The 10 top-rated A.W. Tillinghast-designed golf courses you can play

A.W. Tillinghast was one of the most prominent golf course architects of the United States' Golden Age of golf course design. "Tilly" is credited for having worked on at least 265 golf courses. Some were his original, while he consulted on many others.

Today, many of his designs are part of elite private facilities, particularly on the east coast. The 36 holes at Winged Foot, a popular U.S. Open host, are regarded by many as his finest work. But there are plenty of other exclusive private clubs with his design touch up and down the eastern seaboard, especially around New York City.

While most of the best Tillinghast-designed golf courses are part of exclusive private clubs, there are some notable courses open to the public, perhaps none more well known than Bethpage Black, one of five 18-hole courses at this Long Island state park. Many of these Tillinghast designs are actually quite affordable, often a result of their walkability and smaller footprint (many just 6,200 yards or so). Some are located at resorts, while others were previously private clubs that now offer some public play.

In our database of more than 500,000 reviews, we have just over 900 reviews of Tillinghast-designed courses. Most are reviews of his public, semi-private and resort courses. With the PGA Championship returning to Baltusrol, one of his most celebrated works, we thought we'd uncover which of his designs have fared best according to your reviews.

If your favorite Tillinghast work isn't listed here, be sure to write a review for it by looking for it in the search box at the top of the page, or tweet us @golfadvisor.

Top 10 A.W. Tillinghast designs you can play, according to Golf Advisor ratings

Farmingdale, N.Y.

The host of the U.S. Open and upcoming PGA Championship and Ryder Cup, as well as the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the Black is well known for its demanding layout. Top 100 reviewer Toothsaw2 wrote:

Right off the bat the course is tough with a long par 4 that has a 90 degree dogleg, that is pretty difficult to hit far enough to get a clear approach. From then on you can expect super tight fairways, crazy thick rough, and bunkers... so many bunkers. Fortunately, if you ever make it to the green, they are mostly pretty flat and roll very true. Almost every hole is marvelous to look at... I'd say 10-11 are the two most boring holes visually. there is a lot of elevation change, tricky but attractive bunkering, and lots of direction change as well..

Bedford, Pa.

The course dates back to 1895 and has design credit from both Tillinghast and Donald Ross. It was also significantly updated in 2007. Senior Writer Jason Scott Deegan played the course earlier in 2016 and wrote this in his review:

Playing the Old course at Bedford Springs twice in two days in May gave me a full appreciation for this special and endearing place located in a peaceful rural setting two hours west of Pittsburgh. The architecture team of Ron Forse and Jim Nagle did a bang-up job in the restoration of this Donald Ross/A.W. Tillinghast course about a decade ago. They remained true to classical architecture, while adding their own touches. Forse calls Bedford Springs a "museum" of course design.

The sixth hole of the A.W. Tillinghast-designed Old Course at Omni Bedford Springs Resort winds through the woods.

Farmingdale, N.Y.

Senior Writer Mike Bailey thinks the Red Course is every bit as good as the famous Black Course next door:

If you ask the locals, they'll tell you the Red ranks right up there with the famed Black Course. In fact, if the Red got the same attention as the two-time U.S Open course, it might be on par with the Black,. As is, the Red is a terrific layout with plenty of challenge. From the back at 7,000 yards, it's all the golf most players can handle. Play it from the proper tees, and you've got a great test of golf, especially with the treacherous bunkering throughout.

Wernersville, Pa.

Top 50 Golf Advisor reviewer bradco rated the course five stars and said it's worth the drive from metro Philadelphia. On the design:

The course is tight and has huge elevation changes. You need to play here a few times to understand where you can miss shots otherwise you can make plenty of errors in judgment...The bunkering on this course is really good and the fairway traps have fescue around them like you'd see at Merion. The greens have slope to them and you have to be underneath the hole to score well. All in all, the course is a hidden gem and I highly recommend a day trip to come here for tremendous value and a challenging course."

Tallahassee, Fla.

