1. SEA ISLAND Sea Island, Georgia
Number eight on last year's list, this Old South enclave shoots to the top on the strength of upgraded facilities and the new Frederica development. Any of Sea Island's eight distinct communities would make for ideal living, but Frederica is one step beyond. Named for a Colonial fort built in 1736, the new development is on three thousand acres on Saint Simons Island, five minutes away from the hub of the resort. The plan calls for fewer than four hundred homesites (averaging from two to ten acres), offering ultimate privacy. Member-residents also have their own Tom Fazio-Sir Michael Bonallack private course and a boathouse from which to explore the surrounding four-hundred-acre lake. Plus, they have access to all of Sea Island's exceptional resort amenities, including the Beach Club, spa, stables, the recently redone Cloister and three (other) great courses.
2. PALMETTO BLUFF Bluffton, South Carolina
Once a hunting preserve for timber-industry executives, this is a Rockies-size property (22,000 acres) in the Carolina Lowcountry. The broad May River serves as a backdrop for several residential clusters, including a beautifully designed compact resort village. It moves up on the list this year thanks to its new "compound" concept—families can build multiple dwellings on lots of at least fourteen acres (see page 100). Boating, fishing, kayaking, an award-winning spa and an artful Jack Nicklaus course round out the picture.
3. SANTA LUCIA PRESERVE Carmel, California
There is space here for 130 golf courses, but the master plan calls for just one: a beloved Tom Fazio layout that tumbles through redwoods and oaks and plays its way toward distant peaks. The development offers every other amenity, including a sports complex, an equestrian center and a hacienda-style clubhouse. And if things get too quiet, fashionable Carmel and Pebble Beach are a short ride away.
4. MAYACAMA Santa Rosa, California
Mayacama merges two cultures—golf and wine—in a sublime Sonoma Valley setting. The personal Mayacama lockers include those of a few dozen "vintner members" who set a spirited tone of camaraderie and conviviality. And the property's 2001 Jack Nicklaus design showed him to be at a new level of grace and polish. Great caddie program, too.
5. KIAWAH ISLAND Kiawah, South Carolina
Now in its fourth decade, Kiawah has attained iconic status, yet it continually embarks on improvements. In anticipation of the 2007 Senior PGA Championship, a new $20 million clubhouse is near completion at the famed Ocean course. With the arrival of the private Kiawah Island Club and Tom Watson-designed Cassique golf course several years ago, the lifestyle for residents rose another notch or two.
6. PROMONTORY Park City, Utah
One of the mountain time zone's premier addresses. This summer, Promontory doubles its golf complement with the etching of a Jack Nicklaus Signature course. To take full advantage of residency here, you should know how to ride a horse, cast a fly, ski the glades, break ninety and hit a passing shot. Kids have their own hideaway: a five-thousand-square-foot clubhouse equipped with waterslides, lookout towers, a trapper's cabin and a climbing wall.
7. THE CLIFFS COMMUNITIES Travelers Rest, South Carolina
When Gary Player was asked to design the golf course at the planned Cliffs at Mountain Park community, he investigated further and decided to move his home and business to this scattering of luxury golf communities in the Greenville-Asheville axis. The attractions for Player were the Blue Ridge scenery, swank clubhouses (five of them in total), fine dining, Tour-tested golf, miles of hiking trails and a wellness culture as invigorating as the mountain air.
8. PRONGHORN Bend, Oregon
Ski Mount Bachelor, fly-fish the Deschutes River, roam through friendly and fashionable downtown Bend—then return home to this luxurious, family-friendly community with golf by Nicklaus and Fazio. (The Fazio layout is one of our "Best New Courses of 2006.") A full-service spa and fitness center are set to open in early 2008; for now, the Trailhead activities lodge offers temporary facilities.
9. THREE CREEK RANCH Jackson, Wyoming
Rees Jones worked just a hint of European formalism into the Teton landscape to create a handsome, hardy golf course that complements Three Creek's easygoing excellence. The community is 710 acres in size with low ridges and jagged peaks that form splendid panoramas. Fishing, the world's other great bragging-and-lying pursuit, takes place on world-class sporting streams that wander the property.
10. THE BEAR'S CLUB Jupiter, Florida
Personal service is so scrupulous here that if you happen to drop a name someone will be there to pick it up. The number of homesites is small for the acreage, and the layout has a human scale that promotes casual interactions among the elite. At the top end are the Vintage Estates homes, just thirteen of them. Coupled with the main eighteen is a flawless, Nicklaus-designed par-three course.