An article we are writing about Porters Neck Plantation Country Club in Wilmington, NC, and one we received in an email from our friends at Golf Vacation Insider got us thinking about the true definition of a private club.
    Porters Neck, which has been available for public play for a few decades, recently raised its greens fees by about 60% to over $100 and its initiation fees for new members to $30,000.  Last year, the members commissioned more than $1 million of work on the Tom Fazio golf course and added two tennis courts.  The club is also in its second go-round with Creative Golf Marketing, a firm that specializes in raising the membership rolls at private clubs (Porters Neck has even enrolled in CGM's 180-course "Private Club Network," which provides access to all the courses for members of clubs in the network).  Put all that together and the club is signalling its intention to be members-only.  Yet when asked if they plan to go private, Porters Neck officials say, “We’ve always been private.”  What they mean, they explain, is that they have always been “privately owned.”  Come on:  Private means members-only, not the opposite of municipally owned.
    The emailed article from Golf Vacation Insider describes how non-members can gain access to the “private” Gallery Club in Tucson where Tiger et al are competing in the Accenture Match Play Championship this weekend on the club’s South course (as we write this, Tiger has just lost to Nick O'Hern).  The North and South courses, according to GVC, alternate days when they are open to public play; in other words, on a day when the South is private, the North is public, and vice versa. That’s great for us golfers traveling in the Tucson area but, by definition, the club is not private.
    Like the word “unique” – how unique is very unique? -- privacy should never be qualified. That’s why we would outlaw the meaningless but ubiquitous term “semi-private” in favor of the more accurate “public access.”
    Of course, as always, we invite alternate views.  Just register or sign in and leave your comment here...on our semi-private blog site.


    At the Wintergreen Resort, you can ski and play golf, sometimes on the same day.  Located in Nellysford, VA, about 35 minutes from Charlottesville, Wintergreen is one of those hybrid resort/residential communities where the transient and permanent exist in peaceful harmony. 
    At 11,000 acres, Wintergreen is huge, with mountain real estate accounting for about 2,000 acres and the Stoney Creek community in the valley below sitting on 3,000 acres.  The rest will remain natural forever thanks to an arrangement in 1994 between Wintergreen’s owners and the Wintergreen Development Company.  The result, the Wintergreen Nature Foundation, maintains a full-time staff of six, supplemented by many volunteers from Wintergreen.  The Foundation promotes a wide range of activities, including wildflower reseeding efforts, workshops and nature walks on the community’s 30 miles of marked trails, some of which link directly to The Appalachian Trail.  Mountain bikers have use of 24 separate trails, mostly near the ski slopes.100_1990
    At Wintergreen, the core recreation activities are skiing and golf.  Wintergreen’s mountain top area is warm and inviting, with a Euro-village style lodge just steps from the resort’s 24 slopes, more than half of them lighted, and from the clubhouse and pro shop for Devil’s Knob, an Ellis Maples 18 hole layout that inspires awe, some fear and a little loathing.  Opened in 1977, the course provides the views you’d expect from a mountaintop, but some crazy rolls and cliff hanging lies as well.  Many local golfers prefer the two original nines of the 27 holes at the Stoney Creek course at the bottom of the mountain, which is open year round.  It is not uncommon in January and February for Wintergreen’s hardiest sportsmen and women to ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon.
    The Shamokin and Tuckahoe nines at Stoney Creek are the combination most favored by members.  Rees Jones laid out the Shamokin and Monaccan nines in 1988 and added the Tuckhoe 10 years later.  The routing is clear and without surprise, with only one or two blind shots from the tees and no gussied-up landscaping.  The greens, which are well trapped, roll fast and true with many undulations, yet we didn’t scratch our heads once over a misread break. The first hole on the Tuckahoe nine starts from a dramatically elevated tee to a generous fairway framed by traps on the right and a huge lake at greenside right.  It forms a beautiful and intimidating tableau from the tee box.  A decade ago, Golf Digest named Stoney Creek one of the top 50 resort courses in the U.S.
    With a grand smorgasbord of activities at Wintergreen, the community offers a dizzying array of membership plans.  A fee of $17,000, 80% of it refundable when a membership is resigned and reissued, opens up the resort’s amenities on a “cafeteria-style” basis that includes not only golf, but also tennis, skiing, fitness centers, pools and access to the community lake.  For example, you can buy unlimited golf for $4,000 annually, or unlimited golf, tennis and snow sports for $4,350, a bargain.
    Housing options are high and low in Wintergreen in terms of both altitude and price, with nice golf course lots in the ½ to ¾ acre range for under $200,000.  Count on an average of about $175 per square foot in construction costs.  A few of the most expensive homes, some with impressive views, top $1 million but the median price is close to $600,000.  Town homes rarely exceed $500,000, but a new top-of-mountain luxury building, called The Summit, will provide large condos and spectacular views for around $1 million.
    Life at some remove from a sizeable town (Wintergreen is 40 minutes from Charlottesville) demands a few modest accommodations.  At 15 miles, it can seem a long way to a supermarket, and some Wintergreen residents take coolers on their weekly grocery expeditions.  And although Wintergreen’s residents and resort guests co-exist quite peacefully, the full-timers tend to arrange their recreation schedules accordingly, opting to play golf and ski on weekdays rather than the more heavily trafficked weekends.  Given the incredible amount and variation of the natural land in Wintergreen, its residents are more than happy on weekends to take a hike.

Bottom Line:  Wintergreen’s residents share the community’s ample number of amenities and 6,000 acres of unsullied natural space with more than 100,000 resort guests a year, yet there is plenty of room for all.  If you don’t require the cosseted life of a private country club community, Wintergreen’s range of year-round activities, fine variety of golf courses, reasonable real estate prices and beautiful views could put you on permanent vacation.