Top 5 “Public” Golf Courses by Rees Jones

The son of legendary golf course architect Robert Trent Jones and brother of course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr, Rees Jones has worked on over 100 golf courses during his career after forming his own firm in 1974. 

Jones is known for his brutally penal and strategic layouts. All Square reviews five of his greatest works.

Kauri Cliffs, New Zealand


This course combines great New Zealand scenery with great golf in a way matched only by Cape Kidnappers. Situated on a ridge with views of the stunning islands of Maturi Bay, the layout makes the most of dramatic gorges and cliff faces. Jones’ redesign transformed the 5th from a long, uphill par 3 to a short par 3, added a back tee on the par-4 2nd, eliminated and combined bunkers on the par-4 4th, and added a forward tee on the daunting par-4 9th. The course also now offers five sets of tees for every skill level. Fifteen holes view the Pacific Ocean, six of which are played alongside cliffs which plunge to the sea. The beautiful inland holes wind through marsh, forest and farmland. All Square rates it as the world’s 66th best course. 

Black Course at Bethpage State Park Golf, US

bethpage park

Tiger Woods won the US Open here in 2002, and the event returned in 2009. It also hosted the PGA in 2019. It was the first truly public course to host a major. Jones, known for renovating future US Open sites, came on board to get the course ready for the tournaments. Work included the construction of championship tees, the repositioning and restoration of all fairway and greenside bunkers, and green expansions and reductions. The Black Course is so testing that there is a sign on the first tee warning only “highly skilled golfers” should tread its fairways. The course is rated as the world’s 46th best course by All Square and the 27th best in the US

Mauna Kea Golf Course, US

Mauna Kea Hawaii

Robert Trent Jones designed the original course here in Hawaii which opened in the mid 60s. His son Rees has since helped the club keep up with advances in technology and how the modern game is played. Even before the restoration, Mauna Kea was formidable. The holes that run along the ocean and the holes that soar some 300 feet above Kohala Coastline all have one thing in common: they aren’t easy. Jones replanted the course with Tifeagle Bermudagrass on the greens and Tifway 419 hybrid Bermudagrass on the tees, fairways and roughs. The number of bunkers increased, the length was expanded by 200 yards and multiple tees were added. Today, Mauna Kea is arguably the best course on the island.

Cascata Golf Course, US


Cascata, designed by Jones and opened in 2000, is already celebrated as one of the finest designs in the world. Only 30 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, this Nevada course is simultaneously awe-inspiring and daunting. Jones’ typically strategic approach is evident on every fairway and the desert landscape is enlivened with water hazards on a third of the holes. The terrain is constantly undulating and full of canyons, ridges and ravines. The lush green fairways, small lakes and cascading streams contrast sharply with the rugged desert backdrop. The stunning desert and absence of real estate are only two qualities of this golf course. Enjoyable for low and high handicapped golfers, this is a must play when staying in Las Vegas.

Golf Santander, Spain

Opened for play in 2005, this club is owned and operated by Grupo Santander, the third largest financial institution in Europe, for the benefit of the bank’s employees and also as a part of the firm’s tradition of supporting high-profile sports competitions. Jones, who regularly improves facilities that host USGA events, worked with Spanish icon Seve Ballesteros to create a tournament-ready layout just outside Madrid. The club prides itself on having reclaimed a dump into an environment for native flora and fauna, and the thousands of trees and shrubs that were planted during construction have matured. Abundant water in the form of ponds and creeks also keep things interesting. All Square rates this as Spain’s 6th best course. 

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Erlend Malfait
Erlend Malfait
4 years ago

Played 3 of them

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