We've written a lot about the most expensive golf courses in America because these are among the most coveted tee times you can get.
Brandon Tucker broke down the top 10 when Golf Advisor first launched in 2014. I then created a list in 2016 of every golf course that cost at least $200 to play, those with a standalone green fee and courses that required a stay and play. I followed up by interviewing author Paul Laubach, who wrote the book, Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America's Top 100 Public Golf Courses, on how to play the best courses for the least amount of money.
The topic of price never gets old, especially considering green fees and stay-and-play packages continue to rise. Since Golf Advisor launched in 2014, a tee time at Shadow Creek has risen from $500 to $750 and at Pebble Beach from $495 to $575 (on April 1). Hard as it might be to believe, at least 17 U.S. public/resort golf courses now charge rack rates of $350 or more. If you want to count the $345 day rate in high season on the four courses of Bandon Dunes, it's more than 20.
Now let's dive even deeper into what a day at these famous courses really costs. Some have hidden expenses like caddie tips, cart fees or a required overnight stay. In this article I've broken everything down, from the bare minimum without buying food, drinks or souvenirs, to the more likely number you'll pay for these once-in-a-lifetime golf experiences. I've played all of them multiple times except The Greenbrier and PGA National, so feel free to ask questions in the comments below.
Let's break down 15 of the most expensive rounds of golf in the United States:
Cost to play Shadow Creek Golf Club, North Las Vegas, Nevada
Shadow Creek green fees: $750. Includes range balls, cart, caddie and limousine ride to and from your MGM hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.
Additional costs: At least one night's stay at an MGM hotel on the Las Vegas Strip (likely $150-up) and a $75 recommended caddie tip.
The experience: I'd definitely spend as long as possible on property, touring the locker room (where Tiger, MJ and a few other celebs have lockers), eating lunch, ordering drinks in the bar or on the patio afterwards and just soaking up the entire ambiance of the place. Through an MGM spokesman, Shadow Creek declined to share its menu (only breakfast and lunch are served), but I remember the food and drinks being fairly reasonable when I last played in 2013. The low-slung clubhouse is very understated considering it caters to such a high-roller crowd. The course is trademark Tom Fazio - manicured beautifully and playable. The drop-shot par 3 at No. 17 (the waterfall hole) and the par-5 18th around a pond are great match-play finishers, as seen on TV during Tiger and Phil's The Match in 2018.
Total cost: An estimated minimum of $975 (with a stay at Circus Circus, green fee and caddie tip) to $1,500 and up depending on where you stay.
Cost to play the Straits course at Whistling Straits, Haven, Wisconsin
Whistling Straits Green fees: $195-$475 depending on the season. Includes range balls. Course is walking-only. The River course at Blackwolf Run ($135-$325) and The Straits also offer “advantageous” early spring and late fall rates that aren’t publicized in advance.
Additional costs: A $70 mandatory caddie fee, plus $50 recommended caddie tip. Caddies aren't required at twilight tee times (30 percent off the posted green feet at the time 4.5 hours before sunset). A one or two-night stay might be required depending upon the time of year.
The experience: Total cost is hardest to estimate at Kohler because there are so many variables involved. The time of year you visit will dictate if you need to stay the night (peak season is July 10-October 11). Rates also vary widely between The American Club and the Inn at Woodlake. The Straits course hosts the Ryder Cup in September, closing from Sept. 12-30. "A slight increase is likely" for 2021 green fees, according to the resort. Golf packages range from the three-night Dye-Abolical package (rounds and caddies/forecaddies/cart at all four Dye courses) starting at $1,048 (Woodlake) and $1,228 (The American Club) to the two-night Golf Kohler package (three rounds) starting at $810 (Woodlake) and $930 (American Club). Both are based on double occupancy. Free replays are a golf package perk if you're lucky to secure a morning tee time and there's availability that afternoon. Having stayed at the Inn at Woodlake multiple times, I'd say it's a good compromise to saving some money. Don't let the 1,000 bunker thing scare you. Most are out of play.
