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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.

The Cliffs 

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.

864.239.3510, www­.cliffscommunities.com


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.

808.325.4040, www­.kukio.com




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.

888.741.8989, www­.thegreenbriersportingclub.com


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. 

435.333.2582, www­.promontoryclub.com


Yellowstone Club

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.

406.995.4900, www­.yellowstoneclub.com


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.

843.768.3400, www­.kiawahislandclub.com


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.

928.474.3425, www­.therimgolfclub.com

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

831.620.6762, www­.santaluciapreserve.com


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 and gates.

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.

561.514.6948, www­.thebearsclub.com


Desert Mountain

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

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