Great golf near the bright lights: 10 great big cities for a trip



There is now enough publicly accessible golf near Manhattan to warrant a buddies golf trip to the Big Apple. (Getty Images)
New Orleans has one of the great city park golf courses in America: Audubon Park. (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor)
Known for its live music scene and the University of Texas Longhorns, Austin is also rich in golf history and courses. (Courtesy of Andrew Shapter/ACVB)
Old Town Scottsdale is mostly a stylish place, with the exception of the old school Rusty Spur tavern. (Courtesy of Scottsdale CVB)
The Biltmore's 18th hole might look tame, but it's a tough play. (David R. Holland/Golf Advisor)
Balboa Park December Nights in San Diego. (Courtesy of Joanne DiBona/San Diego CVB)
The old clubhouse and city are the backdrop for the par-5 ninth at Presidio Golf Course in San Francisco. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor)
Like the finishing hole, the par-4 ninth at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point also has the Whitestone Bridge in the background. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor)
Portland, Oregon has a fun and quirky downtown to go along with a strong and generally affordable public golf scene. (Courtesy: Travel Portland/Brent Bradley)
The line outside Oceana Grill on a Tuesday night in the New Orleans French Quarter. (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor)

Your next golf trip doesn't have to be an "escape" to a remote outpost like Bandon Dunes, Prairie Club or Streamsong.

While the stars are sure to come out at night off the beaten path, some trips — whether they are with buddies or couples — are meant for the bright lights, where entertainment after dark is limitless.

There are cities that deliver the best of both worlds: fun courses to play with a menu of urban offerings before and after. Just make sure someone in the group can herd the group back to the hotel room at a reasonable hour so you don't miss your morning tee time.

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A recent visit to New Orleans was a reminder that a city doesn't need to be deep with scores of great golf courses and resorts (like Phoenix or Orlando) to make a fun golf weekend. Really, all a city like NOLA needs is a handful of unique and accessible courses to complement world class attractions and culture.

Rather than stay in "tranquility" at a golf resort, you can instead opt for energy and convenience at a downtown hotel or an urban condo through AirBnB or HomeAway.

Here are ten of my favorite big cities in the U.S. to combine both one-of-a-kind urban experiences (or perhaps a bachelor or bachelorette party) with some great golf in the morning. I've also provided some top courses in each city as well as a ink to each city's Local Golf Advisor. View their profile and reviews to get some inside knowledge on what local courses might be worth a look.

New Orleans

Unquestionably one of the country's great cities, Mardigras may in some ways do the Big Easy a disservice to some degree. There's so much to explore beyond the Bourbon St. bars. Urban oases City Park and Audubon Park are jewels, and entertainment (great jazz music on Frenchman's St.) and cuisine, not to mention exceedingly friendly people everywhere you go, make this a favorite vacation for my family. There is no "golf resort" in NOLA, but you'll want to stay in the historic French Quarter, Garden District or Audubon neighborhoods anyways and venture out of the urban core for golf.

Where to play: South at Bayou Oaks at City Park, Audubon Park, TPC Louisiana, English Turn

Local Golf Advisor: TwilDog1


Chicago

You can count on a party somewhere in Wrigleyville or other electric neighborhoods in downtown Chicago. Coupling a golf weekend with a game at Wrigley Stadium or a putz down the Magnificent Mile or Lakeshore Drive along Lake Michigan would make a fine weekend. Blues, comedy, and deep dish pizza are all in abundance. Like NYC, Chicago's private club roster is among the world's most prestigious, though Tiger Woods' recently announced South Side project will bring even more notable public golf to the city core.

Where to play: Cog Hill, Harborside International, Cantigny

Local Golf Advisor: BryanTweed1683




Miami

Balmy Miami is fashionable with an energized, multinational crowd. Sight-seeing on South Beach is a must, just come equipped with some nice threads and a decent tan. A day out on the water with a boat charter is another quintessential way to play in Miami. For a taste of classic south Florida, stay at the Biltmore Hotel.

Where to play: Crandon Park at Key Biscayne, Biltmore Hotel, Trump National Doral Miami

South Florida Local Golf Advisor: BabyLama2014


New York City

What is undeniably one of the great world class cities for entertainment, it can be tough to escape the bright lights of Manhattan or the neighborhood vibes of Brooklyn for greener pastures. But the NYC area has not only a collection of some of the most prestigious country clubs in the world but enough great public golf — headlined by America's best muni facility, Bethpage State Park — to warrant a look. And if you're a baseball fan, chances are at least one of the Mets or Yankees will be in town for an evening at the ballpark.

Where to play: Bethpage Black and Red, Trump Ferry Point, Skyway Golf

New York Local Golf Advisor: LuckyShank


Austin

ATX is one of the country's most popular bachelor and bachelorette parties because there are myriad ways to have a good time. The dining scene centers around great barbecue and Tex-Mex but these days all sorts of trendy neighborhood joints steal the show. Live music on Red River or bar-hopping on 6th St. or Rainey St. are obvious go-tos at night. Water sports on Lake Austin or Lady Bird Lake are readily available, where you can rent boats or paddleboards for an afternoon on the water. Or, just soak and people-watch at legendary Barton Springs.

