Golf Courses & Resorts

Short But Sweet: 13 Great Nine-Hole Golf Courses

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I’d guess the very first rounds most golfers ever played have one thing in common:

They were nine holes.

It’s true in my case, many of my colleagues…and probably yours, too.

Though more is usually better where golf is concerned, there is considerable charm to the “half round,” be it a leisurely extended stroll-and-swing or a daylight-racing “emergency nine.”

Good news: there are a few thousand nine-hole courses out there, and most of them are publicly accessible.

And though 18-hole snobbery can sometimes be easy to cave to, I prefer to see these courses as half-full, rather than half-empty.

These shorter loops are all well worth your time to experience should you find yourself in the area.

In fact, you may find these nines so nice, you’ll want to play them twice (or more):

Les Cheneaux takes pride in its self-designation as a "True Natural" course (Les Cheneaux Golf Club)

Les Cheneaux takes pride in its self-designation as a “True Natural” course (Les Cheneaux Golf Club)

Les Cheneaux Golf Course – Cedarville, Mich.
Ever wondered what golf courses were like a century ago? You’ll get a pretty good idea if you visit Les Cheneaux on the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula. The course is the longest in continuous operation in Michigan, dating to 1898. Bunkering on the course is minimal, with buried and overgrown piles of rocks left over from the construction of the course serving as the main tee-to-green obstacles.

Tee off beside solar panels? It's the norm at Northport Creek. (Northport Creek Golf Club)

Tee off beside solar panels? It’s the norm at Northport Creek. (Northport Creek Golf Club)

Northport Creek Golf Club – Northport, Mich.
On the other side of the age coin, Northport Creek, located at the northern end of the Leelanau Peninsula, opened in 2014. It has gained fame both for its solid Jerry Matthews-designed layout and its efforts to derive 100% of its electricity from the solar panel arrays stationed on the property. These structures contribute enough electricity to the local grid to offset those needed for the golf course’s operations including the irrigation system and the golf carts.

Fenwick Golf Course weaves through an old, upscale and thoroughly New England village.

Fenwick Golf Course is as charming a New England nine as you will find.

Fenwick Golf Course – Old Saybrook, Conn.
Katherine Hepburn used to live just to the right of the second tee and log dozens of summer rounds on this cozy seaside nine that winds through a charming New England village. Local legend has it that while courting Hepburn, Howard Hughes once made a grand entrance by landing his plane on the ninth fairway.

Hotchkiss School Golf Course – Lakeville, Conn.
New England prep schools are well-known for their opulent amenities, and Hotchkiss’ very own nine-hole course fits that bill. Not only that, the course was laid out by C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor collaborator Charles Banks, who taught English at the school in the early 1900s. The course is characterized by a smattering of deep, flat-bottomed bunkers and decidedly Golden-Age green contours.

Sweetens Cove offers more golfing intrigue in nine holes than most other courses do in 18. (Sweetens Cove Golf Club)

Sweetens Cove offers more golfing intrigue in nine holes than most other courses do in 18. (Sweetens Cove Golf Club)

Sweetens Cove Golf Club – Pittsburg, Tenn.
Few golf courses, much less nine-holers, get written up in the New York Times, but this Tad King/Rob Collins renovation of a long-neglected course has vaulted up top-100 lists and gained a cult following who love its no-frills presentation: just nine fun, strategically fraught holes with heaving green contours, scruffy bunkers and a trailer for a clubhouse.

The Course at Sewanee boasts both a caring renovation by Gil Hanse and some lovely views. (Sewanee: The University of the South)

The Course at Sewanee boasts both a caring renovation by Gil Hanse and some lovely views. (Sewanee: The University of the South)

The Course at Sewanee – Sewanee, Tenn.
University golf courses are common at large institutions, but with fewer than 1,700 undergrads, Sewanee is a rare liberal arts university with its own links, much less one recently redesigned by Olympic Golf Course architect Gil Hanse. It should be noted that Sewanee is just a half hour from Sweetens Cove, and many golfers will play a couple loops at both on the same day.

