While there has been a debate over the true origin and history of golf, it’s generally accepted the sport first began in Scotland during the middle ages. Its popularity didn’t take off until the late 18th and early 19th centuries and was only being played by the very affluent. However, as golf started to become more affordable in the 20th century, ordinary folk started taking to the courses.
With the rise in popularity of the sport, more and more beautiful, lush golf courses opened up all over the world. With challenging, sometimes championship-worthy layouts, the majority of these courses come complete with a long list of other noteworthy amenities including a full bar inside a plush clubhouse, five-star restaurants, and luxury hotel accommodations.
Exclusive golf courses
Since golf is still generally associated with the lifestyle of the rich and famous, some of the courses have become so exclusive it can be difficult or even impossible to gain entrance. The following four courses are some of the most beautiful and well-guarded greens in the world.
Augusta National Golf Club
Home of the illustrious green-jacket, there’s a reported initiation fee in the $40,000 range, along with monthly dues of “a few thousand dollars” per year. Surprisingly, these fees don’t include lodging costs or guest inclusions for the Augusta, GA-based club. So unless you have an enormous bank account, most aren’t able to afford these rates for inclusion at the Augusta National Golf Club.
If that’s not enough proof of their pricey eligibility requirements, some of their more notable past and current members include some of golf’s most elite players like Jack Nicholson and Arnold Palmer. But it’s not just golf’s finest that enjoy the club. Other members have included politicians like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, billionaire Warren Buffett, techno-magnate Bill Gates, and NFL stars including Hall-of-Famer Lynn Swann and commissioner Roger Goodell.
Cypress Point Club
Back in 1991, the Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach, CA made headlines when they chose to give up their status hosting the PGA Tour rather than change their membership rules, regulations, and guidelines. Celebrity golfer Bob Hope once joked, “One year they had a big membership drive at Cypress, they drove out 40 members.”
Hope’s statement speaks to the strict membership standards the club holds for their roster. Every year, Cypress Point membership fees are calculated and pro-rated to their paying members whose dues are paid even if they have never set foot on the course. In the case of comedian Bob Hope, he admits to being a member there for over forty years and only playing at the property a half-dozen times.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews
For anyone thinking if money were no object, I could get into any club or course I wanted, now is the time to burst your bubble. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland is one of the oldest, most prestigious courses and clubs in the world. Founded in 1754 by golfs’ most elite at the time, membership to the old and regal club is strictly by invitation only.
It wasn’t until 2015 the gentlemen’s club opened their doors to the ladies and admitted Princess Anne along with a handful of professional players. Considering their club in Scotland as a part of golfing royalty, their membership is mostly filled with pro-athletes and members of regal bloodlines.
Royal County Down
It probably comes as no surprise to see some of the most exclusive golf courses in the world are also among the oldest. Royal County Down in Newcastle, Northern Ireland certainly qualifies. Although they welcome those on the championship tour to visit their course on select days, becoming a member is another story entirely — even though there’s no waiting list.
Most members remain active or on the roster until their time of death and this is another club whose players are only admitted by invitation. So unless you’re a pro, have blue blood running through your veins, or have some friends in really high places, chances are slim of average folk ever playing on any of these prestigious courses.