Our Favorite 9-Hole Golf Courses in the Country

By Tony Dear

These are our 10 favorite 9-hole courses that anyone can play.

Sweetens Cove—South Pittsburg, Tenn.
Built on the site of an old course called Sequatchie Valley that was about as dull as a golf course could be, Sweetens Cove opened to great acclaim in 2014. The brilliant minds behind the transformation were Rob Collins and Tad King whose vision and creativity turned a dog track into what is widely considered the best 9-hole course of the modern era.

“Sequatchie was the worst course I’d ever seen,” says Collins. “I remember thinking ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?’ But even though the challenges were obvious, we had a plan I believed could be special.”

Most of the design work was done in the field, says Collins. “The construction process was very fluid which allowed us to refine and perfect features every day.”

Anthony Pioppi, author of To The Nines and the upcoming The Finest Nines: The Best Nine-Hole Courses in North America, says Sweetens Cove is an “incredibly fun and strategic” course. “It’s really one of the finest affordable golf courses—nine or 18—in the U.S.”

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Hooper Golf Club—Walpole, N.H.
Designed by Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek, and opened in 1927, Hooper Golf Club is set in remote and beautiful wooded countryside in central New Hampshire, 100 miles northwest of Boston, Mass. Unpretentious and known for building low-cost but very enjoyable courses, Stiles was a fairly prolific Golden Age designer who teamed with Van Kleek, the first golf course architect to graduate from Cornell University, in 1923.

Together they built dozens of courses, predominantly in New England but other parts of the U.S., too. Hooper has a wonderful variety of holes and is well worth the drive.

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The Cradle at Pinehurst Resort—Pinehurst, N.C.

The newest course on this list, The Cradle is a recent addition to the offerings at Pinehurst. It’s truly a short course with the longest hole at 127 yards and two holes under 60 yards. All nine holes sit on just 10 acres, the size of just two holes on a regular course meaning rounds are quick, the walk is short, and the pressure is off.

Gil Hanse and his partner Jim Wagner designed the course to be an extremely fun nine that also provides challenge to players. The Cradle is free for kids under 18 who play with a paying adult. For adults the cost is $50, which allows unlimited play for the whole day. “This is Pinehurst’s grow the game initiative,” says Pinehurst President Tom Pashley.

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Hotchkiss—Lakeville, Conn.
While working on the course at Yale University in 1924, Seth Raynor was asked to visit the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, 60 miles north. Hotchkiss had close ties with Yale, and Raynor built the school a 9-hole course circling the campus. A teacher by the name of Charles Banks was appointed Raynor’s assistant, and he was so taken with Raynor’s artistry he stopped teaching to become a course architect working alongside Raynor and C.B. Macdonald.

Hotchkiss doesn’t quite have Yale’s maintenance budget, but Raynor’s skill is clearly evident.

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Aetna Springs—Pope Valley, Calif.
One hundred and eighteen years after golf was first played here, Tom Doak and Jim Urbina were hired to renovate the 9-hole course at the Aetna Springs Resort, 35 miles north of Napa, Calif., and 85 miles north of San Francisco.

“I’d never heard of Aetna Springs before,” says Doak. “But we’d always wanted to build a 9-hole course, and virtually rebuilding Aetna Springs was close enough.” The holes were crammed extremely close together, so Doak advised building three new holes and spacing the others out.

Pioppi says Doak and Urbina did a great job creating a course everyone could enjoy. “The design challenges the better player, but is also fun for the average golfer. The greens aren’t as wild as some Doak has a reputation for building. It’s just an entertaining nine, well off the beaten trail.”

Doak himself is very fond of the course saying it’s built on a different scale to most of what he and his company, Renaissance Golf, tend to build. “Because it was only nine holes, and fairly short, we decided it was okay to make the greens very small (under 3,000 square feet),” he adds. “The little creek that crosses the 1st hole twice and the 8th hole once is a neat feature, there are some beautiful oaks, and all in all it’s one of the nicest, quiet spots for golf I know.”

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Dixie Red Hills—St. George, Utah
Golf course photographer and tour operator Brian Oar grew up at Dixie Red Hills, or just Red Hills as he calls it. “This is where I fell in love with golf,” he says. “I was 13 and just played it over and over again for $1 a time.”

Tucked into the red rocks and surrounded by cottonwoods 10 minutes north of downtown, Red Hills isn’t the most challenging course here, but it may be the most fun. “Just leave your 300-yard drive at the door,” says Oar. “Modern equipment has made its length a non-factor, but the quiet, peaceful charm of the place makes it special and you can walk it easily in 90 minutes.”

