Our Annual List of the Best Places to Live—and Live Well
greenbrier gold course
Credit: Courtesy of The Greenbrier

Pursuing a life as close to nature as possible would have been madness to the seventeenth-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who sensed "continual fear and danger" in such an existence. Hobbes felt certain it would be "poor, nasty, brutish and short."

We could change old Hobbes's mind with the help of a time tunnel, showing him the mix of civilized refinement and untamed natural beauty at America's finest golf communities. Right now, as Briar's Creek members enjoy their plush new clubhouse and Talisker Club members begin skiing in and out of their Red Cloud lodge, residents at properties like Black Bull in Montana and Spring Island in South Carolina are tramping through raw nature, studying its flora and fauna with the aid of staff naturalists.

A fine balance has been struck. Enjoying the comforts and refinements of a top-shelf community—including golf that brims with beauty and challenge—today's person of means wants to reach beyond all that and plunge into wild, unspoiled surroundings. Further, he wishes to make his luxury community as sustainably green as possible.

In deference to Hobbes, "poor, nasty and brutish" are fitting adjectives for our current world economy. Meaning that, if you can make it happen, owning the most desirable and best-managed real estate on earth offers reassurance.

These one hundred exquisite environments are case studies in how to make life on earth as pleasing, stimulating and worthwhile as possible. They have sited themselves within the finest natural surroundings one could wish for, and added all the comforts of home.


Greystone, Birmingham

Tour stars Hale Irwin and Hubert Green were among the winners of the Bruno's Memorial senior event, played on Greystone's Bob Cupp–designed course during a fourteen-year run. The second course here, by Rees Jones, has a country manor–style stone clubhouse and hills of hardwood framing it.

Golf: 36 holes (Bob Cupp, Rees Jones).

Homes: From $350,000.

Contact: greystonecc.com.


Blackstone Country Club, Peoria

The desert topography is relatively tame, but the amenities and activities of this community within a community (Vistancia is the mothership) add up to plenty. Jim Engh's unbridled approach yielded a visual, visceral joyride of a golf course.

Golf: 18 holes (Jim Engh).

Homes: From $600,000.

Homesites: From $250,000.

Desert Highlands, Scottsdale

This gated community and television's Skins Game debuted together in 1983. The golf course is a flash-bunkered beauty by Jack Nicklaus, conceived with the blessing of developer Lyle Anderson. It's possible that more money changes hands on the community's enormous, Gary Panks–designed putting course.

Golf: 18 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $1 million.

Homesites: From $350,000.

Desert Mountain, Scottsdale

Its final area of development is a neighborhood called Cintarosa Ranch, perched on the property's highest point. It divides itself into large lots where twenty-one homes of about five thousand square feet will be built. Buy one and you get an equity membership to the golf club, where it's all Nicklaus (six championship courses) all the time.

Golf: 108 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $900,000.

Homesites: From $400,000.

Estancia, Scottsdale

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $1.5 million.

Forest Highlands, Flagstaff

There is more of an Oregon or Idaho feel here than the high gloss you expect at club communities around Phoenix. Kids camps, movies in the park and family barbecues are high priorities. If you would like to test drive the lifestyle, you can do so by leasing a home—for quite reasonable prices.

Golf: 36 holes (Jay Morrish/Tom Weiskopf, Tom Weiskopf).

Homes: From $629,000.

Homesites: From $195,000.

Contact: fhgc.com.

Mirabel, Scottsdale

Custom homes are done in the Tuscan, prairie and Spanish-colonial styles. Club membership is equity-based and requires an invitation, not typical in residential developments. No need to head off-property for that stone massage, as Mirabel is accoutered with its own health spa and salon.

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $1.5 million.

Homesites: From $500,000.

Contact: mirabel.com.

Pine Canyon, Flagstaff (New)

Luxurious in a wholesome way, this five-year-old property in Grand Canyon–land has its amenities (clubhouse, private spa, fitness center, kids camp with water park) all nicely in place. The golf course, rimmed by rugged peaks, demands all sorts of shots without ever becoming a slog. A concierge service caters to primary and weekend residents alike.

Golf: 19 holes (Jay Morrish).

Homes: From $799,000.

Homesites: From $295,000.

Contact: pinecanyon.net.

The Rim Golf Club, Payson

In novels like Western Union and Riders of the Purple Sage, author Zane Grey—who owned a cabin not far from this acclaimed golf community—helped create the Hollywood Western genre. Rim members gravitate to the well-equipped but unfussy Athletic Spa, and they do the foodie thing in their rugged, sumptuous clubhouse. The golf course, by Morrish and Weiskopf, is a high-country classic.

