8 Incredible Golf Courses Hiding in Plain Sight

When planning a golf trip, there can be a lot of pressure to play the "best of the best," which can steer you to the most popular -- and usually most expensive -- courses in a particular destination.

And while you'll probably enjoy these layouts, in some cases, only playing them means you're missing out on wonderful, often-inexpensive courses hiding in plain sight.

I differentiate these courses from other "hidden gem golf courses" which are off the beaten path but have been written up to the point of not really being hidden anymore.

The courses I'm focusing on today are located in golf hotspots but tend to be overlooked in favor of the more trendy (and spendy) options.

If you've been to these popular golf areas, chances are you've overlooked these courses, too. But you won't after reading this...

If you're traveling to: the Palm Beach, Florida area 
Check out: West Palm Beach Golf Course

Sure, you can shell out $200 or more to play the courses at The Breakers or PGA National, and we're not saying you shouldn't, but if you do so without stopping by this fun, absurdly inexpensive municipal course originally designed by Dick Wilson (original designer of Doral's Blue Monster) and recently restored by Mark McCumber, you'll be missing a chance to mingle with the locals and revel in how inexpensive golf can really be. (I played it on a perfect spring day last week and paid $22.)
Rate Range: $22 - $48 (vs. top area green fees of $200 - $300)

If you're traveling to: Pinehurst
Check out: Southern Pines Golf Course

Donald Ross aficionados treat Pinehurst as a pilgrimage site, with good reason. With the resort courses - headlined, of course by No. 2 - as well as Pine Needles and Mid Pines all in a cluster, Ross' stripped-down, less expensive and charming-as-heck Southern Pines is often overlooked. It's a pity, because it may be the best course in Pinehurst for high-handicappers and ladies, in addition to being a blast for all others.
Rate Range: $48 - $110 (vs. top area green fees of $200 - $400)

If you're traveling to: Las Vegas
Check out: Boulder Creek Golf Club

Given that Boulder Creek is located just across the highway from Vegas mainstream favorite Cascata Golf Club and its $395 top green fee, we consider it to be hiding in plain sight. Its 27 holes - the Desert Hawk, Coyote Run and Eldorado Valley nines - are scenic, playable and well-priced.
Rate Range: $65 - $110 (vs. top area green fees of $250 - $500)

If you're traveling to: Myrtle Beach
Check out: Avocet at Wild Wing Plantation

The greater Myrtle Beach area was once home to some 120 golf courses, with Wild Wing Plantation being home to four of them. Now, only 27 holes remain there, and lucky for visiting golfers, the best 18 remains intact. Designed by three-time major champion Larry Nelson and underrated architect Jeff Brauer, the Avocet is a thoroughly modern test, with moguls strewn about the perimeters of many holes and perhaps the best par four on the Grand Strand: the drivable 14th. Those opting to stick to the Pawleys Island-area courses or the highfalutin Barefoot Resort courses of North Myrtle Beach will enjoy their trips, but they'll pay more for the privilege.
Rate Range: $39 - $84 (vs. top area green fees of $150 - $200)

If you're traveling to: Kauai
Check out: Wailua Golf Course
Princeville Resort and Kauai Lagoons are wonderful - don't get me wrong - but suppose I told you you could play a lovely course complete with awesome ocean views for about 80% less than the cost of a round at the more highly-touted courses on the island? How could you pass that up? And yet, many visitors come and go without enjoying a round at what might be America's most scenic muni.
Rate Range: $24 - $60 (vs. top area green fees of $200 - $250)

If you're traveling to: Phoenix/Scottsdale
Check out: Papago Golf Course
The name "William Bell" may not ring a, well, bell for most people, but the father and son by that name were responsible for a number of excellent courses out West, including the original Torrey Pines South Course as well as Bel-Air in Los Angeles and Stanford University's course. Son William Francis Bell designed Papago, which is centrally located between Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe and offers a crisp, classic look in contrast to the mostly modern area golf scene.
Rate Range: $42 - $82 (vs. top area green fees of $200 - $300)

