The South Course at The Boulders is one of a handful of Scottsdale-area courses that charge a $200-plus green fee in winter. (Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor ) Golf on the Monterey Peninsula (pictured is Spyglass Hill) will always be expensive.  (Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor ) Playing Pebble Beach Golf Links with a caddie could drive your experience up to $600 for a single round. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) A round at Bali Hai Golf Club -- Walters Golf's tropical oasis on the Las Vegas Strip -- runs north of $300. (Courtesy of Bali Hai G.C.) Home of THE PLAYERS, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass ends in front of the 77,000-square-foot clubhouse.  (Chris Condon/Getty Images) French Lick Resort's Dye Course serves up 8,000-plus yards in southern Indiana.  (Courtesy of French Lick Springs Hotel) Streamsong Blue, designed by Tom Doak, is a sandy, links-style round in southwest Florida.  (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor)

A price guide to America's most expensive green fees: What will you pay for bucket-list golf?

How much are you willing to pay for a great round of golf?

$75? $125? $150? More?

When I began researching the public and resort golf courses with peak green fees costing $200 or more, it wasn't necessarily to call them out for being "overpriced" or for "gouging" customers or being "most expensive." It was to find out what "bucket-list golf" costs these days.

The best golf is expensive. There's no sense in arguing that point. Think back to your favorite round on a perfectly manicured course under sunny skies. Was it almost priceless? Maybe. There are hundreds of courses, if not a thousand or more, that charge north of a Benjamin. Only the truly elite go past $200.

The interesting thing is, the dreaded "rack rate" I used to write this story -- a golf course's most expensive tee time -- has become fairly obsolete. Sure, golfers still pay it, but there are lots of ways around it -- golf packages for a stay and play, shoulder-season and twilight rounds, early morning and afternoon rounds, online bargains, etc.

[Related: Splurge on the most expensive golf courses in Canada]

Dynamic pricing has become the brave new world for most facilities. Troon Golf, a high-end golf course operator based in Arizona, has set the standard for this practice. Prices fluctuate not only from off-season to high-season, but also from day to day and hour to hour, depending upon availability, course conditions, weather, etc.

The "peak rates" used in this story were found three ways: online listings detailing "rack rates," searching tee-time booking engines on course/resort Web sites and by calling courses that didn't list any sort of fees on the Internet. All are subject to change, and some could be higher than the search engines showed.

It seems five factors drive up a green fee. All of these 120 courses I found with $200-plus green fees had at least one, if not more, of these traits:

• A "name" designer. Tom Fazio and Pete Dye led the way with 13 courses, followed by nine from Robert Trent Jones Jr. and eight by Jack Nicklaus. Fewer than 10 courses would have been designed by an architect you might not know.

• An affiliation with a high-end resort. Fewer than 20 weren't directly connected to a hotel/resort that made a stay and play a good option.

• A location in a prime vacation destination. The only truly off-the-beaten-path course is the Karsten Creek Golf Club, Oklahoma State University's home in Stillwater. California led the way with 20 courses, followed by 15 in Florida, 14 in Hawaii, 12 in Arizona and seven apiece in South Carolina and Nevada (call it the Sin City syndrome). More than two dozen states, including Midwest hotbeds like Minnesota, Ohio and Illinois, aren't represented.

• Hosting high-profile tournaments, whether now or in the past. Nearly 40 have hosted some sort of professional event or major exhibition, like a skins game or PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

• Offering caddies. Most of these courses offer some sort of caddie services. A few require hiring a looper.

Selling an expensive tee time requires the simple economics of supply and demand. People who want to play golf in Arizona, Hawaii or Florida during the winter are so golf starved that they'll pay just about anything. These states have a monopoly on the market at that time. The Sunbelt and desert courses listed can be hand for a fraction of the price in summer. In contrast, there are only nine courses from the Midwest (soon to be 10 with the opening of Mammoth Dunes at Wisconsin's Sand Valley Golf Resort in 2018) and five from the upper East Coast that charge more than $200 in the summer.

