Top 20 public golf courses in Pa.: Ranking where you can play like a pro in 2019

The weather seems to be cooperating, knock on wood, so it’s just about time to start working on your golf game. That’s right, dig those clubs and dusty shoes out of the trunk of your car or garage and start to focus.

Whether you’re hitting the driving range or planning on sneaking in 18, we thought the timing was right for another glance at some of Pa.’s best public golf courses.

Once again, we assembled a small but golf-crazed selection committee and went for it. Our updated Top 20 courses you can play is below.

All courses are listed with weekday/weekend greens fees with cart during peak season unless noted. We added yardage for two sets of tees. All courses offer multiple layers of discounts for seniors, juniors and military personnel.

Since we haven’t played all of the 500-plus public courses in the state, please let us know your favorite places to play in the comments section. Tee away.

20. Olde Homestead Golf Club

Location: New Tripoli. Year opened: 1995. Design: Jim Blaukovitch

Distance: 6,247 yards (Pioneer), 6,002 yards (Homesteader), Par 72. Greens fees: $49/$69

Buzz: Our first recommendation is to avoid the wind if you nestled in the Lehigh Valley at Olde Homestead. Obviously, we didn’t follow that advice. It certainly stretched the yardage from the Pioneer (Blue) tees. That said, consider Olde Homestead a hidden gem to those outside the LV. While fairly open, the course can bite when you least expect it. And you might get caught up in all the history here, like the restored 1910 farmhouse that now serves as the clubhouse and a 1700’s summer kitchen and one-room schoolhouse near the bottom of the course.

Blue Ridge Trail

Blue Ridge Trail

19. Blue Ridge Trail

Location: Mountaintop. Year opened: 2006. Design: Ault, Clark & Associates

Distance: 3,324/3,084 (Blue 9), 3,278/3,120 (Ridge 9), 3,182/3,066 (Trail 9), Par 72. Greens fees: $31/$39

Buzz: We’re going to visit the northeast corridor quite a few times during this Top 20 run and the 27-hole facility at Blue Ridge Trail is deserving of a spot. Located south of Wilkes-Barre, Blue Ridge Trail is a well-established play for residents and attracts a lot of outsiders with well-groomed, and often tight, fairways and true greens. It’s also one of the best values inside our Top 20. If you fancy the seclusion of courses that route through the woods, add BRT to your to-do list.

18. Toftrees Golf Resort

Location: State College. Year opened: 1968. Design: Ed Ault, Tom Clark, Brian Ault

Distance: 6,756 yards (Blue), 6,378 yards (White), Par 72. Greens fees: $50/$64

Buzz: “Home among the trees” is the meaning of the word Toftrees. We’ll trust them. The resort course near Penn State University has been admired for some time, mainly for sparkling conditions and the overall challenge. Another bonus is a peaceful setting. You really do feel alone on the course. Well, alone with your playing partners anyway. Toftrees has plenty of space among its 1,500 wooden acres, so good luck.

Links at Gettysburg

The signature par-3 at Links at Gettysburg.

17. Links at Gettysburg

Location: Gettysburg. Year opened: 1999. Design: Lindsay Ervin

Distance: 6,666 yards (Blue), 6,277 yards (White), Par 72. Greens fees: $32/$37 (current)

Buzz: It may take a few rounds to thoroughly enjoy The Links. For starters, merging the correct yardage with your game is paramount. Ervin’s scenic design has water on the majority of holes, and other hazards are sprinkled about. With a slope rating of 140 from the blue tees, and 136 from the whites, you might a sleeve or two. The backdrop, however, is terrific, and the red rock wall that frames the back of the par-3 signature hole is pretty cool. So are the mini cannons for tee markers.

