The Best American Cities for Golfers

When asked to name the best locations for golf in the U.S., golf obsessives might point to resort towns like Palm Desert, Hilton Head, or Naples, or perhaps to bigger cities packed with courses like Scottsdale or Las Vegas. Many serious golfers dream of playing their way through the dozens of courses that each of these locales offer. But while few communities can stack up against the bounty of top courses in these golf-loving cities, golfers can still find excellent places to play throughout the country.

Having golf-friendly locations throughout the U.S. is important for generating and maintaining widespread interest in the sport—and lately, this interest has been growing quickly. Golf experienced a nationwide increase in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and hasn’t slowed down since. According to the National Golf Foundation, rounds played in 2021 were up 5% over 2020 and 19% over the three-year average from 2017 to 2019. A record 3.2 million people played for the first time in 2021.

This increase in popularity has come despite the costs associated with golf, which can be a major barrier to entry, from equipment to greens fees to club dues. Golf can already be an expensive hobby, but recent data suggests that costs are also rising. Membership fees and dues are up by more than 40% in the last 15 years, while greens and guest fees are up by nearly 25% over the same span. Even the cost of a beer or lunch at the snack bar after a round is getting more expensive, as costs from food and beverage sales are up by more than a third since 2006.

Beyond cost, however, a number of other local conditions can affect how easy it is for people to keep up with their golf hobby. A person who lives in an area that is not accommodating for golfers will be far less likely to try out or stick with the sport.

 


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Above anything, golfers need a place to play, and not every part of the U.S. offers equal access to golf courses and country clubs. The number of courses in a state is often correlated with its population, but some states punch above their weight on this measure. For example, Michigan ranks 4th in the number of courses but just 10th in population, while neighboring Wisconsin has the 10th-highest number of courses despite being 20th in population. Of all states, Florida boasts the most courses, a figure that outpaces more populous states like California and Texas.

Having a high number of courses is just one factor that indicates how welcoming a location is for golf enthusiasts. Arguably, weather is the single most important factor in making golf more enjoyable for longer portions of the year, with temperate, dry climates being preferable to places that are too hot, cold, wet, or windy. When it comes to weather, it’s the Southwest and West Coast that are most conducive to golfing year round. California and Arizona take the top spots, followed by New Mexico, Texas, and Nevada.

Golf Workout Program combined these and other factors to evaluate the best states and cities for golfers. At the state level, well-known golf destinations like Arizona, California, and Florida ranked highly, boosted by good weather, plenty of courses, and frequent professional events. But perhaps surprisingly, some of the top states in this composite score are small Midwestern locations like Michigan and South Dakota, both of which regularly host professional events and have high concentrations of courses relative to their small populations. Similar trends hold at the local level, where cities in Arizona, California, and Florida stand out. But there are plenty of other locations outside of these golf-centric states that should be on any golfer’s radar.

 


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The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Census Bureau, NOAA, and the PGA Tour. To determine the best locations for golfers, researchers at Golf Workout Program calculated a composite score based on local weather (mild temperatures and low precipitation), total PGA Tour events in the past five years, golf courses and country clubs per capita, and sporting goods stores per capita. Only areas in the contiguous United States were considered for the analysis.

Here are the best U.S. metropolitan areas for golfers.

 

The Best Large U.S. Metros for Golfers

15. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA

  • Composite score: 57.1
  • Weather score: 49.0
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 4
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 1.9
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 4.1

 


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14. Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI

  • Composite score: 59.8
  • Weather score: 40.4
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 5
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 4.1
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 7.3

 

13. Richmond, VA

  • Composite score: 61.4
  • Weather score: 44.9
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 5
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 3.3
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 5.1

 

12. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

  • Composite score: 62.1
  • Weather score: 63.6
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 1
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 1.4
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 4.2

 

11. Raleigh-Cary, NC

  • Composite score: 62.5
  • Weather score: 48.1
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 5
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 2.7
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 5.2

 

10. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

  • Composite score: 62.7
  • Weather score: 50.8
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 3
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 2.1
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 6.6

 

9. St. Louis, MO-IL

  • Composite score: 64.6
  • Weather score: 47.2
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 2
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 3.4
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 5.3

 

8. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

  • Composite score: 68.1
  • Weather score: 56.2
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 7
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 2.2
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 6.1

 

7. Jacksonville, FL

  • Composite score: 69.1
  • Weather score: 59.7
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 2
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 2.3
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 6.4

 

6. Rochester, NY

  • Composite score: 70.0
  • Weather score: 46.0
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 1
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 5.7
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 5.9

 

5. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

  • Composite score: 70.4
  • Weather score: 97.5
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 4
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 1.1
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 4.7

 


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4. Tulsa, OK

  • Composite score: 72.3
  • Weather score: 52.9
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 1
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 3.6
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 6.2

 

3. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

  • Composite score: 72.4
  • Weather score: 83.6
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 5
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 2.1
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 3.8

 

2. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ

  • Composite score: 79.0
  • Weather score: 79.5
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 7
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 2.9
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 5.1

 

1. Tucson, AZ

  • Composite score: 79.4
  • Weather score: 84.3
  • Total PGA Tour events in the last 5 years: 5
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100k residents: 2.9
  • Sporting goods stores per 100k residents: 5.8

 

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns, NOAA’s National Centers for Environment Information, and the PGA Tour’s Tournament Schedule. To determine the best locations for golfers, researchers at Golf Workout Program calculated a composite score based on the following factors and weights:

  • Local weather (40%)
  • Total PGA Tour events in the past five years (30%)
  • Golf courses and country clubs per 100,000 residents (25%)
  • Sporting goods stores per 100,000 residents (5%)

The weather score is also a composite measure that optimizes for both mild temperatures and low precipitation. In the event of a tie, the location with more golf courses and country clubs per capita was ranked higher. To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 residents were included. Additionally, metros were grouped into cohorts based on population size: small (100,000–349,999), midsize (350,000–999,999), and large (1,000,000 or more). Only areas in the contiguous United States were considered for the analysis.

 

August Noble

August Noble was first introduced to golf at 7 years old. In 2013 he started seriously working on his game and was able to reduce his handicap from 19 to 3.4 in less than two years. He's been helping other golfers do the same ever since.