The top 10 Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses you can play in the U.S.

In celebration of Jack Nicklaus' 75th birthday, travel expert Matt Ginella has announced his new list of top 10 designs from the player-turned-architect you can play.

Choosing from the designer's portfolio of publicly accessible courses in the U.S., he announced them this week on Golf Channel's Morning Drive. From Hawaii to Florida, here are his picks.

Matt Ginella's Top 10 U.S. Jack Nicklaus designs you can play

1. Harbour Town Golf Links, South Carolina

This 1969 collaboration with Pete Dye debuted as a Top 10 course in the country, according to Golf Digest. Although it has now fallen out of the Top 100, it is still No. 1 on my list of Nicklaus designs that you can play in the U.S. From a set of tees that suits your skill level, the strategy and narrow corridors are fair and can be fun. The railroad ties anchoring some of the green complexes make for good visuals and pictures, every par three is intimidating and you’ll never forget the climactic finish along the Calibogue Sound as you make your way toward the red and white lighthouse.

From Lahaina in Maui, jump a $30 ferry to Lanai to get access to the Challenge at Manele. In one of Nicklaus' most dramatic designs, you’ll play along and over 150-foot cliffs.

3. Old Greenwood Golf Club, California

Some Nicklaus courses can be too hard to be considered fun. That’s not the case at Old Greenwood. I always include this course on any buddies trip to Tahoe and regardless of their handicap, all of my buddies list this course as their favorite in the area.

As much as I love Bandon Dunes, I send a lot of buddies trip to Bend. You usually get better weather and an itinerary of Crosswater at Sunriver Resort, Tetherow and the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn is not a significant drop off in quality of golf.

Resort courses tend to be user friendly. They’re built so the occasional golfer is impressed with the visuals, service and, as they putt out on the 18th, feel good about their game. The host of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship checks all of the aforementioned boxes. Don’t be surprised if you set your career best.

6. Top of the Rock, Missouri

There were a lot of good things for golf in 2014: Rory McIlroy winning his third and fourth majors, Michelle Wie winning a U.S. Open on a restored and more environmentally friendly Pinehurst No. 2, the Drive Chip and Putt competition at Augusta National, and the further development and popularity of Top Golf, just to name a few.

But also worth a mention is the Champions Tour using a par-3 course, Top of the Rock for competition. Located at Big Cedar Lodge, a budding Missouri retreat owned by Bass Pro Shops owner Johnny Morris, only validated short courses emerging as a trend in golf. ($115 for nine holes; $65 replay rate.)

Tour pros might not approve of the undulations of the greens, which is one reason why the course will no longer host the WGC-Accenture Match Play, but it’s important to note that the pros putt on extreme green speeds. And although I’m not usually a fan of desert golf, I like all 27 holes at Dove Mountain. And I also like the setting and amenities at the Ritz-Carlton resort. ($469 per night includes lodging for two, breakfast and unlimited golf.)

All buddies trips migrating from Vegas to Mesquite and back should consider at least one round at Coyote Springs. Fun for all handicaps, the grand plan once called for houses and potentially more golf. Now it’s just a good 18 holes in the middle of nowhere, but it breaks up the 70-minute commute. ($109 during the week, $125 on weekends.)

As a subtle homage to the Old Course in St. Andrews, the New Course at Grand Cypress is wide open off the tee and a lot of fun for buddies trips, even the ones that include the once-a-year-golfer and especially the ones that include afternoon scrambles, carts full of cold drinks and Bluetooth speakers. (Green fees: $99-150)

They call Crossville the “Golf Capital” of Tennessee. With ten courses within 30 minutes of each other, most golfers agree Bear Trace is the best of the bunch. At $47 during the week and $57 on weekends, it’s also great value.

Have you played a Jack Nicklaus design in the U.S. deserving of being on this list? Let us know in the comments section below.

Matt Ginella is Golf Advisor's Editor-at-Large and host of Golf Advisor Round Trip travel series on Golf Channel. Matt serves as resident buddy trip expert and captains a collection of VIP trips called Golf Advisor Getaways.
11 Comments
Commented on

Why didn't you include Punta Espada or Ferry Point? Both should be in any Nicklaus top-ten list.

Commented on

I missed this was US-only from 2014. I would guess the updated list would include Ferry Point.

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Having been a caddie at both Bear's Best courses in Las Vegas & Atlanta (Suwanee), when they opened, I would recommend both of these fine courses, that offer 18 different holes designed from his "best" courses. The added bonus was walking each one with him, when he "officially" opened them!

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Commented on

Pinehill in Plymouth, Ma. is great layout

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May River Golf Club at Palmetto Bluff near Hilton Head is super!  As much as I love Harbour Town,  Dye should probably get 90% of the design credit. Melrose on Daufuskie Island is a nice Nicklaus design as well.

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Cabo de Sol. The 3 finest finishing holes in the world!

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How could you not include Cabo de Sol?  The 3 finest finishing holes in the world!

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I agree on The Bull at Pinehurst Farms.  Also check out Old Works in Anaconda, Montana.  Restore from an old quarry, the bunkers have black slag rather than white sand.  And while a golfer has many choices in Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Plantation is a favorite.

Commented on

The Bull at Pinehurst Farms in Sheboygan, WI is another Nicklaus design that is a must play.  In the shadows of Kohler, this course really holds up and IMHO is as good as anything at Blackwolf Run.

Commented on

Looks like I have 9 more to go (played Grand Cypress New)

fowlhunter
Commented on

Now "Pinehurst
#9", National Golf Club is simply superb. Only "complaint" for some
might be that it's very difficult (e.g. holes #1 and 4)... a typical
pre-1990 Nicklaus killer. But very much worth a play if in the area.
Suggestion: skip #2 with its silly greens and play #9 at less than half
the price.

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The top 10 Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses you can play in the U.S.