Castine Golf Club – Castine, Maine
Maine is home to an unexpectedly plentiful roster of old-school golf experiences, many of which can be found in the form of ancient nine-holers along its rocky coast. Castine is a Willie Park, Jr. course that dates to 1921, with a passionate group of members who welcome visitors throughout the summer season.

Thousand Acres is a rare nine-holer with a big, open feel. (Thousand Acres Golf Club)

Thousand Acres is a rare nine-holer with a big, open feel. (Thousand Acres Golf Club)

Thousand Acres Golf Club – Swanton, Mary.
Tucked away in the Cumberland Mountains of far Western Maryland, the name “Thousand Acres” would seem to indicate more than nine holes of golf. But that’s all there is: a semi-private little routing by Craig Schreiner that opened in 2010. Not that there needs to be more than that; the course may have just nine holes, but at more than 3,500 yards from the back tees, it gives players all they can handle.

Who knew Big Sky golf could also come in a smaller package? (Mountain Sky Guest Ranch)

Who knew Big Sky golf could also come in a smaller package? (Mountain Sky Guest Ranch)

Rising Sun Golf at Mountain Sky Guest Ranch – Emigrant, Mont.
Mountain Sky might fairly be called the Pinehurst of American guest ranches, as it’s regarded as one of the best of its kind in the country since it opened in 1929. In 2011, Johnny Miller designed a nine-hole course on the property that enjoys the long-range views and “Big Sky” scenery that draws people to Montana for golf and myriad other outdoor pursuits. Because the course is open only to guests at the ranch, yours will likely be the only group on the course when you play it.

There are few recently-renovated courses more famous on a yard-for-yard basis than Winter Park. (City of Winter Park)

There are few recently-renovated courses more famous on a yard-for-yard basis than Winter Park. (City of Winter Park)

Winter Park Country Club – Winter Park, Fla.
One of the most prominent members of the #munaissance, Winter Park was a sleepy, benignly neglected course in the center of one of Orlando’s oldest districts. One Keith Rhebb/Riley Johns renovation later, the 2,400 yard layout is a tough-to-match community amenity for locals that is finding its way onto more and more Orlando visitors’ golf itineraries as the good word spreads.

Aetna Springs brings Wine Country charm in spades and just more than 3,000 yards. (Aetna Springs Golf Course)

Aetna Springs brings Wine Country charm in spades and just more than 3,000 yards. (Aetna Springs Golf Course)

Aetna Springs Golf Course – Pope Valley, Calif.
Tom Doak has earned worldwide acclaim for golf course designs and renovations that evoke the most classic and timeless elements of the game. Aetna Springs is an example of the latter, where Doak gave a historic (it claims to be the oldest course west of the Mississippi) but tired nine-hole golf gem deep in Wine Country some renewed rustic charm. The memorable, short par-3 fourth hole creeps up the base of a canyon to a green perched above a stream.

Wild Wings is a lovely early effort by Todd Eckenrode. (Origins Golf Design)

Wild Wings is a lovely early effort by Todd Eckenrode. (Origins Golf Design)

Wild Wings Golf Club – Woodland, Calif.
You may not be entirely familiar with golf course architect Todd Eckenrode yet, but he is an up-and-coming figure whose credits include the excellent Barona Creek Golf Club outside San Diego and the successful renovation of the course at Quail Lodge near Pebble Beach. He also designed Wild Wings, which is regarded as one of the Sacramento area’s best courses – private or public, nine or 18 holes.

Pottawatomie is a wonderful amenity for the people of St. Charles, Illinois. (Pottawatomie Golf Course)

Pottawatomie is a wonderful amenity for the people of St. Charles, Illinois. (Pottawatomie Golf Course)

Pottawatomie Golf Course – St. Charles, Ill.
This gem west of Chicago is perched on the east bank of the Fox River, which provides both scenery and a hazard on four holes. A Robert Trent Jones, Sr. layout that dates to 1939, Pottawatomie’s well-bunkered greens make up for its modest length (3,000 yards, par 35 from the tips). Green fees top out at $20.

