Top 10 Kentucky Courses You Can Play

Unfortunately for visiting golfers, 2024 PGA Championship host Valhalla in Louisville, Ky., is private, as are most of the region’s top courses. However, the Bluegrass State boasts a slew of value-oriented, scenery-soaked, public-access layouts.

Here are the 10 best courses you can play in Kentucky.

Lassing Pointe—Union

Long heralded as one of the nation’s top bargains, this partly wooded, partly open 1994 Michael Hurdzan design near the Ohio border is considered the best muni in suburban Cincinnati—even as it’s situated in Boone County, Kentucky. Beefy par fours and a stellar group of five par threes are highlights, notably the 187-yard par-three 14th, which not only demands a forced carry over a lake, but beckons with a wishing well adjacent to the forward tee. Invariably, however, grill room chatter revolves around the 441-yard par-four 18th, which features a 101-yard-long putting surface that’s guarded by water left, back, and right.

lassing pointe
Lassing Pointe

Kearney Hill—Lexington

This 1989 Pete and P.B. Dye design tumbles over rumpled, links-like terrain amid mounds, moguls, grass bunkers, and the rest of the Dye family’s signature design tricks. Future Players Championship winner Tim Clark captured the 1997 U.S. Public Links Championship here, and Gary Player was a two-time winner of the eight Senior Tour events held here in the 1990s. Not long at 6,625 yards, par 72, Kearney Hill serves up lake-oriented peril at 15, 16, and 17 and challenges throughout when the wind blows over the treeless tract.

kentucky courses
Kearney Hill (photo by Parry Barrows)

Heritage Hill—Shepherdsville

In the Louisville area, Heritage Hill will put you close to the Jim Beam Distillery, and you can sip a fine 2007 design from former Jack Nicklaus associate Doug Beach that’s lauded for its handsome woodland setting and bold bunkers. A sturdy test at 7,142 yards from all the way back, Heritage Hill is notable for its early encounters with Salt River, for its quintet of meaty par threes, and for its stirring closing stretch, culminating with the 75-foot drop from tee to landing area at the 377-yard par-four 18th.

heritage
Heritage Hill

Cherry Blossom—Georgetown

Situated less than 20 miles north of Lexington, this 2001 Clyde Johnston design is the centerpiece of the Cherry Blossom Village master-planned community, yet the real estate never intrudes on the golf or on nature. Playable by all, the 6,866-yard par-72 bluegrass layout with bentgrass greens sports only 38 bunkers, but there’s sufficient bite elsewhere to provide a strong test. Notably, the 150-yard par-three island-green 12th and the 439-yard par-four 18th (which possesses nine bunkers!) serve as reliable scorecard wreckers.

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Cherry Blossom

Nevel Meade—Prospect

Located a few miles northeast of Louisville on the Indiana border, Nevel Meade is a 1991 Steve Smyers creation that defies categorization. It’s sparsely treed, almost links-like in its openness and rippled terrain, yet features handsome, century-old trees on the perimeter. Smyers, a strong stick himself, is best known for his supremely challenging layouts, but here, the 6,844-yard par-72 track accommodates every level of player. Large, undulating greens and visually arresting bunkering are ever present, and the two most memorable holes are short par fours—the 294-yard 6th, home to a cascading water feature front-left of the green, and the 304-yard 16th, which calls for a layup drive, followed by a steeply dropping approach.

nevel meade
Nevel Meade

Marriott Griffin Gate—Lexington

Designed by Rees Jones in 1981, then renovated by Jones and associate Bryce Swanson in 2015, Griffin Gate embraces quality tournament history, with seven Senior Tour events taking place here in the 1980s, when winners included major champions Don January, Bob Charles, Gene Littler, and Lexington native Gay Brewer. The toughest, most scenic tournament hole was the short par-five 10th, which swings to the left around a large lake, while four bunkers patrol the right side. Though under 7,000 yards, Griffin Gate challenges with well-placed bunkers, lush rough, and imaginatively contoured greens.

kentucky courses
Marriott Griffin Gate

Wasioto Winds at Pine Mountain State Park—Pineville

One of the many fine courses under the Kentucky State Parks umbrella, Wasioto Winds is a 2001 Michael Hurdzan creation in the southeast corner of the state, close to both Virginia and Tennessee. Tucked into a valley dotted with hemlock and rhododendron, amid rolling mountain terrain, its 7,037 yards serve up a compelling test, with a front nine that’s shorter and tighter than the back. Notable is the stretch of 5, 6, and 7, a par three sandwiched by par fives, where every shot faces water peril.

wasioto winds
Wasioto Winds

Park Mammoth—Park City

Architect Brian Ross, a former associate of Richard Mandell, teamed with Colton Craig in 2022 to affect a complete makeover of an 18-hole layout that was known as Cave Valley. Its new name reflects its location in the south-central section of the state, not far from Mammoth Cave National Park. The duo rerouted several holes and built all new greens, 50 new tee boxes, and 25 new sand bunkers. The 6,215-yard par 70 layout features just two par fives—the 564-yard 3rd (which calls for a drive between two pinching bunkers) and the 520-yard 17th (with its tree line left and slightly elevated green)—but the shot demands and creatively contoured greens throughout offer all the golf you could want.

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Park Mammoth

General Burnside Island—Burnside

Another quality Kentucky State Parks course, General Burnside Island is a 2008 Brian Ault design that is distinguished by its surroundings—it’s located on an island in Lake Cumberland in the south-central part of the state. The lake never comes into play, but it serves as an attractive background to several shots. At just 6,394 yards and par-71, the course has only one par four longer than 400 yards, but large boulders, a forested perimeter, strong par threes, and excellent variety characterize this General.

general burnside
General Burnside Island

Boone’s Trace National—Richmond

Nestled in the heart of horse country, the course formerly known as The Bull at Boone’s Trace sits atop bluffs that tower over the Kentucky River 20 miles south of Lexington. Designed in 1999 by former Pete Dye associate David Pfaff, Boone’s Trace stretches 6,659 yards to a par-72 and is peppered by a varied collection of medium-length par fours. Uphill shots are not uncommon, notably at the 403-yard par-four 18th, where a right-to-left sloping fairway demands a proper shot shape to keep it in play, lest the drive wind up in rough, or worse, in water further left.

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Boone’s Trace National

What is your favorite public golf course in Kentucky? Tell us about your choice in the comment section.

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