Large bunkers await on 15 at Omni Homestead Resort's Cascades Course.

Best golf road trips in the Mid-Atlantic United States

Consider these drive-worthy golf destinations from Pennsylvania down to Virginia.
Consider these drive-worthy golf destinations from Pennsylvania down to Virginia.

America was founded in what we now call the "Mid-Atlantic," a sometimes shifting and nebulous region that, at least for our purposes, includes all East Coast states south of New York and north of the Carolinas. That's a lot of ground to cover.

It's a region that contains multitudes, from the beaches and tidelands of the DelMarVa peninsula to the Allegheny and Blue Ridge mountains of western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Several great classic golf courses can be found in the Philadelphia area across to Atlantic City, and one of the country's more underrated clutches of modern public courses can be found in and around a modest Maryland city.

There are several directions you can go with a Mid-Atlantic golf road trip. Here are a few of them.

Northern New Jersey

Ballyowen Golf Club headlines the golf at multi-course Crystal Springs Resort in New Jersey.

Well in range of golfers in both the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic, exploring this area makes New Jersey's "Garden State" nickname make a lot of sense. The golf courses of Crystal Springs Resort are strewn up and down Rt. 94 and Rt. 23 in and around the town of Hamburg. The best of the bunch is Ballyowen Golf Club ($175), a Roger Rulewich design that regularly ranks among the top public courses in the state. Other worthwhile layouts here include Wild Turkey Golf Club ($120) and Black Bear Golf Club ($90). Nearby, though not associated with the resort, other courses like Great Gorge at Mountain Creek ($69), Berkshire Valley Golf Course ($75) and Bowling Green Golf Club ($103) enjoy high ratings from Golf Advisor readers. Just a few miles south, Architects Golf Club ($119) is a must for students of the game, as designer Stephen Kay fashioned each hole in the style of a classic golf course architect.

Atlantic City

The Bay Course at Stockton Seaview in New Jersey is one of the top public courses you can play on the LPGA schedule.

A.C.'s attractions for gamblers and nightlife-lovers need no introduction, and there's plenty of golf down the Jersey Shore, centered around Atlantic City Country Club ($225), Seaview's LPGA-hosting Bay and classic Pines courses ($119) and Twisted Dune Golf Club ($80), all of which would make for a great escape. Vineyard National Golf Course ($99) at the 150-year-old Renault Winery is a solid option with a boutique hotel onsite. Blue Heron Pines Golf Club ($105), Ballamor Golf Club ($125) and and McCullough's Emerald Golf Links ($89) all grace our list of the most popular courses in the Garden State.

Philadelphia

High-quality classic golf is plentiful in Philadelphia. Jeffersonville Golf Club is one of the rare such facilities open to the public. It is a must-play.

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania once had more golf courses per square mile than any other in the country. A few closures since the late-2000s recession have changed that somewhat, but it remains one of the greatest concentrations of private golf clubs in the country, with an ever-improving cadre of public courses, including the superb Jeffersonville Golf Club ($65), a municipal Donald Ross design restored gradually and lovingly over the last two decades by architect Ron Prichard. Other area standouts for public golfers include Raven's Claw Golf Club ($75), a 2005 Ed Shearon design that has hosted the ladies' developmental Symetra Tour; and Lederach Golf Club ($75), a Kelly Blake Moran layout with considerable character. Just outside the county line, there are notable courses like Glen Mills Golf Course ($100), a Bobby Weed original design; and Downingtown Golf Club ($95), which was originally laid out by George Fazio and where a young Gil Hanse renovated the bunkering.

Hershey and Harrisburg

A view of a well protected hole from West at Country Club of Hershey.

Hershey, birthplace of America's favorite chocolate, is also home to one of America's oldest amusement parks, in addition to a pair of gems in Hershey Country Club's East and West courses ($150), which are both open to guests of the Hotel Hershey. A few miles east, in the town of Lebanon, Iron Valley Golf Club ($79) is a stout P.B. Dye design that ranked #24 in the state on Golf Advisor's latest list. Closer to Harrisburg, Royal Manchester Golf Links ($65) is another popular facility (#41 in the United States on our latest Golfers' Choice list), and Dauphin Highlands Golf Course ($62) is convenient to the city.

Western Pennsylvania

This picture frame is one of several unique pieces of art and statues on the Mystic Rock course at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

The expansive western region of the state has several pockets of solid golf, anchored by two very different but very compelling resorts. There's the historic (we're talking dates-back-to-the-1700s historic) Omni Bedford Springs Resort ($159), where several early American presidents took vacations and which has a quirky but fun old golf course that dates to 1895 and was crafted at different points by Spencer Oldham, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross. Then there's the equally quirky but altogether modern Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, whose two Pete Dye courses - Mystic Rock and Shepherd's Rock ($189), complement the cheeky and eclectic style of its three hotels, from rustic lodge to French chateau to 20th-century modernism inspired by the famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob houses, both located less than 20 minutes away.