Where to play: Omni Barton Creek (stay required), Wolfdancer, River Place, Jimmy Clay

Austin Local Golf Advisor: GordonATX


San Diego

San Diego may be the best year-round city climate-wise for a golf trip, not to mention an obvious pick for beaches post-round. Petco Park is one of the great MLB ballparks in the west. Nearby towns of La Jolla and Del Mar make for great beach getaways. Fish tacos and craft beer make up the base of the local food pyramid.

Where to play: Torrey Pines North and South, Aviara, Omni La Costa, Coronado

SoCal Local Golf Advisor: NickSquire


Scottsdale

Scottsdale has the benefit of being located right next door to larger Phoenix, so flights are always often affordable into competitive Sky Harbor Airport. But Scottsdale's downtown is more fun and compact compared to Phoenix. It's a fun place to be any weekend, whether it's the spring golf season that includes MLB spring training, or summer months where pool parties are lively. It's an active and showy crowd (be prepared to be booted from a table in many Old Town Scottsdale bars if you're not ponying up for bottle service). Loads of bars and restaurants, plus shopping for the gals are accessible with golf cart taxis that work on tip, make up the fun scene. Pool scenes at nearby hotels and resorts like Talking Stick Resort (also home to a TopGolf), plus great hiking ATV riding and mountain biking are all nearby.

Where to play: We-Ko-Pa Saguaro, TPC Scottsdale, Troon North Monument, Boulders Resort South

Arizona Local Golf Advisor: DHume419


San Francisco

Walking or taking a trolley on the one-of-a-kind streets of San Francisco must be on any American traveler's bucket list, and the Presidio and Golden Gate Park areas are marvels of the west coast. In the city, historic Chinatown and North Beach are remarkable neighborhoods, while lively Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz are the tourist hotbeds. The best golf (like U.S. Open host Olympic Club) is private, but there are a handful of neat publics (Alister Mackenzie's Sharp Park is beginning an extensive restoration project), plus ocean golf not far from the city center.

Where to play: TPC Harding Park, Presidio, Cordevalle, Half Moon Bay

NoCal Local Golf Advisor: CenCalHack


Portland, Oregon

With all due respect to Seattle, I just enjoy its little brother Portland a little more as a weekend golf getaway in the Pacific Northwest. The funky neighborhoods and distinctive microbrews and gastropubs in the urban core put it over the top. The ecological diversity of this area affords great scenery, none better than along the Columbia River Gorge, which has some cool, lesser-known courses that are easy to access.

Where to play: Ghost Creek at Pumpkin Ridge, North and South at Reserve Vineyards at Aloha, Elk Ridge, Resort at the Mountain

Oregon Local Golf Advisor: MScheelar


Las Vegas

It's hard for me to think of the Las Vegas Strip as a "city" as much as it is an alternate universe. That said, downtown Vegas has a good bit of soul to it, particularly the Fremont East district. There are just too many great entertainment and dining options — and even a little history — to not give Vegas its due as an urban getaway. Live entertainment, whether it's a musical act, boxing or other event in town, is limitless any day of the week, any time of year. Of course, buddies trips love sports betting, which can be found (legally) throughout town. The recent additions of NFL and NHL, not to mention TopGolf, are mere drops in the attractions bucket.

Where to play: TPC Las Vegas, Las Vegas Paiute, Bali Hai

Nevada Local Golf Advisor: GolfSully


A few more fun cities to visit with a good golf scene

Denver, near the Rockies' front range, is pretty flat, but there are some notable public courses: Arrowhead, a state park course, the Ridge at Castle Pines and Commonground are all within easy distance of a fun downtown.

In Seattle, U.S. Open host Chambers Bay is a bit of a hike south on the generally traffic-snarled I-5 (I actually missed a Sunday afternoon flight once trying to combine the two). Seattle's two courses at Gold Mountain make for two of the west's finer and more affordable munis to non-residents.

Texas history is alive in San Antonio, home of the Alamo along with multicultural sites and attractions along the Riverwalk. They complement a family-friendly theme park scene that includes Sea World, Six Flags and Schlitterbahn. Great golf resorts include TPC San Antonio/JW Marriott, La Cantera Hill Country Resort and Hyatt Hill Country Resort.

I have some native Michigander bias here, but I remain captivated cruising Detroit's "#RuinPorn" and seeing other once-fallen neighborhoods re-emerge in realtime. The Red Wings and Pistons arenas are coming back to Midtown to join the Tigers very soon. All sorts of affordable golf is available throughout the metro area.

I haven't played golf or visited every city. A few cities that look like they'd make for a cool golf getaway are Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Boston. What are your favorite cities to combine an urban golf trip? Tell me in the comments below or on Twitter @brandontucker.

Aug 23, 2017

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Brandon Tucker

Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.


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