5 ways to get onto some of the best and most exclusive clubs in the world

December 17, 2019

Poor, pitiful you.

You are not a captain of industry, a head of state, a PGA Tour professional, a past president of the United States Golf Association, or the offspring of blue blood elites.

And yet you’re a golfer. An addict, really, driven mad by dreams of playing the world’s most exclusive courses.

What can you do?

Short of committing criminal trespass, or cozying up to a club member, you’re largely out of options. But not entirely. Here are 5 end-arounds onto some of the game’s most rarefied grounds.

1. Work the Event

Here’s one proven path onto Augusta National: create a technology company and build it into a multi-billion dollar business, then get word out through your well-connected friends that you’d like to join the club and wait a few years for the invite. It worked for Bill Gates. It could work for you.

More realistic, though, is to learn how to write, photograph or broadcast. From there, all you have to do is join the press corps, get credentialed to cover the Masters and enter the media lottery. 28 members in that pool are chosen to play the course on the Monday after the event, though if you’re selected, you have to wait another seven years to enter the lottery again.

Another option is to earn a coveted spot as a tournament volunteer. They’ll work you hard that week. But they’ll also set aside a spot for you to play one day in May.

2. Give to a Charity

In February 2018, word popped up on Facebook of a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” A live auction would be held to raise money for children’s health care at the Sydney Invitational Golf Tournament, with a foursome at Ellerston on the blocks.

Built as a personal playground for the late media mogul Kerry Packer, Ellerston ranks among the most elusive tee times in the world. But this was not, in fact, a “once in a lifetime” offer. Access to Ellerston had been sold in the name of charity before, just as it is every year at many of the game’s most exclusive redoubts. So keep an eye out for auctions and other fundraising events (paying your way into a pro-am is also something to consider). You’ll probably pay dearly, but at least you’re contributing to a good cause: your own.

3. Join a Golf Society

The Eden Club. The Outpost Club. The Eligo Club. The Eighty Club. These aren’t golf clubs in the old-fashioned sense, replete with their own clubhouses and courses. They are golf societies, filled with dues-paying members who are in it for the fellowship, the friendly competition and—let’s be honest—access to some of the most sought-after courses in the world.

4. Become a Course Rater

Opinions on golf courses are like noses. Everybody’s got one. Might as well make sharing yours a part-time job.

Not all course ranking panels are created equal, nor do they all get you exclusive access (some have hundreds of raters who pay for their credentials; others, like GOLF’s top 100 raters, are free but as exclusive as courses they rate).

But if you’ve got an eye for architecture and the means to travel, it’s worth looking into becoming a rater. You won’t be able to ring up, say, Shinnecock and expect they’ll roll out the red carpet. But many clubs will. Consider it a good excuse to flit about the globe seeing great layouts, while telling people that it’s—you know—work.

5. Become a Brookline Fireman or a Cop

Former Reebok CEO Paul Fireman built a mansion alongside The Country Club in Brookline, but he never got an invite to join the club. Perhaps he should have become a fireman instead. Once a year, the historic club—a three-time site of the U.S. Open—hosts a one-day tournament for local firefighters and cops. So there you have it. You could join the force. A lot of folks would jumps through flames to play this course.

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