Many of the world’s oldest and most respected golf clubs are private. While this means that only members have access to their putting greens and air-conditioned clubhouses, it doesn’t stop the rest of the golf world from speculating on what membership is like.
After all, even the world’s most exclusive clubs have photos and information available to the public. Despite this, it doesn’t bring fans any closer to being able to foot a hefty registration fee or annual fee (and that’s assuming they make it through the club’s ten-year waitlist).
Recently, a group called Platinum Clubs of the World created a hyper-exclusive list that includes twenty-five of the world’s finest private golf clubs. Features like ‘excellence in amenities and facilities’ and ‘prudent fiscal management’ are considered before a club can be admitted into the Platinum Clubs of the World group.
Members are expected to abide by a strict dress code, walk between greens, and utilize a uniformed caddie. And, until recently, one major requirement for many clubs was to be male. These twenty-five elite clubs dot the globe, from places like England and France, to China, Australia and the United States. But the Augusta National, located in Augusta, Georgia, USA, tops the Platinum Club list for exclusivity.
The Augusta National
Fans and pros flock to the Augusta National Golf Club every year for the annual Masters Tournament, but aside from this event, the club is renowned for its closed-doors policy. In fact, unless a fan makes the trip to Augusta, Georgia and buys a ticket to the tournament on top of that, throwing in a wager on US Masters betting odds is as close as many golf fans will come to an exclusive establishment like the Augusta National Golf Club.
Up until recently, the club didn’t admit female members. And, even today, the only known female club members (of the 300-person count) are the former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, private investor Darla Moore, and the CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty. Meanwhile, male members include Microsoft founder Bill Gates and business tycoon, Warren Buffett.
While all golf clubs in the Platinum Club will require some deep pockets just to pay the annual fee, registration fees for the Augusta National range from $250,000 to $500,000—though no one is quite sure how these ranges are determined.
Despite the fact that nearly one hundred Masters Tournaments have been played at the Augusta, fans still know very little about the finer workings of the club. In the end, this may not be a bad thing considering the interesting rumors that abound since the club opened, which can’t be confirmed or denied.
Hole Redesign & Cattle Farm
One of the most interesting speculations regarding the Augusta is that it was purportedly used as a cattle farm during World War II. This is almost impossible to imagine given the pristine conditions that the club’s greenskeepers spend their days maintaining.
However, from 1942 until 1945, the Augusta closed its doors as the US entered the Second World War. In a bid to make up for some lost annual fees, the club apparently decided to allow turkeys and cows to roam the greens. While the imagery is hilarious to think about, the move wasn’t as profitable as club leaders hoped, and the Augusta was back in action by 1946.
Another interesting rumor associated with the Augusta is its deviation from the master design originally laid out by Sir Alister Mackenzie. While most exclusive clubs take precarious measures to maintain the architectural integrity of original designers like Mackenzie, rumor has it that the Augusta meddled with its par-3 16th hole… more than once.
The 16th hole originally laid out by Mackenzie was designed to require a simple 145-yard shot that would arch over a creek. However, shortly after the turkeys and cows were cleared from the putting greens, member Robert Trent redesigned the hole in 1947.
This hole redesign, blasphemous as it may be, has led to some very interesting golfing in the past decades. For instance, the new hole now includes a pond that runs on the left side of the green and often fuddles attempts made by top pros like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.