The game's "statement" clubhouses set a tone while offering a sanctuary for post-round contemplations and celebrations. They're also as recognizable as the courses they serve. With nods to aesthetics, architecture and history, here is a countdown of golf's 18 grandest clubhouses.
By Joe Passov
After blowing the 2012 Open Championship, Adam Scott had nowhere to hide. Even the formidable redbrick Tudor clubhouse offered no escape, fixed as close as it is to the edge of the 18th green. On his way to winning the 1974 Open, Gary Player found his ball all but pinned against the clubhouse and had to putt it back to green left-handed. Inside are memorabilia-laden halls and trophy-filled rooms that date to 1898.
Donald Trump, for better or worse, never does anything halfway. When this property in the rolling horse country of northern Jersey became available in 2002, Trump conceived a new world-class golf club, with two new courses, but held onto the 1932 Mott B. Schmidt-designed Georgian Revival manor house to serve as his clubhouse. Trump has since added thoughtful renovations to what was once the home of auto pioneer John Z. DeLorean. Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Junior at Trump Bedminster in 2009. Pencil him as one of your favorites when the PGA Championship arrives here in 2022.
East Lake dates to 1907 and is certifiable golf royalty, having been the home club for young Bobby Jones. Its third clubhouse is a 1926 design from Philip Shutze of Hentz, Reid & Adler, a prominent Atlanta firm. The clubhouse was partly restored and partly transformed in 1995 by Tom Cousins, the Atlanta developer who rescued East Lake from the brink of extinction. Cousins enlisted Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart to help preserve the Bobby Jones legacy while also serving as a beacon of neighborhood gentrification. Inside: a treasure trove of Jones memorabilia. Outside, a handsome backdrop for the 30 pros each year who qualify for the Tour Championship.
Congressional’s stately hilltop clubhouse seemingly rises out of the trees, though the site was all but barren when Philip M. Julien designed it in 1924. The Spanish Revival clubhouse formed an unforgettable backdrop—behind the 10th tee--when Rory McIlroy hit the defining shot of the 2011 U.S. Open, a 6-iron to a couple of inches in the final round, a swing he considers the finest of his career.
Indian Creek and its stop-you-in-your-tracks, Mediterranean-style clubhouse are situated on the north end of Miami’s Biscayne Bay, in the middle of the some of the most expensive, exclusive real estate in the United States. Designed by Maurice Fatio in 1929, the building has a whitewashed façade and red-tiled roof and expansive courtyard. Most impressive is the seamless interplay of indoor and outdoor spaces, and views of the Bay and Miami skyline.
How’s this for cred? Oakmont’s 1904 clubhouse is listed as a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. The green-and-white façade and symmetrical Tudor gables were the work of architect Edward Stotz and have provided refuge for battered golfers in eight U.S. Opens, with a ninth on the way in 2016. A stroll down History Hall is like a visit to the Hall of Fame.
While this Lancashire Coast club dates to 1884, the current clubhouse was constructed in 1901 by the Liverpool firm of Haigh, Marmon & Thompson. Its dominant feature is the clock tower, a 1909 gift from club member J. Bruce Ismay, the White Star Line chairman, whose company was in the process of building the Titanic. Jose Maria Olazabal downed Colin Montgomerie in the final of the 1984 British Amateur at Formby, and the club also hosted the 2004 Curtis Cup match, featuring 14-year-old Michelle Wie.
In a former life, Sleepy Hollow’s spectacular clubhouse was a Vanderbilt mansion, built by one of America’s finest architectural firms, McKim, Mead & White. It reverted to a golf clubhouse in the late 1890s and more than 100 years later, it retains all of its grandeur. Particularly stunning are the interior spaces, with museum-like lobbies and staircases lit from Tiffany stained-glass windows.