Golf: 18 holes (Jay Morrish/Tom Weiskopf).

Homes: From $1.3 million.

Homesites: From $175,000.

Seven Canyons, Sedona

Something in the red-orange sandstone at 4,500 feet puts golfers, hikers, bikers and balloonists in their respective sweet spots. True to the looming, ledge-filled landscape around it, the Seven Canyons golf course is shaped and bunkered in a dynamic, free-form manner. Villas and estate homes offer generous options as to size and price.

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Weiskopf).

Homesites: From $1.5 million.

Silverleaf Scottsdale

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Weiskopf).

Homes: From $1.4 million. Homesites: from $599,000.

Contact: silverleaf.com.

Stone Canyon, Oro Valley

Featuring a Jay Morrish golf course that will stop you in your spikes. Mounds, hollows, bunkers and target areas flow together like tessellations in an M. C. Escher woodcut. Saguaro cacti stain Morrish's fairways with eerie shadows at dusk. Stonegate, with bungalows by architect Barry Berkus, is a particularly enviable address here.

Golf: 18 holes (Jay Morrish).

Homes: From $1 million.

Homesites: From $300,000.

Contact: stonecanyon.com.

Superstition Mountain, Gold Canyon

Two Nicklaus courses, Prospector and Lost Gold, anchor this 927-acre community on the eastern edge of the Phoenix-Scottsdale metroplex. A building addition to the Sports Club has been put on hold, awaiting an improved economic climate.

Golf: 36 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $599,000.

Homesites: From $300,000.

Contact: 877-983-3300.


The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Santa Fe

Down the road from Carlsbad—where so many jumbo-headed drivers are built—the Robert Trent Jones Jr. course at the Bridges has a bunch of holes that are grip-and-rippers. Tile roofs and graceful arches evoke a monastic tranquility, but club life is vibrant here—all hotly contested golf tournaments and organic-gardening events.

Golf: 18 holes (Robert Trent Jones Jr.).

Homes: From $2 million.

Homesites: From $2 million.

The Crosby at Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Santa Fe

A cook's tour of this high-spirited, high-net-worth community reveals the design influence of Lillian Rice, one of the twentieth century's most accomplished female architects. A phase called Vintage at the Crosby is due to open in 2009. The club's fine Couples-Curley golf course can play to a 140 slope.

Golf: 18 holes (Fred Couples/Schmidt-Curley).

Homes: From $1.2 million.

Contact: thecrosby.com.

The Hideaway, La Quinta

British-bred Clive Clark and America's Links Revival architect, Pete Dye, stage a course-design bake-off at the Hideaway golf complex. Each of their layouts plays on the visual tension between La Quinta's level basin land and all those rumbling Santa Rosa ridgelines in the middle distance.

Golf: 36 holes (Clive Clark, Pete Dye).

Homes: From $1.7 million.

Homesites: From $400,000.

Lahontan, Truckee

Lahontan's spa draws on the elemental Zen of the lake environment. Its Weiskopf-designed championship course (there is also a nine-hole par-three layout) mixes entertaining deceptions with the expected mountain grandeur.

Golf: 27 holes (Tom Weiskopf).

Homes: From $1.5 million.

Homesites: From $150,000.

Contact: lahontan.com.

Mayacama, Santa Rosa

Golf: 18 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $4.1 million.

Homesites: From $1.2 million.

Contact: mayacama.com.

Old Greenwood, Truckee

East West Partners, the developer of this pine-scented haven, is a major player in the Tahoe region, which pays four-season dividends for members of its various sports, golf and ski clubs. Old Greenwood offers fractional ownership.

Golf: 18 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $1.2 million.

Homesites: From $300,000.

The Quarry, La Quinta

When the residential phase called the Quarry Ranch broke ground in 2003, Tom Fazio returned to the scene of his earlier design triumph and laid out a ten-hole short course for the amusement of the incoming residents. Of all communities that have passed muster to make our Top 100, none of them needs the publicity less than this place.

Golf: 28 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $1.4 million.

Homesites: From $395,000.

Contact: quarryinfo.com.

Santa Lucia Preserve, Carmel

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $3 million.

Homesites: From $1 million.

Santaluz, San Diego

The sum of the parts at this Spanish colonial–style community is formidable: not just a thirty-five-thousand-square-foot clubhouse (with a resort-quality spa) but a fitness-aquatics complex they call the Hacienda and an eleven-acre town green alongside it. From the people who brought you Silverleaf and Glenwild, among other standouts.

