Top coastal courses from Maine to Florida

The best public golf courses on the Atlantic Ocean

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Best public golf courses on the Atlantic Ocean

After the Masters, the PGA Tour takes a turn to the East Coast and The Heritage at Harbour Town, a Pete Dye creation that's mostly inland, but is best known for the 18th, with its signature red and white lighthouse on the water.

The finish there, with wind usually whipping off the Atlantic, got us thinking about more courses on the East Coast with ocean views. Unlike the West Coast, which often has golf courses perched high above the Pacific on magnificent bluffs overlooking rocky surf, it's usually a little more subtle on the East Coast, especially in the Northeast. Many of these coastal courses have bay views with plenty of wetlands, but they're certainly special in their own right and are subject to the winds that blow off the sea.

Here, then, is a look, at golf that features Atlantic views, some more spectacular than others, but all with that saltwater feel.

Northeast and New England

There's certainly great golf on the Atlantic in the Northeast. The only catch is that most of it is private, but there is public golf on the ocean, or at least a bay with Atlantic waters in it.

You can start up in Maine at the historic Samoset Resort, which goes back to 1889. The resort actually burned down in 1973 and has changed ownership several times, but it's still a cool summer escape with 18 holes of championship golf. Originally nine holes, Samoset Resort's golf course was rebuilt as an 18-hole facility by Robert Elder in the 1990s and recently renovated by Geoffrey Cornish.

Here's looking back on the par-3 fifth on Samoset Golf Course, with the ocean behind the tee.

Head down to Cape Cod in Massachusetts and you've got a couple of pretty good choices in seaside golf. Highland Links in North Truro dates back to 1892. It's only nine holes but it's one of America's few true links courses, and it overlooks the Atlantic. You'll love the signature lighthouse as much as the course, which is the closest thing you'll get to Scottish links on the East Coast. And for a little more high-end experience, check into Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club, where Nicklaus Design Group upgraded the original Brian Silva design that features bentgrass fairways and ocean views.

In Connecticut, a good choice in the Town of Groton, is the Shennecossett Golf Course, which offers great views of the Thames River and the Long Island Sound looking from the 16th and 17th holes. You might even see a navy warship or nuclear sub in the water. Founded in 1898, the course was originally a four-hole layout until 1916; Donald Ross redesigned and later rerouted three of the holes. In 1997, three holes were built to overlook the water.

Or if you're just looking for a quick round with some views, check out Short Beach Golf Course in Stratford, Conn. Built in 1998, this par 3 has plenty of ocean vistas and it doesn't take long to play, all for about $15-$20.

Another historic resort you might want to check out is the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway on the New Jersey Shore near Atlantic City. There are two courses there, but the Donald Ross-designed Bay Course, home of the ShopRite LPGA Classic, is the best known and has the water views.

Mid-Atlantic and the Carolinas

If you like ocean golf, then it's logical to head to a place called Ocean City, right? Yes, there's plenty of golf in the Ocean City, Md. area, but only a couple of courses have real seaside views. One of the prettiest is the Links at Lighthouse Sound in Bishopville, Md. This Arthur Hills layout with six sets of tees features great marsh and river views as well as vistas of Ocean City across the bay. Another favorite in Berlin, Md. is Rum Pointe Seaside Golf Links, a Pete Dye and P.B. Dye design built around Sinepuxent Bay overlooking Assateague National Park. Seventeen of the holes have views of the bay.

At Bay Creek Resort and Club, located on Virginia's eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, there are two designed by golf's biggest names. At Bay Creek's Palmer Course, Arnold Palmer is behind a 7,250-yard layout that's both links style and traditional, taking advantage of the natural wetlands and shoreline. The Nicklaus Course at Bay Creek, with its signature bridge and four holes along the dunes and beach bunkers of Chesapeake Bay, is a difficult, but spectacular test.

In South Carolina, you hit the jackpot with ocean courses, none better than the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. The site of the famous War by the Shore 1991 Ryder Cup, Dye's Ocean Course is one of the most difficult tracks in America and one of the most beautiful as well. One of five courses at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the course has 10 holes right along the Atlantic, the most of any course on the East Coast. Kiawah's Turtle Point, a Jack Nicklaus design, features a stretch of beachfront holes from Nos. 14-16.

