Golf Gold

The 25 Best Golf Communities in North America

Photo: John and Jeannine Henebry

Whether your choice of sticks is ski poles or golf clubs, like at Martis Camp, just north of Lake Tahoe, is all peaks.

The good life is about more than spectacular courses. You also want luxury, amenities, natural beauty -- and your own private jeweler wouldn't hurt. Living well starts with good choices. Here are ours for the 25 Best Golf Communities in North America.

The Bear's Club in Jupiter, Fla.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 88

HOME PRICES: $5,000,000–$20,000,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBORS: Jack Nicklaus, Rory McIlroy, Michael Jordan

Located a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, this enclave offers all the culinary, cultural and aesthetic advantages of coastal Florida, combined with the privacy that lets celebrities be themselves.

GOLF: The 7,164-yard Nicklaus signature design zigzags through lush vegetation, lakes and wetlands. A par-3 course and a Jack Nicklaus Performance Solutions Academy round out the roster.

AMENITIES: A 40,000-square-foot, Tuscan-themed clubhouse stylishly appointed by Barbara Nicklaus. thebearsclub.com

Bighorn in Palm Desert, Calif.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 500

HOME PRICES: $1,295,000–$24,500,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBORS: Michelle Wie, Jim Colbert, Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn

Bighorn provides a handsome haven for those who demand an unparalleled desert lifestyle, just minutes from the upscale shopping and dining of El Paseo in suburban Palm Springs.

GOLF: Arthur Hills's Mountains hosted the Skins Game from 1992 to 1995; Tom Fazio's Canyons welcomed the LPGA Tour's Samsung World Championship. Both are rollicking rides through the desert.

AMENITIES: Three private jets are at your beck and call, along with a Medjet Assist program and a private jeweler. bighorngolf.com

Casa de Campo in La Romana, Dominican Republic

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 2,000+

HOME PRICES: $300,000–$45,000,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBORS: Pete Dye, Alonzo Mourning, George Hamilton

The crown jewel of the Caribbean is located on 7,000 gorgeous coastal acres. Its holdings include condos, townhomes and massive villas.

GOLF: Casa de Campo rolls out 81 Pete Dye-designed holes, most notably Teeth of the Dog, which boasts seven holes practically sunk into the Caribbean Sea. Dye Fore features holes draped eight stories above the Chavón River.

AMENITIES: Unique attractions include Altos de Chavón, a reconstructed 16th-century village complete with cobblestone streets, shops, restaurants and courtyards. casadecampo.com.do

Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 1,707

HOME PRICES: $600,000–$9,000,000

Perched in the high desert, where it's five to ten degrees cooler than nearby Phoenix, this massive development is comprised of 35 neighborhoods scattered across 8,000 acres.

GOLF: Among the six Jack Nicklaus-designed desert courses are Cochise, home to the Champions Tour's Charles Schwab Cup, and the versatile Renegade, where each hole has two flags.

AMENITIES: Five superb clubhouses, a fitness center with personal trainers, and 15 miles of private hiking trails in the mountains. desertmountain.com

The Cliffs Communities in Travelers Rest, S.C.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 2,800

HOME PRICES: $500,000–$4,000,000

Membership in one Cliffs community means playing privileges at all seven mountain and lake properties under the Cliffs umbrella, in a region that stretches all the way from Asheville, N.C. to Greenville, S.C.

GOLF: Seven diverse, surprisingly undulating courses were designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio (two each), Gary Player, Tom Jackson and Ben Wright.

AMENITIES: Boating and fishing on 26-mile-long Lake Keowee is a highlight for the three Cliffs communities situated nearby. cliffscommunities.com

Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 100–150

HOME PRICES: $1,000,000–$6,000,000

A stirring setting among gigantic dunes overlooking the Pacific is Diamante's prime attraction, as is its access (15 minutes) to Cabo San Lucas. Golf villas, club suites, casitas and large estate lots provide a variety of ownership opportunities.

GOLF: The aptly named Dunes, a design by Davis Love III, comes in at No. 38 on GOLF's world list. Traversing higher ground is El Cardonal, Tiger Woods's first completed course.

AMENITIES: The highlight is the Crystal Lagoon, a 10-acre saltwater waterpark, where you can swim, sail, paddleboard and kayak. diamantecabosanlucas.com

Dorado Beach in Dorado, Puerto Rico

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 888

HOME PRICES: $950,000–$10,000,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBORS: Chi Chi Rodríguez, Ricky Martin

The shine is back at this venerable resort community on the Atlantic Ocean, thanks to a new Ritz-Carlton boutique hotel and enhanced residential offerings.

GOLF: Robert Trent Jones Sr. crafted four courses, the best of which, the East, was recently restored by his namesake, Robert Trent Jones II.

AMENITIES: The most distinctive touch is the Watermill, a $12 million aquatic playground that features waterslides, a lazy river, fountains and music. doradobeach.com

Gozzer Ranch in Harrison, Idaho

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 96

HOME PRICES: $1,750,000–$3,800,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBOR: Wayne Gretzky

Adjacent to the lovely Lake Coeur d'Alene, Gozzer Ranch is an upscale summer camp come to life.