The majority of these courses have been recognized by Golf Advisor, Golf Magazine, Golf Digest and Golfweek in "best of" lists. Not all, though.

I needed two categories to break down which green fees were more expensive than others: Regular green fees (featured in this story) and resort/private courses that require at least a night stay at a local resort to gain access (featured in this story).

My final take from all this? Golfers can look at these prices from a half-full or half-empty perspective: You can decide they're out of your budget and avoid these places altogether, or this story can steer you where to play on your next getaway, knowing that these facilities will do their best to deliver top-notch service, conditioning, scenery and design.

This data can be quite useful for bargain hunters as well. If you're paying prices 20 percent lower than what's listed, you've got yourself a deal. Frankly, if you're playing any of them at all, consider yourself lucky. Most golfers won't pay this much for a round.

If we missed a course that should be included, let us know in the comments section below, but this is the most extensive list of $200-plus tee times ever published, 118 courses plus 42 more in the stay-and-play story:

1. Pebble Beach Golf Links

Peak rate: $525 (caddie and/or cart not required)

Comment: A recent price increase means taking a caddie could drive your experience up to $650 for a single round.

T-2. Wynn Golf Club

Peak rate: $500

Comment: Fazio's transformation of the old Desert Inn course on the Las Vegas Strip closes for good Dec. 17, 2017, making way for a new lake entertainment park.

T-2. Straits Course at Whistling Straits

Peak rate: $395, plus $65 required caddie fee and $40 recommended gratuity

Comment: The next big event is the largest of them all, the 2020 Ryder Cup.

T-4. THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass

Peak rate: $495

Comment: Taking a swing at the island green might be the most nerve-wracking shot in golf.

T-4. Blue Monster Course at Trump National Doral Miami

Peak rate: $450 plus required forecaddie ($25 fee and $20 recommended tip per player)

Comment: The PGA Tour has been playing the Blue Monster since 1962.

6. Pinehurst No. 2

Peak rate: $460 (caddie not required)

Comment: Hiring a caddie raises the price, although it's really the only proper way to walk Donald Ross's lasting legacy.

7. The Old White TPC at The Greenbrier

Peak rate: $425 plus $30 forecaddie and gratuity

Comment: Old-school golf characterizes the host of the Greenbrier Classic.

8. Cascata

Peak rate: $395 with $50 fee for required forecaddie fee that includes gratuity

Comment: Cascata's rates are quite flexible, so nobody has an excuse that it's too expensive to play.

9. Spyglass Hill Golf Course

Peak rate: $395 (no caddie or cart required)

Comment: Spyglass Hill Golf Course would be a star anywhere else but the Monterey Peninsula.

10. The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort

Peak rate: $350 plus $30 forecaddie required per person

Comment: Mounds and volcano bunkers make this Dye course a brute. French Lick Resort's Donald Ross Course costs much less and delivers more fun.

Kiawah Island Ocean Course

11. The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Peak rate: Non-resort guests: $374; resort guest: $341

Comment: Dye's subtle tricks get lost in all the scenery of the Lowcountry along the Atlantic Ocean.

12. Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort

Peak rate: $350

Comment: The finish at the candy cane-striped lighthouse -- the iconic symbol of Hilton Head Island, S.C. -- beckons.

13. The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale

Peak rate: $339

Comment: Rates on TPC Scottsdale's Champions Course top out at $159, making it more affordable.

T-14. The Greenbrier Course at The Greenbrier

Peak rate: Non-guest $325; guest $275

Comment: This original Seth Raynor course, redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 1977, hosted the 1979 Ryder Cup and 1994 Solheim Cup.

T-14. Karsten Creek Golf Club

Peak rate: $325 unaccompanied guest

Comment: Who knew a course in Oklahoma -- not exactly a golf destination -- would cost so much?

16. Bali Hai Golf Club

Peak rate: $319

Comment: Walters Golf runs a tropical oasis in the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip.

