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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Most Exclusive Courses in the United States

Access to private country clubs can be a tricky affair. First, you need to have connections with members or friends of members. Second, you need to be invited to play. This second requirement can bedevil many who think they'll be able to play a particular course just because they know a member.

All clubs are of course not created equal. Some are more exclusive than others; many have waiting lists a mile long, and many more are by invitation-only. Still others only get their members through legacy programs, where you have to have a family member who's a member to sponsor your application.

Though I'm no expert on the subject, I think it's worth pondering which country clubs are the most exclusive in the country. The three that come to mind immediately for most golfers are Cypress Point, Augusta National, and Pine Valley. However, there are plenty of others that are as difficult or more difficult to join. They just aren't as well known.

Here is a partial list of clubs in which money is not a factor for joining and which the common man would be hard-pressed to find a membership invitation in his mailbox. Though members of these courses certainly have a few duckets to throw around, a person cannot buy his or her way into these clubs.

1) Fishers Island Club Golf Links - New York
2) Chicago Golf Club - Illinois
3) San Francisco Golf Club - California
4) Burning Tree Golf Club - Maryland
5) Seminole Golf Club - Florida
6) Nantucket Golf Club - Massachusetts
7) Los Angeles Country Club - California
8) The National Golf Links of America - New York
9) St. Louis Country Club - Missouri
10) Crystal Downs - Michigan

Notice that except for the two New York clubs, they are all geographically disparate. I did this intentionally to show that location is not a prerequisite for exclusivity. Every city and region of the country has its share of very exclusive clubs.

I know I haven't hit upon all of the big ones here, so I need your help. Do you know of other country clubs that should be on this list? Love to read your comments...


Anonymous JH said...

The Villages

2:05 PM  
Blogger John Gorman said...

Has square dancing and outdoor aerobics in The Villages risen to the level of piloting your own helicopter to the first tee at Fishers Island?

4:44 PM  
Blogger JTALIFER said...

This is a touchy subject for me. My family never belonged to a private club, so I had to find friends who would invite me to play their courses. I am a very blue collar kind of guy. I like tough public or semi-private courses that anyone can play. Because I will never have the money to join any of these course or no anyone who has joined any of these courses, I just stand outside the ropes and marvel at the fact that people have enough "extra" money to blow on a golf club membership. But you know Talifer, I spend my money on tattoos and music and going to see live shows. That is my passion. It is a very interesting sociological subject though.

8:44 AM  
Blogger John Gorman said...

It's true that these clubs (esp. the super-exclusive ones) are worth thinking about. Sometimes they seem like they're on another planet.

Maybe you know better than me, but I understand that the toughies to get on in the Twin Cities are Interlachen Country Club, The Minikahda Club, and White Bear Yacht Club.

11:57 AM  
Blogger JTALIFER said...

#1 Spring Hill
#2 Somerset
#3 Minikahda
#4 Interlachen
#5 Woodhill
#6 Oak Ridge
#7 White Bear Yacht Club
#8 North Oaks
#9 Edina
#10 ????? Drops off here.

Here is your top ten in Minnesota

11:03 AM  
Blogger John Gorman said...

Not Hazeltine??

I've never heard of Spring Hill. I'll have to look into that one. Thanks for the education!

1:13 PM  
Blogger JTALIFER said...


Believe it or not, Hazeltine is not one of them. I have a really good friend who was a head pro in the state of Minnesota for a long time and this is the list he gave me. He said Hazeltine is nice, no doubt, but not that exclusive. Checkout Bear Path. That is another good one.

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what about Augusta National? or Cypress Point? c'mon people..

5:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

also The Maidstone Club in The Hamptons I hear is the most excluasive in the get shot walking on to that property.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think probably the most prestigious of those clubs to belong to is NGLA.

3:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting side note.....It's rumored that membership dues at Augusta National are roughly $5,000 a year while others on this Minnesota list break the 6 digit barrier. However, the penalty for discussing membership fees is termination of membership.

P.S. as a member at Hazeltine, you are absolutely right about it not being on the list. It's nationally known but fairly easy to play.

12:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a decent list for the MN golf courses, although I would eliminate Edina, and whoever mentioned Bearpath--it is exclusive because of the homes, but the course is very average at best.
I've played the rest (used to be a golf pro), and they're all quite tough to get on.
I would add Minneapolis GC.
Also, in reference to Maidstone in NY, I caddied for the head pro there (he works as a head pro at Calusa Pines in Naples Fl in the winters)--kind of a d-bag though--he didn't even tip me for the round. But, he did tell me about the course in NY, and said it was extremely exclusive.

1:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quail Hollow Club- North Carolina

1:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minnesota Clubs:

1. Springhill
2. Woodhill
3. Interlachen
4. Minnikada
5. Somerset
6. Oak Ridge
7. White Bear
8. Wayzata
9. North Oaks
10. I agree, it drops off after this.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oakridge is not hard to join at all, if you are jewish. They have recently started letting in more non-jews but for the most part it is still a jewish club.

Because they were hit so hard by the Madoff scandal, Oakridge has seriously reduced it's rates for younger members in an effort to replace a membership that is largely either too old or too broke.

2:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Appreciated your list, these too should be considered:

Peachtree Golf Club -- Atlanta, GA
Newport CC -- Newport, RI
Wannamoisette GC -- Rumford, RI

7:17 PM  
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6:44 AM  

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