Are there any nine-hole golf courses you love? Please tell us about them in the comments below!

46 Comments

  1. Carl Walker

    September 26, 2017 at 10:12 am

    can’t believe Top of the Rock didn’t make this list.
    150 Top of the Rock Road, Ridgedale, MO 65739

  2. Norman Davis

    September 26, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Your selection of 9 hole courses appears very parochial. We have a great many in the U.K which stand comparison with any 9 hole course anywhere. Why not look at my course, Sutton Bridge in South Lincolnshire, England. You can view it on www [dot] club-noticeboard [dot] co [dot] uk/suttonbridge. Established in 1914, it has a very interesting history and some exceptional holes. Give it a try!

  3. Tim Gavrich

    September 26, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Carl–
    Thanks for the note. I thought about including TotR, but seeing as it’s a par-3 course, I’d be inclined to put it in a separate list of short courses.
    –Tim

  4. Tim Gavrich

    September 26, 2017 at 10:36 am

    Norman–
    Good point. I think the rest of the world deserves its own list of this sort. Thanks for bringing Sutton Bridge up; I’d not hear of it. The nine-holer in the UK that is most recognizable to me is Royal Worlington & Newmarket.
    –Tim

  5. Rev. Bill Hoglund

    September 26, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Owned and operated by the Downers Grove (Illinois) Park District, the nine hole course off Belmont Avenue is rich with tradition, dating back to 1894! Its nine holes have been modified a tad over the years, but this C.B. McDonald course boasts a bit of everything, including a vexing meandering creek that comes into play on the second and third holes and a challenging carry over a pond on nine. It is known as the oldest course west of the Alleghenie Mountains, where bastions of the business world such as Marshall Field, Armour, and others once played, as getting to their tee times promptly is said to be the reason the train from Chicago now has a stop off Belmont Avenue. These gentlemen eventually established the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, but this course pre-dates it and will prove a fitting challenge for any golfer with time for a round 27 miles SW of Chicago!

  6. Derry Michael

    September 26, 2017 at 10:48 am

    You missed Foxburg Country Club ,Foxburg Pa. Considered the oldest operating 9 hole course in the USA

  7. Burt

    September 26, 2017 at 10:49 am

    You omitted what is probably one of if not the best 9 hole courses in the country …. Whitinsville Golf Club in Whitinsville, MAjust outside of Worcester. A true Donald Ross gem whose 9th hole is considered one of Ross’s greatest holes.

  8. Tim Gavrich

    September 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

    Burt–
    I’ve heard wonderful things about Whitinsville, but my understanding was that it’s private. Is it more accessible for non-members these days? If so, I imagine it shoots up toward the top of any best-nines-you-can-play ranking.
    –Tim

  9. Todd

    September 26, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Great read this morning. Another great 9 hole track is Northwood Golf Club north of the Bay. I know CA got a lot of love and another may have been to much.

  10. Clyde

    September 26, 2017 at 11:14 am

    I would enjoy seeing a list of some 9 hole courses in Texas, specifically in the Houston area. All of the courses you listed, although very nice ones, are all beyond my reach.

  11. Michael Caskey

    September 26, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Where is Alister MacKenzie’s NorthwoodGC in Monte Rio, Ca?

  12. Matt

    September 26, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Dunes Club – New Buffalo, MI. As good as any course gets. Mike Kiser’s first course….

  13. Dave Testa

    September 26, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Great idea! You also missed the North Haven Golf Club on North Haven Island, Maine. It has made the US top ten list since 1961 and welcomes all comers although it s a private club.

  14. Art Springsteen

    September 26, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Another little gem is Hooper Golf Club, a quirky Stiles and van Cleek design in Walpole, New Hampshire. It was private but I think it has gone back to being public. Not long (<3000 yds.), but wooded and testing.