Total cost: Unless you live locally and can drive in for a last-minute discounted shoulder-season round, I'd recommend you do Kohler right and stay on property and play at least two (if not three) of the courses. Maybe you get lucky and play the Straits for less than $500 (green fee, caddie fee and tip) in the off-season or twilight, but the more likely outcome is a $1,000-plus day between the green fee, caddie, tip, meals and overnight stay.
Cost to play Pebble Beach Golf Links at Pebble Beach Resorts, Pebble Beach, California
Pebble Beach green fees: $575 for resort guests includes cart. $575 plus $45 cart fee if non-resort guests want to ride. Includes range balls.
Additional costs: To guarantee a tee time, golfers must stay on property, the least expensive options being the Lodge at Pebble Beach ($940-plus per night) or the Inn at Spanish Bay ($820-plus per night). Caddies, which aren't required, cost an additional $95 per bag for a double loop or $145 for a single bag (plus tips) for guests or non-guests alike.
The experience: The cheapest way to play Pebble Beach is to try to book a tee time 24 hours in advance without staying at the resort. I've heard from a handful of people that this is doable as long as you're a single with a flexible schedule. A twosome or more is tougher. To do Pebble Beach right, it's probably best to book a package. There's currently a winter stay-and-play for two nights for $2,445, including a round at Pebble Beach and another at the Links at Spanish Bay or Spyglass Hill. To keep costs down, you can eat off property, but I definitely recommend drinks and lunch/dinner in the Tap Room after the round to celebrate an epic day. (More: Our Ultimate Itinerary to Pebble Beach)
Total cost: $700 (with no caddie, hotel reservation or cart, carrying your own bag, plus a meal at the Tap Room and a small souvenir) to a $1,700 day on a golf package.
Editor's note: The green fee at Spyglass Hill is also rising in 2020 from $395 to $415, making it one of the most expensive resort courses in America.
Cost to play Wynn Golf Club, Las Vegas, Nevada
Wynn green fees: $550 from October through May; and $375 (Friday-Sunday) and $300 (Monday-Thursday) from June-September. Includes cart, forecaddie, Callaway rental clubs and a cooler stocked with Gatorades, soft drinks (Coke/Diet Coke) and water. | Browse Wynn tee times on GolfNow
Additional costs: $50 recommended caddie tip.
The experience: The Wynn and Encore hotels don't currently sell golf packages, so you don't have to stay to play, but there are advantages to getting up in the morning in a comfy room and walking to the pro shop without having to worry about Uber fees and Strip traffic. I found rooms ranging from $129 to $920 in February on the Wynn website. Those rates rise during the prime spring and fall seasons. Hotel guests can book tee times 90 days out, opposed to 30 days for non-guests. After a two-year closure, the new 6,722-yard, par-70 Wynn course has emerged better than ever in my eyes. It's more fun to play thanks to more par 3s (six total). It's a riot hitting shots aiming at the Stratosphere and other landmark buildings on the Strip. Tom Fazio's redesign featuring eight new holes never feels cramped, and you'll rarely see an adjacent fairway or other foursomes. It's a green-grass paradise among all that neon and concrete madness. Finishing on a bold, long par 3 framed by a waterfall is the most Vegas thing ever, and it works.
Total cost: The bare minimum for golf at Wynn is $600. If you went whole hog on golf, a nice room and a meal at SK Steakhouse, you're looking to double the cost at $1,200+.
Cost to play the PLAYERS Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
TPC Sawgrass (Stadium) green fees: $400-plus to $500-plus depending upon the season. Includes cart, forecaddie, range balls and bottles of water. Twilight rates available only in the off season are $300-plus (no forecaddie included).
Additional costs: Recommended gratuity for forecaddies is $30 and up. For those who want to walk with a caddie, the single bag fee is $115 plus tax per player, and the double bag fee is $75 plus tax, both with a recommended gratuity of $50 and up.