16. Great Bear

Location: East Stroudsburg. Year opened: 1997. Design: Jack Nicklaus

Distance: 6,537 yards (Gold), 6,105 yards (Blue), Par 71. Greens fees: $55/$69

Buzz: While its sister track at the historic Shawnee Inn is a Tillinghast classic northeast design, Great Bear, just five miles down the road, has its own unique history. The once-private club ceased operations in 2010 but was later purchased by Shawnee owner Charlie Kirkwood at auction roughly two years later. After countless resources were pumped into the parcel, golfers are continuing to experience a serious up-and-down test in the Poconos. This one should be half of your next 36-hole, northeast sprint.

15. Raven’s Claw

Location: Pottstown. Year opened: 2005. Design: Ed Shearon

Distance: 6,370 yards (Blue), 5,995 yards (White), Par 71. Greens fees: $55/$69

Buzz: When you hear the words strategic and intimidating, half of our selection committee gets the chills. Maybe Raven’s Claw is a shotmaker’s special, but that doesn’t mean the mid-to-high handicapper can’t enjoy this gem. Shearon’s design does require a strong disposition, but most will love the terrific and bold set of par 3s, always a plus in our evaluations. No. 17, known as “Calamity,” is GIR challenge. It’s another top pick that gives golfers a provate club feel.

Totteridge Golf Club

Totteridge Golf Club in Greensburg.

14. Totteridge Golf Club

Location: Greensburg. Year opened: 2001. Design: Rees Jones, Steve Weisser

Distance: 6,659 yards (Blue), 6,186 yards (White), Par 72. Greens fees: $45/$62

Buzz: The links-style golf course in Greensburg opened as a private club. Eight years later, officials flipped open the doors to bolster revenue. While the transition wasn’t easy, management continued its blue-collar approach to provide a fun, and certainly budget friendly, experience. There are plenty of hazards, but Totteridge gives you plenty of room to rip it, too. And there are still some holes that play with a true northeast feel.

13. Iron Valley Golf Club

Location: Cornwall. Year opened: 2000. Design: P.B. Dye

Distance: 6,374 yards (Blue), 6,007 yards (White), Par 72. Greens fees: $50/$70

Buzz: The opinion on Iron Valley hasn’t changed. It’s still a course worthy of a Top 20 ranking and it’s still a course golfers need to play a handful of times for getting comfortable. The reason is P.B. Dye gave the masses two completely different challenges, the Tailings 9 and Mine 9. And both are equally impressive. Merging the area’s long history of mining iron ore, the design features and course conditions never disappoint. And if you “tame” the island green, a devlish 116-yard poke from the blue tees, well, it’s a good day. Golfers can expect a lot more, including some visually-pleasing par 4s and a couple roller-coaster par 5s. Between the rock formations, great green complexes and loads of railroad ties, you’ll look forward to coming back.

Iron Valley GC

One of the unique holes at Iron Valley GC in Cornwall.

12. Makefield Highlands

Location: Yardley. Year opened: 2004. Design: Rick Jacobsen

Distance: 6,619 yards (Blue), 6,157 yards (White), Par 72. Greens fees: $53/$80 (Non-Resident)

Buzz: Jacobsen’s work comes with high praise and your round really begins at the well-designed practice facility, complete with short-game area. There’s also plenty of history surrounding the 168-acre facility in Bucks County. The course sits on the former Pleasant Valley Estate. While the majority of course reviews are strong, even more celebrate the attention to detail and customer service from the time you walk on the grounds. You’ll want to stay away from the very tall grass, of course, but it’s a very playable design with generous fairways and splendid playing conditions.

11. Jack Frost National

Location: Blakeslee. Year opened: 2007. Design: Terry LaGree

Distance: 6,741 yards (Advanced), 6,297 yards (Membership), Par 72. Greens fees: $59/$79

Buzz: If you’re playing a mountain course there better be vistas and impeccable views, right? Maybe a couple of deer dart across the fairway. Jack Frost has all that, with a twist. While playing an abundance of uneven lies is the norm on most mountain loops, Jack Frost provides mostly flat and wide fairways. The rising par-5 ninth is the best, and most difficult, hole on the course. You could even take the Poconos by storm and couple with Great Bear, about 30 minutes away. Now that’s a solid 36er.