T-17. North Course and South Course at The Resort at Pelican Hill

Peak rate: $310

Comment: Both Fazio courses touch the ocean at this posh SoCal enclave.

Pacific Dunes

T-17. Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Old Macdonald and Bandon Trails Course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Peak rate: $310 non-resort; $270 resort

Comment: Is there a better golf destination, dollar for dollar, in America?

23. AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio

Peak rate: $299

Comment: The AT&T Canyons Course, host of the Champions Tour's San Antonio Championship from 2011-15, tops out at $199, a third less than the Oaks, host of the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open.

24. Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort

Peak rate: $295

Comment: Those dreamy TV shots from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January help many golfers survive winter.

T-25. Pinnacle Course and Monument Course at Troon North Golf Club

Peak rate: $292

Comment: A flip-flop of the nines between the two Tom Weiskopf courses in 2007 made them both better.

27. River Course at Blackwolf Run

Peak rate: $285

Comment: Dye intertwined the course with Wisconsin's Sheboygan River perfectly.

T-28. East Course at The Broadmoor

Peak rate: $280

Comment: Nobody keeps the rough as thick and lush as Colorado's iconic resort.

T-28 Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles

Peak rate: $280

Comment: Last year was a tough one for this Dye design -- it lost the PGA Grand Slam of Golf and its efforts to remove three waterfalls were halted for environmental concerns.

T-30. Makai Golf Club at St, Regis Princeville

Peak rate: $275

Comment: There might not be a prettier coastal setting for golf than the cliffs of Princeville on Kauai's north shore.

T-30. Chambers Bay

Peak rate: $275

Comment: The controversial and exciting 2015 U.S. Open has done wonders for business at Chambers Bay on the shores of Washington's Puget Sound.

Video: Matt Ginella on the history of Chambers Bay

T-30. Mauna Kea Golf Course

Peak rate: $275

Comment: I could hit drivers all day and not clear the 260-plus-yard carry over the ocean cove on the famous par-3 third hole, maybe Hawaii's most famous par 3.

T-30. Quintero Golf Club

Peak rate: $275

Comment: Quintero should get more credit as one of Phoenix/Scottsdale's best courses.

T-30. Palos Verdes Golf Club

Peak rate: $275

Comment: This classic 6,430-yard course -- overlooking Santa Monica Bay 30 minutes from LAX -- charges a hefty afternoon weekday rate for non-members looking to enjoy its hilly fairways and greens, all recently restored by Todd Eckenrode of Origins Golf Design.

T-30. The Coeur d'Alene Resort golf course

Peak rate: $250 plus $25 recommended tip for mandatory forecaddie

Comment: The green fee includes a sports massage and new GPS in the carts, which are no longer cart-path only. This season is the 25th anniversary of the immaculate Scott Miller design and its famous floating island green.

T-36. Gold Course and Black Course at Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort Naples

Peak rate: EDITOR'S 2017 UPDATE: $295 plus $30 per player caddie fee and $25 recommended tip for a mandatory forecaddie before 11:50 a.m. November-April

Comment: The Greg Norman courses host the Franklin Templeton Shootout on the PGA Tour and the CME Group Titleholder Championship on the LPGA Tour.

T-36. The Links at Spanish Bay

Peak rate: $270 resort guest; $270 plus $40 cart fee non-resort guest

Comment: The shot-making is tough, but the soothing views help on this ode to links golf at Pebble Beach Resorts.

Erin Hills Golf Course

39. Erin Hills Golf Course

Peak rate: $265 plus 6.5 percent sales tax (caddie not required)

Comment: The host of the 2017 U.S. Open just an hour from Milwaukee is no walk in the park for amateurs.

T-40. Pasatiempo

Peak rate: $260

Comment: The general public gets a rare taste of the genius of Dr. Alister MacKenzie in northern California.

T-40. TPC Las Vegas

Peak rate: $260

Comment: The canyon holes of the back nine are some of the best challenges in Sin City.