Reviewer JayRevell adored the classic look of this Tillinghast design in Florida's capital city. His review:

The course is very playable, but has many challenges in store. Hit it straight and manage to putt some of the tricky greens and you can post a nice score. You will feel like you are playing a classic northeast course. Observe the unique qualities of Capital City Country Club and appreciate this great A.W. Tillinghast layout."

Shawnee on Delaware, Pa.

Local Golf Advisor Steve3709753 had this to say in his three-star review:

It's generally flat and lots of doglegs. I played a good variety of clubs during the round which I enjoy. Most everyone will like playing the course. As for it being a resort, its older and this course doesn't stand up to most of them in the Poconos region. But playing this after the Nicklaus designed course [the resort] also manages might be a nice break. It's a good course to play overall.

San Antonio

Tillinghast designed a handful of golf courses in San Antonio, including Oak Hills Country Club and Fort Sam Houston. Brackenridge Park, however, is the most played, as the centerpiece of the city's six-course muni system, the Alamo City Golf Trail. It was extensively updated in 2008. Reviewer pdicosm wrote:

Brack is great course for every type of golfer. All 18 holes are contained with OB around the external perimeter on the course. This allows for players to get a little forgiveness on some misses. It isn't uncommon to find a player playing the 9th hole playing from the first fairway or vice versa. I like playing the 14th hole down the 13th fairway (so watch out!). The course is always in great shape and the greens roll true. The front 9 features some tighter fairways and smaller greens than the very scorable back 9 with the two short par 5s 12 & 13. It's pretty neat to play Tillinghast's classic square cut greens on holes 2, 4, 6, 7, 11, 14, 15 and 18. Also, when the rounds done take a peak in the locker room where you see old lockers featuring the names of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, and Sam Snead.

Manchester, Conn.
A.W. Tillinghast updated parts of the course in 1935 after an original layout from Tom Bendelow and Devereux Emmet in 1917. A member of this now semi-private club wrote:

I'm a member here so maybe I'm biased but this course deserves a 2014 review. Place is in great shape, the greenskeeper really knows his stuff. MCC is an old school walkable New England design with lots of elevation changes. Good greens that can be quick but never super fast, and have lots of contours. Fairways are wide, and the course can play short for long hitters but scoring is still tough. Tallwood, Blackledge, Topstone, Tunxis, Gillette ridge, Twin Hills, and the this area fall well short in comparison. Top 10 public course in the state no doubt.

Richmond, Va.

Like a lot of Tilly courses, Belmont, despite a length of just 6,258 yards, still stands the test of time according to 0-to-4-handicapper Mark6560542:

This Tillinghast/Ross course is a classic old design course. It was the site of the 1949 PGA, the only major played in Virginia. The price is a bargain, $30 on weekends, and the course condition is decent, fast greens and sand in the bunkers. Every serious golfer passing through the area should play this course. My daughter, a Div collegiate player, and I, both scratch hdcps, had a blast playing this course.

Liberty, N.Y.

Once part of a renowned resort in the Catskills, the original hotel has been closed for 30 years. But the nine-hole Vista Course, designed by Tillinghast remains to complement the 18-hole Big G Course. Bej7013, a top 1000 reviewer, wrote:

One of the classic courses of the Catskills. The buildings have fallen into a state of disrepair but this course still holds a lot of the original charm. The layout is great, plenty of chances to use your full power clubs and test your putting skills.

Video: Tillinghast's Golden Era legacy

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. Prior to the launch of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGA.
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Commented on

Belmont golf course? You must be kidding me. Poor shape most of the time, layout on the front is cramped to say the least. By far Tilly's WORST design - there are a number of public tracks in Richmond that are better, much better.

Commented on

Add Rock Hill Country Club in South Carolina to his worst designs. It may have been good in 1934, but greens have settled into bizarre mounds and course lacks personality and conditioning. There are 5 better PUBLIC courses within 25 minutes.

Commented on

Thanks for the information re the Tillinghast courses you can play. Was disheartened to read about the fairway and bunker revisions at the Black. By the way I am a Tillinghast.

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The 10 top-rated A.W. Tillinghast-designed golf courses you can play
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