The private club – that bastion of wood-paneled civility – always has been a place where a member’s business life is discussed but not practiced. Indeed, doing actual business, such as unaccompanied rounds for a member’s top clients, are as welcome at a private club as a mid-season assessment. And even if a member accompanies his group, he’ll find roadblocks, should he try to conduct a seal-the-deal post-round meeting on the premises.
There are a small number of private clubs, though, that embrace – indeed, solicit – corporate play. Not only will your unaccompanied clients be welcome at these privates, they will have full access to the clubs’ meetings facilities. Here are the best:
CordeValle Golf Club, San Martin, Calif.
No club is more dedicated to the corporate golfer’s business than this two-year-old Silicon Valley private retreat. Its stated goal is to be “an entertainment haven for business leaders and entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley,” and its facilities are prodigious: a 36,000-square-foot clubhouse, comprising three boardrooms, a banquet room, a ballroom; 45 luxury villas; a 5,000 square-foot spa; and an 85-acre vineyard operated by Clos LaChance Wines.
CordeValle’s roughly 400 members play a superb 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout located 20 minutes south of San Jose. Corporate membership costs $200,000 per designee (minimum of two designees per membership), but even with the influx of corporate dollars, it will soon increase. 408-278-7280.
Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club, Bedminster, N.J.
Located less than an hour’s drive from Manhattan, this 54-hole facility is one of the busiest corporate clubs in the land, handling 5,000 rounds of golf per year. The club, which has three conference rooms but few overnight accommodations, has attracted a who’s who of corporate America for its club membership of about $20,000 per year. Yet what Fiddler’s Elbow lacks in accommodations, it more than makes up for with its liberal guest policy. According to golf coordinator Steve Peppe, a group as large as 16 players is “not even considered an outing here.” Such groups may play unaccompanied any weekday, except for holidays, when a member must be present. Tee times for groups of up to 400 are available Monday through Thursday. 908-439-2123.
Caves Valley Golf Club, Owings Mills, Md.
This 10-year-old suburban Baltimore club features an 18-hole Tom Fazio-design that is the site of the 2002 U.S. Senior Open. It also has five guest cottages spread over the club’s 962-acre property, a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse and ample outdoor space for entertainment. It heartily welcomes business clients and associates. “Guest play is encouraged,” says general manager Nancy Palmer. In fact, members – who pay $100,000-plus to join – regularly can bring up to 31 guests, which explains why 65 percent of the club’s rounds are played by visitors. 410-356-1319.
Stallion Mountain Country Club, Las Vegas
Since purchasing well-known Stallion Mountain in 1997, renown Las Vegas gambler and golf proprietor Bill Walters has transformed this 600-plus-acre facility into a premier corporate golf destination. Some 400 business outings are held on its 54 holes each year.
Walters points to three reasons for his success:
First, he invested more than $21 million to meticulously redesign each of the property’s three courses. Second, not only did he renovate the existing members-only clubhouse, he built a separate clubhouse for the exclusive use of guests. And third, to play Stallion Mountain, a company need only house its golfers at selected hotels in Las Vegas. In other words, joining the club is not a requirement.
“When I bought this, I wanted to create an environment wherein we could have the best private corporate club in America,” says Walters. “The only place that does it as well is our model, Firestone. I’ve had guests tell me they’re actually treated better here than at their home clubs.” 702-450-8080.
TPC at Jasna Polana, Princeton, N.J.
The PGA Tour-affiliated TPC network consists of 20 clubs. Most of them are private, and many have the cache that comes with being the host site of a PGA Tour, Senior PGA Tour or Buy.com Tour event. Join one, and you and your company’s guests will have access to every TPC course.
Though TPCs are scattered about the country, the one that most likely will appeal to Wall Street-based golfers is Jasna Polana. Located about an hour south of Manhattan, this central New Jersey club, which carries a $75,000 membership fee – the highest of all TPCs – is the site of the Senior PGA Tour’s Instinet Classic. It is built on a sprawling estate founded by heirs to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune. 609-688-0500.