Heading closer to Pittsburgh, Uniontown Country Club ($45) was private for a long time but recently opened its course, which dates back to 1908, to non-members. Other Steel City favorites include Totteridge Golf Club ($59) in Greensburg and Cranberry Highlands Golf Course ($68).

Baltimore-Washington corridor

Pete Dye's Bulle Rock Golf Club in Maryland opened in 1998 and held The LPGA Championship from 2005 through 2009.

These two major American cities are close together but have decidedly different feels and histories, though there is compelling golf near both. Outside of Baltimore, the clear must-play public course is Bulle Rock Golf Club ($99), a Pete Dye gem that has hosted the LPGA Championship five times. Mountain Branch Golf Course ($69) in the town of Joppa has been getting high marks from Golf Advisor reviewers of late, as has Waverly Woods Golf Course ($89) in Marriottsville.

Down toward our nation's capital, options open up even more. On the Maryland side, the University of Maryland Golf Course ($75) in College Park is a former Korn Ferry Tour host course, and Blue Mash Golf Course is an Arthur Hills design that ranks #13 on this year's Golfers' Choice list for Maryland. On the Virginia side, Laurel Hill Golf Club ($104), Westfields Golf Club ($110) and 1757 Golf Club ($78) are all solid options. For the resort crowd, Lansdowne Resort has two 18-hole courses by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and Greg Norman ($150), plus another Norman 9-holer.

Frederick, Maryland

A fall day view from Whiskey Creek Golf Club.

This city of just over 70,000 people boasts an unusually extensive list of quality public golf courses in the surrounding area, such that it makes an unlikely destination for a short- or medium-haul golf escape. Northwest of town are two highly-rated courses in Musket Ridge Golf Club ($80) and Maryland National Golf Club ($94). Head a few miles southeast and there's a quartet of worthy spots for a round: Whiskey Creek Golf Club ($129), P.B. Dye Golf Club ($95), Worthington Manor Golf Club ($94) and Little Bennett Golf Course ($78). Closer in, Clustered Spires Golf Club ($65) is another nice choice.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware/Ocean City, Maryland

13th at Bayside Resort Golf Club

One of the Mid-Atlantic's most popular beach destinations is understandably a hotbed of golf as well. Up in Delaware, courses like Baywood Greens Golf Club ($119), Bear Trap Dunes Golf Club ($144) and Bayside Resort ($119) are the premier Rehoboth Beach-area layouts, and nearby Plantation Lakes Golf and Country Club ($79) just opened a new nine, expanding to 18 holes for 2020.

Ocean City parties a little harder than Rehoboth Beach, and golfers have even more good places to play. The Links at Lighthouse Sound ($179) is a scenic spot on Assawoman Bay, and two-course facilities like Glen Riddle Golf Club ($169) and Ocean City Golf Club ($89) offer prime all-day golf possibilities. Rum Pointe Seaside Golf Links ($159) is a P.B. Dye layout, but it is among the tamer courses built under that famous surname.

Blue Ridge Mountains

The 14th at The Old White TPC, "Narrows", is one of the most heavily-bunkered holes on the course.

West Virginia may be the "Mountain Mama" of John Denver song fame, but Virginia is no slouch, either. Just east of Interstate 81, Wintergreen Resort has 45 holes on two separate facilities. There's the 27-hole Stoney Creek ($94) complex, with three nines by Rees Jones; and the 18-hole Devil's Knob ($129), a scenic Ellis Maples layout with some fun downhill shots. Head a bit west of 81 and you'll encounter the historic Omni Homestead Resort, which dates to 1766. Its two golf courses include the pre-1900 Old Course ($135) and the phenomenal William Flynn-designed, Tom Doak-restored Cascades Course ($280), which is one of the best mountain courses anywhere.

Another incredible mountain layout? That would be just over the border into West Virginia: the Old White TPC ($450) at The Greenbrier, a C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor design set in a verdant valley. The neighboring Meadows Course ($300) was reimagined following the catastrophic flooding of 2016 by resort superintendent Kelly Shumate, who also designed the resort's new nine-hole par-3 Ashford Short Course ($75) two years ago. About an hour west of The Greenbrier, The Resort at Glade Springs is another worthy stop, with 54 holes of golf on property ($95-$125).

Williamsburg, Virginia

The approach shot on the par-4 finishing hole on the River Course at Kingsmill Resort.

Not only is Williamsburg a magnet for American history buffs, it holds great appeal for golfers as well. Kingsmill Resort's Pete Dye-designed River Course ($195) is a former PGA and current LPGA Tour stop, and its Arnold Palmer-designed Plantation Course ($125) is a solid second-fiddle. Another strong resort property in town is Golden Horseshoe, whose Green ($74) and Gold ($124) courses were originally designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., and were touched up by son Rees in the last few years. One-course facilities worthy of your time include Royal New Kent Golf Club ($95) and Stonehouse Golf Club ($69), two Mike Strantz originals that were closed for a time before being bought and revived in 2019. The Club at Viniterra ($79), a muscular Rees Jones joint, is next door to the popular New Kent Winery.

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Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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