Best golf courses in California
Photograph Courtesy of Evan Schiller

If we had to pick a part of the country with the best golf courses and conditions, it’d be difficult to confidently pick just one. But, California would most certainly be in the conversation. While Florida offers a tropical golf paradise and New York boasts some of the nation’s most revered tracks, California, and its 900 courses (yes, 900!), offer a different kind of magic.

With visually stunning and ingeniously designed courses around every mountain or valley, there’s arguably no spot more saturated with award-winning golf. From those skirting the rugged coast of the Pacific to the green splotches breaking up the barren desert landscape, we’ve gathered the best golf courses in California that you simply must see to believe.

The Best Golf Courses in California

1. Cypress Point Club

Pebble Beach

Alister Mackenzie’s masterpiece, Cypress Point Club, has stood as a pinnacle of golfing excellence since its inception in 1928. Nestled on the Monterey Peninsula, it has earned its place among California’s finest courses. In Golf Digest’s 2021-2022 rankings, Cypress Point Club proudly secured the No. 3 spot, placing it alongside golfing legends like Pine Valley and Augusta National Golf Club. It’s a prestigious group, and Cypress Point Club is right at home among them.

2. Torrey Pines Golf Course

La Jolla

Top California golf course to play is Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines is not only one of the best golf courses in California, but it has also hosted numerous professional events. The tournament-caliber golf course, owned by the city of San Diego, boasts 36 holes of public golf overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The course was named after the Torrey Pine, a rare tree native only to the area, and is now largely regarded as the nation’s premier municipal golf course. 

3. San Francisco Golf Club

San Francisco

After a series of renovations and restorations over the course of a century, San Franciso Golf Club was and is one of the best golf courses in California. The club occupies an exquisite piece of land, highlighted by rolling hills and towering pines.

Its quiet setting is exceedingly appealing, but the history of the club isn’t quite as unsuspecting. Its most famous hole, the par-3 7th dubbed the “Duel Hole,” was the site of the nation’s last legal duel. Now, rather than challenging each other, players are faced with a downhill tee shot, a two-tiered green, and a handful of bunkers long and left. 

4. Pebble Beach Golf Links

Pebble Beach

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Photograph Courtesy of Evan Schiller

Highly regarded as the No. 1 public course in the country and one of the most sought-after golf courses in California, a round at Pebble Beach Golf Links is on every golfer’s bucket list. The timeless design is carved into the rugged California coast, just steps away from the Pacific Ocean. With strategic bunkering, a prevalent wind, and the looming water hazard of the ocean, Pebble Beach is the experience of a lifetime.

5. The Olympic Club

San Francisco

Established in 1860, when mail was still being delivered via horseback, Olympic Club is the oldest athletic club in the United States and one of the best golf courses in California. And if there’s any spot that has truly withstood the test of time, it’s this gem nestled between Lake Merced and the Pacific Ocean. The club boasts a total of 45 holes of unforgettable golf, including the Lake Course, the Ocean Course, and the Cliffs Course – a member-favorite, par-3 track with postcard-worthy views of the Pacific. 

6. The Los Angeles Country Club (North Course)

Los Angeles

Host of the 2023 U.S. Open, a 2010 restoration led by Gil Hanse has breathed new life into the fairways at the Los Angeles Country Club, one of the best golf courses in California. Originally designed by George C. Thomas, Los Angeles Country Club occupies a dazzling piece of real estate nestled in the heart of The City of Angels. The parkland-style course is just as angelic with magnificent par-3s and the occasional view of downtown Los Angeles.

7. Riviera Country Club

Pacific Palisades

It only took 15 different drafts of the course design to finally reach what we see today at Riviera Country Club. Designed by George C. Thomas in 1927, the course has only undergone one renovation in its almost 100 years – a bunker revitalization led by Coore & Crenshaw. Riviera was built on what was initially a less-than-stellar piece of land among the Santa Monica Canyon.

Today, it’s one of the most celebrated golf courses in California. Located minutes away from Sunset Boulevard, Riviera has hosted a handful of major tournaments and is the annual host of the Genesis Open.