Penn National Golf Club

The Founders Course at Penn National.

10. Penn National – Founders

Location: Fayetteville. Year opened: 1968. Design: Ed Ault

Distance: 6,972 yards (Blue), 6,465 yards (Dark Green), Par 72. Greens fees: $69/$84

Buzz: You could easily couple Penn National’s Iron Forge course, a Bill Love build that opened in 1997, and enjoy a terrific and contrasting 36-hold adventure. But we’re still sticking with the original Founders Course, which Ault carved out of farm land. You get what you might expect from a northeast track, with trees bordering most holes and well-established greens, although larger than most. Fast, too. More good news is the fairways are more than generous. Even better is the relatively breezy par-4 opening hole, which hopefully sets the right mood for the rest of the day.

9. Hershey Country Club – West Course

Location: Hershey. Year opened: 1930. Design: Maurice McCarthy

Distance: 6,632 yards (Back/Middle), 6,480 yards (Middle), Par 73. Greens fees: Fee with resort stay

Buzz: A rich history does exist at Hershey Country Club, which the public can access while staying at Hershey Lodge or The Hotel Hershey. Golfers can walk where Byron Nelson edged Sam Snead 1-up at the 1940 PGA Championship. For a great stretch (1978-94), the West Course also hosted the world’s best in women’s golf at the LPGA’s Lady Keystone Open. In all, it’s an engaging round with great views, and great smells as you wind near the old chocolate factory.

Hershey Country Club

The signature par-3 5th hole at Hershey Country Club – West Course.

8. Royal Manchester Golf Links

Location: Mt. Wolf. Year opened: 2010. Design: Tim Freeland

Distance: 6,961 yards (Blue), 6,342 yards (White), Par 72. Greens fees: $40/$45

Buzz: It took some heavy lifting to get Royal Manchester from concept to paying customers, although the wait was worth it. After Pennsylvania Power and Light had the idea of building a golf course overlooking its Brunner Island Power Plant, two separate management companies took a swing and missed. There were even stories about an ash-byproduct from the plant being used to build the bunkers, so curious locales began calling the non-finished loop Phoenix Links. Eventually, Raspberry Golf Management stepped in and Freeland put his stamp on Royal Manchester, a popular and well-crafted course that offers a little bit for every handicapper. And everyone gets the wind, the biggest deterant to setting the course record.

7. Broad Run Golfer’s Club

Location: West Chester. Year opened: 2000. Design: Rees Jones, Keith Evans

Distance: 6,380 yards (Blue), 6,080 yards (White), Par 72. Greens fees: $61/$89

Buzz: Finding a cosmetic flaw along the 372-acre facility is difficult. One part of your game that might suffer, however, is driving distance. With all the elevation shifts, the byproduct is tee shots don’t exactly “run out” on climbing par 4s. No matter, Broad Run will stretch your game, and wits, over ridges, wetlands, and through valleys, all within 40 minutes of center city Philadelphia. Broad Run is operated Byler Golf, which has Berkleigh in Kutztown (No. 12 in 2017) and Iron Valley under its umbrella.

Broad Run

Broad Run Golfer’s Club in West Chester.

6. Tom’s Run at Chestnut Ridge

Location: Blairsville. Year opened: 1993. Design: Bill Love

Distance: 6,812 yards (Blue), 6,293 yards (White), Par 72. Greens fees: $40/$50

Buzz: Apparently, it’s the Tom’s Run creek, which frames several holes on the inward nine, and not a guy named Tom for which the course is named. What’s likeable here, aside from the natural look and feel you experience from the Appalachian Mountain, are the sizable bent grass greens that putt true. It’s also part of a big facility that includes sister course Chestnut Ridge. The reality is Tom’s Run has been showing up on multiple “Best of” courses in Pa. for a long time.

