Cypress, Pebble, San Fran, Riviera. These are just some of the incredible courses in California.

The Best Golf Courses In California

The state of California sits right next to the Pacific Ocean so the presence of some truly awe-inspiring golf courses comes as no surprise.

Here we have taken a look at the best, of course starting with what may regard to be Alister MacKenzie‘s finest work, Cypress Point.

Cypress Point

Regularly voted one of the best courses in the world, Cypress Point on the Monterrey Peninsula features many incredible holes, chief among which is the par-3 15th and 16th.

Pebble Beach

One of the most iconic golfing venues in world golf, playing Pebble Beach is on the ‘bucket list’ of most enthusiasts of the game. Opened in 1919, the California venue has played host to six US Opens. With holes running along Stillwater Cove and then out onto a peninsula jutting into the Pacific, there are some incredible shots to be hit on the way round.

The short par-3 7th is one of the most famous – 100 yards from an elevated tee straight out towards the ocean. There are few holes that have been photographed more (image at top of the page).

Los Angeles (North)

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‪George Thomas’s L.A. trifecta: Riviera, Bel-Air and, seen here, the iconic Los Angeles Country Club.‬ – ‪Designed in 1921, LACC’s North Course received a terrific restoration in 2010 by architect Gil Hanse with help from Geoff Shackelford, who literally wrote the book on George Thomas. If the outstanding 2017 Walker Cup was any indication, the 2023 U.S. Open at this one-of-a-kind venue is going to be very, very special.‬ ——————— #walkercup #2017walkercup #laccwalkercup #losangelescountryclub #losangelescc #losangeles #lacc #laccnorth #georgethomas #gilhanse #geoffshackelford #ronwhitten #lagolf #lagems #golfcourses #golfphotos #golfcoursephotos #golfcoursephotography #golfcoursearchitecture #whyilovethisgame

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Originally laid out in 1897, the North course at Los Angeles Country Club had influence from Herbert Fowler, George C. Thomas Jr, and William Bell before Gil Hanse was entrusted with restoration work. He clearly did an outstanding job because the course will get to host its first ever Major Championship in 2023, the US Open.

San Francisco

Crafted in 1915, San Francisco is widely thought to be the first great course designed on the West coast of the United States. A.W. Tillinghast himself admitted that the par-3 7th hole was one of his favourites.

It also has historical significance too as the hole was laid out on the land where the last legal duel took place in American history in 1859.

California Club of San Francisco

One of the most respected courses in the state. According to their website, Willie Locke and A. Vernon Macan were enlisted by the members to help design the original routing which opened on May 26th, 1926. Later, Alister MacKenzie would redesign the bunkering and at least two of the greens, just prior to his work at Cypress Point Club. Kyle Phillips restored the golf course  to its “golden age” design and grandeur just over 10 years ago.


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‪As the Genesis Open returns to Riviera Country Club this week, all eyes will be on the iconic par-4 10th, 315 yards of anticipation, aggression, angst and anger. Note the front-to-back slope in the shallow green – combined with firm conditions, it’s what really gives this short hole its teeth. Like the 4th at Spyglass, it’s a wonder that this hole hasn’t been copied more often by modern architects.‬ ——————— #thegenesisopen #genesisopen #rivieracountryclub #rivieracc #riviera #rcc #theriv #georgethomas #williambell #classicgems #lagems #lagolf #californiagolf #caligems #genesis #golfcourses #golfphotos #golfcoursephotos #golfcoursephotography #golfcoursearchitecture #whyilovethisgame

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George C. Thomas Jr designed Riviera originally with Coore and Crenshaw coming in to renovate the bunkering in 1992. It was one of Ben Hogan’s favourite courses and it is said to have had a construction bill of $250,000 when it opened for play back in 1926!

These days it hosts the Genesis Open which was formerly the Los Angeles Open, one of the biggest tournaments on the PGA Tour.


Opened for play in 1929, Pasatiempo had restoration work done to it in 2007 by Tom Doak who looked to return the course back as close as possible to Alister MacKenzie’s original design. MacKenzie himself loved the place so much that he had a house on the property.

