The Best Executive Golf Courses In The US: What Sets Them Apart From The Rest?

Best Executive Golf Courses
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What Is An Executive Golf Course?

Do you enjoy playing golf, but don’t have 5-6 hours to wait on the group in front of you? An executive golf course is the same as a regular course, only a bit shorter. Instead of a par 72 that stretches out to 7,000 yards, an executive golf course might be a par 65 and only be 5,400 yards long.

You still get to play a mix of par 3s, par 4s, and par 5s, but the amount of each will be different from a normal course. The great thing about an executive golf course is that it doesn’t require your full day. You can typically play (even walk) 18 holes in less than 3 hours. It can be a great place to work on your game, relax with your golfing buddies, or get your kids started in junior golf.

The other key advantage of an executive golf course – it’ll be much cheaper than playing at a fancy country club. Have you researched executive golf courses in your area? If not, give it a look and below we’ve highlighted some of the best in the country.

Executive vs Par 3 Golf Courses – What’s The Difference?

The simple answer, and maybe a bit sarcastic would be – a Par 3 golf course is all Par 3s! This is true, and an executive golf course has a mix of pars, but the majority will be par 3s.

The bigger difference is what an executive golf course requires from your golf game. You can play some par 3 courses with 2 wedges and a putter, but this will not work on an executive track. Yes, an executive golf course is short, but you’ll be able to hit more of your clubs, potentially even a couple drivers.

A par 3 course is a great way to practice your short game, but an executive golf course will allow you to work on more of your game. For the avid golfer, it better simulates the experience of playing on a classic, full-length course.

Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Executive Golf Course Experience

Before we start to share our favorite executive golf courses around the country, let’s talk about the type of gear you need to enjoy your experience.

Just like any round of golf, you’ll need the essentials. Balls, tees, gloves, etc. You also may want to consider bringing a subset of your full 14-club set. We always recommend you walk an executive golf course – get some exercise, but you can give your back a break by limiting yourself to 6-8 clubs. Always check the yardage of the course before playing, but we would recommend Driver, 5-wood/hybrid, 5-iron, 7-iron, 9-iron, a couple wedges, and your putter.

The next question would be – if you’re only going to bring 6-8 clubs, do you need to bring that full size golf bag? The answer is probably “no”. You should consider a Sunday golf bag that is designed for this type of outing.

We have “How” figured out, but where should we play an executive golf course?

The Best Executive Golf Courses

Regardless if you happen to live near these courses, or if you come across them during your travels around the country, we recommend you give them a try.

St. Mark Executive Course

St. Mark executive golf course is an 18-hole, par 58 that measures 2,700 yards in total distance. It’s located in San Marcos, CA and is open to the public 7 days a week from 7:00 am to sundown. It was built in 1980 and the architect was David Rainville. You’re allowed to walk (always recommend taking the stroll) or rent a cart. They also have rental clubs available.

Why do we love it? There are some hills, but overall it is an easy course to walk. The staff keep it very well-maintained and there are some beautiful holes and views. Great bang for your buck, and when the course isn’t busy you can play 18 holes in right around 2 hours! A perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Winding Hills Golf Club

The Winding Hills Golf Club is located in Montgomery, NY and features an 18-hole executive golf course that measures 2,595 yards and plays to a par 57. The designer, Steve Esposito, modelled the layout after Jeff Cornish’s Blue Rock Course in Cape Cod. Prices vary depending on the day of the week and tee times are almost always available.

We love when executive golf courses are designed with a full-length course in mind. It creates interesting holes that test golfers of all skill levels. At Winding Hills you will enjoy tree lined fairways that require accuracy.

Sugar Mountain Golf Club

The course is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Sugar Mountain, NC. The layout is a par 64 that includes 9 par 3s, 8 par 4s, and one par 5. It sits at 4,000 feet elevation, so you might get a little extra distance with your clubs. The course opened in 1974 and was designed by Frank Duane, who spent two decades working with Robert Trent Jones.

Numerous things to love about this hidden mountain gem. Cool afternoon temperatures in the summer and plenty of beautiful views of mountain wildlife and babbling brooks. The condition of the course is consistently great, with near-perfect putting surfaces.