Golf: 18 holes (Rees Jones).

Homes: From $900,000.

Homesites: From $700,000.

Contact: santaluz.com.

Sherwood, Thousand Oaks

An unsung virtue of life in this 1,965-acre community is the opportunity to go sailing, fishing and kayaking on 165-acre Lake Sherwood, which lies fully within the boundaries of the property.

Golf: 18 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $2 million.

Homesites: From $950,000.

Contact: sherwoodcc.com.

Stone Eagle, Palm Desert

An ideal course to play when your opponent is loaded with talent but a dumb decision maker (for example, your seventeen-year-old son). All day long, he'll launch shots that look great in the air but run afoul of Tom Doak's sly hazards and overpromising landing areas. You can opt for partial ownership here—one of many ways in which Stone Eagle achieves its new-wave take on Palm Springs.

Golf: 19 holes (Tom Doak).

Homes: From $2 million.

Homesites: From $400,000.

Tehama, Carmel

Golf: 18 holes (Jay Morrish).

Homesites: From $2.6 million.

Tradition, La Quinta

Golf: 27 holes (Arnold Palmer).

Homes: From $2 million.

Homesites: From $600,000.

The Vintage Club, Indian Wells

A dusky horizon filled with creases, furrows and Santa Rosa peaks soothes the Vintage Clubber's soul. Because no other architect riffs on the surrounding topography like Tom Fazio, those shapes and shadows echo visually in the greens and fairways of the community's two excellent golf courses.

Golf: 36 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $3.9 million.


Adam’s Rib Ranch, Eagle (New)

New to market with a 7,300-yard course that opened in 2007 and a stone-and-timber clubhouse that followed in '08. Within months the spa and fitness center is expected to open, followed by an equestrian amenity. Limousine service is provided to the area's world-class ski areas, and guides can be arranged for white-water rafting and mountain hikes. Homesites range from three-plus acres to forty acres.

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Weiskopf).

Homes: From $3.7 million.

Homesites: From $900,000.

Cornerstone, Montrose (New)

Golf: 18 holes (Greg Norman).

Homesites: From $300,000.

Glacier Club, Durango (New)

Whatever you do for activities here—high-altitude golf, tennis on cushioned-surface courts, cardio sessions in the fitness complex—there's a captivating Southern Rockies view to go with it. The concierge service comes in two varieties: One stocks and chills the pinot gris in your townhome, the other pulls on waders to help with your fly-casting.

Golf: 27 holes (Todd Schroeder, Arthur Hills).

Homes: From $750,000.

Homesites: From $200,000.

Redlands Mesa, Grand Junction

Working in a Western landscape that recalls Tony Soprano's peyote-induced epiphany, course designer Jim Engh built silky contours that make the surroundings seem all the more jagged. With so many higher-end communities entering their mature stages, this one still holds out some pioneer atmosphere for the golfer buying in.

Golf: 18 holes (Jim Engh).

Homes: From $995,000. Homesites: from $150,000.

Red Sky, Ranch Wolcott

Unlike remote Colorado communities, this one sits fifteen minutes from the slopes of Beaver Creek. A Red Sky home purchase includes membership in the exclusive Bachelor Gulch Club, which brings valet ski services, a members' lounge and other forms of Ritz-Carlton pampering.

Golf: 36 holes (Tom Fazio, Greg Norman).

Homes: From $2.7 million.

Homesites: From $535,000.

Roaring Fork Club, Basalt

This golf-and-wilderness community blends upscale luxury with socially progressive ideals more intensively than any other. Its current expansion plan includes a new fitness center, a kid's camp and, yes, "eight affordable housing units." Golf: 18 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $3.2 million.


Admiral’s Cove, Jupiter (New)

When members moor their yachts and stow their clubs, a garrulous cocktail party starts right up. Lots of gated communities have charitable foundations, but this one pulls together half-million-dollar sums with ease. Winter guests can be billeted in one of the thirty-one guest suites in the club's sumptuous clubhouse. A fitness center, tennis complex and spa round out the amenities.

Golf: 45 holes (Robert von Hagge).

Homes: From $450,000.

Amelia Island Plantation, Fernandina Beach

Eco-friendly design and sustainable practices were the basis for AIP's particular karma, although an untamed maritime forest setting and lots of fine golf played their part. For any Amelia Island golfer prone to slamming clubs and uttering curses, one of the resort's mental-health retreats is a good idea.

Golf: 72 holes (Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Tom Jackson, Bobby Weed).

Homes: From $595,000.

Homesites: From $270,000.

