Private Golf: Open Fairways
The Golf Club at the Rise
When course designer Gene Bates first visited the site for the Golf Club at the Rise in 2003, wildfires were ravaging the hillsides of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. "I thought I drove into hell," Bates recalls with a laugh. "It was burning one day, it was raining the next day, and then Ian [Renton, senior vice president of construction for the Rise] brought me up here and there was snow on the hill. I thought, ‘Boy, what a place to try to build a golf course.’ "
Bates, who has worked with Jack Nicklaus on several projects over the past decade and a half, partnered with 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples to build the Rise, which is scheduled to open in May 2008. Perhaps out of respect for the dramatic—and volatile—surroundings, the designers took a less-is-more approach from the project’s outset. "In the routing process, I just tried to follow the path of least resistance," says Bates, who notes that manicured grasses and bunkers make up only 90 of the course’s 222 acres.
The Golf Club at the Rise is the centerpiece of a 735-acre private community that will include more than 1,200 homes, 40 acres of vineyards, a winery with underground caves, and about 245 acres of undeveloped land. The course itself meanders over hills 1,000 feet above the city of Vernon, offering vistas of the Okanagan Valley and the 136-square-mile Okanagan Lake. "The views are the signature," says Couples. "There are a lot of vistas here where you could have the worst hole out there and look at the lake for 20 minutes, and you wouldn’t care how you were playing."
For Couples, the par-3 16th hole at the Rise evokes memories of the pinnacle of his career. During the final round of play at the 1992 Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club, he held a one-shot lead over Raymond Floyd. On the par-3 12th hole, Couples hit a short tee shot that barely cleared Rae’s Creek and then stuck in the rough on the bank, allowing him to avoid a penalty stroke and eventually win his first and only major. "Sixteen reminds me of that shot at Augusta," he says. "But there’s no bank; it’s rock. I wouldn’t be here right now if the 12th hole at Augusta had rock. I’d be teaching golf."
Actually, Couples might end up teaching golf—at the Rise, which will sell approximately 500 golf memberships at a cost of about $25,000 each plus $1,800 in annual dues. "Anyone who buys a lot out here, I’ll give them a private lesson at any time," he says with a hint of sincerity. "But I’m very impatient, and I’m not a very good teacher, so I can’t promise you’ll get better." —Shaun Tolson
The Champions Club at Moyvalley
Darren Clarke’s exotic car collection once included a Ferrari with the vanity plate "DC 60," a reference to the PGA and European tour pro’s lowest single-round score. If the Champions Club at Moyvalley is any indication, Clarke’s taste in golf courses is far more discreet. The club, which opened in the countryside west of Dublin, Ireland, in April, is the Northern Ireland native’s first design project, yet it displays the restraint of an experienced hand. Free of gratuitous challenges, the layout follows a simple, scenic route through the 500-acre Moyvalley Estate and past the property’s 19th-century manor house. Moyvalley is the first course in the Champions Club, a concept devised by British agency International Sports Management, which represents Clarke and other tour pros. The company plans to establish an international network of private golf courses, with members of each course enjoying reciprocal rights at other Champions Club facilities. Membership at Moyvalley costs $35,000 plus annual dues of $4,800. —Bruce Wallin
The Creek Club
During the 16th century, the Creek Indians inhabited nearly all of what is now the southeastern United States, including the area around Greensboro, Ga. Named in recognition of that Native American culture and for Richland Creek, which meanders through the property, Reynolds Plantation’s new private course, the Creek Club, brings the total number of holes at this golf and lake community to 99. Richland Creek comes into play on 14 of the new course’s holes, including the 185-yard, par-3 13th, where it spills into a cove in front of the green. For a $95,000 fee plus annual dues of $3,660 to $6,850, depending on the level of membership, homeowners can play the private course as well as the four courses affiliated with Reynolds Plantation’s Ritz-Carlton resort. Members also have access to the community’s Lake Club, which has a fitness center and 80 miles of shoreline. —Shaun Tolson
Cornerstone Colorado’s new Greg Norman–designed golf course overlooks the town of Telluride, where Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank. In the spirit of the infamous outlaw, the layout offers a steady dose of risk-and-reward opportunities, especially from Norman’s namesake Shark Tees. The 7,900-yard Cornerstone Club course is the latest addition to the 6,000-acre community, which also includes stables, hiking trails, and a private lodge near the slopes of Telluride. Golf memberships cost $75,000 ($95,000 starting in 2008) plus $8,000 in annual dues. Membership is limited to owners of the community’s 412 homesites, which range from one-fourth of an acre to 200 acres. —Shaun Tolson
The Tom Fazio Course at Pronghorn
Most golfers at Pronghorn’s new Tom Fazio Course will successfully avoid the lava cave on the eighth hole. But even those whose tee shots clear the rocky hazard on the 187-yard par 3 will be inclined to explore the cave, which runs for a quarter-mile underneath this golf community outside of Bend, Ore. Surrounded by 20,000 acres of federal land near the Cascade Range, Pronghorn offers no shortage of sights aboveground as well. Fazio’s course, which joins a Jack Nicklaus design at the community, takes advantage of the area’s beauty with a links-style layout that follows the contours of the high-desert terrain. Golf memberships are included with real estate purchases at Pronghorn, where homesites and villas range from $700,000 to $3.7 million. —Katie Rychecky
The Club at Spanish Peaks
The first time golf course architect Tom Weiskopf toured the site for the Club at Spanish Peaks, he did so in a fashion befitting its Big Sky, Mont., location: on horseback. Indeed, horse stables and an intricate system of riding, hiking, and biking trails are central to summer life at this 3,500-acre community. During winter, residents cross-country ski on the trails and enjoy the use of a private clubhouse at Big Sky Resort. The 32,000-square-foot clubhouse at the Weiskopf course, which opened in August, includes a tournament staging area and seven guest suites. Spanish Peaks plans to sell 395 golf memberships to property owners for $85,000 plus dues of $6,300 per year. —Shaun Tolson