8 of The Best Golf Course Designers in the U.S.

Discover the Top Golf Course Designers in the Country

Part of what makes golf such an enjoyable sport for players is the charm that each golf course offers. When designed in a way that naturally exemplifies the natural beauty of the landscape, the experience can be captivating. 

In this post, we look at eight of the best golf course designers and how they have shaped the sport for golf enthusiasts across the country. 

1. Pete Dye

Born into a family of golf course designers, Pete Dye followed in his father’s footsteps to become one of the most famous golf architects in the country. While a great player himself, his real passion for the sport flourished when he put pencil to paper to bring his visions to life. Players who have the opportunity to play a round on a Pete Dye course experience a challenging and intriguing 18-holes. 

Over the course of his career, he designed more than 100 courses in North America, the Dominican Republic, Israel, and Switzerland. Some of his most famous designs include TCP Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra, Whistling Straights (The Straits) in Wisconsin, Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island, The Ocean Course on Kiawah South Carolina, and Casa de Campo (Teeth of the Dog) in the Dominican Republic.

2. Arnold Palmer

With contributions to all areas of the sport, Arnold Palmer is known for being a world-class American golfer and course designer. Nicknamed The King, he was one of the sport’s most popular players, forming part of “The Big Three” during the 1960s alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Over the course of his career, he won 62 PGA Tour Titles and seven major championship wins including the Master’s Tournament, the U.S. Open Championship, and The Open Championship

As a golf course designer, he has helped create over 300 golf courses that can be found in 37 states and 25 countries. They include the Tralee Golf Club in County Kerry, Ireland, Tradition Golf Club in La Quinta, California –– and his personal favorite, Old Tabby Links on Spring Island, South Carolina.

3. Jack Nicklaus 

Known as the Golden Bear and considered the greatest professional golfer the sport has ever seen, Jack Nicklaus is also an accomplished course designer. Originally finding inspiration in the legendary Pete Dye’s designs, the Nicklaus’ design company has come to be one of the most successful golf architecture firms with eight offices in six countries and over 300 completed courses. 

At The Cliffs, Jack Nicklaus has designed two of our own premier courses: The Cliffs at Keowee Falls and The Cliffs at Walnut Cove

4. Tom Fazio 

Having designed award-winning courses throughout the United States, Tom Fazio is a distinguished name among course architects and designers. With more than 50 years of experience in the industry, Fazio and his staff are trusted to execute designs that reflect the beauty of the environment. At The Cliffs, Fazio has also designed two courses found in the Lake Region, The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards and The Cliffs at Keowee Springs.

5. Tom Watson

Designed with the goal of “making golfers replay his courses over and over again”, Tom Watson marries beauty and playability in each of his creations. He has designed courses on three different continents –– earning his place among the greatest golf course designers. One of his signature courses is Cassique on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, which has been recognized as Golf Digest’s prestigious “America’s Best New Private Courses” upon opening. 

6. Gary Player 

Known as the Black Knight, Gary Player is both an acclaimed player and golf course designer. Player started his career as a consultant in the 1970’s, then came to found Gary Player Design. His architecture firm has designed nearly 400 courses across the globe. Some of the courses he is most proud of include The Links at Fancourt and Gary Player Country Club in South Africa, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, and Thracian Cliffs in Bulgaria. 

At The Cliffs, he is the mastermind behind the Gary Player Signature Golf Course at The Cliffs at Mountain Park –– which enhances the rustic flare that characterizes mountain-living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

7. Ben Wright 

Famed golf player, commentator, and architect, Ben Wright brings his extensive knowledge of the sport to each of his projects. Before moving to the U.S to become a CBS broadcaster, Wright designed various courses in France and England. 

His immediate love for the Carolinas is showcased in his first North American design –– The Cliffs Valley golf course. This parkland-style course is home to the BMW Charity Pro-Am and is a favorite among club members at The Cliffs. 

8. Tom Jackson

Being trained by two of the leading golf course designers –– George Cobb and Robert Trent Jones –– Tom Jackson has left his mark on 124 courses over the course of his 45-year career.

Home to the fourth most scenic hole in the U.S. by Golf Digest, Jackson recognizes his work at The Cliffs at Glassy golf course as his best. Sitting at 3,000 feet above sea level, the panoramic vistas of the blue-toned mountains span as far as the eye can see. The way the course design harmonizes with the land is a sight to behold, one that players of all skill levels are able to appreciate.

The Golf Experience at The Cliffs

It isn’t often that one golf membership grants you access to seven world-class golf courses –– and at The Cliffs, we are honored to have had some of the best golf course designers create an experience that is simply unsurpassed. 

From state-of-the-art practice facilities that improve your game to pro shops that carry top brands and gear, we give our members complete control of how they enjoy the sport, all within our community’s gates. 

If you would like to become an exclusive golf member, take the first step and browse our available homesites and move-in-ready luxury estates, cottages, and townhomes. Once you find the one that ticks every box on your wishlist, you can begin to take part in all of the lifestyle amenities we offer at The Cliffs. 

To request additional information about any of our communities or how you can make The Cliffs your home in the Carolinas, simply click the button below and a member of our team will reach out to you shortly. 

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