Contact: aipfl.com.

The Bear’s Club, Jupiter

Golf: 18 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $2.6 million.

Homesites: From $3.5 million.

Bonita Bay, Bonita Springs

The good life in Florida can raise fears of insufficient stimulation for some. Here, the residential towers look down on five golf courses playing 140,000 annual rounds, and the activities calendar includes philosophy seminars. The professional staff stars chef Xavier Duclos, who trained in Bordeaux and did stints at La Côte Basque and the Rainbow Room.

Golf: 90 holes (Tom Fazio, Arthur Hills).

Homes: From $816,000.

Contact: bonitabay.com.

The Concession, Bradenton

Construction is under way on the community's main golf clubhouse, with decor and finishes by the noted designers Adrienne Vittadini and Pamela Hughes. A Sports Clubhouse loaded with equipment and facilities for tennis, swimming and fitness is also in the pipeline.

Golf: 18 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $2 million.

Homesites: From $495,000.

Fiddler’s Creek, Naples

A lush, lovely community with a track record of announcing ambitious projects then completing them on or close to schedule. The latest addition is a dry-boat storage building at the community's Tarpon Club Marina, located on Isles of Capri. Furnished model homes in the single-family neighborhood of Millbrook are newly opened for touring.

Golf: 18 holes (Arthur Hills).

Homes: From $500,000

The Founders Club, Sarasota

A tradition-minded community named for a golf-loving Scotsman who nearly perished cutting trails through the Florida jungle a century ago. In a modern-day trailblazing move, Founders Club has created a showcase program that permits unchaperoned open-house touring by qualified prospects. The concept is credited with sharply boosting property sales.

Golf: 18 holes (Robert Trent Jones Jr.).

Homes: From $900,000.

Homesites: From $300,000.

Grey Oaks, Naples

Wealth and refined sensibilities don't always go together. At Grey Oaks, with its original bronze sculptures and its Maybach sedans parked on display, the combination reigns. Amid what sometimes seemed like an ongoing Naples Land Rush, this has remained an unhurried masterpiece of a project.

Golf: 54 holes (Bob Cupp, Lloyd Clifton/Ken Ezell/George Clifton).

Homes: From $2.5 million.

Homesites: From $900,000.

Contact: greyoaks.com.

Isleworth, Windermere

Golf: 18 holes (Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay, redesigned in 2003 by Steve Smyers).

Homes: From $1.5 million.

Contact: isleworth.com.

John’s Island, Vero Beach

A grand opening was held in November for the new John's Island, Beach Club, a shorefront über-amenity dedicated to swimming, dining and socializing. The entire building can be shuttered up and air-conditioned or left wide open to the Atlantic breezes.

Golf: 54 holes (Pete Dye, Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $1.9 million.

Lake Nona, Orlando

Tom Fazio was given a lot of freedom to rout his golf course through a select land parcel in this sylvan central Florida enclave, and the finished product shows it. The owner, Joe Lewis, is now developing several thousand acres in the Lake Nona region, which will make it downright citified.

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $1 million.

Homesites: From $725,000.

Contact: lakenona.com.

The Loxahatchee Club, Jupiter

Caddies in white coveralls, the website ending in "dot org," a Club Leaders Forum award—it all paints an ivy-cloaked picture of gentility in civilized Jupiter. There is still a handful of homesites you can purchase and build on.

Golf: 18 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $415,000.

Homesites: From $335,000.

The Medalist Golf Club, Hobe Sound

A masculine sensibility pervades the club and its decor, but there is universal appeal to the Medalist Village Club and Spa, a massage mecca with a par-three course, a tennis center and the Aussie Pub.

Golf: 30 holes (Pete Dye/Greg Norman, Greg Norman).

Homes: From $1.9 million.

Homesites: From $500,000.

Mediterra, Naples

Not content to rest on its laurels, Mediterra remodeled its Sports Club, doubling the square footage with added fitness space plus a new salon and spa treatment rooms. Along with fashionable dining spaces, it offers a medieval-themed stargazing pavilion and golf courses that earn the highest Audubon Sanctuary status.

Golf: 36 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $700,000.

Homesites: From $300,000.

Mirasol, Palm Beach Gardens

There's plenty of space inside the Mirasol gates for lavish amenities, twenty-five villages and curving landscaped roads that connect it all together. Not the sort of community to have a raptor center and nerdy naturalists wandering about—but you'll have no trouble getting your tux pressed.

Golf: 36 holes (Tom Fazio, Arthur Hills).

Homes: From $800,000.

