The best U.S. country clubs
The term “country club” embodies a wider variety of private clubs that includes golf
, tennis and polo clubs. The finest and most exclusive country clubs
in the U.S. generally uphold an old, unspoken rule in regards to
prospective members: If you have to ask -- don’t bother. Many private
clubs rely on member referrals for new members, while a select few
prefer to follow the doctrine that says, “Don’t call us, we may or may
not call you.”
As a result, the level of security practiced at
these clubs rivals that of Fort Knox. But, unlike the famous gold
repository, security has been breached at least once: In 2002 USA Today
published the all-male membership list for Augusta National, famed home
of the Masters. The incident made a national case out of the issue of
exclusivity at these elite country clubs.
With that in mind,
I’ve collated a top 10 list using some fundamental, if reverse,
criteria that usually addresses two questions: How do clubs keep the
riffraff out? And, how badly does the riffraff want in? Number 10 Locust Hill Country Club Rochester, New York
Locust Hill Country Club dates back to 1925 and is among New York’s
most exclusive clubs. Its championship golf course was designed by
Seymour Dunn, and the club itself features tennis courts, an
Olympic-sized pool and world-class dining. Fairly recent clubhouse
renovations have added a ballroom, fitness center and viewing decks.
Membership at Locust Hill Country Club is fairly basic -- if you don’t
know another member, they’re uninterested in your business. A
prospective member first needs to be sponsored by a current member and
endorsed by another. Number 9 Oakmont Country Club Oakmont, Pennsylvania
Located in the Allegheny River Valley near Pittsburgh and dating back
more than a century, Oakmont Country Club is among the nation’s oldest
private clubs. It boasts a world-class golf course that has ranked
consistently alongside Augusta and Pebble Beach.
Oakmont’s prestige stems from the fact that they have played host to
more major golf championships than any other U.S. course, and they’ll
add to that total when they host the 2007 U.S. Open. Number 8 Cherokee Town & Country Club Atlanta, Georgia
Often touted as the No. 1 private club in the U.S., the Cherokee Town
& Country Club is actually two clubs. The Town Club, located in the
posh Buckhead area of Atlanta, features a massive 90,000-square-foot
clubhouse, 16 tennis courts, three pools, and more, while the Country
Club’s golf courses are world-class.
Memberships are limited, based on a referral from a current member, and fees are not made public. Number 7 Sherwood Country Club Thousand Oaks, California
Opened in 1989, the plush and numerous amenities of this residential country club include world-class dining, a wine cellar
a pub, more than a dozen tennis courts of hard, grass and clay
surfaces, an Olympic-sized pool, and two golf courses designed by Jack
Nicklaus. Self-made billionaire David Murdock is among its 475 members,
but this isn’t surprising since he’s also the club’s developer.
Homes within Sherwood begin at $1.6 million, club membership initiation
fees begin at $200,000, and annual dues run at about $7,300. These are
exactly the figures that will sufficiently keep out the unwashed masses. Number 6 Bighorn Golf Club Palm Desert, California
Bighorn is a residential club with so many amenities that they are
almost too numerous to list, but to start, they have a pair of
championship golf courses, a 40,000-square-foot clubhouse, a
13,000-square-foot spa and salon, tennis courts, a pool, and shopping.
Home prices range from about $1.9 million to $8.4 million, and fees are
as high -- or higher -- than any in the country: A dual membership fee
costs $325,000 with another $15,000 in annual dues.