Olympic Club (Lake)

Host of several Major Championships and future venue of the 2032 Ryder Cup, the Lake Course at Olympic Club is one of three courses situated at the oldest athletic club in the United States.

The Lake course is a tough challenge in several ways; it has sloping fairways, encroaching trees and tiny greens that happen to be lightning fast too. San Francisco Golf Club and TPC Harding Park sit right next door.

Spyglass Hill

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‪The opening quartet at Spyglass Hill easily ranks among my favorite starts. – The par-5 1st (left) sweeps down from the forest to the dunes to a well-guarded green. – The short par-4 2nd (top center) plays up over a rumpled fairway to a raised green offering some of the best panoramic views in Monterey; – The par-3 3rd (right) is a downhill, postcard-pretty oceanfront stunner. – The par-4 4th (bottom center), with its one-of-kind green slithering between dunes, is said by many to be the best hole Robert Trent Jones ever built.‬ – The lovely par-3 5th and the tough par-4 6th, which transitions from the dunes back to the forest, are also terrific. ——————— #attpebblebeachproam #attpebblebeach #pebblebeachproam #crosbyclambake #pebbleproam #pebblebeachresorts #pgatour #spyglasshillgolfcourse #spyglasshillgc #publicgems #shgc #roberttrentjones #rtj #montereygolf #californiagolf #norcalgolf #moderngems #golfcourses #golfphotos #golfcoursephotos #golfcoursephotography #golfcoursearchitecture #whyilovethisgame

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Widely regarded as one of the best and toughest courses to never host a Major Championship, Spyglass Hill is one of several incredible courses on the Monterey Peninsula. Cypress Point, Pebble Beach and Monterey Peninsula Country Club are nearby and yet it holds its own in every way. Some of you may even remember playing it on the old Tiger Woods PGA Tour golf games.

Torrey Pines (South)

Given his success here, the South course at Torrey Pines is probably Tiger Woods’ favourite course! Perched right on the clifftops, the course was originally designed by William F. Bell before Rees Jones completely rejuvenated the course in the early 2000’s.

Stone Eagle

This is said to have been one of the toughest projects for Tom Doak‘s Renaissance Golf Design team but they have managed to pull off a spectacular and engaging layout. Dramatic elevation changes are commonplace and there is also a 19th hole par-3 which was introduced to settle any bets and matches.

Monterey Peninsula (Dunes)

Seth Raynor designed the Dunes course at Monterey Peninsula in 1926 which was completed by a partner of Alister Mackenzie, Robert Hunter. It was then remodelled in 1999 by Rees Jones and then Tom Fazio in 2016.


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‪With the PGA at Riviera this week, here’s a look at Bel-Air Country Club, another George Thomas masterpiece less than 5 miles to the northeast. While Riviera sits in a single canyon, Thomas brilliantly (and necessarily) routed Bel-Air through four different canyons – in 1925!‬ Today, the canyons are connected via a series of tunnels, an elevator and a suspension bridge, which combine to make the course a very pleasant walk. ————— #belaircountryclub #belaircc #belair #bacc #georgethomas #tomdoak #renaissancegolf #lagolf #caligolf #socalgolf #losangelesgolf #swingingbridge #classicgems #golfrestorations #golfrenovations #golfretrovations #golfcourses #golfphotos #golfcoursephotos #golfcoursephotography #golfcoursearchitecture #whyilovethisgame

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George C. Thomas and William F. Bell partnered up to create this gem that criss-crosses its way over several large canyons. It seemed over the years it slipped away from that original design as Tom Doak and his team came in, in 2017 to completely restore the place.

TPC Harding Park

The 175 yard par-3 17th. (Photo by Gary Kellner/PGA of America via Getty Images)

Located just to the west of San Francisco in California, Harding Park dates all the way back to 1925.

It plays along the shores of Lake Merced and was designed by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, who also designed the nearby Olympic Club, which hosted the 2012 US Open.


Notable Mentions: Valley Club of Montecito, Mayacama, Rustic Canyon, PGA West (TPC Stadium), Sherwood, Pelican Hill, Links at Spanish Bay, Meadow Club, Stanford University, The Wilshire, Monterey Peninsula (Shore)

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