Turtle Point at Kiawah Island features three oceanfront holes.

Not too far away, of course, are Hilton Head and Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort. While the 18th hole gets most of the publicity at Harbour Town, the par-3 17th usually plays right into a gale, adding to the course's dramatic finish. And if you that wasn't enough ocean golf, then play the Atlantic Dunes at Sea Pines, which has a great view of the Atlantic on no. 15.

If you head over to Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head Island, there's really only one hole with a great ocean view -- the par-5 10th on the Robert Trent Jones Course -- but it's well worth it, plus the rest of this course is worth playing as well.

Don't think you need to find a high-end resort for ocean golf, however. Patriots Point Golf Links, located minutes from Charleston, has a handful of harbor-front holes minutes from the USS Yorktown and Patriot Point Museum.

A little farther south, there's another high-end ocean golf experience, The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club. Home to Davis Love III, there are three courses at the resort, but the Seaside Course, the host venue for the PGA Tour's RSM Classic, is the one with most ocean views and best history. Originally designed in 1929 by famed architects Harry S. Colt and Charles Alison, Tom Fazio updated the Seaside Course in 1999.

On the North Carolina-South Carolina Border, the Grand Strand, anchored by Myrtle Beach, has been a top tourist destination on the East Coast due largely to its 60 miles of largely uninterrupted beach. Of the 100 or so golf courses, a handful skirt up pretty close to the ocean.

Dunes Golf & Beach Club has an ocean view from the ninth hole, plus a few more coastal marsh holes to start the back side. Other courses east of Ocean Highway with a lot of saltwater scenery include Tidewater Golf Club, River's Edge and Pawleys Plantation.

Golf on Florida's East Coast

Not surprisingly, the Sunshine State offers plenty of golf on the Atlantic and a fair amount is open to the public.

The Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort is one of the best examples of ocean golf in Florida.

The course reopened in 2017 after an extensive renovation by Nicklaus Design. Following the removal of trees and brush that opened up this Jack Nicklaus design, the course not only plays better but has even better ocean views now. The last six holes play directly on the water, as it concludes with a collection of four daunting holes along the coastline called, "The Bear Claw."

The par-3 17th is one of six holes on the Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort in Florida.

For ocean views, though, it's hard to beat the all-paspalum grassed Palm Beach Par 3 Course, which was redesigned by Raymond Floyd. Half the course is along the Atlantic, while the other half is on the Intracostal, but best of all, this spectacular par 3 can be played for around $50. A new clubhouse and Italian restaurant is also part of the experience and provides even better views of the sea.

And finally, if you make it all the way down to Miami, you'll want to play the crown jewel of the city's municipal golf system, Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne. Located on an island, this Robert von Hagge-Bruce Devlin design once hosted the Champions Tour. With the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Biscayne Bay to the west, the course also has seven saltwater lakes that come into play is the only golf course in North America with a subtropical lagoon.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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What about Twisted Dunes in Egg Harbor Twp, NJ. They encourage carry on adult beverages. But Paul never can come out with us even when we fly in to golfs near him. He just blames it on mysterious illnesses of his kids... We all know Carol just vetoes the friendigans day.

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You skipped over New York missing some great courses. Bethpage Black and Montauk Downs just to name a couple.

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I like Tidewater and Pawley's Plantation just fine, but the Dunes Club and River's Edge are both awesome courses!

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Oh yeah, you mention Tidewater. Sorry. As you did Pawleys Plantation and those great full carry par 3's! I still have my Posum Trot white cap!

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You forgot Tidewater Plantation. What a wonderful course. I know folks who come to Myrtle Beach for a day, only to play ‘Tidewater!

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Tidewater was included.

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And how could I forget historic Atlantic City Golf Club.

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How about Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms.

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Very happy the the Samoset Golf Resort has been recognized, I make sure that I play that course 3-4 times during the season. The course is a great layout and the golf staff are wonderful. The new pool overlooking the course and ocean are breathtaking.

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Steve Rocca has 16 years of journalism experience, including stints at the Virginian-Pilot, the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Palm Beach Post and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
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The best public golf courses on the Atlantic Ocean