Walking along Magnolia Lane headed to the stunning clubhouse at Augusta National Golf Club, I was surrounded by perfectly groomed greens, massive magnolia trees and abundant yellow pansies creating the shape of the Founders Circle. The breathtaking beauty of the club is what contributes to its legendary position as one of the very best private golf clubs in the world. Members are properly dressed, and a few of them wear the coveted Green jackets indicating their prestige and rank. But there is no easy way to tell you this, but you will likely never get the chance to play at Augusta or any of the top private clubs in the world. You will also never be invited to join as a member or certainly afford the extravagant initiation fees.
Forget the fact that women are still not allowed in many clubs around the world and have finally been permitted to join as members when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and IBM CEO Darla Moore became among the first females to join Augusta in 2012. Among the 300 members at Augusta National, only 1 percent are women. And you will also find it hard to spot any African-American players in many of the most elite clubs around the world, throughout history they were only used as caddies for the white men playing in tournaments. But times are changing at many of the top clubs and the new guard is enforcing a more open-minded attitude towards new diverse members, although a 10-year waiting list for new memberships at many clubs will undoubtedly slow things down dramatically.
The 2019-2020 Platinum Clubs® of the World winners represent the standard of Excellence for the finest Private Golf & Country Clubs around the globe and were voted by 700 Golf & Country Clubs. (Country Clubs are defined as offering a wide variety of amenities in addition to Golf and includes Residential Communities.) To receive Platinum status, which is the ultimate achievement in the private club industry, the organization receives input from the Club Leaders Forum Advisory Board and is awarded in five categories: Country Clubs, Golf, City, Athletic and Yacht Clubs.
The requirements are strict and include; Universal Recognition, Excellence in Amenities and Facilities, Caliber of Staff and Professional Service Levels, Quality of Membership, Governance & Prudent Fiscal Management, Adapting to Changing Times and Overall Experience.
This year the Top 100 Golf & Country Clubs represent 30 countries, 14 clubs garnered Platinum status from Asia; 10 clubs are located in Great Britain and Ireland, and 11 Clubs are from Continental Europe with the addition of 13 new Golf & Country Clubs added to the Top 100.
For the first time, Augusta National has been voted the #1 Platinum Club of the World, Golf & Country Clubs. The host of the 2018 U.S. Open, Shinnecock Hills, moved from 7th to 3rd place. Past U.S. Open site, Merion Golf Club, moved up from 9th to 5th. And entering the top 10 for the first time is Baltusrol.
International clubs in the top 20 include: The R&A (Scotland), Royal Melbourne (Australia), Muirfield (Scotland), Morfontaine (France), Sunningdale (England) and Shanqin Bay (China), which is the first club to make the top 20 from the continent of Asia in the history of Platinum Clubs of the World.
In order to become a part of the most elite private golf and country clubs in the world, most clubs require members to follow very strict rules. Walking is mandatory, uniformed caddies are $120 per bag plus tip, there is a strict dress code, no shorts, backward hats and absolutely no hats inside the club, no cell phone use, drinking on the course is a tradition and of course jacket and tie for dinners.
Here are the top 25 winning clubs for 2019-2020 Platinum Club of the World Status.
1. Augusta National Golf Club (Georgia)
Known for being an exclusively male club, Augusta recently opened its doors to women including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former banking magnate Darla Moore, and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. With only 300 members, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Augusta National is home to the Master’s tournament and was designed by champion golfer Bobby Jones and Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Initiation fees range from $250,000 to $500,000.
2. Pine Valley Golf Club (New Jersey)
Pine Valley Golf Club is known as one of possibly the best golf course in the world. The board of directors reach out to potential members for the private club and is not open to application. Members of the men’s-only club are allowed to bring women as guests on Sundays only.
3. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (New York)
Shinnecock has hosted the US Open multiple times. The only way you can play at Southampton, New York’s Shinnecock Hills is if you are accompanied by a member, and good luck getting a tee time which can be months in advance. The green fee is $350 per round, and you must hire a caddy since walking is mandatory.
4. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (Scotland)
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is the oldest and most prestigious golf club in the world. It is based in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, and is regarded as the worldwide “Home of Golf” founded in 1754. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club (but not The R&A) had a male-only membership policy until 2015 when it welcomed their first honorary female member including Princess Anne and several pro golfers. Membership is by invitation only, and they have 2,400 members from all over the world.
5. Merion Golf Club (Pennsylvania)
Merion Golf Club is a private golf club located in Haverford Township, Pennsylvania bordering Philadelphia, The club offers one of the most amazing locker rooms ever with a two-level men’s locker room including legendary showers. Initiation fees start at $70,000 with $6,000 yearly dues and up, and you can only apply by member referral.
6. The Royal Melbourne Golf Club (Australia)
Royal Melbourne Golf Club is a 36-hole golf club in Australia, located southeast of Melbourne. Its West course is ranked number 1 in Australia. Founded in 1891, it is Australia’s oldest golf club.
7. Muirfield-The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (Scotland)
Muirfield is a privately owned club which is the home of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. Located in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland, Muirfield is one of the golf courses used in rotation for The Open Championship. The club holds the claim of being the oldest verifiable organized golf club in the world. Until 2017, women were barred from being members, though they were permitted to play the course as guests or visitors.
8. Cypress Point Club (California)
With only 250 members, many of whom are prominent political figures, this is one of the world’s most desired clubs. The stunning location is a major selling point as players golf along the Pacific Ocean. Fees are determined by yearly running costs which are divided up between the members regardless of how often you use the club.
9. Golf de Morfontaine (France)
This golf course was designed in the 19th century for the Duc de Guiche and his friends, and now retains much of the original design. Several years after the duke died in 1962, the club became the property of its 450 members and remains the most exclusive club in continental Europe.
10. Baltusrol Golf Club (New Jersey)
The Baltusrol Golf Club is a private 36-hole golf club in Springfield, New Jersey. The club was purchased in the 1890s by Louis Keller, the publisher of the New York Social Register. Until the end of the 20th century, African-Americans and Jews were not allowed to be members. Membership is $150,000 plus $18,500 dues.
11. Congressional Country Club (Maryland)
This is the famed Club where Members of Congress meet socially with businessmen. The Club also has a vast history of U.S. Presidents as members. The Congressional opened in 1924, and its Blue Course has hosted five major championships. Notable past members include William Taft, Woodrow Wilson as well as countless politicians and lobbyists. The initiation fee is $120,000 with a 10-year waiting list.
12. Ocean Reef Club (Florida)
This exclusive community located in Key Largo, Florida has its own 4,000-foot airstrip, school, museum, security force, and fire department. To live in Ocean Reef, a resident must be sponsored by two current members and purchase a charter equity membership for $200,000. A marina with 175 slips and docks for yachts up to 175 feet are also offered in one of the most secure developments in America.
13. Sunningdale Golf Club (England)
Sunningdale Golf Club is located in Berkshire, England, 30 miles west-southwest of London. The Club was founded in 1900 and has two eighteen hole golf courses. Prospective members need support from six existing members, and they are required to play a round of golf with a committee member before their names are proposed for membership. Initiation fees start at over $100,000 to join with $8,000 in annual dues.
14. National Golf Links of America (New York)
A popular club for Wall Street tycoons, the invitation-only club is located on 285 acres of shoreline along Southampton, New York’s Peconic Bay. Developed by famed architect Charles Blair Macdonald, this course is known as one of the most perfect courses in the world. Initiation is $150,000 plus $10,000 dues, and guests can only play with members.
15. Boca West Country Club (Florida)
Boca West is one of the largest private equity-owned clubs in America, with 1,400 acres of lush tropical landscaping and magnificent private residences. The Club’s 54 private villages are bordered by four championship golf courses, 31 tennis courts, waterways, and wooded areas. The initiation fee is $70,000 for homeowners with annual dues of $12,000.
16. Oakmont Country Club (Pennsylvania)
Oakmont Country Club is one of the oldest golf clubs in the country and has hosted more combined USGA and PGA championships than any other course in the U.S. The course is ranked No. 5 in the US by Golf Digest and has attracted the world’s best golfers for years. Established in 1903, its golf course is regarded as the oldest top-ranked golf course in the United States.