Contact: mirasolclub.com.

Old Marsh, Palm Beach Gardens

At its founding in 1984, Old Marsh sent for a St. Andrews eminence, Laurie Auchterlonie (son and nephew of major championship winners), to serve as its honorary professional. They hired Pete Dye to design the course and encouraged him to include some Auld Sod oddities.

Golf: 18 holes (Pete Dye).

Homes: From $1.7 million.

Homesites: From $500,000.

Old Palm Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens

Colonnades, mosaic tile, archways and decorative fountains seduce the eye at this five-year-old enclave. Raymond Floyd is the course designer and a club ambassador. Despite Floyd's influence, the instructors at the thirty-three-acre Golf Studio do not teach a laid-off club position at the top. WCI Communities, developer of Old Palm, is in bankruptcy.

Golf: 22 holes (Raymond Floyd).

Homes: From $1.7 million.

Homesites: From $1.3 million.

Contact: oldpalmgolf.com.

TwinEagles, Naples

The clubhouse at TwinEagles is vast by necessity, but the atmosphere is still warm and "golfy." A departed Champions Tour event proved the golf here to be tournament-worthy—while the actual hassle of hosting it is no longer a factor.

Golf: 36 holes (Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player).

Homes: From $200,000.

Contact: twineagles.com.

Windsor, Vero Beach

Golf: 18 holes (Robert Trent Jones Jr.).

Homes: From $1.4 million.

Homesites: From $300,000.


The Ford Plantation, Richmond Hill

Amid the excellence of our hundred communities, there are very few you could call "timeless." The ancient-looking fields and creeks of Ford Plantation fit that description. A deepwater marina and a paddock-view neighborhood appeal to boaters and riders.

Golf: 18 holes (Pete Dye).

Homes: From $1 million.

Homesites: From $850,000.

Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro

Golf: 99 holes (Bob Cupp, Jim Engh, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $500,000.

Homesites: From $300,000.

Sea Island, Sea Island

Golf: 54 holes (Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Davis Love III).

Homes: From $2 million.

Homesites: From $780,000.


Hualalai, Kona

Two golf courses traverse a steady slope rising up from the whale-infested Pacific. Amenities include the Canoe Club and the Resident's Beach House, where contemplation is suggested but dozing is also permitted. The property's resort component is headquartered at the Four Seasons Hualalai hotel. If you house-hunt in January you can catch the season-opening event on the Champions Tour.

Golf: 36 holes (Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf).

Homes: From $4 million.

Homesites: From $2 million.

Kuki‘o, Kona

Golf: 28 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $5.5 million.

Homesites: From $2.6 million.

Contact: kukio.com.


The Club at Black Rock, Coeur d’Alene

One of the area's wealthiest and most influential citizens, Marshall Chesrown, is intent on building this community into "the crown jewel of the Gem State." Golf by Jim Engh and (soon) Tom Weiskopf, plus a grand clubhouse and a marina, spa, equestrian center, pool, tennis and fitness complex may do the trick.

Golf: 18 holes (Jim Engh).

Homes: From $975,000.

Homesites: From $375,000.

Gozzer Ranch, Coeur d’Alene

The community has a private golf club and clubhouse (under construction) on high ground overlooking the vast lake, but it isn't walled off. Where the lake meets the town, Gozzer Ranch has a public restaurant, Eddie's, a general store and a pair of marinas, one public and one for members only.

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $1.2 million.

Homesites: From $350,00.


The Bay Club, Mattapoisett (New)

Communities in financial disarray should attend the tale of the Bay Club, where members pooled their resources to buy the assets of the community—including a Brad Faxon golf course loaded with shot variety—from its developer.

Golf: 18 holes (Brad Faxon).

Homes: From $695,000.

Homesites: From $275,000.

Contact: bayclubmatt.com.

The Pinehills, Plymouth

Down the road from one of America's first settlements, the Pinehills has found its own distinct voice and style. The Stonebridge Club, one of its amenity centers, is uncommercial in look and layout despite being loaded with features like swimming pools, tennis courts and fitness studios.

Golf: 36 holes (Jack Nicklaus, Rees Jones).

Homes: From $500,000.

Homesites: From $375,00.

Contact: pinehills.com.

Turner Hill, Ipswich

The assets of this tony North Shore community include a mansion clubhouse with a slate roof and a baronial brick façade so appealing it has attracted multiple Hollywood location shoots. As one might expect, it's a superior place to enjoy a meal, either in the formal dining room or the jauntier Peacock Grille.

Golf: 18 holes (Michael Hurdzan/Dana Fry).

