Best Public Golf Courses in Des Moines, Iowa

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Best Public Golf Courses in Des Moines, Iowa

Paul LiberatorePaul Liberatore

Paul Liberatore






If you’ve never spent time in the Midwest, I’m here to tell you that the folks that call it home are some of the most generous, down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time in this part of the country and that’s always been my experience.  You’re met with a firm handshake and a warm smile, people hold the door for each other, and everyone yields to pedestrians.   And the hospitality and cooking?  Don’t even get me started. 

Des Moines is a city I’ve only visited once.  It was in the dead of winter and golf wasn’t an option.  Sure, the golf season is a little shorter at this latitude.  But that doesn’t mean that Iowans don’t take their golf seriously.  They do.  When I reached out for their input, they were quite eager to tell me all about it. 

Let’s take a closer look at the consensus picks for the city of Des Moines.


Otter Creek Golf Course

Otter Creek Golf Course 3Otter Creek Golf Course 3

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In 2016, Otter Creek was named “Golf Course of the Year” by the Iowa Golf Association. 

Paul Miller was the brains behind this modern American design.  The fairways are generous and allow you to swing confidently with driver on most holes. 

The real challenge begins on your approach shots into large, undulating greens.  Just because you find the putting surface in regulation doesn’t mean you’ll have an easy look at birdie.  Be prepared for some long putts where dialing in the speed is paramount.

Water also comes into play.  There are 17 strategically placed ponds and lakes that are waiting to punish errant shots. 

After your round, pay a visit to the Tin Cup Bar and Grille.  You can choose from traditional golf course food like sandwiches and burgers, or even customize your own pizza!  Sausage and black olive for me please.


Tournament Club of Iowa

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It’s been a while since I wrote about an Arnold Palmer design.  Need I remind you that he’s both my favorite golfer AND designer of all-time?  Didn’t think so.

The King gets all the credit for the gem that is the Tournament Club of Iowa. 

The land on which this course sits is special.  It encompasses more than 500 acres cut through dramatic bluffs between Big Creek Dam and Saylorville Lake.  If there’s a course in Des Moines where you’ll want your camera as your 15th club, this is it. 

Elevation change is a factor too based on the terrain.  Be ready for some uphill and downhill shots where choosing the right club is imperative. 

As with most Palmer designs, you’re encouraged to take some risks.  The King wouldn’t have it any other way.  Be forewarned though, if you don’t execute, you can find some trouble. 

An A-list experience in Central Iowa, this might be my first choice in Des Moines.


The Legacy Golf Club

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If you’re looking for a premier public golf experience in Des Moines, the Legacy Golf Club is a great choice. 

This is a championship-caliber, modern layout.  Landing areas are wide, and features large.  You have plenty of room to let it rip from the tee on most holes, but your approach shots need to be precise. 

This course is also one of the best-conditioned in the area.  The ball sits up on bentgrass fairways and rolls true on the greens of the same turf.  If you miss a fairway or green however, the Kentucky bluegrass rough is thick and penal. 

The staff here are incredibly friendly too.  It’s clear that these folks are proud of the Legacy Club and care about the experience of every golfer that comes through the doors.


Woodland Hills Golf Course

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Woodland Hills is centrally located on the north side of Des Moines.  Getting here is easy from anywhere in the Metro area. 

Established in 1928, this is a traditional parkland layout that rewards course management and shot placement more than length. 

While the layout is somewhat in front of you, holes move both left and right.  In some cases, you’ll need to be in the proper half of the fairway in order to have a clear shot into the green.  Trees overhang in some spots and need to be taken into account.

A true shot maker’s test, this classic design isn’t one you’ll forget.


Waveland Golf Course

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Waveland Golf Course is one of the oldest courses in the state.  It opened for play in 1901.

Unlike other courses in the Des Moines area, slope and elevation change are constant themes around here.  Be prepared for some uneven lies. 

As you might expect from an older design, holes are narrow out here too.  Again, accuracy from the tee is the key to setting yourself up with scoring opportunities. 

