The "True Cost" to Play America's 12 Most Expensive Golf Courses

Every year before and after The Players Championship, I get flooded with questions about how much it costs to play the Player's Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

It makes sense: the golf course is open to all, but there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer regarding the green fee.

For one thing, if you want the most bang for your buck, I recommend playing the course as part of a package (the prices of which are too varied to list here).

For another, there's a big difference between the mere "green fee" and the "all in" cost after factoring in some of the mandatory and optional extras.

Again, I wouldn't recommend paying the walk-up rate, but to give you an idea of what it is (and the realistic total cost of your entire day at TPC Sawgrass, here's a rough calculation:

Peak green fee: $495 ("only" $450 in March-May; October-November)
Tax: $30
Cart fee: included (cart-path-only at all times)
Range balls: included
*Caddie fee (mandatory if you want to walk; one half of two-bag walking caddie): $65
*Yardage guide: $5
TPC Sawgrass logo shirt: $60
*Post-round cocktail: $10
TOTAL: $665

(*not mandatory, but part of most people's normal experiences and resort golf expenditures)

As you can see, the posted green fee is seldom the end of your ultimate spend, and this is the case at many upper-echelon courses where caddie fees and gratuities can be mandatory.

In fact, this got me wondering about the "true cost" at the other places often labeled as, "the most expensive golf courses in America."

I didn't calculate as many extras like I did for TPC Sawgrass, but below are the base green fees and any mandatory and suggested caddie fees and gratuities.

Again, this assumes you're paying the walk-up rate, but most (if not all) of these courses/resorts have more reasonable package pricing.

Interestingly, one course's fee has recently dropped: Cascata in Las Vegas, which debuted with a base fee of $500 but is now a relative bargain at "only" $445.

Below is the full list...

t-1) Shadow Creek: $500+
$500 peak green fee includes forecaddie, but not gratuity

t-1) Wynn Golf Course: $500+ 
$500 peak green fee includes forecaddie, but not gratuity

t-3) TPC Sawgrass - PLAYERS Stadium Course: $495 - $635
$495 peak green fee (with cart; cart-path-only at all times) + $27.50 forecaddie fee + $20 forecaddie gratuity OR $66 double-bag caddie fee + $25 gratuity OR $90 single walking caddie fee + $40 gratuity

t-3) Pebble Beach Golf Links: $495 - $630
$495 peak green fee + optional caddie fee of $80 + $35-$55 suggested gratuity

t-3) Trump National Doral Resort - Blue Monster: $495 - $595
$450 peak green fee + $25 mandatory forecaddie fee + $20 recommended gratuity; single walking caddie fee is $125 + $20 gratuity

6) Whistling Straits - Straits Course: $490
$385 green fee + $65 mandatory caddie fee + $40 suggested caddie gratuity

7) Cascata Golf Course: $445
$395 peak green fee + $25 mandatory forecaddie fee + $25 standard gratuity

8) The Greenbrier - TPC Old White Course: $440
$385 peak green fee +$30 mandatory forecaddie fee + $25 standard gratuity

9) Pinehurst Resort - No. 2 Course: $420 - $505
$420 peak green fee (with cart; cart-path-only at all times) + $55 walking caddie fee + $30 minimum caddie gratuity

10) French Lick Springs - Pete Dye Course: $405 
$350 peak green fee + $30 mandatory forecaddie fee + $25 standard gratuity

11) Spyglass Hill Golf Course: $395
$395 peak green fee includes cart

12) Kiawah Island - The Ocean Course: $390 - $460
$390 peak green fee includes cart (cart-path-only at all times) and forecaddie or walking caddie base fee, but not gratuity, which is $35 for forecaddie or $70 for walking caddie

Total maximum cost of these 12 golf experiences: 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the above figures are based on peak season "walk-in" rates.

You can often play these courses for a LOT less, particularly if you keep an eye on our email alerts.

(For example, we recently tipped you off about great packages at Pebble Beach and Whistling Straits.)

What do you think about the rates at, "America's most expensive golf courses?"

Overpriced or worth every penny?

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, USAToday.com, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
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The "True Cost" to Play America's 12 Most Expensive Golf Courses
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