Tournament Tested: 10 munis that have hosted premier professional golf events

These government-owned golf courses serve as championship venues for elite players as well as catering to local golfers.
Rees Jones renovated Torrey Pines South in preparation for the 2021 U.S. Open, his last project as the "Open Doctor".

There are typically two types of municipal golf facilities.

You've got your garden variety, city-, county- or state-owned golf courses that are generally pleasant, if not a little rough around the edges.

Then there's the Super munis - the famous foursome that have hosted a major championship. Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open, is one of those headliners along with Bethpage Black, Chambers Bay and TPC Harding Park. But these aren't the only munis that have hosted big professional golf events. There are a handful of others that have proven they are good enough for elite players but playable enough to cater to everyday golfers.

I've played all but two of these 10. I can vouch that they're all worth your time and money. Here's a look:

  1. Bethpage Black, Farmingdale, N.Y.
    Bethpage Black is a paragon of both municipal golf and the decidedly American the-tougher-the-better golf course philosophy.

    Playing Bethpage Black is the most fun you'll ever having shooting 10 shots higher than your handicap. Everything about this state park course is difficult - the routing, the walk, the rough, the length. Reading the 'Warning' sign at the first tee definitely gets in your head. The new online tee time system has made landing one of America's toughest tee times so much easier. We can't wait for Bethpage Black's Ryder Cup in 2025. The rowdy fans will likely be even louder than the crowds that attended three majors (2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens and 2019 PGA Championship) and two Barclays (FedEx Cup playoff events in 2012 and 2016) at the 'Black'. Cost: $78-$150.

    Editor's Note: Belmont Golf Course in Richmond, Va., which hosted the 1949 PGA Championship, wasn't considered because it was recently redesigned into a 12-hole course with an additional 6-hole par 3 and practice area for the First Tee.

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

    Armed with new poa greens, Chambers Bay, a Pierce County facility managed by KemperSports, is eyeing another shot at a U.S. Open after the drama-filled and controversial major won by Jordan Spieth in 2015. Chambers Bay offers one of the toughest walks in golf but also one of the prettiest. Like other U.S. Open venues, it will probably beat you up, but in a different way with quirky bounces instead of penal rough. Cost: $75-$275.

  3. Torrey Pines, La Jolla, Calif.
    View from a green at South at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course

    Millions of dollars of renovations the past five years have improved the playing conditions and routings of the South and North courses at Torrey Pines. While there are still some valid criticisms of the golf experience at the city-owned Torrey Pines, golf fans can't complain about the two epic U.S. Opens held there. They were won by Tiger Woods (2008) and Jon Rahm (2021) in dramatic fashion. Cost: $122-$252.

  4. TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, Calif.
    Golfers staying in the heart of San Francisco are just minutes from historic TPC Harding Park.

    Collin Morikawa immortalized the drivable par-4 16th hole along Lake Merced with his clutch tee shot and eagle to capture the 2020 PGA Championship. The city-owned TPC Harding Park feels like a major championship ballpark every day thanks to thick rough and the heavy San Francisco air that makes it play long and demanding. The course has also hosted two World Golf Championships (2005 and 2015), the 2009 Presidents Cup and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship three times (2010, 2011, 2013). 
    Cost: $52-$285.

  5. The calm before the crowds on no. 16 of the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale, host of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    The Waste Management Phoenix Open, held on the city-owned TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course since 1987, has become known as the "Greatest Show on Grass" for its ability to attract hundreds of thousands of fans. It's as much a party in the desert as it is a PGA Tour event. The Tom Weiskopf design delivers some of the greatest swings in momentum the final four holes, starting with the island green on the par-5 15th and the rowdy "Stadium" par-3 16th to the drivable par-4 17th and the challenging 18th. Cost: $120-$499.

  6. Memorial Park, Houston, Texas
    Memorial Park has hosted the Houston Open since a redesign from Tom Doak.

    A 2019 redesign by Tom Doak, with input from Brooks Koepka, brought the 2020 Vivant Houston Open back to the city-owned Memorial Park for the first time since 1947. This is one of America's great muni values for locals, although a $102-price bump last year for non-residents took away the discount for out-of-towners. Cost: $30-$140.

  7. Silverrock, La Quinta, Calif.
    The front bunker of the 16th hole at SilverRock Resort swallows shots.

    Silverrock, Indian Wells and the Desert Willow Golf Resort are three incredibly high-end, city-owned munis in California's Coachella Valley that offer all the comforts of resort golf - valet service, lush conditions and trendy restaurants in nice clubhouses. But only Silverrock has had the privilege of hosting the PGA Tour. The Arnold-Palmer-designed SilverRock, which opened in 2005, hosted the former Bob Hope Classic from 2008-2011. Hopscotching over water (ponds and canals) and sand (deep bunkers and desert) give SilverRock a target-golf appeal. Cost: $105-$185.

  8. Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne, Key Biscayne, Fla.
    Golf in Florida scarcely gets more serene than taking in the sunset over the 18th at Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne.

    Just 10 minutes from downtown Miami but worlds away in feel, Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne is a beautiful Miami-Dade County property that's also a beast to play. It hosted the Royal Caribbean Classic of the Senior PGA Tour (now called the PGA Tour Champions) from 1987-2004. So many recognizable names won there: Lee Trevino (1990, 1994), Gary Player (1991) and Bruce Fleisher (1999-2000, 2004). Cost: $86-$185.

  9. Brackenridge Park, San Antonio, Texas
    Brackenridge Park Golf Course features a historic clubhouse.

    History is a big deal at the city-owned "Old Brack", the original host of the PGA Tour's Texas Open from 1922 until 1940 and off and on until 1959 (The event is now sponsored by Valero at TPC San Antonio). Brackenridge Park, a classic by A.W. Tillinghast that is home to the Texas Golf Hall of Fame, is too short (6,243 yards) to host anything of significance today, but it's still beloved by the locals. Texas legend Byron Nelson (1940) and Sam Snead (1950) have won there. Cost: $32-$79.

  10. Rancho Park Golf Course, Los Angeles, Calif.
    A sunny day view from the Rancho Park Golf Course.

    Rancho Park, a historic city-owned William P. Bell design dating to 1949, was the long-time host of the L.A. Open before it moved permanently to Riviera Country Club in 1999. It last hosted in 1983 after stints from 1956-67 and 1969-72. Another option is Griffith Park's Wilson Course, the L.A. Open venue from 1937-39. Cost: $35.50-$66.50.

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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Tournament Tested: 10 munis that have hosted premier professional golf events