10 Insanely Private Golf Courses You Will Never Get to Play

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:

United States

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.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor and the Managing Editor of the Golf Vacation Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
66 Comments
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jimmy

Due process has no more than 65 members. I have played it a few times at the invite of one of the owners. Central New Jersey is fantastic terrain for a golf course. I"am sure your probably right about being the least exclusive on the list, but it is a fantastic golf experience and i would bet it would stand up with many on the list as being a great test of golf, no two holes anything alike and Johnny Miller knows a thing or two about what it takes to make a great golf course.

Alta

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Snow Cat

Don't come to Due Process. Leave us alone!!!

Snow Cat

I have worked at Due Process for 15 years. The back of the score card does not mention Bob Brennan's name it refers to the names of the other owners. Mr. Brennan has zero affiliation with the club and does not play there. One of the best risk reward courses with options on every hole. The tallest, thickest, fescue lines each hole making it play similar to a lateral hazard (but you don't get a drop if you lose it in there). Members are the best! All low key and just looking to slip out under the radar for a few hours of relaxation. If you should somehow get on to play please remember our only rule: Play fast! Oh and take good care of the caddies as they are the best in the business.

Top 100 Course Guru

I’m fortunate to have played Cherokee several times and many of the courses discussed above. As a measure of exclusivity, how about this: almost as many Denalis in the cart barn for members and guests as golf carts and they'll cut the greens speed as requested by the member. Course used to be insanely difficult. Els and Duval played a TV Shell's Match Play there in 2000. There were both over par at the turn and they moved the tees up for the back nine. It's been made easier. Surreal experience to play a course as the only group on it.
The really tough gets: Augusta, especially since guest policy change where member has to play with you, Chicago Golf, Fishers Island, Dunes Club par 3, Seminole. I'd throw in SFGC. Due Process belongs and it is really great. If you meet a member ask what FIFO means. Sharon CC is not difficult at all to get on.

Charles Barton Rice, Sr

Played Augusta National. Skibo Castle in Scotland. Also played Cherokee Plantation twice. Back when Peter De Salvary purchased. Womderful place. Every i dotted and t's crossed.
Anyone interested in One of A Kind Compount in Atlanta, Ga USA area. Built to face the test of time for generations. Not finished. Heavy duty work done ✅ New owner can complete to personal specification in 12 to 18 months
Sort like Cherokee Plantation in South Carolina. Very special.
Check it out
thericehouseatlanta [dot] com

Matt H

Goodwood golf club located just outside of Toronto was built by a wealthy businessman for just himself until he passed a couple years ago. I'm not sure who owns it now but there are very few members as of now.

Matt A

It is true that Wade Hampton would not let Michael Jordan in. I have had the chance to play their multiple times as there are 3 members at my club that have memberships. Very special place, great views, layout, and condition. Built for Augusta members when it is shut down in the summer. Also, I noticed The Golf Club outside of Columbus mentioned, also a very special place, pretty much need to be a member at Scioto CC, and Muirfield in Columbus to have a chance of an invite. Pete Dye design with railroad ties similar to Crooked Stick. Muirfield has gotten very corporate with over 700 members, not as hard to get on. I played The Golf Club with a 15year member of Muirfield Village in town and he had never played it before.

South Georgia

Others I would add would be Ocean Forest on Sea Island, and Nonami Plantation in SW GA. I've also heard Bill Gates is building himself a new course in south GA in the middle of nowhere. Must be nice.

Augusta Native

Going to play Cherokee Saturday. Never even heard of it until a year ago!

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