17. The Los Angeles Country Club (California)
Built on the most premium real estate in Beverly Hills, the Los Angeles Country Club is considered ultra-exclusive with a membership roster that is comprised of the oldest families in America. Despite being adjacent to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion, the club reportedly has a strict no ‘movie-star’ policy and famously turned down Hefner as well as Bing Crosby who lived on the 14th fairway. The country club once had a no Jewish member policy until 1977, and no African-Americans were allowed for years.
18. Shanqin Bay Golf Club (China)
This course sits on the southeast coast of Hainan Island, a one-hour flight from Hong Kong. Hainan is home to several dozen courses, ten courses are located at Mission Hills Haikou, a mega-development which includes the popular Blackstone Course. Perched on bluffs overlooking the South China Sea, the extremely private club has only 20 members, with initiation fees that run as high as $1 million.
19. Seminole Golf Club (Florida)
The 18-hole Seminole Golf Club in North Palm Beach, FL is a private golf course that opened in 1929. The Donald Ross course is located along steep sand ridges near the Atlantic Ocean. With only 300 members, the club is so exclusive it even turned down golf legend Jack Nicklaus. Guests have included presidents like JFK and Eisenhower as well as royalty. The initiation fee is unknown and a well-guarded secret.
20. Winged Foot Golf Club (New York)
Winged Foot has two golf courses, and each is ranked among the best 100 golf courses in America. The more famous of the two, the West Course, is considered as one of the ten best golf courses. The club features the highest percentages of single-digit handicappers. Among the highlights is the stunning historic stone clubhouse with a slate roof and built in 1929. The club also offers up one of the best locker rooms with the best showers of most golf clubs. Famous members include President Donald Trump since 1969. Initiation fees start at $200,000
21. Les Bordes (France)
This 1,400-acre estate is nestled in the Loire valley south of Paris and is one of the most exclusive and difficult golf courses anywhere in the world. Built by the multi-millionaire owner of the Bic pen and razor company along with a Japanese friend, Les Bordes is located in a stunning setting within the countryside. Future plans are to build a hotel, lodges and a second course. One of the highlights is the beautiful clubhouse with old, oak beams and a rustic vibe along with enormous fireplaces and deep leather chairs. Initiation fees are unknown.
22. Cherokee Town and Country Club (Georgia)
Located in Atlanta, Cherokee Town and Country Club offer membership through an invitation-only policy. The exclusive club has two world-class golf courses, 16 tennis courts, and three swimming pools. Membership is by invitation only, and prices are kept under wraps but are considered to be $200,000 with $7,500 dues.
23. The Madison Club (California)
The Madison Club is within an exclusive private residential community in La Quinta. The club is located offers up a Tom Fazio-designed golf course that is the centerpiece of the homesites and includes a lounge, full-service spa, and complete fitness facility. There are also five private, one-bedroom suites located in the clubhouse. The Main building incorporates a full kitchen, private movie theatre, game room and main lounge that overlooks the 18th hole. Famous homeowners range from a Kardashian to a Stallone. Initiation is $200,000 with $33,000 dues for equity owners only.
24. Whisper Rock Golf Club (Arizona)
The Whisper Rock Golf Club has two golf courses to choose from, the lower Course, was designed by Phil Mickelson and Gary Stephenson in 2001. The second, upper Course, was designed by Tom Fazio in 2005. The Whisper Rock golf club is for serious golfers only, and social membership is not available. The clubhouse provides golf support only, and there are no other facilities or restaurants located here. Membership is by sponsorship or invitation only and can run around $100,000.
25. The Vintage Club
Since the summer of 1999, Bill Gates has been the most high profile member and estate owner at The Vintage Club with a magnificent 13,573 square foot residence that backs up to the golf course. The heavily secure and gated location is one of the United States’ most prestigious and ultra-exclusive private clubs. There is a huge 85,000-square-foot Clubhouse featuring dining and social spaces overlooking lake, mountain and golf course views, and an 18,000 square foot spa and wellness center. There are 11 championship tennis courts complete with 1,000 seat stadium seating. The two award-winning, championship 18-hole Tom Fazio golf courses are surrounded by a collection of 479 homes and homesites ranging upwards to $25 million. The initiation fee is considered to be $300,000 with $28,000 dues.