  15. JKC

    September 26, 2017 at 11:38 am

    The Needler at Whispering Pines in Texas has to be one of the best 9 holers anywhere. The 18 at WP is great but the Needler 9 is just as good.

    Each hole has 4 tee boxes, distances from 68 to over 300 yards and water and bunkers on every hole. Great way to follow up an regular round or play on its own.

  16. Jim M.

    September 26, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Sinnissipp Golf Couse in Rockford, IL is a great course. 3200 yards 35.6 course with 119 slope. 3 holes have challenging hills, ost of the others have length challenges.

  17. Peter Cazzolla

    September 26, 2017 at 11:50 am

    You missed a gem in ” Old Brockway” Golf Course, Kings Beach, California. It was built in 1924, on Lake Tahoe, by a noted architect, and was the sight of the first 2 Bing Crosby hosted events, attended by the ” Rat Pack” in 1935 and 1936. Crosby moved his event San Diego in 1937 then eventually to Pebble Beach. A beautiful track cut through the tall Sierra pines with views of Lake Tahoe. Well worth a follow up article by your team.

  18. Arthur Little

    September 26, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Might add
    Wilson Lake, Wilton ME-Stiles
    Highland Course, Brae Burn CC-Ross
    Arthur Little

  19. Dalton Tong

    September 26, 2017 at 11:58 am

    May I suggest another “gem” of a great nine hole course? It’s Carroll Park in Baltimore Md. Has a rich tradition of having attracted a variety of celebs when it was a “12 hole” course, and has since reorganized into a popular 9 hole track in downtown Baltimore. It attracts professionals from all over, and boasts convenient hours,easy access, well kept greens, affordable pricing, and a consumer sensitive staff. Would highly recommend adding it to your list.

  20. Constant Thunnissen

    September 26, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Another charming and beautiful 9-holes course you will find the Reigate Heath Golf Club in Surrey. Peter Alliss called it “a little gem” and it is. Established in 1895 by courtesy of Lady Henry Somerset, it was the first golf club where ladies could become members, with Lady Henry as first president.

    For real touring teams, a visit to Cracow and the 9-holes Royal Krakow Golf & Country Club, in the ancient Hunting Grounds of the Jagiellonian Kings, will provide a challenging and pleasant round of golf.

  21. Steve

    September 26, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    If you put together a list of Par 3 courses, Bondi Golf Club would top my list. Spectacular views!

    www [dot] bondigolf [dot] com [dot]au/index [dot] html

  22. David Currie

    September 26, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Agree with Matt, Dunes Club is the best 9 hole course I’ve ever played. If it wasn’t ultra private, it would have been mentioned in this article for sure. If you want to step north of the Border, Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club offers a world class setting combined with unmatched history as the oldest (1875) golf club in North America.

  23. Gary Tagtmeyer

    September 26, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    I have not played too many par 3 courses, but the mountain course in West Virginia Pipestem Park is fantastic and challenging for all levels of players.

  24. Bill Lockie PGA professional

    September 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    A gem
    Corrie golf course on the Island of Arran,NorthAyrshire,Scotland
    Good layout and stunning views of the close proximity mountains and views of sea and mainland Scotland
    Honesty box for green fees
    9 spectacular holes

  25. Anonymous

    September 26, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    My favorite nine hole course like Whittinsville is a Donald Ross designed course — Bellevue Golf Club in Melrose Ma. Don’t forget to use on of their fine younger caddies.

  26. Mike Marshall

    September 26, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    An amazing nine holes is in the far northwest of Donegal Ireland, called Cruit Island ( pronounced “crooch”). A links course in the middle of nowhere, it is possibly a highlight of a trip to the north of Ireland, even if you also play Portrush and County Down. Played it 3 years ago and still remember every hole

  27. David Rafus

    September 26, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    I would include Highlands on Cape Cod with its timelessness and the National Seashore
    The second is Great Dunes on Jekyl Island, GA with some of the smallest greens you’ll find. So much history, personality, and enjoyment

  28. Dennis Z.

    September 26, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    When looking at 9 hole courses, I suggest you try Pelican Falls in Windsor, Colorado. Spectacular views of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and an island green.