T-40. Craddock and Hankins courses at The Retreat & Links at Silvies Valley Ranch

Peak rate: $260 for non-resort guests, $225 for resort guests

Comment: The new reversible courses by Dan Hixson beckon golfers to go off the grid to discover golf's newest resort north of Burns in remote eastern Oregon, a three-hour drive from Bend.

T-44. Bear's Best Las Vegas

Peak rate: $259

Comment: The replica holes from Jack Nicklaus include black-sand bunkers from Old Works in Montana and pine trees from Castle Pines in Colorado.

T-44. Monarch Beach Golf Links

Peak rate: $259

Comment: This SoCal course visits the ocean briefly at one green, but there's plenty of nice views from the posh St. Regis resort on higher ground.

T-46. Royal Kaanapali

Peak rate: $255 non-resort guests; $169 resort guest

Comment: The Senior Skins Game on Maui made Royal Kaanapali famous.

T-46. Red Course and Blue Course at Streamsong Resort

Peak rate: $255

Comment: These rates would be much higher if Streamsong wasn't 90 minutes from civilization in any direction in central Florida.

T-46. Talon Course and Raptor Course at Grayhawk Golf Club

Peak rate: $255

Comment: Grayhawk has Phil's Grill, music piped by outdoor speakers and a bunch of PGA Tour events on its resume to impress golfers.

T-51. Red Tiger Course and Golden Palm Course at Trump National Doral Miami

Peak rate: $250

Comment: Donald Trump spent millions upgrading these tired tracks when he bought the resort, hiring Gil Hanse to do the work.

T-51. Kingsley Club

Peak rate: $250

Comment: Although technically private, this off-the-radar club in northern Michigan does allow limited public play set up through a PGA Professional.

T-51. Pinehurst No. 4 and Pinehurst No. 8

Peak rate: $250

Comment: Fazio's No. 4 might be my favorite layout at Pinehurst in the North Carolina Sandhills.

T-51. Aviara Golf Club

Peak rate: $250

Comment: Nobody does flowers and landscaping better than this SoCal Arnold Palmer design.

T-51. Old Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links

Peak rate: $250

Comment: The highest rate I found for the Ocean Course by Arthur Hills was $150. If that's true, that's a great deal for a routing with several holes on cliffs overlooking the Pacific in northern California.

T-51: Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course

Peak rate: $250

Comment: The American Century Celebrity Golf Championship Tournament attracts good swings (Jack Wagner) and bad (Charles Barkley) every July.

Poipu Bay credit Brian Oar

T-51. Poipu Bay Golf Course

Peak rate: $250

Comment: Tiger Woods won the PGA Grand Slam of Golf seven times on Kauai's Poipu Bay from 1994-2006, overshadowing Phil Mickelson's final-round 59 to win in 2004.

T-51. Dye Canyon Golf Course at Promontory

Peak rate: $250

Comment: This posh Park City private club offers very limited public tee times.

61. Royal Links Golf Club

Peak rate: $249

Comment: Royal Links, just minutes from the Vegas Strip, features replica holes from famous links of the British Isles.

62. Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Orlando, Grande Lakes

Peak rate: $248

Comment: This Greg Norman design is one of the most well manicured courses in central Florida.

T-63. Emerald Course and Gold Course at Wailea Golf Club

Peak rate: $240 general public; $215 Maui resort guests; $199 Wailea resort guests

Comment: Both sit on high ground on Maui, giving off panoramic views of the ocean.

Read part 2 of this story here.

Read part 3 of this story here.

Editor's Note: We found additional courses with $199 tee times that would probably surpass $200 with taxes included.

Mar 21, 2016

Join the conversation

Post a comment 

kevbear's avatar
kevbear wrote at 2016-04-01 16:31:08+00:00:

I always book my golf vacations in shoulder season( usually April and September) and try to avoid weekends. The prices are so much cheaper. I've had golf vacations in , San Diego, Phoenix, Palm Springs,Bend , Oregon, St. George, Utah, Orlando and Myrtle Beach. I've never paid more than $65

Related Links

Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations 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 Twitter at @WorldGolfer.