Private Golf: The Front 10: Off the Green

<< Back to Robb Report, September 2007
  • Skye Mayring


Mountain Air Country Club (800.247.7791,

www­ in North

Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains is known for white-water rafting, snow sports,

and its 2,875-foot private airstrip. "Unlike a commercial airport, we rarely

have more than 25 or 30 planes at any one time," says president and CEO Randy

Banks. "Members probably get more disturbed by the lawn mowers on the golf

course." Adds member and homeowner Pete Warhurst: "I fly my single-engine

Pilatus from Florida, and I can be watching the sunset from my deck three

minutes after I land."



Hualalai (808.325.8500, www­

features a members-only, Tom Weiskopf–designed golf course that cuts through the

lava flows on the Big Island of Hawaii’s Kona-Kohala Coast. Still, the main

attractions at this Four Seasons community are the pools and the Pacific Ocean.

The adjacent Four Seasons resort has five pools, including King’s Pond, a

man-made, oceanfront lagoon carved out of lava rock, where members and hotel

guests can snorkel among spotted eagle rays. At the members-only Canoe Club,

Hawaiian watermen (known as Alaka‘i Nalu) offer surfing and paddling lessons.


The golf course at Palmetto Bluff (843.757.3333,

www­, a community encompassing more than 20,000 acres in

South Carolina’s Low Country, is interlaced with pine, oak, and palmetto trees

and a network of creeks and marshes. "Hole 10 is challenging," says director of

golf Charlie Kent, "because the second shot requires a carry over a creek that

has 7- to 9-foot tide changes twice a day." During low tide, golfers might spot

some of the bottlenose dolphins that swim in from the Intracoastal Waterway to

strand feed (a ritual in which the animals pursue fish onto the shore) along the

creek’s banks. Palmetto Bluff offers a variety of outdoor excursions—on

horseback, by foot, in kayaks, on bicycles—to spot the dolphins and other local

wildlife. "We have equestrian, bike, walking, and water trails that connect

everything," says Jim Mozley, president and CEO of Palmetto Bluff. "The shortest

way anywhere is by trail." This June, the community began construction of a

173-acre equestrian center that will include a covered arena and a cross-country

practice area.


Set in the heart of wine country, the Jack Nicklaus–designed

course at Mayacama (707.569.2900, www­ offers a perk that is

appropriate to its location. "Underneath the clubhouse, the wine cave daylights

onto the first tee, so you can grab a glass before or after you play," says

Jonathan Wilhelm, managing partner of this community in Sonoma County, Calif.

"Traditionally, whoever loses the round provides the wine." Because members of

Mayacama include vintners from Napa Valley and Sonoma, those wines are not your

garden varietals. In fact, some of the members’ wineries have attained cult

status, and each of the club’s 31 vintner members donates a barrel of wine per

year. The clubhouse, which is outfitted with private wine lockers, offers a

selection of about 200 local vintages, and members receive invitations to barrel

tastings and dinners at local estates.


Bordered by Bridger-Teton National Forest, the Snake River

Sporting Club (888.434.7772, www­ in

Jackson Hole, Wyo., has a helicopter pad to facilitate backcountry heli-skiing

trips to the region’s 300,000 acres of recreational terrain. Members also can

speed downhill at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or cross-country ski on Snake

River’s Nordic Track, which skirts the back nine of the club’s Tom

Weiskopf–designed golf course. Other outdoor excursions include rock climbing,

dogsledding, and moonlit float trips down the property’s 6.5 miles of river.

Even the golf course at Snake River is an adventurer’s paradise. "Hole 12 is a

par 3 that’s idyllic," notes general manager Neal Vohr, "because it’s bordered

by a beaver pond where members can canoe and fish."


"If you play the 12th hole in the late afternoon, you’re likely

to see wild turkeys walking the fairway," says Jim Chaffin of Chaffin/Light

Associates, one of the developers of Spring Island (843.987.2200,

www­ in South Carolina. The community’s course, designed by

Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, weaves though an ancient maritime forest on this

3,000-acre private island, and the ruins of a Civil War–era home come into view

on the back nine. In addition to golf, members also enjoy freshwater and

saltwater fishing, 36 miles of riding trails, kayak trips, nighttime owl prowls,

and a quail-hunting club. "During the season, four members hunt per day," says

Troy Shaver, a Spring Island Hunt Club member since its 1996 inception, "and

some donate their quail to the outdoor cookouts we have throughout the


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