What makes a good golf course?

Curious what kinds of things others look at in a golf course to decide whether it’s a good golf course or not.

I played Tobacco Road this summer and loved it. I know some hate it.

So from your perspective, what makes for a fun, challenging golf course that you want to play over and over?


Am I playing it? I like it!

I think more than anything, I want a golf course that rewards good shots (most of the time) and doesn’t have a bunch of gimmicks…

One of my favorite courses is mostly gimmicks, but it’s a gorgeous track i play once every few years…

No houses, well-maintained course, beautiful trees, no blind shots, fast greens, and risk-reward options on every hole.


I prefer the classic style courses holes generally clearly outlined, trees, water, fw or strategically placed hazards. I don’t prefer courses like Kiawah, Whistling Straights, I mean to me #18 at Whistling Straits had more bunkers on that one hole than we have on our entire course. Just not my cup of tea, to me it was 2 windmills and a clowns mouth short of the longest miniature golf course you’ve ever played. At one time there was a new course built here in the 1980’s (they’ve since changed it) a par 3 hole with an island green and 2 island bunkers with 4 feet of water between the man made bunkers and the green on each side. They called it “JAWS” I mean just over gimmicked. We had another 175yd Par 3 hole where the green actually started at the end of each tee box and if you wanted you could hit a 175yd downhill putt from the tips if you wanted…another gimmick. image
Same JAWS hole today: image

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I like it to be in good shape and interesting with some variety to the holes. If I can’t remember what hole was what then are probably too many holes that are similar.

I don’t want too many gimmicks or blind shots, but some is okay. Challenging but fair is my cup of tea. I have been on some courses that are scenic, but they leave you nowhere to miss and I think that, unless it’s an island green, there should be a spot you can miss.

No bail out on the first “JAWS”. I didn’t like that.

I dont mind 270yd 90* dog legs. You have to hit the good iron or short wood lay up leaving you a solid wedge or something in…Those are fun, Also on the same type of hole, I like seeing a small “I dare you” opening to shortcut it for a slightly longer player… We have an early designed RTJ course that has a tree lined Par 5, like 450yds, but the angles are such you will not reach in 2. It’s 3 separate shots. Like 220 off the tee, 175 to the edge of a layup area, then Wedge in. Trees are so old and tall nothing to cut off.

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A good golf course will require me to use 10-14 clubs in every round.


This is a pretty good and simple ask. Leave me a long iron into a par four, give me a chance to hit a hybrid in to a par 5 in 2.

Give me the option to hit 3 wood off a tee because driver brings too much risk into play…

I guess I would almost say “give me a course that lets me hit all 14 clubs”… I want to make choices and have good shots rewarded…

My problem with forced layups is it doesn’t allow me to do anything better than hit a shot a certain distance. One on a course is fine, but I always want to have a high risk, high reward option.


Back in the old days, with land at a premium in the NE, maybe like 150 acres or so, the designers had to be creative. Our home course is a Findlay design from 1927 and it has been expanded and contracted through the years,I think we are about 200 acres including the range, parking lot and clubhouse and features

I actually rate golf courses in a spreadsheet. Here are my criteria:

Architecture (35 pts) - does the course employ good architectural principles, as I understand them? Is it playable for all handicap levels? Are the holes unique and memorable?

Fun factor (30 pts) - how badly do I want to play it again? Are there 2 shot par 5s and a drivable par 4? Are the greens interesting? Is this a course where players will lose a lot of balls?

Condition (20 pts) - is the course well maintained for the price I paid? Level tees and consistent green speeds go a long way for me. I prefer firm and fast if possible.

Vibe (10 pts) - is the course a place I want to hang out? Does it have a 19th hole and how much fun is it? I basically use this category for intangibles.

Pace of Play (5 pts) - does the course play in a reasonable time given the layout?

So with all that said, I tend to prefer courses that have width off the tee so I can usually find my ball. I want interesting green sites that allow multiple types of short game shots.

My top 5 courses:

  1. Prairie Dunes
  2. Erin Hills
  3. Lawsonia Links
  4. Tobacco Road
  5. Dunes Golf & Beach Club

I’ve done that on one hole…

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To me, a good course should be fun to play, but fun doesn’t mean easy. I’m OK with finding trouble if I hit the ball offline, but I want a way to escape from the trouble when I find it rather than just having to drop and re-hit. I like courses where you have options on how to attack the hole (especially off the tee) rather than having the layout dictate exactly how it should be played. Lastly, I love elevation changes. I think they add to the wow factor of a course.


I agree with a lot of things people have put out here. Decision points throughout the course are ideal with well maintained conditions.

I played Sewailo in Tucson early this year and had a ton of fun as a lot of the holes are cape holes with desert on the inside angle. So I got decide what line I wanted to take repeatedly in a risk reward fashion. I really enjoyed that.

I also played Pinehurst No. 2 and thought, meh, it’s tough but I’m not in a hurry to play it again. Would much rather play No. 4 or Tobacco Road.

I’m happy to play a course you design, would say that sums it up well,


Yup, I like it.

I should also note, I don’t like courses that overly penalize an ok shot. If my only option is to hit a 20 yards fairway or be in complete jail or hit a postage stamp green surrounded by trouble, I’m not a fan.

I’d prefer if the 20 yard fairway had a buffer of rough or bunkers before jail or the postage stamp green had at least one bail out area. That way, it still rewards those who hit great shots, but doesn’t penalize those who use good strategy and hit ok shots.

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