Charles Schwab Challenge

Colonial Country Club



Lotsa Rules

LACC is at the top of this list of the most strict clubs on cellphones

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Carlos Amoedo

There are few places in the world where cellphones are not permitted, but some of golf’s most exclusive clubs are chief among them. Most golf fans know that Augusta National Golf Club does not allow patrons attending the Masters to carry their phones, but you might not realize there are, in fact, a handful of hold-out country clubs that are strict about cellphone use.

Los Angeles Country Club, which will host the U.S. Open for the first time next week, is perhaps the sternest of the remaining anti-phone clubs. To those familiar with the club’s history, it makes sense: Consider that during the 1956 U.S. Amateur, the last championship held at LACC before the club opened its doors in 2017 for the Walker Cup, members of the club were repulsed when more than 3,000 anxious fans came to watch the finals.

As the late great Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray wrote then: “Horrified [were the members] when the public showed up in [ugh!] shorts and no shirts … and, in general, showed little respect for the musty old place, actually looking in the windows and disturbing the members dozing in front of their cribbage games.”

Here’s an in-depth and up-close preview of what the world of golf is about to see.

LACC isn’t alone among the strictest clubs when it comes to cellphone policies. Here are the clubs known for being the stingiest in terms of phone use:

Pine Valley Golf Club, Clementon, N.J.

Visiting the No. 1 golf course in the world is a treat. For anyone glued to their phone, however, it can be hard to completely unplug. But it’s a concession you must make visiting Pine Valley.

Red phone booths sit within the locker rooms at Pine Valley for anyone needing to make a call. The club has loosened its restrictions in terms of snapping photos with your phone on the course, as evidenced by some of golf’s social-media influencers sharing their experiences on the course. Otherwise, in the clubhouse, you won’t see a mobile device.

Pine Valley Golf Club
Private
Pine Valley Golf Club
Pine Valley, NJ
5
267 Panelists
A genuine original, its unique character is forged from the sandy pine barrens of southwest Jersey. Founder George Crump had help from now-legendary architects H.S. Colt, A.W. Tillinghast, George C. Thomas Jr. and Walter Travis. Hugh Wilson (of Merion fame) and his brother Alan finished the job, and William Flynn and Perry Maxwell made revisions. Throughout the course, Pine Valley blends all three schools of golf design—penal, heroic and strategic—often times on a single hole. Recent tree removal at selected spots have revealed some gorgeous views of the sandy landscape upon which the course is routed, and bunker reconstruction by Tom Fazio has given the barrens a more intricate and ornate look.
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Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, Ill.

Guests fortunate to receive an invite to one of the world’s most exclusive clubs know they won’t get any photos on their phone to prove they’ve played the course. You might snap a photo of the nondescript Chicago Golf Club sign as you enter the property, but that’ll be the last photo of the day. Only approved photographers are allowed to capture this Golden Age Seth Raynor design. You may use your phone in your car, but that’s it.

Chicago Golf Club
Private
Chicago Golf Club
Wheaton, IL
4.8
163 Panelists
Chicago Golf Club opened the country’s first 18-hole course in 1893, built by C.B. Macdonald, the preeminent golf expert in the U.S. at the time. Two years later Macdonald built the club a different course after the membership moved to a new location in Wheaton, Ill.: “a really first-class 18-hole course of 6,200 yards,” he wrote. Members played that course until 1923 when Seth Raynor, who began his architectural career as Macdonald’s surveyor and engineer, redesigned it using the “ideal hole” concepts his old boss had developed 15 years earlier (he kept Macdonald’s routing, which placed all the O.B. on the left—C.B. sliced the ball). For reasons of history and practicality, no major remodels have occurred since then, allowing the club to merely burnish the architecture by occasionally upgrading worn parts, adjusting grassing lines and, recently, reestablishing a number of lost bunkers that had been filled in over time.
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Seminole Golf Club, Juno Beach, Fla.

Golf’s biggest movers and shakers, such as Jimmy Dunne and Ed Herlihy, who helped organize the PIF/PGA Tour agreement, can be found sitting in the grill room at Seminole Golf Club, which is perhaps golf’s best hang. The no-phone policy allows everyone to speak freely, in case, you know, you’re discussing some intensely private details.

Seminole Golf Club
Private
Seminole Golf Club
Juno Beach, FL
4.8
211 Panelists
A majestic Donald Ross design with a clever routing on a rectangular site, each hole at Seminole encounters a new wind direction. The greens are no longer Ross, replaced 50 years ago in a regrassing effort that showed little appreciation for the original rolling contours. The bunkers aren’t Ross either. Dick Wilson replaced them in 1947, his own version meant to the imitate crests of waves on the adjacent Atlantic. A few years back, Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw redesigned the bunkers again, along with exposing some sandy expanses in the rough. Seminole has long been one of America’s most exclusive clubs, which is why it was thrilling to see it on TV for a first time during the TaylorMade Driving Relief match, and then again for the 2021 Walker Cup.
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San Francisco Golf Club

One of golf’s most intense no-social-media policies can be found at San Francisco Golf Club. Golf Digest has removed panelists from its panel when they were found to be breaking this rule. The club isn’t messing around: As another panelist recalled, his caddie told him that members of the grounds crew are paid bonuses to rat out guests who have their phones out. That’s intense.