Homes: From $780,000.

Contact: turnerhill.com.


The National, Parkville

Residential options at this Midwestern landmark have been expanding in two directions. Estate homes in a separate gated neighborhood called the Sanctuary are coming online, as are maintenance-free townhomes.

Golf: 36 holes (Tom Watson).

Homes: From $400,000.

Homesites: From $55,000.


Black Bull, Bozeman (New)

Inside the gates is a make-you-think course by Tom Weiskopf with a sixteen-acre practice center next door. A main clubhouse is in the plans, meanwhile there's the Corral, a temporary clubhouse featuring a full-service bar and grill, locker rooms and golf shop. This will become the community's tennis-and-swim center when the big clubhouse is finished.

Golf: 19 holes (Tom Weiskopf).

Homes: From $785,000.

Homesites: From $195,000.

Iron Horse, Whitefish

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $695,000.

Homesites: From $165,000.

Contact: ironhorsemt.com.

Spanish Peaks, Big Sky

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Weiskopf).

Homes: From $1.25 million.

Homesites: From $400,000.

Stock Farm, Hamilton

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $500,000.

Homesites: From $300,000.

Contact: stockfarm.com.


Lake Las Vegas, Henderson

Residential neighborhoods skirt the fairways of voluptuous golf courses. Grouped in the center of the property are a Ritz-Carlton, the MonteLago casino hotel and other sybaritic stimulations. Homeowners earn membership in the Club at Lake Las Vegas, which includes Reflection Bay by Nicklaus and the Falls by Weiskopf. There is also a yacht-and-beach clubhouse. Original developer filed for bankruptcy and new owners are in place.

Golf: 54 holes (Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf).

Homes: From $325,000.

Montreux, Reno

Set in the cool mountain air, this community puts out a warm atmosphere amid a bustle of social activity. The culinary program is a focal point, including tasting events that pair hard-to-get wines with the plats surpris of head chef Ed Mitchell.

Golf: 18 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $1 million.

Homesites: From $375,000.

Southern Highlands, Las Vegas

You can dislike the Vegas Strip when it's up close yet revel in nighttime views of it from this sheltered retreat. Further lowering the blood pressure are gel peels and stone massages in the community's thirteen-thousand-square-foot spa. Membership in the golf club is by invitation only and limited to three hundred and sixty.

Golf: 18 holes (Robert Trent Jones Sr./Robert Trent Jones Jr.).

Homes: From $650,000.

New Mexico

Las Campanas, Santa Fe

There are hundreds of fine golf communities in which to build a custom home, but this is surely the finest place to decorate it. Artisans, artists, galleries, studios and even the swap shops promise a wealth of objects and ideas. New at Las Campanas is a branded enclave called Las Terrazas, designed to be artful and walkable, with home designs built around private central courtyards.

Golf: 36 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $650,000.

Homesites: From $185,000.

Contact: lascampanas.com.

North Carolina

Bald Head Island, Bald Head Island

Occupying a complex ecosystem and pursuing a simple, good-old-summertime lifestyle—that's the BHI story in a nutshell. When gas hit four dollars a gallon, this no-private-autos island ran a getaway promotion that basically paid your ferry crossing.

Golf: 18 holes (George Cobb).

Homes: From $300,00.

Homesites: From $200,000.

Balsam Mountain Preserve, Sylva

A build-out total of three hundred and fifty-four homes on over four thousand acres—what else would you expect from Chaffin/Light Associates. It's a good thing mountain air is invigorating, otherwise the equestrian trails, golf course, lap pool, tennis center and fitness complex at Balsam Mountain might not get the use they deserve.

Golf: 18 holes (Arnold Palmer).

Homes: From $1.2 million.

Homesites: From $375,00.

Mountaintop, Cashiers

Fairways are tightly striped and the clubhouse walls are richly paneled at this Discovery Land Company project. Being a DLC property, it offers concierge treatment (fridge stocking, party planning) and its trademark Outdoor Pursuits. There's a separate clubhouse and seven-acre encampment on nearby Lake Glenville.

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $2.1 million.

Homesites: From $500,000.

Wade Hampton Golf Club, Cashiers

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $1 million.

Homesites: From $250,000.


Pronghorn, Bend

Golf: 36 holes (Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $1.4 million.

Homesites: From $400,000.

Sunriver Resort, Sunriver

Fred Funk outwitted the low-slung hazards of Bob Cupp's Crosswater course to win the 2008 Jeld-Wen Tradition on the Champions Tour. If you lack Funk's shotmaking skill, consider a four-day immersion at the resort's Golf Academy, which includes a fitness-for-golf component that may get to the root of many a problem.

