When you hear, "most exclusive golf courses," I bet you think of names like Pine Valley, Augusta National and Cypress Point.
But I'd also wager you probably know a couple people who have played at least one or two of those courses. My own dad has played Augusta and Pine Valley, for example (lucky dog!).
On the other hand, the following courses are so private, you nor your golf pals have likely ever heard of them.
And that's by design -- you can count how many members they have on one hand and, in some cases, on one finger.
Plus, these courses have never appeared on any lists...until now.
Here are 10 of the most insanely private golf courses in the world:
Cherokee Plantation (South Carolina)
Wall Street billionaire Dirk E. Ziff is one of about two dozen member/owners of Cherokee Plantation near Yemassee, South Carolina. The property is a few thousand acres large, with a Donald Steel-designed golf course at the heart which hosts fewer than a thousand rounds in most years. The scant writings that exist about the club place the joining fee around $1 million and the annual dues around $85,000. But just because you have the money, it is far from guaranteed you'll get in.
Due Process Golf Club (New Jersey)
This Johnny Miller/Gene Bates-designed course, located in Colts Neck, New Jersey, used to be the private territory of Robert Brennan, who headed a penny stock trading company until he was jailed for a decade for money laundering in 2001 (after being released from prison, Brennan went to work at the course). The course, named after the associated thoroughbred racing stable, eventually ended up in the possession of a former Goldman Sachs executive and one of the co-founders of Arizona Iced Tea. Now, it is probably the least-exclusive course on this list, with a relatively large membership (between 100 and 150, we hear), each in at a reported $350,000 initiation fee.
The Institute (California)
This Silicon Valley course adds a layer of mischief to mystery. It belongs solely to Frys.com leader John Fry, and it can stretch to more than 8,000 yards if all back tees are used by him or selected guests. Interestingly, the Institute was built without the appropriate permits, but has since been deemed up-to-code. It is expected to take over as the host of the PGA Tour's Frys.com Open in the future, so you may be able to play it if you can wangle a way into the pro-am. Beyond that, good luck.
Morefar Back O'Beyond Golf Club (New York)
Located on the New York-Connecticut line, part of this mysterious club is actually visible from another course: the municipal Richter Park in Danbury, Conn. But that's the closest you are likely to get to this layout, unless you're an invited high-ranking employee or client of insurance giant AIG, whose former CEOs Cornelius Vander Starr and Maurice Greenberg guided the property into quiet fame. In addition to the immaculately-kept grounds, those who have played Morefar have marveled at the statues and sculptures placed throughout the course, including one in the middle of a bunker. The atmosphere and even the club's logo echo the Chinese influence on AIG's history.
Porcupine Creek Golf Course (California)
Funny name, wild story. You may have read about Tim and Edra Blixseth, who developed the extremely private (but still too well-known for this list) Yellowstone Club in Montana and subsequently fell on hard times when the now-divorced couple's financial house collapsed on them. Porcupine Creek was the couple's private estate course until they were forced to sell it in 2011. Now, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison uses the course as his private retreat. He did host President Obama for a round this past February. (Mr. President, if you're reading, we'd love your review!)
Wolf Point Club (Texas)
You've probably never heard of Port Lavaca, Texas, about 125 miles southwest of Houston. You also probably haven't heard of its architect, Mike Nuzzo. Built for a single client, Wolf Point is the ultimate "backyard" golf course. It has a standard 18-hole routing but is so broad and expansive that it can be played in numerous configurations. The lucky few who have been invited to play - at the sole discretion of the proprietor - say the rumpled fairways, heaving greens and firm conditions remind of The Old Course at St. Andrews.
Rest of the World
Domaine Laforest (Quebec, Canada)
Thomas McBroom is little-known in the States, but he is one of Canada's best-regarded architects. So when late Canadian energy billionaire Paul Desmarais wanted to build a private golf retreat for himself and invited guests, he turned to McBroom, who fashioned the course on Desmarais' hilly, enormous and remote private estate northeast of Quebec City. Invitees have historically been flown to the course in helicopters owned by Desmarais' company, Power Corp.
Ellerston Golf Club (Australia)
By the time he died in 2005, Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer had amassed a fortune of some A$6.5 billion. Now administrated by son James Packer, Ellerston is at the heart of a multi-thousand-acre tract of land north of Sydney belonging to the family, where Kerry Packer instructed Greg Norman's design team to find the best portion for a golf course and get to work. The result is a course routinely ranked in the top five in Australia...not that you're likely to receive an invite. But if you do, bring a lot of golf balls - the course is regarded as one of the toughest in the world.
"Prince de Provence" (France)
This is just one of many names to which this Robert Trent Jones, Sr./RTJ Jr. tandem effort has been referred in the past. With just two dozen captain-of-industry members, this club near the town of Vidauban is so secretive that rumor has it that guests are blindfolded en route to the course in order to keep it as hidden as possible from the outside world.
Royal Palace Golf Club, Agadir (Morocco)
The Prince of Morocco's palace contains a golf course within its crenellated walls, which even border a couple holes of the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design. Unless you're an invited guest of the Prince, you'll have to qualify for the European Tour's Trophée Hassan II event (or its pro-am) in order to tee it up here, where many months sometimes pass between rounds, though the course is always kept in perfect shape just in case the Prince has the urge to play a round.
Know any other courses that are similarly ultra-ultra-exclusive and private? Have you, against all odds, played any of these courses? As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences below in the comments.