Private Club Report: The Most Exclusive Private Clubs in the US

From a 3,500-acre sporting community in Rhode Island to an invitation-only golf resort in Hawaii, a look at the country’s most prestigious and luxurious private clubs for recreation.

Photo courtesy Big Horn Club.

Bighorn Golf Club, Palm Desert, California

Here, golf is played in the shadows of desert palms and saguaro cactus. With a Tom Fazio–designed Mountains Course and a Canyon Course designed by Arthur Hills, which is ranked in the top 30 California courses, a spectacular $70M clubhouse, roads of hand-laid pavers, and the highest level of customer service, Bighorn is an exclusive jewel in the Coachella Valley. The club offers The Vault, a remarkable, climate-controlled, museum-level luxury car gallery, plus private wine lockers and a variety of dining options. Initiation begins at approximately $250,000.

Photo courtesy The Preserve.

The Preserve Sporting Club & Residences, Rhode Island

Offering the very best of land and sea, with luxury and security on more than 3,500 acres, and 20 activities that complement New England’s landscapes, members here enjoy a private beach at the nearby sister property, world-renowned 15-Forbes-Star Ocean House in Watch Hill, R.I., as well as on-site 18-hole executive golf course, and the longest indoor, automated shooting range in the country. Options include playing 18 holes on a sweeping par-three Robert McNeil­–designed mountain course; kayaking and fishing; climbing sheer rock walls; tennis on clay or grass courts; zip-lining above a maple canopy; and hiking and pedaling through deep woods. A true sporting destination, upscale amenities include a 19-station, manicured sporting clays course, heated lodge with 10-station five stand, upland bird hunting and dog trial fields, helipad, and compact clays course. Members can reenergize with treatments in the OH! Spa, toast to fine dining in Double Barrel Kitchen, and then rest in private residences. The secure, gated wilderness retreat is accessible to members and homeowners with new hospitality options guided by Ocean House Management Collection, a curator of New England’s most exceptional hotels. Full memberships are $350,000.

Photo courtesy Yellowstone Club.

Yellowstone Club, Big Sky, Montana

Yellowstone Club offers its members exclusive use of its own mountain, 2,900 acres of private ski slopes with 19 lifts covering 100+ trails, as well as the Rainbow Lodge serving Mountain Pacific Northwest fare and the Camphouse Pool & Fitness Center with a fitness center, spa, and copper-lined pool. An 18-hole golf course, designed by Tom Weiskopf, complements a roster of private activities, including hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and fly-fishing. Members must own one of the property’s 914 homes, which range from sweeping ranches on hundreds of acres to condominiums.

Photo courtesy Masters.

Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia

In 1932, on the grounds of the storied 365-acre Fruitland Nurseries, Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts opened arguably the most famous private golf course in U.S. history. Augusta hosts the annual Masters Tournament and Augusta National Women’s Amateur. There are 10 cabins available to members for overnight stays and dining is offered to members only, except during the Masters. Membership and fees are kept private; even members’ iconic green jackets are not allowed to leave the property. As there reportedly is no application, membership is by invitation only.

Photo courtesy Ocean Reef Club.

Ocean Reef Club, Key Largo, Florida

Ocean Reef Club offers a marina with 175 slips and docks for yachts up to 175 feet, plus a private airstrip and an 8,000-square-foot spa with dry sauna and more. On Buccaneer Island, members can swim, scuba dive, enjoy ecotours, and rest and recharge under the Florida Keys sun. Two distinctly different golf courses include the par-71 Dolphin Course, which is an island itself, while the par-71 Hammock Course is wrapped in mangroves and a shady tropical-hardwood hammock with 14 water hazards. Accommodations include single bedroom suites and rental homes. Guests must be sponsored by a member. Memberships cost upward of $215,000.

Photo courtesy DMK Golf Design.

Nanea Golf Club, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

With a long, unpretentious three-mile entranceway without a sign, leading to polished ohi’a logs at the copper-roofed clubhouse and sweeping views of the island’s coastline, Nanea is the ultimate Hawaiian golf resort. Charles Schwab and George Roberts retained golf architect David McLay Kidd in 2003 to create a world-class, 18-hole course to seamlessly roll peacefully with the landscape. The ocean can be seen from each hole. Membership is by invitation only.

Photo courtesy Vintage Club.

The Vintage Club, Indian Wells, California

Tucked beneath the Santa Rosa Mountains, the 712-acre Vintage Club is touted as the country’s most prestigious and ultraexclusive private country club community. Members choose between a par 72 Mountain Course ora Desert Course gated with palo verde trees and tall cactus. Both Tom Fazio–designed courses were ranked among the three finest courses built in the last two decades. Since opening in 1980, focus has remained on a social scene for all ages of members, with outside activities like mountain biking, hiking, and a renowned speakers’ forum. Residence options include cottages, patio, desert, and custom-built homes. Membership is $250,000.

Photo courtesy Cherokee Plantation.

Cherokee Plantation, Yemassee, South Carolina

Seven thousand acres of Southern hospitality stretch just beyond the gates. A vast selection of luxury and sporting amenities and homes are available in this Southern destination. Oyster roasts, an Adirondack boathouse, sweeping rice fields, fishing ponds, and frontage on the Combahee River ensure the few families who own here are well-pampered and removed from distractions of daily life. Membership begins at $1M with annual fees.


Top photo courtesy Vintage Club.