Private Golf: The Front 10
Our process for selecting
the top 10 golf communities in the United States
was partly subjective—as all top-10 lists should be—and partly scientific. Each
property offers everything one would expect of a premier private club and
vacation neighborhood: well-designed golf courses, well-situated homes, and
well-heeled members. But the communities featured on the following pages
distinguish themselves with amenities—perhaps a private ski
mountain or fly-fishing stream—not generally associated with country
clubs. When added up (and, of course, considered against personal preferences),
these attributes make our picks some of the finest places to own a vacation home
for golfers and nongolfers alike.
A collection of seven
residential communities spanning 20,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains of
North Carolina and South Carolina, the Cliffs features seven golf courses,
including two designed by Jack Nicklaus and two by Tom Fazio. The courses are as
diverse as the Blue Ridge landscape, and their clubhouses include gourmet
restaurants that use ingredients from the community’s organic farm.
The Cliffs bills itself as a "luxury family wellness resort,"
and its amenities emphasize health and vitality. "Wellness is the pillar on
which the Cliffs is built," says Sam Varner, the club’s director of living
wellness development. "All residents are assigned a personal wellness coach, who
provides guidance in lifestyle choices." The club has three wellness centers, an
equestrian center, a lake with 20 miles of shoreline, a marina, and 50 miles of
groomed hiking trails. Members also have access to founder Jim Anthony’s private
vacation lodges in British Columbia and Chilean Patagonia.
Homesites at the Cliffs are available from $300,000 to more
than $3 million, and finished homes range from $700,000 to over $6 million. The
Cliffs donates 2 percent of the net purchase price of each property to one of
four nonprofit organizations.
Kuki‘o encompasses 1,100 acres on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast, and the
community’s invitation-only golf and beach club features Hawaii’s only Tom
Fazio–designed courses. The club’s championship course, set among black lava
fields that slope down to a white-sand beach, presents a daunting challenge at
7,419 yards from the back tees, but it is countered by Fazio’s more forgiving
10-hole, par-33 short course. As at all Discovery Land Co. properties, numerous
comfort stations manned by chefs and equipped with full bars fortify golfers on
both courses. Other amenities include a golf clubhouse and an oceanfront beach
club outfitted with water sports gear.
The 375 homesites at Kuki‘o range from one-quarter acre to more
than two acres; the prices for oceanfront lots of as much as an acre begin at
$3.5 million and peak at nearly $13 million. Cottages, villas, and custom homes
range from $4.5 million to $18.5 million.
The Greenbrier Sporting Club
Founded in 1778 and redesigned after World War II by interior designer
Dorothy Draper, the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., is the grande
dame of American resorts. Members of the Greenbrier Sporting Club, which spreads
across 2,000 acres adjacent to the hotel, can avail themselves of the resort’s
three golf courses and other venues and facilities. The Sporting Club also
features its own course, designed by Tom Fazio, as well as a private lodge,
equestrian center, and sports complex.
When completed, the Sporting Club will have some 500 homes,
each of which will be styled in a manner consistent with either the Greenbrier’s
classical architecture or the rugged beauty of the Allegheny Mountains. Recent
home listings were in the range of $1.3 million to $6 million; homesites in a
new mountaintop neighborhood are priced from $400,000 to $2.2 million.
More than 60 percent of the 7,000 acres
that compose Promontory, near Park City, Utah, have been preserved for natural
habitat and outdoor recreation. When members are not golfing on courses designed
by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus, or skiing from the club’s private Alpine Lodge at
Silver Lake Village in Deer Valley, they can fly-fish from the riverside
Outfitter’s Cabin, ride horses from the club’s equestrian center, or hike on 50
miles of trails. The club also has an adventure trail designed for children, as
well as a kids’ clubhouse, the Kinnikinnick Cabin. The resort’s main clubhouse
borders an outdoor skating rink and tennis courts, and includes spa and fitness
facilities and an indoor-outdoor pool.
Still, golf remains a focal point for Promontory’s members.
Dye’s Canyon Course, which stretches 7,700 yards from the tips, recently was
joined by the Nicklaus-designed Painted Valley, an even lengthier track that
begins with a 708-yard par 5. The club also plans to add a Forrest Richardson
short course (par 60) and a Tom Weiskopf championship course.
Promontory’s custom, eco-friendly homes blend with the dramatic
Rocky Mountain landscape and cost from $1.85 million to $6.25 million. Homesites
range from one-half acre to five acres and are priced from $375,000. More than
700 lots have been sold.
Tom Weiskopf’s par-72 golf course, set at an average elevation of 7,500
feet, features some of the most challenging holes and spectacular vistas in the
West. But golf is only one aspect of this 13,400-acre community located 50 miles
south of Bozeman, Mont. During the winter, when the course is blanketed with
powder, members ski from their homes onto the club’s private mountain—a landmass
that features 35 miles of runs and a 2,700-foot vertical drop.