  29. Rich DeHaven

    September 26, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    I agree that Top of the Rock should be included. In the same category, are all the short courses on the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama should have been given consideration.

  30. L. Schiff

    September 26, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    And the Par 3 in Palm Beach ??!?!!?

  31. John Seidel

    September 26, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Check out the Glenwood Springs golf Course in Glenwood Springs Colorado. Some of the best greens in the western slope of Colorado. Difficult course that the local club pros hate. Members who get their handicap at this course dominate tournament play at events on the western slope. Home course of 4-time Colorado Mid Amateur Champion Keith Hemerickhouse.

  32. Alex R

    September 26, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Let me join the others who say NORTHWOOD. An Alister Mackenzie course built amongst giant redwoods. This list should begin and end with NORTHWOOD.

  33. Herb Mapes

    September 26, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    If you ever get around to creating a list of par 3 courses, you have to include the thirteen hole layout Bandon Dunes. My wife and I recently played it. And it has to be the most fun we’ve ever had on a golf course.

  34. Mb

    September 26, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Absolutely agree with the comments on NORTHWOODGC in Monte Rio Ca

  35. Anthony Riddle

    September 26, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Lord Howe Island Golf Course is possibly the most Beautiful 9 hole course anywhere!

  36. Rob Port

    September 26, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    Any time you can play a Mackenzie course you should ! A great walk in the trees at Nortwood !!!!

  37. Michael Mirabella

    September 26, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    If you get the chance try Kookoalono on the south west end of Kauai

  38. norm l

    September 26, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    A Donald Ross gem is whitinsville Golf Club just south of Worcester Ma.

  39. Isaac

    September 26, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    I love Northwood. Beautiful Redwoods line the fairways. It is old school enough (distance-wise) that I bring out my MacGregor M-85 persimmon driver on that course. Alister M. made it kind of a mini-Augusta National, with false fronts in front of many of the greens. A real treat if you are in the Russian River area, about 2 hours north of San Francisco. Always good to follow up with a Pliny the Elder at the Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa :)

  40. Bill Prather

    September 27, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Another fun older course is Plum Lake GC in Sayner, WI. A Tom Bennett layout from 1912 and clubhouse from 1923. From the “bowl” green at no. 4 to the bell you ring to let players behind you know you’re off the 9th, very old school.

  41. don Jones

    September 27, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Granada, a Donald Ross 9 in Coral Gables, Fl is a gem.

  42. Allan Chandler

    September 27, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Megunticook Golf Club in Rockport ME. Private. Find a way to get on, and it’s a fun time with varied holes. #3 is a deceptively hard par 4.

  43. Buzz Reinhart

    September 28, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Somewhat surprised Wawashkamo on Mackinac Island, Michigan was not mentioned. Located off of British Landing Road, virtually in the center of the Island – this links style 9 hole golf course has many holes with hilly terrain, tight fairways, and rather small greens. If you are a golf enthusiast or a even history buff type, you may want to consider teeing it up for a round here. It was (I see Cedarville also claims the same distinction) established in 1898, is the oldest continuously played golf course in Michigan and sits directly on an 1814 battlefield. Holes 1, 5 and 6…There is also a grave site between #’s 5 and 6

  44. Mr. Binkley

    September 29, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    Don’t forget Summer Breeze in Fremont, Mich.

  45. Golf Guides Zone

    October 2, 2017 at 11:38 am

    What a nice view! A great walk in the trees at Nortwood.

  46. Anonymous

    October 3, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Please have a look at this 9 hole private course in Toronto, Ontario – 525 golf members, 325 social members and still do not require tee times
    www [dot] torontohunt [dot] com

    David Ranson

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