8. PGA West

La Quinta

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Photograph Courtesy of Evan Schiller

With nine different world-class courses and a convenient location near Palm Springs and Palm Desert, PGA West is easily one of the best golf spots in California. While the Stadium Course is the premier track of PGA West, the remaining courses offer all kinds of great golf. From a taste of the Scottish links to lush fairways against a backdrop of the Santa Rosa Mountains, it’s easy to see why so many golfers continue to return to PGA West. 

9. Pasatiempo Golf Club

Santa Cruz

Pasatiempo, designed by renowned architect Alister MacKenzie, is a historic Top 100 golf course in Santa Cruz, California. It was MacKenzie’s favorite layout, and he made his American home there. Today, it’s a semi-private club with tee times available for public play, offering spectacular views of Monterey Bay. Conveniently located near four airports and within an hour’s drive of Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill, Pasatiempo is an ideal destination for golfers.

10. Spyglass Hill Golf Course

Pebble Beach

Spyglass Hill is often regarded as one of the most beautiful and most difficult golf courses you can play on a golf trip to California. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., the course boasts sweeping views of the Monterey Peninsula that present a prevalent ocean wind. Spyglass is of championship caliber, too, as co-host of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the U.S. Amateur Championships.

11. Half Moon Bay Golf Links

Half Moon Bay

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Half Moon Bay Golf Links offers 36 holes of championship golf on the impressive San Mateo County Coast, just 30 minutes from San Francisco and San Jose. The Old Course, designed by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane, opened in 1973 and is a lush parkland layout with Pacific views, challenging doglegs, and water hazards. It’s hosted U.S. Open Qualifiers and features a memorable finishing hole.

The Ocean Course, designed by Arthur Hills in 1997, offers a traditional links style design with firm fairways, native grasses, and stunning views. Its final three holes, some of the best finishing holes in golf, are particularly notable, providing a challenging and scenic conclusion to the round.

12. Pelican Hill Golf Club

Newport Coast

Pelican Hill Golf Club boasts 36 holes of top-notch golf that winds through spectacular landscapes, offering awe-inspiring views at every turn. With each shot, you’ll find yourself immersed in the beauty of the natural surroundings, almost forgetting about the game at hand. The Ocean North Course treats you to panoramic ocean views from every hole, making every swing a scenic experience. Meanwhile, the Ocean South Course features a landscape of sage and eucalyptus trees that meet the deep blue sea under a cloudless sky.

13. California Golf Club of San Francisco

South San Francisco

Established in 1918, The California Golf Club of San Francisco, affectionately known as “Cal Club,” began its journey in Ingleside. However, the club’s ambitions led it to purchase approximately 425 acres of the original Baden Farm down the Peninsula in 1924.

This new location, with its rolling hills, timbered land, and bay views, provided the perfect canvas for a world-class golf course. The original routing, designed by Willie Locke and A. Vernon Macan and opened in 1926, was later enhanced by the legendary Alister MacKenzie, just before his work at Cypress Point Club. It was later restored in 2007 by Kyle Phillips who returned the course to its “golden age” design and is now one of the best golf courses in California.

14. Valley Club of Montecito


In 1929, Dr. Alister MacKenzie crafted a gem of subtlety and sophistication: the Valley Club of Montecito. Unlike his more renowned designs, this course, with the construction led by Robert Hunter, stands out for its understated elegance. Nestled in Montecito, it effortlessly blends into its natural surroundings. With the salty sea breeze and the sun’s warm embrace, it offers a truly charming and peaceful golfing experience, unlike any other in the world.

15. Monarch Beach Golf Links

Dana Point

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Nestled on the spectacular bluffs of Southern California, Monarch Beach Golf Links stands as a testament to the brilliance of master golf architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr. This course is a rare gem, offering a unique blend of breathtaking natural beauty and diverse challenges. With its prime location overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Monarch Beach provides not only a fair test of golf but also gorgeous views of the surf breaks. It’s an ideal destination any time of year, but its average winter highs in the mid-60s make it an especially excellent winter golf destination.

16. Bel-Air Country Club

Los Angeles

Bel-Air Country Club is one of the best golf courses in California, winding through the luxurious canyons of Los Angeles. This course is a true journey, where golfers traverse mansion-dotted landscapes via a tunnel, an elevator, and a remarkable suspension bridge that spans a gulch on the par-3 10th hole. The 18th green, set against the backdrop of this iconic bridge, offers a dramatic conclusion to your round.

