Sunnylands: world's most exclusive golf course?

Charles Briscoe-Knight pays a visit to Sunnylands retreat, home to one of the most exclusive golf courses in the world

Sunnylands
(Image credit: Charles Briscoe-Knight)

Charles Briscoe-Knight pays a visit to Sunnylands retreat, home to one of the most exclusive golf courses in the world

Charles Briscoe-Knight pays a visit to Sunnylands Retreat, home to one of the most exclusive golf courses in the world...

Back in the 1960s, Walter Annenberg  – who was the US Ambassador to the UK – commissioned  the building of a “mid-century  modernist” home in the Californian  Desert at Rancho Mirage,  near Palm Springs.

Successive American Presidents have hosted numerous heads of state, political leaders and Hollywood icons, including the Queen, Prince Andrew, Princess Grace, Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra.

President Obama has visited three times in the last 12 months, hosting The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

However, the third of these visits was for a mini-break to play some golf on Sumnylands' nine-green, 18-hole private golf course.

What makes the layout so exclusive, though, is the fact that less than 200 rounds are played here annually.

You'd better make friends with President Obama if you want a knock.

Sunnylands

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to tee off at Sunnylands [Picture: Charles Briscoe-Knight]

Sunnylands

 

"The course architect, Dick Wilson, was a genuis," said Ray Floyd. "What a mind you have to have to create 18 holes on nine greens. It's so cleverly thought out." [Picture: Charles Briscoe-Knight]

Sunnylands

The St. Andrews-style double green at the par 6th and the par-4 8th. [Picture: Charles Briscoe-Knight]

Sunnylands

The Chinese “temple” on the side of the third acts as a sort of exotic halfway hut. [Picture: Charles Briscoe-Knight]

Sunnylands

A 30-foot Kwakiutl “totem pole” from Canada is a potential hazard of the left of the 5th fairway. [Picture: Charles Briscoe-Knight]

Sunnylands

During the Islamic Revolution, family members of the Shah of Iran were offered refuge within the walls of Sunnylands. [Picture: Charles Briscoe-Knight]

Nick Bonfield
Content Editor

Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, commissioning and feature writing. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel win The Masters and PGA Championship respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email nick.bonfield@futurenet.com with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x