The experience: Carts are on path all year round at TPC Sawgrass, so it's better to walk. But if you do, they require a mandatory caddie. TPC Sawgrass uses dynamic pricing, so it's hard to tell where the famed Stadium course ranks among the most expensive public rounds in golf. With the $30 forecaddie gratuity and taxes, a $500 round costs roughly $560, according to a TPC spokesperson. Golf.com recently reported that the rate could soar to $720 in high season. The good news is you don't have to stay to play. Golf packages ranging from $1,100-$1,744 are available through the adjacent Marriott.
Total cost: The daily cost could range from $400 (bare minimum for an off-season tee time) to $1,000-plus (even without a night's stay) if you want to walk with a caddie and splurge on lunch and souvenirs.
Cost to play Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst, North Carolina
Pinehurst No. 2 green fees: $305-$495 depending on the season. Includes range balls.
Additional costs: Caddies aren't required, but highly recommended to help golfers conquer Donald Ross' perplexing greens. Also, carts must stay on the path on No. 2 and No. 4, causing a bit of a hassle for non-walkers. Single bag ($95), double bag ($65) and forecaddie ($40) are options. Per bag tip recommendations are $40 and up for a walking caddie and $25 and up for a forecaddie.
The experience: You don't have to stay at the resort to play the three-time U.S. Open host, but like Pebble Beach, walk-up tee times can only be made 24 hours in advance. To guarantee a tee time for a foursome or more, it's probably best to book a golf package. The popular Donald Ross package includes two nights, three rounds (a $195 premium to play No. 2) and daily breakfast buffet and dinner, starting at $653 and up (double occupancy).
Total cost: No sane golfer should play No. 2 for the first time without a caddie. Following that line of thinking, the most affordable round -- a walk-up twilight, off-season tee time with a caddie -- will still set you back at least $425. To experience it best, in high-season with friends in your foursome, a day on No. 2 will run upwards of $900 or more (caddie, room, tips, etc.).
Editor's Note: The new Pinehurst No. 4 by Gil Hanse saw its rates rise to $385 in 2019, making it one of golf's most expensive tee times as well.
Cost to play Stadium course at TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona
TPC Scottsdale (Stadium) green fees: $99-$455 (plus tax) depending on the season. Includes range balls and cart. Twilight rates vary.
Additional costs: Forecaddies are included mid-November to mid-April but require a recommended gratuity of $25 and up. Walking caddies are more.
The experience: As the only true desert course on this list, it has the highest green fee volatility on this list. Being America's winter golf capital causes prices to soar after the November overseed to mid-April in and around Phoenix-Scottsdale. When the snowbirds leave in May, rates on golf packages with the nearby Fairmont Scottsdale Princess drop, so you can get a good bargain before the valley temps reach their highest point. Prepaid online tee times net minor discounts, as does playing 36 holes with its sister Champions course.
Total cost: If you can tolerate Arizona's summer heat, potentially less than ideal conditions and play without the "stadium" intact, any golfer could take on this Tom Weiskopf design for about a Benjamin. Experiencing the full stadium setup in prime time will cost roughly $500, but with an overnight stay at the adjacent Fairmont, prices jump to $800-plus.
Cost to play the Blue Monster at Trump National Doral Miami, Miami, Florida
Blue Monster green fees: $250-$450 depending on the season. Twilight after 1 p.m.: $150-$270. Includes cart and range balls.
Additional costs: Forecaddies ($30 plus a $25 recommended tip) are required October through mid-May. Walking caddies are extra.
The experience: Two things give players price flexibility on the Blue Monster: seasonality and the fact that you don't have to stay to play. A championship golf package available until mid-April ranges from $439-$619 per night and includes daily breakfast, golf on the Red Tiger, Silver Fox or Golden Palm courses (the Blue Monster is a $195 surcharge plus the $55 in forecaddie fees/tip). Replays on the other courses only cost a $30 cart fee. Being just minutes from Miami airport, squeezing in a round on arrival or departure day for a business trip makes perfect sense. The course is much-improved after Gil Hanse's redo added more character, and Trump's millions in upgrades show throughout the resort.
