18. Wade Hampton Golf Club Cashiers, North Carolina
The peaks and knobs of quiet Cashiers are filling up with golf and guard gates while the easy society of Wade Hampton moseys along at its own pace. The community was prospected by a brother-and-sister development team and is blessed with prime Blue Ridge acreage and the right course designer, Tom Fazio, whose beloved layout quietly turned twenty last year.
19. Reynolds Plantation Greensboro, Georgia
Despite its just-folks ambience, this is one of the most innovative golf communities in the U.S. Its wild new Jim Engh–designed Creek Club has raving fans (and a few doubters). Also newly minted is the state-of-the-art (and then some) golf-experience program created in partnership with TaylorMade.
20. Yellowstone Club Big Sky, Montana
On track for a grand opening in 2009, the golf clubhouse will treat members to views of the Spanish Peak mountain range. Self-billed as the only community in Montana offering private skiing and golf, it is certainly the most elite.
21. John's Island Vero Beach, Florida
Flanked by the Indian River and the Atlantic, this haven of quiet grandeur has three courses, tennis, a full gym and apocalypse-proof real estate values.
22. Iron Horse Whitefish, Montana
It's a short drive to Glacier National Park from this 820-acre sporting utopia overlooking Whitefish Lake. The smartly run Outdoor Pursuits program offered by its developers can take residents from horseback to whitewater to the trailhead of a distant peak. Back at the ranch are a Fazio course and other indulgences, such as crackling fires and gourmet cuisine.
23. Spring Island Okatie, South Carolina
Even without covenants and codes, the ecology-minded lifelong learners residing here would keep their homes low-slung and wedded to the landscape. A fitness center, pool and tennis complex tone the body, and courses in studio art, music and botany sharpen the mind.
24. Stock Farm Hamilton, Montana
Not a pun on the name of its founder, Charles Schwab, Stock Farm is a Montana golf enclave set apart from the region's potentially overwhelming ski culture. Golf, fitness-center workouts and prairie contemplation provide contentment. There are two distinct home-siting options: mountain or valley.
25. Silverleaf Scottsdale, Arizona
Built on a New Urbanist template, with neighborhood life encouraged. The golf course helped establish Tom Weiskopf as a specialist in desert design. In the distance, the shadowy McDowell Mountains frame memorable Scottsdale sunsets.
How We Compile the List
Our compilation of the Top 100 communities seeks out superb golf, luxury residences, extraordinary locations and a breadth of lifestyle opportunities. To be eligible, communities must offer property owners an opportunity for membership in an affiliated private golf club. Limited public access to the course—such as for guests at a resort—is allowed but may detract from a community's ranking. Each property is reviewed in the following six categories, in order of importance: golf amenity; residential architecture and style; location, including natural setting and proximity to cultural activities; management, service and programming options; nongolf amenities, such as a full-service spa, equestrian center or marina; and environmental stewardship.