Pine Valley Golf Club -- Pine Valley, N.J.
Routinely ranked as the finest layout on the planet (currently No. 1 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses in the World), the course sits at the pinnacle of insider prestige. But that's not all that makes it hard to penetrate. Pine Valley members, who number more than 900, are scattered around the world, and their guests are not allowed to play the course without them. To land a tee time, you not only need connections, but you also need to coordinate some very busy schedules.
3 of 10Mike Ehrmann/MetLife Blimp
Cypress Point Club -- Pebble Beach, Calif.
If an asteroid hit during the club championship here, it wouldn't just destroy one of the world's prettiest places, it would incinerate a good chunk of this country's wealth. Not ostentatious money, but hush-hush money. (Clint Eastwood is as flashy as it gets here.) The club has only about 200 members, none of whom you are apt to know.
4 of 10Larry Lambrecht
Seminole Golf Club -- North Palm Beach, Fla.
The good news is that the club reserves two tee times a day for unaccompanied guest play. The bad news is there are only about 300 under-the-radar members. Throw in the fact that the course is closed for nearly half the year, and what chance do we mortals have of playing it? The same as a snowball's chance of survival in Florida.
5 of 10Jim Johnson/Premier Aerials
San Francisco Golf Club -- San Francisco, Calif.
The Internet boom has birthed a zillion millionaires in San Francisco, but you won't find any of them at this old-money club. Bloodlines, not bankrolls, are what matter here, at an A.W. Tillinghast-designed redoubt whose entrance is so discreet (it's tucked beside a freeway, down a narrow drive, behind a church) that members themselves have been said to get lost while trying to find it.
6 of 10Larry Lambrecht
Los Angeles Country Club -- Los Angeles, Calif.
Members will tell you that the club tries to keep out "Hollywood types." But Ronald Reagan was an actor, and he was a member, which makes you think that "Hollywood" is code for something else. Bottom line: You want to feel welcome? Earn a lot of stealth wealth and convert to Protestantism, or get elected President of the United States.
7 of 10Larry Lambrecht
The Country Club -- Brookline, Mass.
At this bastion of Boston-area Brahminism, you can try to blend in by dressing like Bing Crosby or speaking in the proper tones of Thurston Howell. But if you can't trace your lineage to the first Pilgrims, someone's going to figure out you don't belong. In a Tale of Two Cities touch, The Country Club backs up against a scruffy muni, and the fence that separates them used to have a hole that trespassers could slip through. But security has caught on to that trick, and the club today is pretty much what it's always been: an exclusive fortress unto itself.
8 of 10Larry Lambrecht
Fisher's Island Golf Club -- Fisher's Island, N.Y.
No bridge connects the mainland to this wealthy, WASPy enclave on the southeastern reaches of Long Island Sound, so you have to take a ferry from Connecticut. But just getting on the island doesn't get you on the course, whose members are a different breed from the Hamptons' nouveau riche. "Island" in this case isn't just a location. It's a metaphor for a club that operates as a world apart.
9 of 10Bettmann/Corbis
Burning Tree Club -- Bethesda, Md.
The ultimate Beltway insiders' retreat, this D.C. area club does not allow women in. But every now and then, stories get out. One of them is that during his presidency, George W. Bush prohibited his staff from playing Burning Tree, wary as he was of blow-back over the club's politically incorrect gender policy. (Pictured: Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon at Burning Tree in 1961.)
10 of 10Lonna Tucker
Whisper Rock Golf Club -- Scottsdale, Ariz.This desert oasis has 36 holes and a membership list filled with names from the PGA Tour: Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, Billy Mayfair, Aaron Baddeley, Tim Herron. By Scottsdale standards, landing a tee time is very tough, though maybe not as tough as keeping your composure when the largely low-single-digit handicap members turn to watch closely as you step up to the tee.
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