Red Hills was the first course developed by the City of St. George. It opened in 1965, and was designed by local golf legend Ernie Schneider.

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Sydney R. Marovitz—Chicago, Ill.
It’s probably not surprising that a 1932, big city muni once had maintenance and pace-of-play issues (apparently those have been rectified as of late), but there’s a lot to make you want to tee it up next to Lake Michigan and finish with a view of the Chicago skyline. Named for a former Chicago Parks Commissioner, Sydney R. Marovitz was one of the courses Edward B. Dearie Jr. worked on during his career.

Loving this shot of the course taken by @kotaeho_ we hope you got to come out and enjoy the beautiful weather yesterday! 🌞⛳️👍🏻

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Downers Grove—Chicago, Ill.
Downers Grove may not beat its Chicagoland neighbor (well, 30 miles to the west) Sydney R. Marovitz for views, but it does edge it for age. The first site of the Chicago Golf Club and built by C.B. Macdonald, Downers Grove opened in 1892, making it the first course west of the Alleghenies. The members loved the game so much they added nine more holes in 1893, but left for nearby Wheaton in 1895 when 200 acres became available. Downers Grove reverted to nine holes which were bought by the Downers Grove Park District in 1968. The course today has lost much of its original Macdonald character, but five of his holes—2, 4, 7, 8, and 9—remain largely intact.

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Gleneagles International at McLaren Park—San Francisco, Calif.
Another big city muni, the original course here opened to great fanfare in 1962, and was designed by Irish-born landscaper Jack Fleming who had worked with Alister MacKenzie’s associate Robert Hunter in constructing Cypress Point Golf Club 36 years before. The name changed to Gleneagles International at McLaren Park in 1980, and it is currently operated by leaseholder Thomas Hsieh, a former political consultant who has spent a great deal of his and his partners’ money in restoring the course to its original state. Gleneagles recently benefitted from the combined talents of Thomas Bastis, former superintendent at California Club of San Francisco, and George Waters, former shaper and now Manager of USGA Green Section Education. Together they redesigned and rebuilt the greens. At Gleneagles, they like to say that the “Rates are low, and the play fast.”

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Winter Park—Winter Park, Fla.

“Although it is less than 2,500 yards from the tips, this routing that originated over 100 years ago received a stunning renovation in 2016 that turned it into first-rate layout,” says Anthony Pioppi. “The fact the course is located in the midst of the town with an active rail line bordering two holes simply adds to the charm.”

Winter Park Golf Club, seven miles north of downtown Orlando, first opened in 1900. By 2016, however, it was old, tired, and seriously out of shape so the City of Winter Park hired Keith Rhebb, an architect and shaper that had worked on several projects with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and Integrative Golf’s Riley Johns, to bring it back to life with a budget of $1.2 million.

“When we first visited Winter Park we saw a flat, featureless golf course overgrown with trees and patchy turf,” says Johns. “It looked sad and rundown. But its location, in the heart of downtown Winter Park, was very distinct. That and the course’s untapped potential got me really interested in the project.”

Johns and Rhebb set out to create a fun and inexpensive course community members could play in under two hours. And they succeeded brilliantly, as Winter Park’s significant rounds-played increase shows. “I think municipal and community golf courses have a tremendous opportunity to help reinvigorate the game’s appeal in North America,” says Johns. “It just has to be done right.”

No.6 Winter Park Golf Course

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What great nine-hole courses did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!

75 thoughts on “Our Favorite 9-Hole Golf Courses in the Country

    1. What about Culver Academies golf course in Culver, IN? A remodeled Seth Raynor design that is incredible, complete with an Augusta National inspired clubhouse. Walter Hagen helped to open the course

  1. Crestview Golf Club in Waldport, OR is a blast. Beautiful bunkering with some really interesting holes. And the wind blows every day on the coast.

  2. I just played Hotchkiss last month……50 years after I played there on the school golf team 64-67. The Raynor trademarks are everywhere. So cool !!

  3. Tom Dock has said Whitinsville MA GC is the best 9 holler in America. I agree. Private, but not impossible to get on. When Donald Ross was asked to submit one hole drawing to George Thomas’ seminal book on golf course architecture, he sent #9 at Whitinsville…

    1. Grew up there and caddied and learned how to play the game. We were members from the mid-forties to the early 60’s. The course is vintage Ross from 1925 and eschewed modifications. Strictly a golf course as no tennis or swimming thank God! The 9th/18th is always in the top 100 jokes of golf.

  4. The Executive 9 at Ridgecrest in Nampa Idaho. John Harbottle design. Outstanding views, well maintained, and lots of variety of holes. Good topography changes as well. Excellent value too, very inexpensive.

