The hardest 11 times a tee in America
Courses in the latest US Top 100 vary widely in difficulty, and we don’t mean the picks needed to get around it. We’re referring to accessibility – hard-to-reach clubs because they’re so exclusive. With that in mind—and with our latest Top 100 as an excuse to revisit this list—here’s a breakdown within a rating, highlighting 11 courses where the hardest part is.
Augusta National, Augusta, Ga.
Hi friends. Please enjoy our broadcast with minimal commercial interruption. Marvel at the shy colors of magnolia and dogwood as you enjoy relaxing bird pampering. By Sunday evening, you’ll swear you’re familiar with every hill and void of Aleister Mackenzie’s most famous track, which is great, because unless your Peyton Manning fan base has led to a friendship, you’re unlikely to play it yourself in the cards. (ranked 7th in GOLF’s 100 Best Courses in the US)
Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, Illinois.
One of the five founding members of the United States Golf Association, which was formed in 1894, the Chicago Golf Club has been around long enough to attract a lot of members. It only has a few hundred. And one should be with you when you play. (ranked 13th in GOLF’s 100 Best Courses in the US)
Crystal Downs Country Club, Frankfurt, Michigan.
When architecture buffs begin to learn about the state-side artworks of Alistair Mackenzie, they are sure to come to this northern Michigan treasure, which lacks the coastal splendor of Cypress Point and the institutional fame of Augusta National, but so often the eyes, every piece is as good as Either of these two. (ranked 20th in GOLF’s 100 Best Courses in the US)
Cypress Point Golf Club, Monterey, California.
“One year they had a big Cypress membership campaign,” Bob Hope once said, mocking his club. “40 members were expelled.” What remains today is a list of about 250 people who have easy access to coastal lands that can pass as a national park. (ranked 2nd in GOLF’s 100 Best Courses in the US)
Garden City Golf Club, Garden City, New York
what’s in a name? Home to high-end Devereux Emmet design, the hush-hush club was originally known as the Garden City Men’s Club, a name that excluded nearly half the population. These days, women get very limited access. The same applies to the rest of us. (ranked 28th in GOLF’s 100 Best Courses in the US)
Fishers Island Club, Fishers Island, New York
An island in the literal and figurative sense, this Seth Raynor design is located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the eastern end of Long Island, accessible only by boat or private jet and out of the reach of common men. The money here is old and quiet. In 1979, when Golf Fishers Island was included in its inaugural ranking of the world’s greatest course, a club representative wrote a letter to the editor: Thanks for the fame, read it. Now, please remove us from your list. (ranked 9th in GOLF’s 100 Best Courses in the US)
Nanea Golf Club, Big Island, Hawaii
Nania is not Hawaiian because it means “works of Nunya.” But it might as well be. Founded by Charles Schwab and supermarket mogul George Roberts, this luxury club has been described as a tropical Augusta, referring to the way it shuns publicity while serving as a palm-fringed oasis for the wealthy and their lucky friends. (ranked 91st in GOLF’s 100 Best Courses in the US)
Ohoopee Match Club, Cobbtown, Ga.
In this rural retreat, designed by Gil Hanse and Jim Wager for tech investor Michael Walrath, equality means so little that it’s not on the scorecard. All that matters is how you deal with your opponent. Well, it is also important that you know a member. There are less than 100, and Ohoopee is not allowed to play unaccompanied. (ranked 39th in GOLF’s 100 Best Courses in the US)
Pine Valley Golf Club, Pine Valley, New Jersey
Since everyone is in the data nowadays, let’s run some numbers. Pine Valley is the highest rated course in the world so everyone wants to play it. It is a pity that most of its members do not live in the area, and unaccompanied guests are not allowed. Add to that the fact that the club doesn’t do regular fundraisers or corporate outings (a common way to get to first private courses), and the math is hard on you. (Ranked #1 in GOLF’s Top 100 Courses in the US)
Seminole Golf Club, Juneau Beach, Florida.
For a feel of life in Seminole, imagine your own standard Florida golf community, with a ostentatious club, members with flashy cash, and buggy rides everywhere you turn. Now imagine the opposite. Ben Hogan once said of this Donald Ross design, “If I’m a guy who’s going on a pro tour, I’ll try to make arrangements to get a Seminole.” Sound advice. Then again, Hogan gave a lot of advice that was easier said than done. (ranked 21 in GOLF’s 100 Best Courses in the US)
Sand Hills Golf Club, Moline, Neb.
Drive deep into Nebraska’s cornfields, then drive a little further and a little further, until the terrain turns into thick dunes. When you arrive on the grounds of this very special club, home to the incredible Bill Coore-Ben Crensha who this year rose above the Augusta National in the world rankings, you’ll realize your mistake: everyone else has arrived on a private jet. (ranked 6th in GOLF’s 100 Best Courses in the US)
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