Total cost: In the off-season, a golfer could theoretically play Doral for $300 (green fee and forecaddie fees). In season, that figure jumps to $505 for just golf, or $650-plus for golf and room.
Cost to play the Ocean course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Kiawah Island (Ocean) green fees: $265-$373 for resort guests and $291-$450 for non-guests, both depending upon the season. Certain golf packages can drag rates down to as low as $234 per round ($330 being the high), so there's significant savings there if you can afford to stay. After 2 p.m. May 27-August 30, twilight rates drop to $399 for non-resort guests and $263 for guests. Another way to save would be to play a round on one of Kiawah's other four courses in the morning and snag a $225 replay rate on the Ocean in the afternoon.
Additional costs: Recommended tip for any caddie is $100 per bag.
The experience: Since the course is walking-only September through May, caddies are included in the fee, but it is not required you take one. I honestly couldn't see anyone playing without one, though. They can help you survive cross winds and wicked Pete Dye greens. Carts are allowed after 10 a.m. June through August during the hotter, humid summer months. These rounds require a forecaddie. No matter when you play, at least one drink is essential at the Ryder Cup Bar after golf. Lunch or dinner here might be your best bet, with a more casual vibe and menu, than the fancier Ocean Room steakhouse (which likely will require a reservation).
Total cost: I've played the Ocean in December when rates are low, and still caught a spectacular day with sunshine and no wind. It would be silly not to take a caddie, so the bare minimum price might be an off-season rate, plus a caddie tip, costing $400. Staying - it's quite the drive from the mainland to get out to the course and back in one day - will cost much more, obviously. Golf packages start at $480 per person (four people in a villa) to $900 per person (double occupancy at The Sanctuary) for two nights and two rounds (plus an additional surcharge to play the Ocean). At the high end, an Ocean course day will run north of $1,000 (room, golf, caddie tip).
Cost to play the Old White TPC at The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Greenbrier (TPC Old White) green fees: $245-$450 for a hotel guest depending on the season. Twilight rates after 2-3 p.m.: $195-$350. Non-resort guest: $350-$450 (Twilight $250-$350). Includes range balls and cart.
Additional costs: Forecaddies will be provided on tee times before 3 p.m. May 1 through October 21 at no additional cost with a minimum $80 gratuity recommended. Walking caddies ($95 plus tip) are available upon request.
The experience: The Greenbrier doesn't require overnight stays to play its PGA Tour host. Considering its isolated locale in the Allegheny Mountains, staying might make the most sense for most travelers, though. A Sunday Pin's golf package offers the chance to watch the final round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier tournament and then play the course Monday, staying for two nights ($1,025-up) with unlimited golf on the Meadows course Tuesday and/or Wednesday if you stay three nights ($1,500-up).
Total cost: A penny-pinching, non-resort guest could probably play a twilight round for roughly $400 (including forecaddie and tip) in the shoulder seasons, but the Sunday Pin's package sounds most appealing to me. The fall colors would be gorgeous if you time the changing of the leaves in the mountains.
Cost to play the Champion course at PGA National Resort & Spa, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
PGA National (Champion) green fees: $218-$408 depending on the season. Twilight rates drop to $278 in shoulder season. Includes cart and range balls.
Additional costs: You must spend the night to play the course. Caddies are not required but are available from $35 (forecaddie) to $105 (walking caddie single bag). Recommended tips run from $25-$45.
The experience: The Champion course, host of the PGA Tour's Honda Classic, climaxes with the Bear Trap, the nickname for a trio of holes (15-17) that traditionally determines the champion. Since golfers must spend the night to play, it makes sense to book a package to save on the green fees. A "Gold Package" ranging from $168-$382 (plus resort fees and taxes) through September will include breakfast and a round of golf ($135 surcharge for Champion).
