Powerful people often conduct important deals over a round of golf at their country club, but what does it take to actually become a member of one these clubs and how much does it cost?
The answers to those questions are well guarded. Many of the most exclusive country clubs in the U.S. operate under a veil of secrecy, protecting both the membership process and how much that membership costs. Most clubs require that an existing member sponsor or recommend any new recruits, and as many of the clubs were very quick to point out to LLNYC —membership is by invitation only.
And don’t even think about comparison shopping: If you would like to know the costs of these clubs before you sign up, in many cases the only way to find out is by asking an existing member. There were a few clubs that did share their fees with us, which we have included below. Among the costs associated with joining a country club are a nonrefundable initiation fee, which can be hundreds of thousands of dollars; annual dues in the tens of thousands of dollars; and a food-and-drink monthly minimum. In addition to those fees, a representative at one club told LLNYC that the clubs function similar to a co-op apartment building: Any costs toward the maintenance of the grounds (a new sprinkler system, for instance) are divided up among the members.
For our rundown, we chose a selection of some of the most exclusive clubs in the tristate area. This list could have easily focused solely on one area, like the Hamptons or Westchester, but we sought a broader reach and included some newer locations and clubs with less restrictive policies. Due to the difficulty of obtaining this information, this is not a ranking, and we cannot claim that this list is definitive or that it is complete, but it does offer a window into an exclusive sporting world — that is quite intentionally — closed off.
National Golf Links of America
The club is more than 100 years old. Membership is available only through a referral from an existing member, and the board of the club evaluates each candidate. Costs include a $150,000 initiation fee and $9,000 in annual dues. It was once called “the snootiest club in America” in a 1962 Sports Illustrated article. www.natgolflinks.org
Trump National Golf Club Westchester
Briarcliff Manor, NY
Membership here does not require a referral from an existing member but does involve visiting the club and filling out an application. Eric Trump himself reviews the application and signs off on every member of the club. Costs depend on age; initiation fees range from $30,000 to $50,000 and annual dues go up to $17,800. www.trumpnationalwestchester.com
Liberty National Golf Course
Jersey City, NJ
This club offers sweeping views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty and is one of the most expensive golf courses ever built, at a cost of $250 million. No surprise then that the initiation fee is also one of the highest on our list at $300,000, with annual dues costing $29,000 for a family membership. It is possible to join without a referral from a member. www.libertynationalgc.com
The Bridge Golf Club
You won’t even find a website for this untraditional club, which the New York Times called “the untucked country club” in a profile of its “maverick” owner, Robert Rubin. We were unable to reach someone at the club, but according to the Times, membership fees were $600,000 in 2006, placing it among the most expensive in the country.
Sebonack Golf Club
This club, which opened in 2006, borders National Golf Links of America and is near Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. While a staff member declined to tell us the fees over the phone, a 2008 article in the Times lists the initiation fee as $650,000. Prospective members fill out an information sheet and speak with the owner, who judges if they are a good fit. www.sebonack.com
Greenwich Country Club
The website instructs those looking for information on membership to “contact your friends, co-workers or acquaintances who are members of the club” and asks that you “do not call the club directly.” Membership requires an initial sponsor plus an additional letter of recommendation from members. www.greenwichcountryclub.org
East Hampton Golf Club
East Hampton, NY
This club warns prospective members on its website that all members must either have a net worth of $1 million (excluding homes and cars) or earn more than $200,000 per year. While we were unable to find out the membership fees, basing it on those requirements, we can assume it is fairly high. www.easthamptongolfclub.com
Deepdale Golf Club
An existing member must write a letter to the board recommending a prospective member to this historic club that William K. Vanderbilt II founded in 1924. The Duke of Windsor and Dwight D. Eisenhower were members of the club, which declined to reveal its fees. www.deepdalegolfclub.com
Blind Brook Club
Prospective members of this club, which was founded in 1915, must find multiple sponsors to make recommendations to the board of governors. The club declined to tell us how much its fees are. www.blindbrookclub.org
Bayonne Golf Club
Unlike many of the clubs on our list, Bayonne does not have a board or a committee, and while a referral is helpful for membership, it is not necessary. The initiation fee is $75,000 and annual dues are $17,900. Because of the way the club is structured, however, there are no additional charges for maintenance of the grounds. www.bayonnegolfclub.com