If you're traveling to: Los Angeles 
Check out: Rustic Canyon Golf Course
Gil Hanse may be the biggest rising star in golf course architecture today, with his design chosen for the Olympic course in Brazil, followed by a big commission from Donald Trump to renovate the courses of Trump National Doral. Rustic Canyon is characterized by wide fairways that tend to "play" narrower because the best angle into a given green is often from one side of the landing area.
Rate Range: $25 - $81 (vs. top area green fees of $250 - $300)

If you're traveling to: Denver
Check out: CommonGround Golf Course

This Tom Doak-designed municipal course is so well-respected that when the U.S. Amateur was held at the private Cherry Hills in 2012, CommonGround was chosen as the secondary stroke-play course. Built for walking with tees close to the previous green, the course is elegantly routed. Particularly if you use Denver as a jumping-off point to visit places like The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, a round at CommonGround is a must.
Rate Range: $35 - $55 (vs. top area green fees of $150 - $250)

Do you have any nominations for seemingly overlooked or underrated golf courses in popular golf destinations? As always, please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor and the Managing Editor of the Golf Vacation Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
23 Comments
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Karen

On the other side of Kauai from Wailua in Kalaheo is Kukuiolono, a casual 9-hole course (but can go around twice for 18). Driving range, too. Hilltop location provides great views of ocean & valley. When I played a few years ago the greens were in better shape than higher priced Poipu courses. Play 18 at pricy Poipu Bay in the am, then head over here for a fun $15 round after lunch.

Peter T

Great deals on Maui (especially prior to the December 21st bump up (until maybe April). Kahili and Pukalani have been mentioned, but The Dunes at Maui Lani and Maui Nui (formerly Silversword and Ellair). I've played Kapalua and Kaanapali, and they are not worth the big price difference; Kahili #1, The Dunes#2)

The Palm Springs area has lots of lower priced alternatives: Taquitz Resort course is good. Little known and wind-dependant Mission Lakes has some good hole, elevation changes and super greens. We often drive to Beaumont (30-40 minutes)and play Oak Valley (site of many Q-schools) and across the road, two excellent tracks at Morongo. The conditioning is not as good as some of the Palm Springs area courses, but the layouts are for the most part superior. If you want to go a little father afield, a trip to Oak Quarry (an hour and ten)is really worth the drive. All of these courses can be windier, so it depends on the day, but all worth playing if you're looking for lower prices and good tests.

Kevin McT

I agree with the 2 writers who pointed out Madison Green in the West Palm area and World Woods, north of Tampa. Excellent layouts, fairly priced with no major conditioning issues.

Tom

Palm Springs? Anything in addition to Taquitz Creek as a good value?

Dan F

If in Boston, 2 municipals right in the city, George Wright and Franklin Park. The Wright is a Ross design and Franklin Park is a Ross redesign. Both course are in great condition and can be played for $40 walking.

John Corman

I agree with Carla about Bandon Crossings. If traveling the Oregon coast one could add Sandpines about and hour and a half north. A contributor mentioned Widgi Creek in Bend as an alternative to the spendy courses. I would suggest a relatively short drive from Bend to Redmond and their very nice John Harbottle designed Juniper.

Carla Smith

When on visiting Bandon to play the Bandon Dunes Resort courses, don't overlook Bandon Crossings (as recently mentioned in Golf Odyssey). It's where many of the BD caddies go to play - fun, challenging, affordable, and you can take a cart when tired of walking at Bandon Dunes

Larry

On Mau a local course that gives the golfer a bi-coastal view that is amazing is Pukalani CC. Adored by locals and frequent visitors the cost is very affordable @ about $50-75.00 and the course has varied views. Maintained about like a middle public course the greens are usually in decent shape and the "Hawaiian" experience is seen from almost every tee box.

John

Thanks for all the courses. I will plan a week in Monterey. Any more affordable courses in Maui? Bethpage Black State Park Golf Course on Long Island, NY can be played during the week for $42 but you need to get in line early in the morning with your 4-some (about 1-3 AM) to get a tee time. Plan on sleeping in your car.

Bill C

If you're in the Santa Barbara/Ventura area check out Soule Park in Ojai. Super reasonable prices for a really nice course. Play from one of the forward tees for a nice round or one of the back tees to let the course show its teeth a little.

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8 Incredible Golf Courses Hiding in Plain Sight
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