  5. Great article….The Dunes Club in MI, as others have said, has to be one of the best. Others worthy of this list are: Palm Beach, FL Par 3 and Summit Golf Club in Summit, NJ.

  6. > What great nine-hole courses did we miss?

    Threetops in Michigan!! I know, it’s only par-27, but, oh my, what a Par 3 course. http://treetops.com/golf/courses/

    The Dunes Golf Club (private, exclusive, in New Buffalo, MI) is supposed to be really nice. Dan Jenkins (the sportswriter) rated the Dunes Club as “the best nine-hole course in the country.”

    Lastly, some old 9 hole courses (Michigan) I’ve played. None of which are real fancy or anything, but they were a pleasure to play for their uniqueness.

    * Ye Nyne Olde Holles Golf Club (1923) (East Jordan, MI)
    * Ye Olde Country Club (1925) (Roscommon, MI)

  7. Ould Newbury Golf Club, Newbury MA. A 124 slope from the senior tees of 5800 yards 128 from 6100 yards demonstrate the challenge of this spectacularly beautiful nine holer set in the Great Marsh of Boston’s North Shore. Opened in 1916 and wonderfully maintained.

  8. Hooper for sure but it isn’t remote. It’s just up the hill from the village of Walpole. Whitinsville should be on the list also.

      1. Ilive a 15 minute drive from Hooper and I always make it a point to play Hooper a few times every year , especially in the fall. The Club was recently sold to the Golf Coach from Yale. It is one of the games great pleasures to tee it up at Hooper. I belong to Bretwood Golf Club and Keene CC. If you are ever in the Keene area and want to play all three, I,m in the local phone book . You won’t regret it. You will use every club in the bag at Hooper and the greens are tough to read.Happy Holidays to all!!

  9. Top of the Rock in Branson Missouri. Designed by Jack Nicklaus and the only 9 hole, par 3 course annually played by the PGA Champions Tour. This 9 hole course has waterfalls, creeks, lakes and ponds. An amazing golfing experience !

  10. The most amazing 9 holes I’ve ever played was the magical round I played at Northwoods Golf Club in Monte Rio, California. Designed by “The” Alister MacKenzie (Augusta National, Cypress Point). The course winds through giant redwoods and has been rated by some as one of the top 5 – 9 hole golf courses in the world. I can’t wait to get back there to play it again.

    1. Northwood is a superb course deep in the redwood forest – pleasurable even in the soaking rain. $35 to play an Alister McKenzie original!!

  11. You must list Highland Links In Truro Mass on Cape Cod. Check out George Pepper’s book “True Links”.
    Highland Links was listed as one of only 5 courses
    in North America that fit the definition as a true links
    course.

  12. Pinecrest Golf Club, Richmond, RI, short and tight, very fast, undulating greens, well bunkered, 4th hole is a dogleg left par 5 540 yards from the blue tee
    Par 35
    White 66.2/123
    White/blue 67.4/127
    Blue Rating 68.6/130
    Very humbling little course but fair as well, great deals to play, a hidden gem

  13. You missed this blast from the past … and still a blast: Wawashkamo, on Mackinac (pron. Mackinaw) Island in Northern Michigan.

  14. Spanish Wells on Hilton Head Island. An unknown gem, best clubhouse view on the island, overlooks the intracoastal. The course is a bit rough but fun. With a bit of money it could be one of the best.

    1. Spanish Wells is one of my favorite courses anywhere! Fun to play and never crowded. It is nominally private, but they do allow some outside play. It was designed by George Cobb, who designed a number of courses in the Low Country, including the original Ocean and Sea Marsh Courses at Sea Pines, and who also designed the Par-3 Course at Augusta National.

  15. Skyway at Lincoln Park in Jersey City (not a misquote) is a visual stunner with views of downtown manhattan, Newark, newark bay, and its namesake Polaski Skyway. Fun but very difficult. A great addition on the north jersey scene.

  16. Amazing I’ve only seen one commenter mention Northwood. McKenzie’s only 9-hole course, built for the movers and shakers of the Bohemian Grove, still stands as THE best public-access nine hole course in the country.

  17. Two in St. Louis area, both city golf courses:

    Ballwin GC – Ballwin, MO – if you can carry a good handicap here you can carry it anywhere.

    Berry Hill – Bridgeton, MO – tree lined and wonderful!

  18. The best nine-hold course I have played is the Par-Three course at Augusta National Golf Club. Nothing like it in the world except the main course there, which is in my top three (Murifield, Scotland; Cypress Point, Ca.)

