Thursday, May 10, 2007

Secrets to Getting on the Top Golf Courses in the World

In one of my previous posts I committed to posting some of the secrets of my success to my loyal readers when one of three events happened: 1) I played 75 of the top 100 courses; 2) I played Pine Valley or 3) I played Cypress Point.

Well, I haven't played 75 courses yet, but I'm a happy man and will share some of the love on this post!

I have always appreciated the approach to golf in both the British Isles and Australia in that they grant outsiders access to even their most elite clubs. Granted, you have to book in advance, follow their rules and they don't allow too many visitors, but at least they are sharing their treasures with the world. It is a lot more difficult in the U.S. to gain access to most private clubs. The resort courses such as Pinehurst, Pebble Beach and Bandon Dunes are accessible to anyone who books in advance and pays the fee. Golfers everywhere should be grateful for people like Mike Keiser, the founder of the Bandon Dunes resort, for building some of the top golf courses in the world with a philosophy of making them accessible at a reasonable price to all golfers.

On the other hand, gaining access to Seminole, Pine Valley, Augusta National, Los Angeles Country Club or Garden City Mens Club is a lot more difficult. While doing research on these clubs I finally figured out why they don't have more liberal visitor policies like those in the U.K. and Australia. Most of the elite golf courses in the U.S. are organized as non-for-profit entities. Allowing access to the public and generating profit beyond the private pleasures of their members would jeopardize their tax-exempt status. I always thought they were just being snooty and no doubt some are, but there is some logic to their position.

There have been a handful of people who have played the top 100 golf courses in the world. The Americans who have done so have all been members of a top private club. This makes gaining access to other clubs a lot easier, particularly if you belong to one of the highly regarded ones, by being able to offer a return visit to a member who hosts you. I have been successful gaining access without being a member of one of these clubs. Nor am I a member of the R & A as some of the prior participants have been. Nor am I a member of the press. I am doing this the old-fashioned way, gaining access one course at a time through nothing more than the charm of my glowing personality. What is surprising when I look at the courses I have played is that in only two instances did I directly know the member. As the hypothesis goes, there are six degrees of separation between all people on the planet. In my case, I have never had to go further than three degrees to get on a course. In most cases it was only two - that is, someone who knows an acquaintance of mine.

So, how have I gotten onto so many of the top golf courses in the world? Well, here for the first time, I will reveal some secrets to gaining access to the top courses:

1. Pine Valley allows non-members access during early October for the playing of their annual club championship - the Crump Cup. While you can't play the course or visit the pro shop, you can walk it (sometimes in peaceful seclusion), which is closer than most people will ever get to playing it.

2. You can get on the normally difficult to access Muirfield on short notice by staying at the Greywalls Hotel, which is adjacent to the golf course. They have a small amount of tee times on Monday and Friday mornings that are allocated only to guests of the hotel. Overall, it will be expensive, but you are playing one of the top five ranked courses in the world, after all.

3. Your golf professional can be very helpful. The pro at your course can sometimes get you access to courses of other private clubs. Be discrete. Don't abuse the privilege. It probably won't work getting you onto the really elite courses such as Seminole, Shinnecock or Augusta, but you can get access to some of the lesser known, private courses on the list. Also, it is not free, you have to pay the greens fees. I have played about six of the courses this way thus far.

4. Make yourself known - Believe it or not I was called unsolicited to play two of the courses in the top 25 by getting my name out. Start a blog or a web-site. Chances are it won't be as insightful or wry as mine, but give it a shot.

5. Ask - but not for Augusta. If you ask a member of Augusta it's an automatic no. They have to ask you. Also, writing to or calling an Augusta member won't work. They've heard it all and get letters frequently requesting access to grant someone's dying wish. But aside from that one, as every effective sales person knows, you have to ask for the order if you want to get invited. You can lookup members of most golf courses in the United States by going to to see if people you meet or acquaintances are members of any courses you want to play. You'll be surprised at some of the names you see.

6. Network - knowing or meeting members of the private courses is the best way to gain access. You don't necessarily have to know them directly, sometimes your friends know people. Don't be obnoxious, but when appropriate, ask and you can often gain access. Have good etiquette, though. Always offer to pay greens fees. Always offer to pay the caddies and tip generously. Send your host a gift afterwards.

The above are just a few of the ways to get onto the best courses in the world. I'm happy to announce that my forthcoming book will be available in the spring and is available for pre-order on Amazon. It goes into detail about the methods I used to get on private, difficult to access and popular public (St. Andrews, Bethpage, etc.) courses around the world (including Augusta National), and will no doubt be of use to others looking to learn how to do it. Click on the image below to pre-order:


Anonymous said...

Joe said, "The Americans who have done so have all been members of a top private club."

Not true, I know one person who did the Golf Magazine list who was not a member of a Top club.

Salty said...

Hi Joe,
I have been following your blog for two years now, it is amazing how far you have come.

You posted that you have played 6 courses by getting your pro to make a phone call. I have done this too and it worked, sometimes (Oakmont, Sawgrass CC, Medinah, Olympia Fields, Point O'Woods and a few more). Any way you can let me know which courses it worked on for you?

Also, I'm thinking of planning a trip to Alabama and wanted to know if you had any idea about getting on Shoal Creek? Difficult?

Good luck with the rest of your travels.

Top 100 Golfer said...

Prairie Dunes, Crystal Downs, Southern Hills, Scioto, Eastlake and a 6th that I promised not to reveal

Hesha and Kalpesh said...

Just starting reading your blog...thanks for all the info you provide....

1] Can you please tell me the 5 most scenic golf courses golfed on the top 100 in the World list? OR
2]the 5 most scenic golf courses anywhere you have golfed?
3]Are any of these public?

thanks in advance for you information

Anonymous said...

You forgot one… Become (or befriend) a high yield credit or CDS trader at an investment bank or hedge fund. These guys can play anywhere (at least in the northeast) through their brokers… I’ve got on a couple places via friends this way.

Anonymous said...

While these are all certainly good options, don't forget being a golf professional is an excellent way to gain access, especially if you are one at a high end private club with members at many of the Top 100. So, if you are a bit younger (aka possible career change), have a great golf game, and think working in the business could be appealing, you could play many great courses with minimal effort. I took a recent trip to play Spyglass, MPCC Shore, and Cypress Point with members at my club.

Mark Doebler said...

just found your blog...and being a golf afficianado myself...really appreciated your journey.

I actually HAVE played at Augusta and I can offer one other piece of advice to get on... become a caddy at the course...that's what worked for me.

There is a requirement to carry a certain number of loops after the Masters and before the summer closing of the course just before Memorial Day. If you complete the necessary number of loops, you get one glorious day to play as much as you can get in.

I completed 54 holes, plus 5 on the par three course.

Best of luck!