Out in the Country

Acting as a home from home, where clients can be entertained in style – country club membership is a popular option. After all, where else can you wine and dine in privacy, enjoy a game of golf, try out a spa, undertake countless sports and enjoy a wide range of exclusive social activities in congenial company?

Not all country clubs publish details of their fees but generally the costs of joining a country club can vary from thousands of pounds downwards depending on club and type of membership. Take Stoke Park, for example. Social membership joining fee is £100, plus £490 a year; whereas golf members pay £2,500 to join and £3,570 per year while gym membership is £500 to join and £1,812 per year. On top of that is a house levy of £100 or more depending on your type of membership. Cliveden offers double membership for £5,500 plus joining fee of £1,020 or single membership for £3,300 plus £750 joining fee. £25,000 plus an annual subscription buys membership of Skibo Castle, while others like Foxhills offer flexible membership with packages to suit your lifestyle. In return, members enjoy exclusive benefits including discounts on facilities, activity days, special events and privileged accommodation rates in buildings that are truly elite and special.

Anyone who has ever watched James Bond’s Goldfinger will be familiar with the golfing duel between James Bond (Sean Connery) and Goldfinger (Gert Frobe). Strolling onto the golf course at Stoke Park near Windsor, you are stepping into film history, since that famous duel took place just in front of the clubhouse. Close to Pinewood Studios, Stoke Park has featured in many other films including Guy Ritchie’s RockNRolla and Madonna’s film about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. Members treat Stoke Park as their own private country house, and it certainly has that atmosphere. The elegant buildings set in classically landscaped surroundings are perfect for sports and fitness as well as social events like gourmet evenings, summer balls and bonfire night parties.

Surrounded by the ancient woodland of the New Forest, Chewton Glen Spa and Country Club occupies an idyllic spot. The 18th Century house is full of antique furnishings and stunning fabrics, making it a relaxing, stylish venue for entertaining or relaxing. Whether visiting or staying overnight, you are quite simply treated as one of the family. There is an exclusive membership club available to anyone residing within a 50 mile radius, together with an exclusive gourmet club and lots of special events. You can go swimming in 17 metre pools, enjoy a round of golf on the 9 hole course, explore the walking trails or relax in the spa’s crystal steam rooms and enjoy Kundalini treatments. Not far away is the Skylark Golf and Country Club in Whiteley, Hampshire regarded as the ‘epitome of the quintessential country club’ stressing quality and service for its golf, fitness and spa facilities.

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Clivedon House was once the home of the legendary Astor family. Now in the care of the National Trust, its country club membership offers a unique opportunity to unwind or entertain in style. Cruise in a vintage launch down the Thames, explore the gardens and walk by the river in the evening twilight, play tennis or have a spa treatment, then sit by the pool admiring the roses. Member privileges ensure that this is a luxurious, exclusive social and country club like no other in the country.

Head north for the Hale Country Club in Cheshire, the leading health club and spa in the North West England. The sumptuous surroundings and exquisite décor offer nothing less than pure luxurious indulgence. Top class chefs use high quality seasonal ingredients in the restaurants, and the opportunity of creating bespoke menus for your special events allows you to entertain in style. A thermal swimming pool, tennis, golf, spa and fitness classes ensure you stay in top form.

Just across the Pennines, the Breadsall Priory Marriott Hotel and Country Club occupies an elegant building dating back to 1260. It is situated in 300 acres of beautiful Derbyshire countryside close to Chatsworth House. Two 18-hole par 70 championship courses offer instant appeal to any golfer, while for those who want to get fit the leisure club with its tennis, cardiovascular, free weights, personal training, indoor pool and spa offer the perfect answer.

Skibo Castle in Scotland attracts a worldwide membership from people keen to enjoy its championship golf course and luxury facilities. Shooting, archery, fishing are matched by a spectacular spa complete with indulgent pools. Relaxing here with a round of golf takes on an extra touch of luxury when a personal concierge greets you at the 18th hole bearing a glass of single malt whisky.

Down in South Wales, Celtic Manor is the place to go. After all, this is a venue that hosted US President Obama during the 2014 Nato summit. Only 45 miles from Cardiff amid the picturesque Usk Valley, it is set in 2,000 acres of panoramic parkland and prides itself on offering ‘more than just joining a gym or golf club.’ Try out golf on a course used by Ryder Cup participants in 2010, get fit in the health club and spa as well as enjoying activity days, seasonal balls and special club nights.

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For over forty years, Foxhills Club and Resort has been the top club in Surrey, expanding steadily from a golf club to a full scale country club with tennis, cycling, health spa and many exclusive social events including playing bridge. Described as ‘Surrey’s favourite playground’ it derives its name from Charles James Fox, an 18th Century politician who lived here in the 1780s. His influence lives on as the restaurants are inspired by Charles James Fox’s love of food and wine. Flexible club membership packages seek to match personal lifestyles and requirements, and there is even a children’s country club package offering after school and holiday activities.

All things come to those who wait – but you may have to wait for a very long time for membership to some of the most prestigious (and expensive) country clubs like Roehampton and Hurlingham. Set on the edge of Richmond Park, Roehampton was founded in 1901 as an officers’ polo club. Suffice to say, that members have included the likes of King Edward VIII, Winston Churchill and the Aga Khan – and this is where Andy Murray started winning grass court titles. Facilities include four international level croquet lawns, 30 tennis courts, golf course, squash courts. Encouraging young sporting talent is regarded as a priority but there is a flourishing arts group too. Over at Hurlingham, you can expect big social events such as a Fetes Champetre and Concours d’elegance as well as polo, croquet, tennis, gym and a half-size Olympic swimming pool. 2018 will see an inaugeral Bookfest on site. The only consolation to having to wait a long time for full membership of Hurlingham is that once on the waiting list, you may be able to use some of its facilities.

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Happiest in the snow, Carlton is an ex-police officer and prison governor who has migrated to the world of adventure travel via motoring journalism. Carlton drives boats and pickups with more enthusiasm than skill, and is currently working on his first novel in addition to his prison memoirs.