Behind Closed Doors
A look into the world’s most exclusive private members clubs
Private members clubs, also more traditionally known as “gentlemen’s clubs”, aren’t a new concept. They first rose to popularity in 19th century London and boasted some of the most exclusive members, serving as a place where like-minded wealthy folk, or those considered to be of ‘gentleman’ status, could mingle and socialise with others of similar social standing. These clubs were for socialising, eating, drinking, and sometimes for staying overnight. Nowadays, many of these clubs have decided to abandon this old-fashioned model in favour of attracting more young creatives and entrepreneurs but they still keep their members restricted to a strict clientele list.
In times of lockdowns and tight restrictions on social events, the popularity of member-only clubs has boomed in the last year or so, offering members a private place to work and spend time. Some, such as Soho House, have also been offering their members exclusive online screenings, talks, and events to make up for the fact that they had to be closed.
We were curious which of these member-only clubs were the most exclusive and which ones cost the most to join, and stay, a member of. This is what we found.
The world’s most expensive clubs
There are private members clubs all across the world, all with different entry fees, waiting list times, and membership fees. We looked at the top five most expensive private clubs in the world and here is what we found.
1. Yellowstone Club, Montana, USA
Originally founded in the 1990s, the Yellowstone Club is a private residential club, ski resort, and golf resort located in Madison County, Montana. It has the highest joining fee of all the clubs we looked at and also has a very high annual membership fee as well. The way members join is also incredibly exclusive with it being essential for members to own property in the area around the grounds, all of which range between £1.5-18million! But the perks of being a member of this mega exclusive club include more than 60 ski trails, a golf course, a youth centre, and even an arcade.
Fees: £290,000 joining fee, £30,000 annually
How to join: Members must own a property in the area around the club’s grounds. Prices for these range between £1.5m – £18m on average
Rumoured members: Bill Gates, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, Gisele Bundchen, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner
Wait time: Unknown but memberships are capped at 864 households
Perks: Besides the chance to get a glimpse of Justin Timberlake, the club is “the world’s only private ski, golf and adventure community” with 15 ski lifts, more than 60 ski trails, a golf course, a youth centre including a movie theatre, indoor basketball, and an arcade. Celebrities and the richest of the rich can also take advantage of professional safety and security measures
2. The Tanglin Club, Singapore
Founded in 1865, The Tanglin Club is one of the most prominent and prestigious social clubs in Singapore. For many years, it was one of the pillars of social life in Singapore for successful members of the European community. To join The Tanglin Club you much first receive recommendations from two 3-year members before paying the £72,000 joining fee. The membership list is so secretive, we couldn’t find any information about who attends this famous club but they get to make the most of their exclusive access to all kinds of top-quality amenities such as restaurants, bars, a gym, and an outdoor pool among other things.
Fees: £72,000 joining fee, £912 annually
How to join: Recommendation by two 3+-year members
Rumoured members: Unknown
Wait time: 10-15 years
Perks: Access to more than six different restaurants and bars, a gym, salon, outdoor pool, a squash and a tennis court
3. The American Club, Hong Kong
The American Club was established in Hong Kong in July of 1925. It boasts two Hong Kong locations. The Town Club sits right in the heart of Central and is “the perfect place to indulge in some adult time with top-class restaurants and a fitness centre”. The country club in Tai Tam has something for everyone with amenities that include a spa, swimming pool, basketball court, tennis and squash courts. You need to be American to join and must be proposed and seconded by existing members. It also takes up to two years on the waiting list to join.
Fees: £46,000 joining fee, £2,800 annually
How to join: Membership is for Americans only; Proposal of an exsiting member
Rumoured members: Unknown
Wait time: 1-2 years
Perks: Restaurants with American food, American events, gym, spa, pool, tennis and squash court, kid’s play area
4. The Core, NY and Milan
Established in 2005, Core is a fresh face in the private club world and the first women-run club on our list. Its NYC location sits a stone throw from Trump Tower and boasts some of the most exclusive members including the former president himself as well as his wife Ivanka. The Clintons and JayZ are also rumoured to be members of this exclusive club, all having been referred by another member or partner and all having paid the £36,000 entrance fee and annual £11,000 membership fee. Run by couple Jennie and Dangene Enterprise, everyone who is a member of Core has a story to tell which makes them attractive potential members.
Fees: £36,000 initiation, £11,000 annually
How to join: Referral by a member or a partner
Rumoured members: The Clintons, JayZ, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Tory Burch
Wait time: unknown
Perks: Gym, beauty salon and spa, exclusive events, library, art collection
5. Carnegie Club, Skibo Castle, Scotland
The Carnegie Club is a relatively new club on the scene as it only celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020. As it is residential, it harks back to the earliest clubs that offered members a coveted home-from-home experience. The key factor for admittance to Carnegie Club is not based on your lineage, like some clubs are, nor is it based on the school you attended or the line of work you’re in. Instead, members are chosen based on “your character, conviviality and ability to make interesting conversation over dinner”. There are very limited memberships and the club is often closed for applications although we imagine you need a personal referral from someone within the club to be considered for the £30,000 joining fee and yearly £9,500 membership fee.