San Francisco Golf Club
Private
San Francisco Golf Club
San Francisco, CA
4.7
252 Panelists
San Francisco Golf Club’s original routing was done mostly by a trio of club members, who first staked out the course in 1918. A.W. Tillinghast remodeled the course in 1923, establishing its signature greens and bunkering. He also added the par-3 seventh, called the “Duel Hole” because its location marks the spot of the last legal duel in America. Three holes were replaced in 1950 in anticipation of a street widening project that never happened. In 2006, the original holes were re-established by Tom Doak and his then-associate, Jim Urbina.
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Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club

Like we said, the no-phone rule for Masters patrons is well-known; besides getting pat down, nobody dares to try to sneak their phone in—in case big brother is watching.. If you’re one of the lucky few to receive an invitation from a member to play, however, the rules are more lax. Folks report that they were allowed to have their phones on the course, snapping all the photos they’d like on golf’s most famous property. As one panelist recounted: “My host allowed us and encouraged us to use our phones to take photos of the course and the outside areas. Just no photos were allowed in the clubhouse. And of course, no photos allowed on social media.”

Augusta National Golf Club
Private
Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta, GA
4.9
94 Panelists
No club has tinkered with its golf course as often or as effectively over the decades as has Augusta National Golf Club, mainly to keep it competitive for the annual Masters Tournament, an event it has conducted since 1934, with time off during WWII. All that tinkering has resulted in an amalgamation of design ideas, with a routing by Alister Mackenzie and Bobby Jones, some Perry Maxwell greens, some Trent Jones water hazards, some Jack Nicklaus mounds and swales and, most recently, extensive rebunkering and tree planting by Tom Fazio. The tinkering continues, including the lengthening of the par-4 fifth in the summer of 2018, the lengthening of the 11th and 15th holes in 2022, and the addition of 35 yards to the famed par-5 13th in 2023.
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Alotian Club, Roland, Ark.

Arkansas’ No. 1-ranked course was founded by Warren Stephens, son of former Augusta National chairman Jack Stephens, and in a lot of ways his club is modeled after Augusta. The strict cellphone policy is one such example. A mutual friend reports that his bag was searched by club officials after arriving on property.

The Alotian Club
Private
The Alotian Club
Roland, AR
4.5
83 Panelists
The Alotian Club gives us a hint of what Augusta National would have looked like had Bobby Jones established his dream course on even hillier terrain than Augusta. The first tee shot drops 70 feet to a fairway below with the approach playing back uphill. The tee on the 205-yard par-3 sixth sits 85 feet above the green. The Alotian Club, founded by Warren Stephens, son of former Masters chairman Jackson Stephens, is the first (and still only) course in Arkansas ever to make our list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses. The Alotian name comes from the annual golf trips Stephens once took with his buddies. He called it the America’s Lights Out Tour, and participants called themselves The Alotians. In recent years, The Alotian Club has opened its doors to collegiate players—first for the 2019 Palmer Cup and since 2020, annually for the Stephens Cup.
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Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pa.

The old-line Philly club hasn’t loosened its restrictions on phone use. In fact, in the past year or so, a number of panelists have reported that the rules are as strict as ever. “I got yelled at for taking my phone out to check a text on the range,” one panelist reports. Another: “My member was adamant that I couldn’t even have my phone in my bag over at the West course.”

Merion Golf Club: East
Private
Merion Golf Club: East
Ardmore, PA
4.9
272 Panelists
Merion East has long been considered the best course on the tightest acreage in America, and when it hosted the U.S. Open in 2013, its first since 1981, the present generation of big hitters couldn’t conquer this clever little course. They couldn’t consistently hit its twisting fairways, which are edged by creeks, hodge-podge rough and OB stakes and couldn’t consistently hold its canted greens, edged by bunkers that stare back. Justin Rose won with a 72-hole total of one-over-par, two ahead of Jason Day and Phil Mickelson. With Gil Hanse's extensive two-year renovation making even more improvements at Merion's East Course, the design should be even more polished when the Open returns again in 2030.
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Shoreacres, Lake Bluff, Ill.

Chicago Golf Club isn’t the only Chicago-area club with tight rules. Staff members arrive at your car after pulling up to the club—to take your golf clubs and show you around—but also to politely remind you that your phone is to stay in the car. Some have reported having their phone on them, with one spot being permitted by caddies to take photos: The area in front of the tee box on the club’s signature hole, the short par-3 12th.

Shoreacres
Private
Shoreacres
Lake Bluff, IL
4.5
211 Panelists
Shoreacres possesses perhaps the most fascinating topography upon which Seth Raynor ever created a golf course, with his usual collection of suspects, including No. 3 (Leven), No. 6 (Biarritz), No. 7 (Double Plateau), No. 8 (Eden), No. 10 (Road) and No. 14 (Redan) all playing along plateaus and over ravines that feed into Lake Michigan. The stretch of 11, 12 and 13, playing across a ravine, down into it and back out of it, are as unique a stretch of holes as can be found anywhere on a 100 Greatest course.
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Burning Tree, Bethesda, Md.

