FISHER’S ISLAND (No. 15 U.S.; No. 24 World)
In 1987, when this course on an island in Long Island Sound first appeared on Golf Magazine's Top 100 list (at number 73) a club representative wrote the magazine: “We do not wish our club to be ranked, visited or, for that matter, known.” The same attitude prevails today.
2 of 9Larry Lambrecht
PINE VALLEY (No. 1 U.S.; No. 1 World)
Routinely ranked as the finest layout on the planet, the course sits at the pinnacle of insider prestige. But that’s not all that makes it hard 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. You need to coordinate some busy schedules.
3 of 9Mike Ehrmann / Sports Illustrated
CYPRESS POINT CLUB (No. 2 U.S.; No. 2 World)
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. Hush-hush money (Clint Eastwood is as flashy it gets here), with only 200-some odd members. None of whom you are apt to know.
4 of 9Larry Lambrecht
SEMINOLE (No. 14 U.S.; No. 22 World)
The good news is the club reserves two tee times a day for unaccompanied play. The bad news is there are only 300-or-so under the radar members. Jack Nicklaus isn’t one of them; word is he tried to join only to get shot down. Throw in the fact that the course is closed for nearly half the year, and what chance do we mortals have of playing it? Right around a snowball’s chance in Florida.
5 of 9Jim Johnson/Premier Aerials
SAN FRANCISCO GOLF CLUB (No. 18 U.S.; No. 27 World)
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 alley, behind a church) members have been said to get lost trying to find it.
6 of 9Larry Lambrecht
LOS ANGELES COUNTRY CLUB (No. 19 U.S.; No. 30 World)
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? Convert to Protestantism. Or get elected President of the United States.
7 of 9Larry Lambrecht
THE COUNTRY CLUB (No. 22 U.S.; No. 42 World)
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 9David Cannon/Getty Images
SAND HILLS (No. 9 U.S.; No. 12 World)
Drive a long way from nowhere, then drive a little farther. Eventually, you come to this aptly named stunner, the original player in the “remote golf” game. It’s not quite so hard to access if you’ve got a private jet. And if you don’t? Well, you’re not the type they really want here anyway.
9 of 9Fred Vuich / Sports Illustrated
AUGUSTA NATIONAL (No. 3 U.S.; No. 3 World)
Three easy ways to get on Augusta: 1.) Get a press pass to the Masters and win the media lottery for the right to play the Monday after; 2.) Phone Bill Gates (you’ve got him on speed-dial, don’t you?); he is said to have pleaded for his membership, so maybe he’ll appreciate your desperation; 3.) Wait on the second hole for Louis Oostheizen to toss you the ball he used to make a double-eagle, then swap the souvenir with Billy Payne in exchange for a tee time. If all that fails, you’re out of luck.
You May Like
More Special Features
Sign Up for Newsletters
Receive insider analysis, swing tips, equipment news, special offers and much more.