Golf: 63 holes (Bob Cupp, John Fought, Robert Trent Jones Jr.).

Homes: From $270,000.

Homesites: From $300,000.

South Carolina

Belfair, Bluffton

An avenue of moss-clouded storybook oaks serves as proscenium for this eleven-hundred-acre community. Yes, it's seductive, but nobody buys property in Belfair and wonders why later. Every amenity is top-rank and the natural environment is dense with Lowcountry flora and fauna.

Golf: 36 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $500,000.

Homesites: From $100,000.

Contact: belfair1811.com.

Berkeley Hall, Bluffton

This community's inland location avoids the slog from the interstate all the way into Hilton Head, though the inner edge of the property does provide deepwater homesites with private docks. Two mature courses, both Fazios and both tough to score on.

Golf: 36 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $560,000.

Homesites: From $40,000.

The Cliffs Communities, Travelers Rest

Golf: 108 holes (Tom Fazio, Tom Jackson, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Wright).

Homes: From $700,000.

Homesites: From $300,000.

Colleton River Plantation, Bluffton

The architectural review board is the conscience of any planned community. At Colleton River the board has high standards but permits diversity. The result: a stylish streetscape throughout this mature, thirty-six-hole Lowcountry haven.

Golf: 45 holes (Bruce Borland, Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $649,000.

Homesites: From $99,000.

Daniel Island, Charleston

An ambitious master plan drives the "island town" of Daniel Island, where new Urbanist principles have served the project exceedingly well. Its golf profile gets a boost in 2009 with the arrival of the Nationwide Tour Championship.

Golf: 36 holes (Tom Fazio, Rees Jones).

Homes: From $394,000.

Homesites: From $165,000.

Dataw Island Club, Dataw Island (New)

The clubhouse's twin curving staircases and white balustrades set a graceful tone. Dataw's tidal creeks and reedy marshland harbor herons, egrets and purple martins. Two courses, Cotton Dike and Morgan River, provide an unusual wealth of hole variety. Members round out the sports-fitness regimen with tennis, kayaking, swimming and croquet.

Golf: 36 holes (Tom Fazio, Arthur Hills).

Homes: From $280,000.

Homesites: From $50,000.

Contact: dataw.org.

Golf Club at Briar’s Creek, John’s Island (New)

As one of the younger golf communities in the Carolina Lowcountry (its Rees Jones course opened in 2002), Briars Creek belongs to a sustainability-focused era. Certified by Audubon International, the club revels in its location on the Atlantic flyway and alongside tidal creeks that brim with biodiversity. In May of 2008 it held a grand opening for its tasteful, thirteen-thousand-square-foot clubhouse.

Golf: 18 holes (Rees Jones).

Homesites: From $500,000.

Contact: briarscreek.com.

Kiawah Island Club, Kiawah Island

Golf: 126 holes (Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Clyde Johnston, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson).

Homes: From $700,000.

Homesites: From $300,000.

Long Cove Club, Hilton Head

The first kids to fish and kayak along the waterways of Long Cove are now old enough to bring their own children down for vacations. Members have a fund that makes grants targeting health, hunger, housing and education. The golf course hosted a U.S. Open qualifier last May.

Golf: 18 holes (Pete Dye).

Homes: From $650,000.

Homesites: From $240,000.

Oldfield, Okatie

Despite its unplugged, folky feel, Oldfield can match amenities with anybody. The club's "river pro" recently helped some guests reel in a 145-pound giant tarpon. Oldfield staff are working with marine biologists on a genetic study of the species.

Golf: 18 holes (Greg Norman).

Homes: From $625,000.

Homesites: From $135,000.

Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton

Golf: 18 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $1.2 million.

Homesites: From $300,000.

The Reserve at Lake Keowee, Sunset

Folk concerts, blues-guitar jams, oil-painting workshops and sculpture exhibits at the on-site art gallery enliven daily life here. Plans for a new Arnold Palmer–designed course, previously announced, are on hold.

Golf: 18 holes (Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $970,000.

Homesites: From $200,000.

Spring Island, Okatie

Golf: 18 holes (Arnold Palmer).

Homes: From $650,000.

Homesites: From $250,000.


Barton Creek, Austin

A spellbinding spa and a newly revamped salon and boutique ease the strain of modern life. The golf program—which includes Chuck Cook's custom instruction offerings—makes Barton Creek a Texas mecca for players of every stripe.

Golf: 72 holes (Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw, Tom Fazio, Arnold Palmer).