GOLF: Tom Fazio created a dazzling canvas that includes a beautifully treed valley, rocky bluffs that sprout 100-foot spires, tattered-edge bunkers and compelling lake vistas.

AMENITIES: The Lake Club, with two full-service marinas, and The Homestead, which offers a baseball field, tennis and basketball courts, top the list of enticing non-golf activities. gozzerranchclub.com

The Greenbrier Sporting Club in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

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The 2016 Greenbrier Classic will be held from July 7-10.

NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 209

HOME PRICES: $989,000–$6,495,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBORS: Bubba Watson, Nick Faldo, Jerry West

Tucked in the forests of the Allegheny Mountains near the Virginia border, the 15-year-old Sporting Club is a worthy companion to its fabled sibling resort.

GOLF: A pastoral, private Tom Fazio track complements the three Tour-tested resort courses next door. Legends Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and Trevino are teaming up to create an additional 18 holes.

AMENITIES: An unmatched collection includes a superior spa, casino, off-road driving and tours of a declassified Cold War fallout shelter called the Bunker. thegreenbriersportingclub.com

Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 329

HOME PRICES: $4,300,000–$33,000,000

Located on the Big Island's dry Kona-Kohala Coast, this resort community is best known for its Four Seasons Hualalai.

GOLF: Residents can enjoy the Jack Nicklaus-designed Four Seasons Resort course, edged by black lava and the Pacific, and Tom Weiskopf's Keolu layout.

AMENITIES: The hotel's spa is among the nation's finest, and the Sports Club offers open-air strength and cardio gyms. hualalairesort.com

Isleworth Golf & Country Club in Windermere, Fla.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 320

HOME PRICES: $1,000,000–$15,000,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBORS: Shaquille O'Neal, John Cook, Stuart Appleby

Isleworth is a haven for Tour players who crave Orlando's conveniences, from fishing to wonderful weather to Florida's generous tax laws.

GOLF: In 2003, architect Steve Smyers stiffened an already challenging Arnold Palmer design to yield the longest, toughest course in Florida.

AMENITIES: The clubhouse sports an indoor basketball court, and the nearby Butler Chain O' Lakes provides outdoor recreation. isleworth.com

Kiawah Island in Kiawah Island, S.C.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 3,681

HOME PRICES: $200,000–$24,000,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBORS: Dan Marino, Tara Lipinski

Twenty-one miles from Charleston, 10,000 acres of maritime forest and 10 miles of beach blend seamlessly with a Platinum Medal resort.

GOLF: Tom Fazio's River and Tom Watson's Cassique— both private—complement five acclaimed resort courses, notably Pete Dye's major-worthy Ocean Course.

AMENITIES: The five-star Sanctuary Hotel yields superb dining, spa and recreational experiences. A private marina and 30 miles of marsh-tinged biking paths are other attractions. kiawahisland.com

Kukio Golf and Beach Club in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 351

HOME PRICES: $3,550,000–$12,500,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBOR: Michael Dell

Kukio's appeal starts with its edge-of-the-Pacific location on the Big Island's Kona-Kohala Coast.

GOLF: Tom Fazio crafted two member-friendly layouts with ocean views, one a 7,419-yard championship layout, the other the cleverly constructed 10-hole Short Course.

AMENITIES: The renowned Outdoor Pursuits program brings members outrigger canoe paddling, swimming with dolphins and hikes to a black-sand beach. kukio.com

Kukuiula in Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 70

HOME PRICES: $1,600,000–$7,100,000

Tastefully laid out in low-density fashion, this DMB product has garnered awards for its seamless, Old Hawaii blending of indoor and outdoor spaces and activities.

GOLF: Massive bunkers, elevation changes, trade winds and Pacific panoramas greet golfers at this Tom Weiskopf creation.

AMENITIES: The Plantation House serves up farm-to-table cuisine and cocktails at sunset. An actual working farm allows members to pick their own fresh produce. kukuiula.com

Martis Camp in Truckee, Calif.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 410

HOME PRICES: $3,500,000–$8,500,000

Four-season splendor defines this mountain getaway tucked between Truckee and North Lake Tahoe. Forests, meadows, creeks and a lake dot the 2,200 acres.

GOLF: U.S. Open champ Lee Janzen calls Martis Camp the best Tom Fazio course he's played. Artfully sculpted bunkers and alpine backdrops are highlights.

AMENITIES: The Family Barn houses pool tables, a two-lane bowling alley, a sports floor, an art loft and a 44-seat movie theater. Outdoors, there's a private ski lift. martiscamp.com

Mayacama in Santa Rosa, Calif.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 23

HOME PRICES: $3,700,000–$4,500,000

Mayacama's hillsides and acres of vineyards form a perfect combination of golf, grapes and tranquil living in Sonoma wine country.

GOLF: Jack Nicklaus's brawny but beautiful layout eases through valleys and forested ridges, with fairways crisscrossed by creeks and wetlands.