Just like Seminole, hanging out at Burning Tree provides the ability to rub elbows with some of the most important golfers in the world. Congressmen and former presidents are among those who frequent the ultra-exclusive Washington, D.C.-area club. When retiring to the grillroom after a round to sit at one of club’s long row tables, you won’t find many eyes looking at their phones—despite important emails and calls waiting for them.

Burning Tree Club
Private
Burning Tree Club
Bethesda, MD
4.2
50 Panelists
Burning Tree is one of golf’s most exclusive jaunts. The club remains all-male—the story goes that a foursome of golfers fed up with slow play by a female group at Chevy Chase founded their own men’s-only club, and it’s remained that way. It’s an enclave of politicians past and present—with a former member list that includes presidents such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush. There are no tables in the grill room—just long benches where you sit next to other members and their guests, regardless of political affiliation. The golf course is unique, too, boasting a C.H. Alison routing that includes some fun variety, despite all but one hole doglegging left to right. Alison produced variety in the form of bunker and green complexes, which have been renovated in recent years by Gil Hanse.
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Austin Golf Club

Similar rules to Chicago Golf Club apply to Austin Golf Club. Phones are only permitted in the parking lot. One panelist told a funny story about why he was convinced to follow this rule: “I thought it was a joke, and then when I pulled in, I saw Ben Crenshaw pacing the parking lot on his phone. I remember thinking "Well if that guy is going to follow the rules, I guess I need to!"

Garden City (N.Y.) Golf Club

One of America's few remaining all-men’s clubs is strict with some rules, and very loose about others, i.e.: You’re allowed to play with no shirt on if you want to, but you must wear a blazer in the clubhouse. The strict rules apply to cellphone use, too. One guest recalls taking his phone out to snap a picture of his locker for the day, upon which his member quickly responded: “If you need to use your phone, there’s a phone booth outside the locker room.” This is the same club where women are allowed inside the gates of the club for one day a year: to buy Christmas gifts for their husbands.

Garden City Golf Club
Private
Garden City Golf Club
Garden City, NY
4.6
140 Panelists
Minimalist in its design (you can still see the faint traces of old roadbeds over which the course was routed) and natural in its upkeep, Garden City Golf Club is one of the great early tournament venues in the United States. Before the 1908 U.S. Amateur, Walter Travis remodeled the course into what it is today, its strategies dictated by many deep pot bunkers. Travis installed them to promote “thinking golf,” but one player soon dubbed Garden City the home of the “God-fearing approach shot.” It’s also a rare 100 Greatest course with a closing par 3.
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Friars Head Golf Club, Riverhead, N.Y.

Just like Garden City, Friars Head is ultra-strict on some rules. It seems like taking photos are OK—one panelist reported that his caddie used his phone to snap a bunch of photos, then texted the photos to him. Another panelist said he and his group used their cellphones freely in the locker room and when they were grabbing a drink after the round, but it was known nothing could go on social media. Another frequent visitor said Friars Head was among the most strict clubs he has seen.

Friar's Head Golf Club
Private
Friar's Head Golf Club
Riverhead, NY
4.8
173 Panelists
The challenge for architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw at Friar’s Head was to design some holes in breathtaking sand dunes perched 200 feet above Long Island Sound, and other holes on an ordinary potato field to the south. Said Crenshaw, “Our job was to marry the two distinct elements. We didn’t want one nine up in the dunes and the other down on the flat.” The solution was to move the routing back and forth and to artfully reshape the farm fields into gentle linkslike land. They pulled it off so impressively that Friar’s Head has moved steadily up the rankings each survey period until this year, from No. 34 in its 2011 debut to No. 15 in 2023-2024.
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As we learned with this project, it often depends what company you’re with—and how discrete you can be. You shouldn’t expect anyone to be cool with you chatting on the phone walking through the clubhouse of Shinnecock Hills or National Golf Links just as much as it wouldn’t be cool at your local club. Common sense usually prevails … though as you can see, there are definitely still sticklers.

Los Angeles Country Club: North
Private
Los Angeles Country Club: North
Los Angeles, CA
4.8
236 Panelists
It’s on the edge of Tinsel Town, but the architecture of the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club has been solid gold ever since its 2010 restoration by architect Gil Hanse, his associate Jim Wagner and their colleague Geoff Shackelford. It matters not that Hanse’s team didn’t replicate the bunkering style of original architect George C. Thomas, but rather the more visually exciting style of Thomas’ associate, William P. Bell. The first nine plays rustically up and down a shallow canyon with holes switching back and forth across a dry barranca, and the second nine loops across a more spacious upland section with one par 3 (the 11th) that can stretch to nearly 300 yards and another (the 15th) that often plays just 90 yards. The hole strategies reinstituted by Hanse provided an intriguing examination when LACC's North course hosted the 2023 U.S. Open.
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