Membership at Yellowstone Club is by invitation only and costs
$300,000, plus $16,000 in annual dues. Members must own property at the club,
and available sites range in price from $2.4 million for approximately two acres
to $4.4 million for 1.25 acres on the golf course. Custom home prices begin at
$5.5 million and rise as high as $15.5 million.
Several of the homes are built from reclaimed timber and barn
wood, and they feature heated stone floors, massive stone fireplaces, and
floor-to-ceiling windows that frame views of the Gallatin Range. One
10,000-square-foot home on the market for $16 million has a glass-enclosed
bridge that traverses a river separating the guest and main houses.
The club has a 130,000-square-foot lodge/clubhouse, four
restaurants, and a caviar bar, and offers concierge, sommelier, and catering
services. In addition to playing golf and skiing on the slopes, members can fish
on private streams, horseback ride from an equestrian center, and cross-country
ski on the community’s trails.
Kiawah Island Club
The homes on Kiawah Island, a 10,000-acre
barrier island 25 miles south of Charleston, S.C., are nestled in dense foliage
around lakes, parks, and marshland. No homes, however, line the two private golf
courses—the Tom Fazio–designed River Course and Tom Watson’s Cassique—that
belong to the Kiawah Island Club. Homeowners have exclusive access to the
private courses, which are complemented on Kiawah by five exceptional public
tracks. The latter layouts, highlighted by Pete Dye’s brutally challenging Ocean
Course, include windswept links and verdant resort-style courses that traverse
the island’s marsh and forest habitats.
Members of the Kiawah Island Club congregate at three private
clubhouses, including one, designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern, that is on
the beach. New York designer Clodagh created the club’s Sasanqua spa.
Kiawah Island currently has 3,840 homes; the community will cap
at 5,000 or fewer. Homesite prices range from $375,000 to $5.7 million, with
oceanfront lots beginning at $4.25 million. Custom homes cost from $775,000 to
more than $20 million.
The Rim Golf Club
Located 75 miles northeast of Scottsdale, Ariz., the Rim Golf Club borders
one of the West’s most rugged geological wonders, the 200-mile-long escarpment
known as the Mogollon Rim. The 555-acre community is set within the largest
stand of ponderosa pines in the United States, and the golf course and homesites
are lined by lakes and streams.
Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish designed the par-71, 7,200-yard
course, which, at nearly a mile above sea level, features dramatic elevation
changes and a temperate climate. The course and community’s hub is a
29,000-square-foot clubhouse. A recreation center with a spa and fitness center
is in the works.
Sixty-three of the Rim’s 326 homesites, in sizes from one-half
acre to 1.5 acres, remain available. Prices begin at $325,000. Stone and timber
homes start at more than $1 million.
Santa Lucia Preserve
An eight-mile drive leads from the front gate to the 1920s-era hacienda at
Santa Lucia Preserve, an understated community outside of Carmel, Calif. The
club, which abuts the Santa Lucia Range, has preserved 18,000 of its 20,000
acres as open space. The centerpiece of the developed land is a 7,067-yard,
par-72, Tom Fazio–designed golf course that plays through 350 acres of ancient
oak stands, meadows, ponds, and streams.
Membership at the golf club requires a one-time fee of $150,000
and yearly dues of $11,200. A ranch club membership ($35,000 initial fee and
$4,750 per year) offers access to the preserve’s other features, which include
an equestrian center, a fitness center, and an 18-acre lake for fishing,
swimming, and canoeing.
Santa Lucia Preserve’s 300 homesites range from eight acres to
60 acres, and prices begin at about $1.5 million. The community approves all
home designs and construction to ensure that the residences blend with the
surroundings. —Oliver Slosser
The Bear’s Club
Jack Nicklaus designed this 400-acre community in Jupiter, Fla., where
Italianate estates are scattered around an 18-hole Nicklaus course and a
40,000-square-foot clubhouse. The club opened in 1999, and demand has
outstripped supply ever since. Prospective members are placed on a waiting list
for the chance to acquire one of the 55 estate residences, 17 golf villas, 14
club cottages, or 13 vintage estate homes, all of which are behind stone walls
Those fortunate enough to claim a home, priced from $2.6
million to $15 million, play golf on one of Nicklaus’ finest designs. The course
winds through a wetland habitat marked by cypress heads, old pines, palmetto
trees, and lakes.
If your taste in architecture veers toward contemporary, you may have
difficulty finding a vacation community that suits your style. But Desert
Mountain, an 8,000-acre development in the foothills of northern Scottsdale,
Ariz., welcomes the avant-garde. The community has earned 74 awards for its
building designs, some of the best of which are the golf course clubhouses.
Each of Desert Mountain’s six Jack Nicklaus–designed courses
has an architecturally distinct clubhouse, with designs ranging from the
re-creation of a Sardinian farmhouse set in an olive grove to a structure
modeled after Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. The community also has an
assortment of tennis facilities, including a grass court, five clay courts, and
three hard courts.
Desert Mountain has more than 1,400 completed homes and plans
to cap the number at 2,457. Custom homes range from $1.5 million to more than $7
million, homesites from $600,000 to more than $3 million. 480.488.2998, www.desertmountain.com