Total cost: For a summer stay and play, maybe you can experience the course for $350. In high season, a golf package will run up to $650 for golf on Champion with a forecaddie.
Cost to play Cascata, Boulder City, Nevada
Cascata green fees: $299-$399. Includes range balls, bottle of water, personalized day locker and cart.
Additional costs: The fee and gratuity for mandatory forecaddie is suggested to be $50 per person. If you're staying on the Strip without a rental car, a ride from Uber or Lyft will cost $50+.
The experience: No homes ruin sweeping views of red rocks and dramatic desert terrain that characterize Cascata, a Rees Jones design reputed to be among the most expensive ever built. The 450-foot man-made waterfall (Cascata means 'waterfall in Italian') comes into play on multiple holes, eventually flowing down the mountain to the driving range and into the clubhouse.
Total cost: You could get in and out of Cascata for $350 (golf and $50 caddie) in the off-season (mid-June through August and mid-December through January) and $450 in high season. The most affordable way would be to take advantage of the $499 rate to play both Cascata and Rio Secco, another excellent track by Jones in nearby Henderson.
Cost to play Harbour Town Golf Links, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Harbour Town green fees: $199-$379. Includes cart (which stay on the path year-round) and range balls. Twilight rates vary.
Additional costs: Forecaddies are included with every tee time. A $30 tip is recommended. Walking caddie tips are recommended to be $100 and up.
The experience: Although you don't need to be a resort guest to play in the shadow of the famous candy-cane-striped lighthouse, golf packages offer some price breaks on green fees. For example, a golf-only package (if you're staying somewhere else) saves 15 percent on green fees when booking all three of the resort's courses.
Total cost: Seasonality means a warm winter's day - very doable in the Lowcountry - could afford you a daily expenditure on one of the PGA Tour's most famous venues for just $250 (green fee and forecaddie tip). Full rack rate in high season won't go below $425, and with a stay and play, could cost more than $800 and up for the day. (GOLFPASS members can receive $100 travel credit to Sea Pines Resort on select golf packages. Learn more).
Cost to play Manele at Four Seasons Resort Lanai
Manele green fees: $350 plus a night's stay.
Additional costs: Only resort guests can book a tee time. Considering room rates never dip below $1,000 a night, you could make the argument this is the most expensive round in golf. This is the only course in this story that doesn't offer caddies.
The experience: I've written plenty (here and here) about why this might be the best golf resort I've ever seen. Everything is beyond luxurious, and Manele is my favorite course in Hawaii, ranking among my favorite in the world. It's so scenic and fun. As an added bonus, golfers shuttle between the course and a hotel in a Tesla.
Cost to play the Pete Dye course at French Lick Resort, French Lick, Indiana
French Lick (Dye) green fees: $350 during the summer season from April 1-November 1.
Additional costs: $30 per person for required forecaddie, plus tip.
The Experience: With the passing of the course's namesake, playing it in 2020 makes a lot of sense. Non-resort guests can play either the Dye or Donald Ross course, but I'd recommend staying. Staying at the remarkable and historic West Baden Springs Hotel is worth the trip alone. An overnight there costs the most in packages, which range from $589-$619 per double occupancy. Pertaining to golf, bring your best game and avoid Dye's mounding and bunkering. The 8,001-yard course is a tournament magnet, having hosted the Big Ten Championships, the Senior PGA Championship and Senior LPGA Championship.
Total cost: Due in part to its remote location in rural southern Indiana, French Lick is the most "affordable" of U.S. golf's most expensive tee times. It's also one of only two courses in this story that hasn't raised its green fees since 2014. You can play for $400 (the bare minimum of tee time, caddie fee and tip) and possibly even escape spending less than $800 that day with a meal and an overnight stay.
Have you been lucky enough to play one of these courses? Tell us about the experience in the comments below.