Secrets to Saving Big at America's Top-10 Public Courses (Part 1)

I get lot of emails asking if there are ways to play America's top courses at a discount.

Yes, there are often some fantastic deals available; you just need to catch them at the right time.

(Speaking of which, keep your eyes out for an upcoming offer Pebble Beach would like to extend to GVI readers).

But what many people don't know is that most of America's best public courses have standing replay, twilight, and maintenance discounts...and they are bigger and better than you might think.

For example, did you know you can play Kiawah Island's Ocean Course (in high season) for about 50% off the rack rate?

See below for how to do it, along with the secrets to saving at the rest of America's top-5 public courses (I'll send you the next five in part 2 next week)...

Pebble Beach Golf Links at Pebble Beach Resorts (California)
Golf Digest Ranking: 1
Golf Magazine Ranking: 2
Greens Fee: $495
Discount Available: Up to 47%
The Secret to Saving: This not the ideal way to experience Pebble, but it is possible to play sister courses Spyglass Hill or Spanish Bay first, then pay the $260 same-day replay rate to hit the Links. Another option is to play during large-tyne aerification for $275-$375, but this window (sometimes in September) is usually a moving target. Twilight rates are not available at PBGL.

Pacific Dunes at Bandon Dunes Resort (Oregon)
Golf Digest Ranking: 3
Golf Magazine Ranking: 1
Greens Fee: $280
Discount Available: Up to 100%
The Secret to Saving: Bandon doesn't do "twilight rates" either, but it has a fantastic, same-day replay policy you can leverage to the max by staying on site. For example, as resort guest, you can play any of the 18-hole courses in high season for $235, then "replay" any course for just $120, then "replay" any others for free.

The Straits Course at Whistling Straits / The American Club Resort (Wisconsin)
Golf Digest Ranking: 2
Golf Magazine Ranking: 4
Greens Fee: $360
Discount Available: Up to 30%
The Secret to Saving: You can take either approach here -- play the Irish Course first and replay the Straits, or simply play the Straits at twilight -- and you'll pay only $250. The twilight rate kicks in four hours prior to the National Weather Service's determination of sunset, which, in summer, means teeing off approximately between 3:30 and 4:30 pm.

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort (South Carolina)
Golf Digest Ranking: 4
Golf Magazine Ranking: 5
Greens Fee: $350
Discount Available: Up to 50%
The Secret to Saving: Previously impossible, now even non-resort guests can book Ocean Course replays in advance. This means you can play another of the resort's four courses first, then "replay" the Ocean Course for just $175, a savings of 50 percent. Just be sure to keep some gas in the tank for the mighty Ocean Course. It's OK to play only nine holes of your morning round; you'll still come out ahead.

Pinehurst No. 2 at Pinehurst Resort (North Carolina)
Golf Digest Ranking: 7
Golf Magazine Ranking: 3
Greens Fee: $430
Discount Available: Up to 55%
The Secret to Saving: With its hosting of the men's and women's US Opens next year, things are already tightening up on No. 2. Twilight and replay rates aren't available because the resort is limiting play in the afternoon. So, the trick here is book a package and stay on site, which you can do for as short as one night. Doing so will get you access to the No. 2 course for a $195 surcharge.

What do you think -- would you be open to playing these top courses as a same-day replay or at twilight to save big?

Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine,, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
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I cannot comment on the other courses, but having played at Bandon several times, their replay policy/rates are no "secret." They are stated on their website for all to see. No secret handshake required.

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Playing Pebble Thursday 8/15. They are aerating Wednesday 8/14. $100 discount and no required stay.

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Love, love, love playing at twilight. To me, the reduced fees are just a bonus!

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some in our group hate playing 36 a day, but others love it. you can bet i'm going to share this with them. didn't realize how big the discounts were. thanks. -HV

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I don't recommend playing another 18 holes on the same day as you play one of these tremendous courses. Stay focused on premier course at hand, soak up all that it has to offer. We tried Pinehurst # 5 after playing # 2 in the AM and it was ugly (the course and our play). We played Pebble at a leisurely pace, too photos and then soaked up the 19th hole and the rest of the experience. We played Kiawah and had no desire to hurry to play another 18 anywhere. Bethpage Black....too exhausted to play anymore. They were all worth the price.

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The other option is pretty and ask. I organize a group of atlantic canadians each year, and we end up playing fabulous courses at fantastic rates because i call and speak to the pro. we dont always end up at 9.00 am, but we are on vacation and playing tracks that would normally stretch our budget beyond repair. thanks for all the tips.....Pinehurst area our favorite so far after 11 years.

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RE: Pinehurst #2, I called the resort last week to inquire about the "252 Package", which had been mentioned by GVI earlier in the year, and I was told that the package is no longer available. However, from November 10th through Febraury 19th the resort is offering their "Evergreen Escape" package which will allow you to stay at one of their lodging options and play a round each day for around $205 on weekdays or $235 on weekends. With this package you can play #2 for a $100 surcharge bringing your total to $305 or $335. I wasn't able to find this package on the resort website, but it's possible that this is a deal that they don't readily advertise similar to the "252 Package".

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Played Pebble and Spanish Bay 2 weeks ago. Spanish Bay was too hard for a player that is not that acurate...Del Monte was burned up,very dissapointing....

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