Homes: From $600,000.

Homesites: From $300,000.

Spanish Oaks, Bee Cave

Unless you are wild for ice fishing, there may be no amusement you lack at Spanish Oaks. Nearby Austin covers the stimulations of dining, shopping, exploring and music-clubbing. Back at the Oaks, it's a regimen of golf, spa treatments, fitness workouts and fishing derbies with the small fry.

Golf: 18 holes (Bobby Weed).

Homes: From $1.5 million.

Homesites: From $300,000.

Contact: spanishoaks.com.

Vaquero, Westlake

The physical setting is a bit Metroplex-y, but service and "programming" are excellent. The golf course is difficult but pleasantly walkable, and caddies are there for the asking. Equity memberships make the investment that much more blue-chip.

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $1.3 million.

Homesites: From $180,000.

Contact: vaqueroclub.com.


Glenwild, Park City

Glenwild's golf club, spa and dining would be considered superior at a community several times its size. "Core" golf spilling across the landscape, a thirty-nine-thousand-square-foot clubhouse with refined touches and the stimulation of Sundance-town just down the road.

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $2 million.

Homesites: From $425,000.

Contact: glenwild.com.

Promontory, Park City

For people who are only happy when they're wearing ski boots or golf spikes, this can be a dream locale. A bankruptcy filing in early 2008 has held Promontory back, at least temporarily. Its two-year-old Painted Valley Course measures 8,136 yards from the back tees and starts out with a 708-yard par five. There is a move-in option available here, at the Trapper and Ranch Club cabins.

Golf: 36 holes (Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus).

Homes: From $1.3 million.

Homesites: From $750,000.

Talisker, Park City

Golf: 18 holes (Mark O'Meara).

Homes: From $1.45 million.

Homesites: From $450,000.


Bay Creek, Cape Charles (New)

Serenity and stimulation strike a fine balance on the Chesa- peake, where Bay Creek's plan includes a forty-thousand-square-foot clubhouse with a Palmer-Nicklaus museum. The community built its Coach House in the meantime, a nineteen-thousand-square-foot facility housing the golf shop and a tavern.

Golf: 36 holes (Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer).

Homes: From $430,000.

Homesites: From $120,000.

Contact: baycreek.net.

The Virginian Bristol

A local craftsman hand-built the lockers out of kiln-dried oak harvested during the clearing of fairway corridors for the Fazio golf course. In the main dining space, a towering stone chimney meets massive, ornate wooden arches.

Golf: 21 holes (Tom Fazio).

Homes: From $476,000.

Homesites: From $85,000.


Tumble Creek, Cle Elum

Appended to a public resort (Suncadia), Tumble Creek made sure to establish an intimate club atmosphere. Two gathering spots, Hill House and Golf House, are ideal for socializing. One of few Tom Doak real estate courses adds to the bragging rights. Members of Tumble Creek automatically belong to Suncadia, which plans to open a Jacobsen-Hardy course in 2010.

Golf: 18 holes (Tom Doak).

Homes: From $1.1 million.

Homesites: From $370,000.

Contact: tumblecreek.com.

West Virginia

The Greenbrier Sporting Club, White Sulphur Springs

Golf: 72 holes (Tom Fazio, C. B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor, Seth Raynor/Jack Nicklaus, Dick Wilson/Bob Cupp).

Homes: From $1.4 million.

Homesites: From $500,000.


3 Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole

Golf: 18 holes (Rees Jones).

Homes: From $1 million.

Cracks in the Fiscal Façade

When a financial calamity grows large enough, there is hardly a sultan or sovereign who escapes it. In the meltdown of 2008, no less a figure in golf real estate than Scottsdale-based Lyle Anderson had his wings clipped. Anderson's directors at Superstition Mountain, Las Campanas (pictured) and two other properties had to be replaced with creditor-appointed directors. Meanwhile the Utah property Promontory agreed to enter Chapter 11 and may change hands. Publicly traded WCI (which developed Old Palm Golf Club) also went bankrupt, as did the developer of Lake Las Vegas, where turnaround specialists the Atalon Group are now in charge of the project's residential component.

For owners (and prospective buyers) in affected communities, the fallout can be surprisingly minimal. For example, the forced transition at Las Campanas and Superstition Mountain has been benign. Karen Wolfe-Mattison, a realtor and former member who has handled transactions in Las Campanas, said the market there was stronger than in other upscale Santa Fe areas. Marion Skubi, another area realtor, continued her Las Campanas showings without interruption .

—David Gould

By David Gould and Lauren Kay