Oasis Country Club

Oasis Country Club features a par 60 executive golf course that measures 3,489 in total yardage. Located in Palm Desert, CA, it was designed by David Rainville and was built in 1985. If needed, you can rent a cart, clubs, and even a pull-cart.

The course at Oasis Country Club is known for being well-maintained and challenging players with picturesque holes that force you carry water. If you tend to struggle to clear lakes, you may want to bring a few extra balls for this round.

Canyon Mesa Country Club

Canyon Mesa Country Club is a 9-hole executive course located in Sedona, AZ. The majority of the holes are par 3s, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it is easy. The narrowness of the fairways require accuracy and the greens are quite tricky.

Perfect for when you have a limited amount of time, but don’t want to sacrifice the golf experience. You can enjoy a quick 9 at Canyon Mesa in a little over an hour and get back to the rest of your day.

Maple Leaf Golf & Country Club

In Port Charlotte, FL you will find this par 62 executive golf course measuring 3,871 yards. The layout includes 10 par 3s and 8 par 4s that are sure to challenge all golfers. In 2018, they resurfaced the course using new versions of bermuda to make the conditions perfect.

A fun course to play, with each hole being a memorable experience. Plenty of water and bunkers will keep you on your toes and force you to hit quality golf shots.

Audubon Park Golf Course

Audubon Park is an executive golf course located in New Orleans, LA. An 18-hole track with a par 62 that measures 4,220 yards in length. It was built in 2002 by architect Denis Griffiths.

What they say about real estate can be true for golf courses as well; location, location, location. This beautifully maintained course is just minutes from downtown New Orleans. If you have a few hours before your next beignet snack, you can easily fit in 18 holes of golf.

Mountain Course at Incline Village

Located in Incline Village, NV, the Mountain course offers 18-holes that play to a par 58. This course is the highest elevation place you can play golf in the state of Nevada and the Tahoe basin. You will be challenged to play 14 par 3s and 4 par 4s.

Why do we love this place? There’s just something about playing in the mountains. Beautiful views, elevation changes, and cooler temperatures. A great way to enjoy a round of golf. Tee times are typically available, so get ready to tee it up.

Portland Golf Course West

Portland Golf Course West is located in rural Connecticut, near the town of Portland. When you visit you will be tested by a par 60 executive golf course that includes 12 par 3s and 6 par 4s. It was built in 1985 and designed by Al Zikorus.

There are a few things you will notice if you get the chance to play Portland West. The first will be the man-made waterways that meander through the layout. Another unique feature, there are no homes on the course. You get to enjoy the natural setting and Portland West happens to be a sanctuary for waterfowl, deer, foxes, and other woodland creatures.

Challenge Course at Eagle Crest Resort

The Eagle Crest Resort is located in Redmond, OR and offers 3 different courses if you visit. The Ride and Resort courses are full-length, but the Challenge course offers you a par 63 executive option that measures 4,160 yards in length.

The location of the resort is beautiful with views of the surrounding High Desert and panoramas of the Cascade Peaks. We love when a resort includes an executive course as an option for their patrons. It provides a more relaxing atmosphere than trying to attack 7,000 yards and the Challenge course is a perfect example.

Huron Shores Golf Course

The longest and oldest course on our list, Huron Shores is located in Port Sanilac, MI. This par 70 track has a total yardage 5,428 and is a bit of a hybrid between your typical executive golf course and a full length option. It was built in 1925 by architect Jeff Gorney.

Well maintained and known for exceptional service, you will not be disappointed if you get a chance to play Huron Shores. Across the street from Lake Huron, you will enjoy your few hours in a beautiful setting, playing a fun golf course for all skill levels.

Final Thoughts

Many golfers play full-length courses and visit the occasional par 3 course, but never try the executive option. It is the perfect way to play 18 holes in 3 hours or less, get to use most of your clubs, and enjoy the game of golf.

Players of all skill levels can enjoy an executive golf course and they work especially well for juniors, seniors, and beginners. The next time you get the “golf bug”, but want to save a little time and money, try one of the courses we have highlighted above or search for an executive option in your area.