5. Wyncote Golf Club

Location: Oxford. Year opened: 1993. Design: Brian Ault

Distance: 6,690 yards (Blue), 6,074 (White), Par 72. Greens fees: $55/$65

Buzz: On Wyncote’s official website there is a page devoted to course accolades. You’ll need to scroll down a dozen times to read them all top to bottom. For a relatively young golf course, Wyncote earned national attention in a New York minute, and that’s not easy considering Pa.’s history in the game of golf. The Heathlands-style course just delivers on every front, especially if you prefer to navigate tall grass rather than trees on errant shots. There’s also a great mix of members-style holes.


Wyncote Golf Club in Oxford.

4. Olde Stonewall

Location: Ellwood City. Year opened: 1999. Design: Dr. Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry

Distance: 6,681 yards (Medieval-Blue), 6,200 yards (Stonewall-White), Par 70. Greens fees: $150/$150

Buzz: It’s certainly a premium price to walk these pristine fairways about 40 minutes northwest of Pittsburgh. However, you’ll be talking about this loop the entire ride home. If the castle/clubhouse doesn’t get you, the stone-lined tee boxes and 15-minute tee times during peak season will. It’s a strategic move to allow golfers to thoroughly enjoy their rounds, with or without crooked numbers. Hurdzan’s work was celebrated again in 2017 as the architect behind Erin Hills, which hosted the U.S. Open. Simply stated, it’s a wonderful course with lots of workable challenges.

3. Old Course at Omni Bedford Springs

Location: Bedford. Year opened: 1895. Design: A.W. Tillinghast (1916), Donald Ross (1924)

Distance: 6,446 yards (Ross), 6,023 yards (Tillinghast), Par 72. Greens fees: $179/$189

Buzz: Years ago, a colleague and I were excited to experience some of the resort’s finer amenities. But we should have scheduled the spa treatment for after the round at Tillinghast’s Old Course. If you don’t haul you’re A-game to Bedford, well, hot rocks and the natural springs across the resort will not offer much relaxation. That’s part of the allure here, the test. Architect Ron Forse coordinated a massive reclamation project and added even more teeth. The greens are fast and pure genius, and you’ll love the horrwing par known as “The Volcano” hole. There’s even a new clubhouse that was finished two years ago.

Bedford Springs Resort

Historic Bedford Springs Resort.

2. The Golf Course at Glen Mills

Location: Glen Mills. Year opened: 2000. Design: Bobby Weed

Distance: 6,314 yards (Blue), 6,011 yards (White), Par 71 Greens fees: $60/$70

Buzz: Glen Mills is simply a unique facility with an abundance of character. Owned and managed by the nation’s oldest reform school, Glen Mills started popping up on top-end playing lists almost immediately. Part of the allure is the elevation changes – the par-3 10th is one example – and a terrific combination of member-style holes and treacherous 4s and 5s. The course has hosted many USGA qualifiers, like the U.S. Amatuer (2009) and U.S. Open (’06).

1. Mystic Rock at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

Location: Farmington. Year opened: 1995 Design: Pete Dye

Distance: 6,818 yards (Blue), 6,313 yards (White), Par 72. Greens fees: $250/$275

Buzz: While Shepherd’s Rock, the newest 18-hole track at Nemacolin, has generated plenty of buzz since it opened for play in July, 2017, we’re sticking with the often-difficult but truly spectacular original, Mystic Rock. The former home of the PGA’s 84 Lumber Classic runs at a very steep 149 slope from the championship tees, but we highly recommend you think about your playing partners’ well being and move up one or two boxes. The good news is pristine views and meticulous conditions are the norm, so you’ll have a blast no matter what your scorecard says.

The Next 5

Dauphin Highlands, Steelton

Birdsfoot GC, Freeport

Lederach GC, Harleysville

Jeffersonville Golf Club, Norristown

Cobbs Creek, Philadelphia