Many of the world’s greatest golf courses are, unfortunately, also the toughest greens to play on.Some like the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, have only a few hundred members and uphold crazy rules — like not letting women join — to keep their ranks exclusive.
Others, like the Sanctuary in Denver, which is privately owned by Re/Max realty founder Dave Liniger, host only a handful of golfers a year.
But there are ways for passionate golfers to play at the clubs with the most closely guarded gates.
Our friends at Golf Vacation Insider have published a guide to getting onto the world’s most exclusive golf courses and have been kind enough to share some of their best tips with us. Check out the full guide here.
Private clubs actually love unaccompanied guests, as they can be a major source of revenue.
Only a handful of elite clubs, like Augusta, have policies against non-members playing a guest round, according to Golf Vacation Insider.
And don't forget to thank your host.
Try scoring a tee time during the off-season, when there aren't many members around but the weather is still decent.
Unaccompanied green fees can be a great source of revenue and keep caddies busy.
Many clubs don't openly promote such policies, but some, like Sankaty Head Golf Club in Nantucket, allow anyone to play between Columbus Day and Memorial Day, according to GVI.
Some courses offer access to guests of certain hotels, but others require guests to be signed up for perks programs.
Participants in the American Express Preferred Golf Club program, for example, can use the club at Rich Harvest Farms, which is around 45 minutes from Chicago and privately owned by millionaire Jerry Rich.
While it's not a given, an experienced travel agent can probably help you get access to some of the most exclusive clubs out there.
Don't be afraid to ask.
Someone has to hold up the 'quiet' sign and spot golf balls that veer off course.
Major tournaments often employ hundreds of volunteers for these jobs, and in return volunteers can generally play the course before or after the event, GVI says.
One of the easiest ways to get onto a private green is to pay for a spot in a charity golf outing.
Even the most guarded clubs open their doors for such events once or twice a year.
Check out a list of 100 charity golf events at private clubs here.
Some clubs, like those under the ClubCorps umbrella, actively promote their reciprocal programs.
Members of ClubCorps clubs can play any of the 100+ clubs in the network, including Ohio's Firestone Country Club, Bear's Best in Atlanta, and California's Mission Hills, all without paying a green fee.
These days, most charity events run silent auctions to raise additional money. And those auctions almost always include at least one package with tee times at a private club, according to GVI.
There are also occasional online auctions that offer similar packages.
Not all private clubs offer lessons to non-members, but some do and if there is a club you're interested in playing, it's worth putting in a call to the pro.
Lessons can be a great source of revenue for clubs and hopefully your pro will suggest a 'playing lesson.'
Many private clubs are part of housing developments where ownership and membership go hand-in-hand, according to GVI.
Some private communities offer a complimentary round of golf with a real estate tour; others, like Querencia in Mexico, charge a steep green fee even for a test run, GVI says.
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