Bel-Air’s design has evolved over the years, touched by the hands of architects like Dick Wilson, George Fazio, Robert Trent Jones Jr., and Tom Fazio. However, in 2018, Tom Doak undertook a monumental task, erasing their work to restore Thomas’s original vision.

17. Monterey Peninsula Country Club

Pebble Beach

Monterey Peninsula Country Club is where golfing dreams come alive amidst the enchanting beauty of the Monterey Peninsula. The club is home to two legendary 18-hole courses: the Dunes and Shore Courses, each with its own story to tell. The Dunes Course, a Seth Raynor masterpiece dating back to 1926, is revered for its challenging greens and strategic bunkering. On the other hand, the Shore Course, a creation of the visionary Mike Strantz, mesmerizes golfers with its incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and dramatic seaside cliffs. Both tracks are consistently ranked among the best golf courses in California.

18. The Quarry at La Quinta

La Quinta

The Quarry at La Quinta is a golfing paradise where championship golf meets unmatched beauty, offering an exclusive experience for its limited 250 members. Designed by the renowned Tom Fazio, the 18-hole Championship Course has been a mainstay on Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest” list since its inception in 1994, standing as the only Top 100 course in the Southern California desert. Its conditioning standards rival the best in the world, often surpassing Augusta National and Pine Valley.

The club also boasts a 10-hole short course, ranked among the world’s top 25 par 3 courses, and an 18-hole putting course. The club’s history is as fascinating as its course, with the land once being a county mine and gravel pit.

19. Mayacama Golf Club

Santa Rosa

Nestled in the picturesque hills of northern Sonoma County, California, just a stone’s throw from the charming town of Healdsburg, Mayacama stands as one of the best golf courses in California. Among the 200 courses bearing his name, Jack Nicklaus considers Mayacama among his very best creations. Its deep green fairways meander through valleys of gold and hills adorned with ancient oaks, offering members a truly rewarding and unforgettable golfing experience.

20. TPC Harding Park

San Francisco

TPC Harding Park is an 18-hole, par 72 course nestled on the shores of Lake Merced in San Francisco. Harding Park has hosted several prestigious championships including the 2020 PGA Championship, the Presidents Cup in 2009, and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on multiple occasions. The fairways are lined with towering cypress trees, the contoured greens are some of the best in the west, and the stunning lakeside views complete the experience on your golf trip to California.

FAQs About Golfing in California

> How far in advance should I book tee times for my golf trip to California?

It’s recommended to book tee times as far in advance as possible, especially for popular courses like Pebble Beach, which can book up months in advance.

> How much does a golf trip to California cost?

The cost of a golf trip to California will vary depending on the length of your stay, methods of transportation, and which golf courses you opt to play.

> What are some other activities I can enjoy during my golf trip to California?

California offers a wide range of activities beyond golf, including sightseeing, shopping, dining, and outdoor adventures like hiking, biking, and beach activities.

> When is the best time of year to golf in California?

The weather in California is generally favorable for golfing year-round. However, the spring and fall months tend to offer the most pleasant temperatures and conditions.

With timeless designs and unforgettable views, the best golf courses in California offer a golf experience like no other. From the rugged coastal cliffs of Pebble Beach to the lush fairways of Napa Valley, each course has its own unique charm and challenges that will stay with you long after your final putt.

Make your next golf trip unforgettable by experiencing the best golf courses in California entirely stress-free. Get a free quote today to ship your golf clubs and luggage ahead and let us help you plan the ultimate golfing adventure.

Megan Williams

Meet Megan Williams, a wordsmith with a passion for golf, travel, and the epic combination of the two! Originally from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the Golf Capital of the World, Megan has played golf since she was a child, eventually playing competitively in college. She's since swapped her golf clubs for the keyboard and skillfully translates her on-course experiences into captivating narratives and insightful stories. When she's not crafting engaging content, you can catch her enjoying the company of her energetic golden retriever or trying new culinary delights around Tampa, Florida - her current stomping grounds. Join Megan on her literary journey as she explores golf courses and resorts worldwide, shares travel knowledge and shipping tips, covers industry news, and more - all exclusively on the Ship Sticks blog.