The World’s Most Exclusive Golf Courses

SLIDESHOW: Take a turn with us around Loch Lomond (pictured), the Royal Melbourne and Gleneagles — just don’t expect your membership application to be acted upon with any undue haste.

With exacting standards, pristine locations, and strict regulation of just who gets to play 18 holes, our curated list definitively identifies the most sought-after golfing locales on earth. Are you up to par?

Only a fortunate few have experienced teeing off at the world’s most exclusive golf clubs, where membership fees can range north of US$160,000. These clubs vehemently guard their privacy and non-members only rarely make it past the front gates.

It doesn’t matter which country you’re in — the more impressive the course is, the more exclusive it becomes. Condition, variety, design and, in many cases, scenery, all contribute to make the dream course. There is one recurring theme in many of these clubs: golfing architect Dr Alister MacKenzie. Even if he didn’t actually design the course, it is very likely that he will have played some part in inspiring the person who did.

With so many golf courses worldwide, picking the top 10 most desirable is a difficult — and perhaps controversial — task. In conjunction with our own analysis, Billionaire.com has gathered a panel of independent expert golf enthusiasts to construct our list: Tenniel Chu, vice-chairman of Mission Hills Group (which includes Mission Hills Golf Clubs); John Sabino, golf course critic; and Kay Hwa Tang: executive director of The Dàlat at 1200 Country Club and Private Estate, a golf course resort.

We have included websites where these are available.

Cypress Point, California, US
It is rumoured that no less a personage than JFK was once denied entry to the restaurant at Cypress Point. With only 250 members, many of whom are prominent political figures, this is the world’s most desirable club designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie. Scenery is a major selling point and players can listen to the sound of the Pacific crashing against the rocks while they tee up. Fees are determined by yearly running costs, divvied up between the members. Irrespective of how much each person uses the course they are expected to pay their share.

National Golf Links of America, New York, US
Originally the brainchild of famous architect Charles Blair Macdonald, this course has been described as ‘perfection, figured out’. Built on 250 acres of rolling landscape, the course is as famous as the lobster lunch at the clubhouse. Membership mostly stays within the family and the clubhouse is notoriously full of blue bloods and Wall Street tycoons.
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Augusta National, Georgia, US
The course that everyone knows but few have played. With only 300 members, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Augusta National is home to the Masters tournament and was famously designed by a duo of champion golfer Bobby Jones and Dr Alister MacKenzie. Money won’t buy you a way in — although fees are reportedly between US$25–50,000 per year, it’s still all about who you know. The rules are simple but strict: no running, no phones and membership by invitation only.

Golf de Morfontaine, Mortefontaine, France
This golf course was solely designed in the 19th century for the personal pleasure of the Duc de Guiche and his friends, and, to this day, retains much of the original design. Several years after the duke died in 1962, the club became the property of its 450 members and, as such, remains the most exclusive club in continental Europe.
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Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
This remote estate was once home to Rossdhu Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots is said to have written her love letters. In its place lies this breathtakingly beautiful golf course where each hole offers panoramic views of the lake and woodland beyond. With a joining fee of US$161,000 this has become a favourite haunt for celebrities and local billionaires.
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Los Angeles Country Club, California, US
Built on some of the most valuable land in Beverly Hills, the Los Angeles Country Club is considered ultra-exclusive; its membership roster is comprised of the oldest family dynasties in the US. Despite its proximity to Hugh Hefner’s neighbouring Playboy Mansion, the club reportedly has a strict no ‘movie-star’ policy.
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Royal Melbourne (West), Melbourne, Australia
The Royal Melbourne Golf Club is one of the oldest and most prestigious golfing destinations in the Pacific attracting 1,843 playing members. The work of Dr Alister MacKenzie, most golf aficionados consider its famous West Course as the kingpin of the Melbourne sandbelt.
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Hirono, Hyogo, Japan
Visitors have often said that Hirono golf course wouldn’t look out of place on the Berkshire/Surrey sandbelt. The immaculately kept fairways were originally the design of Englishman Charles Alison. Intensely private and extremely exclusive, to see the course attend one of the Japanese golf tournaments or be invited to play by a member and pay between US$290 and US$335 in green fees. If you have the chance to play don’t be surprised if you finish off in the hot tub, as this club is all about tradition.

Swinley Forest, Berkshire, England
Known as one of the most beautiful courses in the world, Swinley Forest is full of rhododendrons and swathed in purple heather. So traditional that a hand-written application letter is required for would-be players, it was originally built as the playground of Lord Derby and his friends. Membership has scarcely expanded since then. It is a ‘one-out, one-in’ club and is mostly made up of English aristocracy, old Etonians and Harrovians.

Gleneagles, Perthshire, Scotland
This is a shining example from the country that gave the world golf. Home to three top-ranking golf courses, a five-star hotel and the only two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Scotland, Gleneagles is also the location of this year’s prestigious Ryder Cup Championship, which will be played at the PGA Centenary Course. Membership fees start at £2,545 with a £600 joining fee; very reasonable when you consider this is the hot favourite of numerous pro players and the British royal family.
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SLIDESHOW: Take a turn with us around Loch Lomond (pictured), the Royal Melbourne and Gleneagles — just don’t expect your membership application to be acted upon with any undue haste.

Golf

Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

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Golf

Royal Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.

Royal Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.

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Golf

Royal Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.

Royal Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.

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Golf

Gleneagles, Perthshire, Scotland.

Gleneagles, Perthshire, Scotland.

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