The third hole, sometimes called “the tunnel”, is said to be the toughest hole on the course.  Large trees and water guard the right side of the fairway.  Once you get your tee shot in play, you’re left with a shot across a deep ravine to an elevated green yet again protected by water.  If you make par here, you’re a shot ahead.

Rumor has it that the food at Waveland is just as good as the course.  Fat Joe’s Pizza.  I’m Italian and never turn down a good pie.  Sign me up for a day at Waveland!


Bright Grandview Golf Course

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Bright Grandview is only a year younger than Waveland.  The first rounds were played here in 1902. 

Again, this is a classic design that’s short by modern standards.  However, the course’s short length doesn’t mean it’s easy by any means. 

Large trees line each hole from the tee to the green.  And the greens present small targets as well.  Even though you’ll have some short clubs for approach shots, you’d best be accurate. Getting the ball up and down isn’t easy, especially if you’re short sided. 

One of the better values in Des Moines, and a fun test, don’t overlook Bright Grandview.


A.H. Blank Golf Course

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If there’s a true muni in Des Moines, it sounds like A.H. Blank is it. 

This course gets a ton of play, but is always in good condition.  And the pace of play moves along smoothly.  If you’re looking for the fastest of rounds, try to play early in the morning or during the week.

As you might expect, you’ll find a whole host of characters here.  It’s all about the golf and camaraderie.  No here cares how much money you have, what you do for work, or even if you can break 100.  Come one, come all.

The layout is a fun one.  Water comes into play on 10 holes and you’ll have the chance to hit every club in your bag.

Other amenities include a full-service pro shop, deli, driving range, and short game area.

Golf in its purest form, A.H. Blank is a must play.


Copper Creek Golf Club and Event Center

Copper Creek Golf Club and Event Center 3Copper Creek Golf Club and Event Center 3

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One of the newest courses in Des Moines is Copper Creek.  It opened for play in 1997.

Designed by Gordon Cunningham, this track is visually right in front of you.  However, each hole is designed to be played a certain way and managing your way around is the key to success.

The fairways are lined by trees and the greens are quick and undulating.  Staying below the hole is a must.  Trying to save par from the top side is a daunting task.

Copper Creek also boasts one of the best practice facilities in the area too.  The driving range allows you to hit every club in your bag and the short game is first-rate. 

A complete experience at a reasonable price, Copper Creek has quickly become a local’s favorite. 


Warrior Run Golf Course

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Warrior Run is touted as one of the best nine-hole courses in the entire state. 

Not only is it in great shape, it’s walkable, and fun to play.  While the discerning player can enjoy Warrior Run, the course caters to families and beginners.  The emphasis is on growing the game and having fun. 

A minimalist design, you won’t find many forced carries or hazards.  There aren’t many bunkers either.

The staff consists of several PGA Professionals whose job is solely teaching.  These folks know their stuff and make the game fun for everyone, regardless of ability.


Terrace Hills Golf Course

Terrace Hills Golf Course 3Terrace Hills Golf Course 3

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Terrace Hills just opened back up after major renovations, but locals are raving about it already. 

The track has been around since 1964 and many of the original design characteristics can still be found after the renovation.

Like a lot of courses in the Midwest, this is a tree lined, parkland layout.  While you might be tempted to bomb driver over some of the doglegs, the percentage play is usually the better decision. 

For the best players, par is a great score from the back tees.  Terrace Hills is playable for everyone though.  Multiple sets of tees can fit the game of any golfer. 

Everyone is excited about the changes at this facility.  Definitely worth checking out in my book.


When our Des Moines Golfer’s Authority readers responded with input on their city’s public golf scene, their enthusiasm was palpable.  These folks are proud of where they live and the golf they play. 

I need to get back to Des Moines and set aside some time to play some of the tracks on this list.  I know one thing for certain – when I show up, I’ll be treated like family.

Thanks to all that made yet another course guide possible.  I couldn’t have done it without you.

If you have more thoughts you’d like to add about golf in Des Moines, we’d love to hear from you in the comments down below.