IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Seven major golf courses can play

If you want to play on the pros’  biggest stages, here is a bucket list of golf courses for which you don't need a membership to play.
Image: Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach is among the world's most coveted 18 holes of golf. Courtesy of Pebble Beach Golf Li / Courtesy of Pebble Beach Golf Links
/ Source:

Major championship venues have trended away from private golf courses to public and resort venues in recent years.

For the traveling golfer, that's a very good thing.

In not-so-recent memory, the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open were held almost exclusively on private golf courses. It helped the reputations of the courses. But for the public golfer, it made very slim the chance to recreate a piece of major championship glory.

But the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship have changed their tunes in the past decade, ushering in a new commitment to majors staged at accessible golf courses. So if you want to play on the pros' biggest stages, here's a bucket list of golf courses for which you don't need a membership to play.

Some are resorts. Others are municipals. But they're all coveted major-championship sites. Scoring a tee time can involve intricate details, so here's the skinny.

Pebble Beach Golf Links, U.S. Open host in 2000, 2010
Right up there with Augusta National and St. Andrews, Pebble Beach Golf Links arguably ranks as the world's most coveted 18 holes of golf. It anchors the golf-rich Monterey Peninsula, home to many of the game's most dramatic oceanfront holes, like No. 7 and No. 18. Pebble Beach owns a regular spot on the U.S. Open rotation and hosts an annual PGA-Tour event.

How to play Pebble Beach: Resort guests receive preferred tee times, while non-guests can usually book 24 hours in advance or two weeks out in the offseason. Eighteen holes at Pebble remains $495 a pop, and a cart is extra if you're not a guest of the resort.

You can view tee-sheet availability up to 90 days in advance on the resort's Web site.

Pinehurst No. 2, U.S. Open host in 1999, 2005 and 2014
While the U.S. Open is usually known for its brutal rough, the crowned greens at Pinehurst No. 2 steal the show when the tournament visits the Carolina Sandhills. It's also the furthest south of the Open rota courses and the only one staged with Bermuda fairways and rough. Pinehurst No. 2 ranks as the crown jewel in one of America's most golf-rich regions. The Pinehurst resort includes seven other golf courses, and scores more surround it.

How to play Pinehurst No. 2: Non-resort guests can book No. 2 only on the day of play at $410 per round. Otherwise, it's generally only open to resort guests. Packages through the hotel are the way to go, from the $222 offseason special to the $574 golf package during the high season.

The Straits at Whistling Straits, PGA Championship 2004 and 2015
Herb Kohler followed his two Blackwolf Run courses with two more at Whistling Straits. This time, he opened the checkbook to allow Pete Dye to create a faux Irish links on the shores of Lake Michigan about a two-hour drive north of Chicago.

Dye designed 36 staggeringly penal holes and countless bunkers, all more dramatic than anything in Ireland — even if it did happen at the hands of machinery.

How to play the Straits course: A stay at Kohler's American Club or the Inn on Woodlake will guarantee access on the Straits course. It costs $340 plus a mandatory caddie before twilight. During a few scattered weeks, a hotel stay is not required, allowing non-guests to book tee times 14 days in advance.

Bethpage Black Golf Course, U.S. Open host in 2002 and 2009
The toughest of five golf courses at Bethpage State Park on Long Island and the "people's course," the infamous Bethpage Black warns players before the first tee of its severe difficulty. It's a restored A.W. Tillinghast design that features raised greens, deep, splashed bunkers and narrow fairways on severe hills.

How to play Bethpage Black: The cheapest of the major venues situated in America's most populous area doesn't make for many open tee sheets.

Out-of-state residents can book tee times two days in advance, while New York residents can book a week in advance. You must gain entry to the tee-time reservation system, which can take several days, before securing a tee time.

Most popular is the walk-on method, which requires an overnight campout in the parking lot to receive tickets at 4 a.m. for play. If sleeping in your car isn't an option, NYC Golf Shuttle sells tee times at $400 per person in a foursome, including transportation.

Torrey Pines Golf Club (South), U.S. Open host in 2008
It's safe to say the scenic San Diego-area muni, Torrey Pines South, will host the U.S. Open again after the 2008 spectacle that featured a hobbled Tiger Woods and the people's champ, Rocco Mediate. And of all the golf courses listed in this article, it's the best year-round play thanks to the area's temperate climate.

How to play Torrey Pines: San Diego residents receive preferred tee time and rates — about one-third the cost of the $174 to $218 non-resident green fee. Non-residents can book eight to 90 days in advance for guaranteed times but must pay a $41 booking fee. Inside a week, the fee is gone, but you're less likely to secure a tee time.

Kiawah Island Ocean Course, 2012 PGA Championship host
Big-time tournament golf is returning to Dye's infamous Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. The setting for the "War by the Shore" Ryder Cup Matches in 1991, the Ocean Course is considered one of America's toughest, especially when the wind gusts off the Atlantic. It can stretch to nearly 8,000 yards if necessary for the PGA Championship, but this course can bring any pro to his knees at far less.

Chambers Bay was awarded a U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur almost as quickly as it opened.Brandon Tucker

Chambers Bay Golf Club, 2015 U.S. Open Host
This new links prototype design by Robert Trent Jones Jr. was awarded a U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur almost as quickly as it opened in 2007 on the shores of the Puget Sound near Tacoma, Wash. It takes quite a golf course for the USGA to deviate from a normal U.S. Open venue, so all eyes will focus on Chambers Bay in the next few years as it fits into its massive shoes.

How to play Chambers Bay: Chambers Bay offers the best combination of ease to play and pricing among any of the major championship venues. Its infancy status, though, means it must work through a few growing pains — temporary clubhouse included — and use a couple years to more mature the fescue turf.

Tee times are accepted up to 90 days in advance, while Pierce County residents receive a discount. Green fees for non-residents max out at $170 for walking only. Caddies are extra.