Fees: £30,000 joining fee, £9,500 annually
How to join: Unknown
Rumoured members: Madonna, Guy Ritchie, various Russian oligarchs
Wait time: Highly limited memberships, therefore the clubs is rarely taking new applications
Perks: Spa, library, drawing room, dance hall with live music, golf course, horse stable, pool, tennis court, clay-pigeon shooting area, falconry, archery, children’s barn
Alternative and affordable clubs
Despite the number of super-elite and very pricy member-only clubs out there, there are just as many clubs offering many of the same social benefits for a fraction of the price. Where traditional private member clubs were restricted to men-only, these alternative clubs tend to be much more inclusive of others (who has time for sexism in this century?) so are much more accessible.
1. The Allbright
Founded by two women in 2017, The Allbright focuses on empowering women and supporting their careers. Club membership is £1,500 per year and has a £300 joining fee. It offers all kinds of social, networking, and cultural activities as well as exclusive access to its private salon and plenty more to get your teeth into.
2. Soho house
Soho House is one of the most famous private clubs and was the first club to abolish the men-only rule. It now has around 28 clubs worldwide with the aim to bring creative people together. Yearly membership starts at £1,300 with a £400 joining fee but if you’re 27 or under you get 50% off until you turn 30.
3. Groucho Club
Created in the 1980s by a group of (mostly) women publishers, Groucho Club was established as an “antidote” to stuffy gentlemen’s clubs. According to their website “The Groucho Club remains a bastion and refuge for arts, literature and media folk in the bohemian heart of London’s West End”. Its members are mostly creatives and people working in entertainment and it’s considered an iconic institution. It’s also a celebrity favourite and has a relatively small membership fee of £950 annually with a £250 joining fee.
4. The Ministry
“Made for creatives by creatives”, The Ministry is a hot-desker’s paradise. Offering excellent workspaces for creatives at any time of day (depending on your membership type), perks include a sound studio, cinema, and on-site gym. Prices start from between £50-200 a month depending on the membership plan you opt for. It’s also dog-friendly.
5. The Conduit
The Conduit was founded in 2018 by Nick Hamilton, Paul van Zyl and Rowan Finnegan with the aim to create a “diverse community of people passionate about social, economic and environmental change”. They have a few different membership options starting from £1200 a year and are ideal for those who are trying to make positive changes to social, economic, or environmental issues.
The cities with the most private clubs
Were you curious about which city has the highest number of members’ clubs? So were we.
It’ll come as no surprise that London, the birthplace of the gentleman’s clubs, boasts the highest number of member-only clubs. Of all the 42 clubs we looked into, 14 of them are located in London with a larger proportion of them being situated in the Soho area.
New York has the second-highest number of clubs and boasts six of our top private establishments. Los Angeles follows behind New York with a modest four establishments and Hong Kong boasts just two member-only clubs. The other cities on our list only have one or two each which just goes to show that London really does love its clubs.
The clubs most frequented by royals and celebrities
As one might expect, many of these private clubs are attended by celebrities and even members of the royal family.
Prince William and Prince Charles are the most well-known members to belong to White’s, London’s oldest and most exclusive gentlemen’s club. Founded in the 1600s, even the Duke of Wellington was a member of White’s. Unfortunately, if you identify as anything other than male, you won’t be able to join as they have a strict men’s only policy. David Cameron was also a member up until 2008 when he left following a vote to keep the club men-only.
Prince Charles and Prince William are also thought to be members of a handful of other clubs. Brooks’ Club, established in the 1700s in response to the founders being denied entry to White’s, boasts the Royals on their members list along with many other members of high society. The Prince of Wales is very fond of these exclusive clubs it seems as he is also rumoured to be a member of Annabel’s, the only club he belongs to that isn’t completely men-only and has played host to celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Frank Sinatra, and Richard Nixon. Prince William, along with Prince Harry, is also thought to be a member of The Turf Club, a prestigious club founded in the 1800s that boasts notable members such as Harry Gordon Selfridge (the founder of Selfridges) and Lady Cunard.
But what about those who aren’t royalty? Where do Celebrities like to unwind and spend their time? One such club in Los Angeles, San Vicente Bungalows, is just one of those places. George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Michelle Obama are all thought to be members of this exclusive LA social club that opened in 2018 and charges £3,000 per year to be a member of.
Club 33 is one club we couldn’t leave off of our list. Found in multiple Disney parks including Anaheim, Shanghai, and Tokyo, Club 33 is an exclusive members-only club that offers executive lounges and dining experiences to its guests. The entry fee is high, the waiting list is long, and the member list includes the likes of Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, and Tom Hanks.
Private member clubs have come a long way since their original conception. A time where the stereotypical image was of an establishment populated by elderly gentlemen – and only gentlemen – dozing off in armchairs after lunch in the club restaurant. Nowadays, these exclusive clubs offer much more for their members than just a place to do business or enjoy a tipple. They serve as a place to network and share ideas and can be a status symbol in their own right. They are also more likely to be open to more than just men (in most cases) than they were in the past. Unfortunately for many though, experiencing the lavish lifestyle inside a private club is a dream we may never experience. In the meantime, we’ll have to make do with taking a peek behind the closed doors instead.
For everything you need to create your own luxury private club at home, check out the range of internal doors available from Leaders Doors. Whether you’re setting up a private movie room, an elegant dining room fit for royalty, or an opulent bedroom, Leaders have the perfect door to give you the perfect level of privacy.