  19. Not sure how the Gil Hanse redesign of the Sewanee golf course at University of the South didn’t make it. Thirty miles from Sweeten’s Cove. Play both in the same day with lunch in between. Sublime.

  20. Foxburg Country Club PA. claims to be the oldest course in continuos use in the USA. Opened in 1897. Bring your hickories and just play for the history of it. Use sand tees made from the cut stone tee markers. You can feel ghosts of past watching.

    1. I adore this golf course. Really a throwback. The 250-yard walk from the first green down the little road to the second tee and then what lays before you is fantastic.

  21. One of the best anywhere – Caldera Links at the Sunriver Resort in Oregon. It’s quality is on par with the resort’s Crosswater course.

  22. Lauderdale Lakes Country Club, East Troy, WI.

    This layout dates back to the early 1900’s, as part of a resort that no longer exists. A group of residents bought the course to keep it out of the hands of a developer who was going to build condos on it. A gem that remains for all of the area residents, and the best part is that the longest Par 3 hole in Wisconsin is there–and early on in the round!!!

  23. Yes I was wondering about our Little hidden gem Whitinsville Golf Club, Donald Ross design built in 1926. Although private, the public can play it through Golf .com

  24. Northwood GC in Rio Monte in California is by far one of the top 9 hole courses in the world. It winds through a red wood forest with trees so high one cannot see the top when standing under them. It was designed by Alister MacKenzie who is famous for Augusta National, Cypress Point.

  25. Saratoga Country Club, Saratoga, CA 95979…Built in 1959…Mini-Augusta in the hills located in a canyon…Maybe the best in America…Played it in 1964 as a teenager…$1.25 all day to play!

    Frank Panetta PGA
    Former Head Golf Professional
    2007-2014

  26. Waveland?!? (Sydney Marovitz)?!? Seriously? I’m a Chicagoan, and I’m insulted. I’ve got 4 alternatives. In Chicago, Robert A. Black by Nugent and Killian, and Heather Ridge in Gurnee. Out East, Highland Green in Topsham, Me, and the Mt. Pleasant 9, by Geoffrey Cornish, at Mt. Washington GC.

  27. Those who know golf architecture consider Whitinsville in Mass the best 9 holer in the US. That charge is led by Tom Doak.

    I second Highland Links (Truro, Mass) as a top pick, and certainly the most beautiful.

    Merchantville GC, (Merchantville,NJ) a private club, may be the most challenging and a solid layout.

    Personally, I am partial to Picantico Hills, the nine hole reversible course designed by the most under rated Golf Architect of all time – William Flynn who designed Shinnecock, Cherry Hills, Lancaster, Kittansett, Phila Country, Rolling Green, the 3rd nine at The Country Club and many more. Designed 90 years before Tom Doaks new reversible course – ” The Loop”, this course has a tenth green so that you can play it in reverse and have an 18th green. N

  28. The Course at Sewanee is another great nine hole course. Recognized as the nine hole renovation of the year but Golf Digest in 2013. It just keeps getting better and better.

    1. And it’s only 30 minutes from Sweetens Cove, making for a great twosome. Gil Hanse worked his magic in renovating the tired old course on the campus of University of the South.

  29. Fishers Island in Miami is special, remember hitting 6 iron over giant Carnival cruise ship heading out to see while hundreds of passengers cheered me on! Also like the Meadow Wood in Nappa

  30. Greenock Country Club in Lee, Ma is a hidden gem Ross 9 hole open to the public. Played 9 on a trip to Tanglewood for a great combo of golf and music. Course was in great shape and was fun to play.

    For what it is worth my favorite short course of all time is the Annesley Links at Royal County Down. Winds thru the same dunes as the championship course but is not as long or difficult. Took two of us just about 2 hours to play all 18. Great fun

  31. There is an exceptional nine hole, par three course – all pas palum – at South Seas Resort on Captiva Island in Florida.

  32. mention should be made of the 13 hole short course by gary player in the branson area, mountain top. it is a walking only course and the club house has spectacular views,

  33. I forgot to add that if you get a chance at playing Kittansett check out Marion Golf Club (a niner) that was the first course designed by Robert Hunter. Ten minutes from Kittansett and well worth a look.

  34. Perhaps the most spectacular view from any new nine hole course was the 9 on Governor’s Island just 300 yards off the tip of Manhattan. Being so close to Manhattan the views were far more dramatic than the Liberty National Course. Very surreal, it felt like you were hitting shots down Broadway. Sadly gone now that Coast Guard off island.

  35. The Course at Sewanee not on the list?? Are you kidding?? 1915 and redesign by Gil Hanse. #22 Golfweek Campus Courses. Only 9-holer on it. Really??

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