to play 4 of the 6 as well as extensively in Scotland and Ireland. Erin Hills at 4, talked to the designer Mike Hurdzan and he said the goal was to make the best $50 muni in the country. But to me, just meh for a US open course, nothing visually captivating or interesting. A long slog through heather upon heather without the ocean to break up the terrain. Sand Hills or the Kohler properties in Wisconsin are much more interesting. Torrey Pines next up, some interesting holes, but I liked the north course better maybe cause it suits my game better. Pinehurst # 2 is not super cool visually but boy you better think about this course from the greens backwards otherwise you can have a much worse score than you anticipate. Of course Pebble at the top. I have been lucky enough to play it 4 times, from before the 5th hole redesign by Nicklaus to about 8 years ago. Incidentally, # 5 originally was the only dogleg par 3 that was semi blind uphill ( at least for a short, 5" 6" person like me ) that I have played. Still remember the birdie on 18, curled in a 15 footer, and yes , it does break towards the ocean. Can't say I really want to torture myself to playing Bethpage Black but walked Chambers Bay and reminds me of a lot of course in Scotland and Ireland.

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I played Pebble Beach on July 4, 2017 through a Southern California Golf Association Member Outing. There were about 50 of us who played at Pebble Beach, Spyglass and Links at Spanish Bay. All 3 were great but I took to Pebble best including pars on holes 5 and 7

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I have played 2 of the course in the past it was a great experience.

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I agree with Rob. If you have to ask, you have never played Pebble.

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I have played four of the six and would rank them as follows:
1. Pebble Beach
2. Pinehurst No. 2
3. Erin Hills
4. Chambers Bay

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I’ve played 4 including Pebble and Bethpage. If you have to ask which is best it means you never played Pebble. One of the greatest pieces of property on the planet !
I’ve also played Cypress and Pine Valley and I would choose Pebble if I had only one course to play.

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I have played Bethpage Black & Chambers Bay. I loved both but Chambers was my favorite. I actually played it one month after the US Open. It’s a shame it took so much heat for the conditions of the course when it was the USGA who was at fault. When I played it a month later it was in fantastic condition.

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had josh missler for a caddie at pebble. made the round very enjoyable.

good suggestions for targets and very knowledgeable on breaks on the greens.

agree with pebble at number one.

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Almost every course listed has one interesting fact. Tiger Woods has won at that track. To me it's pretty obvious they want to give the guy his best shot at winning another major. While I will say the Tiger is a great, if not one of the best to play the game, he is a notorious repeat winner. He has numerous wins on a handful of courses, and the USGA and the PGA of America has and continues to cherry pick venues that Tiger enjoys, and plays well. There are so many of the old truly historic courses that with a little work, could, and should be brought back into the fold. But instead they get put onto the trash heap of the modern golf. In my hometown of Toledo, Ohio the Inverness Club has hosted many major events, including the longest U.S. Open in history, when in 1931, they played an additional 72 holes of golf to crown Billy Burke the winner. Also, how many cities can boast having not 1 but 2 USGA Championship caliber courses. Yes, it's my hometown of Toledo. The birthplace of the now defunct U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, at Ottawa Park Municipal golf course. The oldest public course west of New York City, And while it is short by today's standards, it is still open to the public to this very day. So I'm not opposed to a return to any course. Let's spread out time between visits, and make the return that much more memorable.

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There is only one to play. That would be Peeble. Life long dream and my wife is going to send me there if I lost 75 pounds. I have lost 62 pounds so far. I will be playing Peeble Beach.⛳️⛳️⛳️

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Let me know when you get there. Good luck

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Ranking the six public U.S. Open venues, from Pebble Beach to Bethpage Black