Crafted by the preeminent clubhouse architect of the 1920s, Clifford Wendehack, Ridgewood’s Norman chateau-style outbuilding is possibly the most striking of its kind in America. Porches that offer multiple views of the course and a memorable stone rotunda give the clubhouse a regal, yet inviting, air. A three-time host of the PGA Tour’s Barclays event, Ridgewood has also welcomed a Ryder Cup, a U.S. Senior Open and a Senior PGA Championship.
It’s not as ornate, or sprawling, or avant-garde as some of the game’s most distinctive clubhouses, but Sunningdale’s clubhouse stands out for its perfect proportions, its low-key elegance and its celebration of history, via the sepia-toned photos and large wooden plaques that line its interior walls. Anyone who has strolled up the 18th on the charming Old course and gazed at the huge oak tree and gabled clock beyond has experienced someplace special.
Home to several European Tour events, Dubai Creek has a clubhouse like no other. British architect Brian Johnson designed the buildings to reflect Dubai’s nautical heritage; he incorporated the lateen rig of a traditional Arab dhow, its three curved concrete “sails” soaring 115 feet above their bases. So meticulously were the sails positioned that their forms can be easily discerned from any angle—even from the air.
Birkdale’s innovative, Art Deco-style (circa 1935) clubhouse was conceived by architect George Touge, who said at the time, “I was resting at one of the tees where a view of the sea and the undulating sand hills seemed to be at their best and it was here I visualized the kind of clubhouse that I thought ought to intrude itself onto this lovely course. I imagined the lines of a liner at sea, the perfect balance of the ship at whatever angle…” The ship-like design has greeted contestants of eight Open Championships.
Unusual, imposing and impressive, Medinah’s Moorish and Byzantine clubhouse design has dazzled club guests and golf fans for decades (it served as a stately backdrop for the 2012 Ryder Cup). The 1926 vision of Chicago-born architect Richard Gustav Schmid, Medinah’s redbrick, green-roofed, mosque-like structure, with its mock minarets and commanding domed rotunda, might be more inspired than the Ryder Cup course itself, Medinah Number 3.
Once home to the Penn family (founders of Pennsylvania) and refined by James Wyatt (architect to King George III), Stoke’s Palladian dwelling was described by Bernard Darwin in 1910 as “a gorgeous palace, a dazzling vision of white stone, of steps and terraces and cupolas…” Little has changed today. Stoke’s clubhouse played a starring role in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger.
If course architect A.W. Tillinghast was the master of his craft in golf’s Golden Age, Clifford Charles Wendehack occupied a similarly lofty rung among clubhouse architects. Winged Foot’s is his masterpiece. Rendered in what he described as “English Scholastic in style,” it benefits most remarkably from being hewn from stone obtained from the site itself, “which was not only the most permanent material, but the most harmonious with the surroundings…” Home to five U.S. Opens, Winged Foot will host a sixth in 2020.
Shinny’s shingle-style, hilltop abode was supposedly the first building ever constructed, in 1892, for the express purpose of serving as a golf clubhouse. Today it lords over one of America’s superior courses, home to multiple U.S. Opens. Its legendary architect, Stanford White, later earned infamy for meeting his demise at the hands of a jealous husband, a scandal that led to the Trial of the Century.
Perhaps the most visible, revered clubhouse in the United States, the southern plantation-style edifice is best known for its two-story pavilion and its cherry-on-top cupola. Astonishingly, the original late 1920s prospectus for Augusta National called for the classic 1854 manor clubhouse to be razed. The new building was to have been outfitted in whitewashed brick and would have housed a sprawling locker room. In 1931, an early member named Harry Atkinson wrote to club co-founder Clifford Roberts, saying that Atkinson’s wife was fond of the structure and asked that it be renovated instead. With club coffers tight at the time, the clubhouse survived—and prospered.
As the backdrop to the first tee and 18th green on earth’s oldest links, this neoclassical shrine dating to 1854 is golf’s most iconic clubhouse. It an all-male domain until late 2014, when the Royal & Ancient voted to admit women for the first time. Eight expansions and additions have taken place over the years, the handsome bay windows among them.