AMENITIES: A unique feature is the wine grotto, a series of tunnels and vaults where members keep their wine lockers. mayacama.com

Mountaintop Golf & Lake Club in Cashiers, N.C.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 122

HOME PRICES: $1,000,000–$4,000,000

Some describe this Blue Ridge Mountain summer retreat that reaches 4,100 feet as "Mayberry with money."

GOLF: Tom Fazio didn't have to travel far from his Hendersonville office to craft Mountaintop, and the extra care shows in the green detailing and in the use of elevated tees and rock outcroppings.

AMENITIES: The private Lake Club features boating, trout fishing and other splashy fun at nearby Lake Glenville. mountaintopgolfclub.com

Old Palm in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 294

HOME PRICES: $1,300,000–$12,000,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBORS: Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Ian Baker-Finch

Lush landscaping, beaches, privacy and a fistful of celeb residents define life at Old Palm.

GOLF: This Raymond Floyd design is the prototypical South Florida course, with water everywhere and a plethora of bunkers and tall palms and shrubbery throughout.

AMENITIES: A 33-acre practice facility, full-service spa and state-of-the-art fitness center will get golfers fit both before and after the round. oldpalmgolfclub.com

Pronghorn Club in Bend, Ore.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 66 Homes, 336 Lots

HOME PRICES: $650,000–$1,700,000

Pronghorn is surrounded by 20,000 acres of protected Federal land, which affords world-class recreation amid the low humidity of central Oregon.

GOLF: Jack Nicklaus's semiprivate spread is a sagebrush-lined, high-desert treat dotted with lava rock ridges and juniper trees. Tom Fazio's private layout is even more challenging.

AMENITIES: The Trailhead Lodge is a hub for clubhouse activities, spa, fitness center and outdoor pool. Nearby is snow skiing, river rafting and fly-fishing. pronghornclub.com

Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, Calif.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 300

HOME PRICES: $4,200,000–$14,000,000

This 20,000-acre development occupies mountain terrain three miles east of Pebble Beach, although only 2,000 acres will be used.

GOLF: Mike Poellet did the routing and Tom Fazio the design on this mountain/meadow creation that melts into a landscape peppered by creeks and live oaks.

AMENITIES: Top attractions are a hacienda-style clubhouse and an Equestrian Center that features three barns, 30 owner stalls, arenas, training areas and 100 miles of trails. santaluciapreserve.com

Talis Park in Naples, Fla.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 623

HOME PRICES: $750,000–$15,000,000

Formerly known as Tuscany Reserve, this 450-acre property underwent a name change—and an image change—following a 2011 makeover, with an emphasis on an active, wellness-centered lifestyle.

GOLF: This Pete Dye/Greg Norman collaboration channels the Tuscan countryside, with fairways framed by terraced hillsides topped with olive and cypress trees.

AMENITIES: The Vyne House is a multipurpose village center that's home to a clubhouse, spa, fitness center and café. talispark.com

Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, S.C.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 521

HOME PRICES: $600,000–$3,195,000

Low density in the Lowcountry describes this 20,000-acre retreat that edges Hilton Head. Highlights? How about superb waterway access and ancient moss-draped oaks framing the town square.

GOLF: Jack Nicklaus's romp through 300-year-old oaks and the salt marshes also traverses Greenleaf Creek and the oyster-filled May River.

AMENITIES: Start with 32 miles of waterfront for ideal fishing and kayaking. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff provides a bevy of additional enticements. palmetto-bluff.com

Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 2,500

HOME PRICES: $200,000–$4,000,000

Situated between Atlanta and Augusta, this sprawling, 10,000-acre property features 400 miles of shoreline on Lake Oconee.

GOLF: Five semiprivate courses and the private Creek Club are standouts. Jack Nicklaus's lakeside Great Waters yields the most wows.

AMENITIES: Highlights are many, including a Ritz-Carlton Lodge, a Lake Club and four full-service marinas. reynoldslakeoconee.com.

Sea Island Properties in St. Simons Island, Ga.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 1,549

HOME PRICES: $500,000–$12,000,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBORS: Davis Love III, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker

Situated on the Atlantic Coast, midway between Savannah, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla., Sea Island is home to 11 communities.

GOLF: Sea Island Club members enjoy three courses, including the Seaside, a Tom Fazio makeover of a 1929 classic that plays host to the PGA Tour's RSM Classic.

AMENITIES: Awaiting residents are tennis and squash, boating and fishing, one of the world's finest spas and the Cloister Beach Club. seaislandproperties.com

The Vintage Club in Indian Wells, Calif.

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NUMBER OF RESIDENCES: 475

HOME PRICES: $1,500,000–$10,000,000

FAMOUS NEIGHBORS: Bill Gates, Charles Koch

The Vintage unfolds over 700 acres with views of the valley, all from its perch in a cove at the base of Eisenhower Mountain.

GOLF: Two gorgeous Tom Fazio creations: the Mountain course and the Desert course.

AMENITIES: Walkers, joggers and cyclists enjoy five acres of waterfalls and lakes as breathtaking backdrops. vintageclubsales.com

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