Private membership clubs are an integral aspect of life in Hong Kong. Most of the city’s upscale private clubs are from the colonial era. Admittance through the hallowed portals of these clubs is, however, much sought-after. Aspiring members view club memberships as a status symbol though they also appreciate that private clubs offer many opportunities for socializing, networking in addition to their main function of centers of sports and recreation.
Most clubs in Hong Kong boast of outstanding recreational facilities. Olympic size pools, tennis and squash courts, games rooms and golf courses are de rigueur at these bastions of exclusivity. Complementing a club’s sporting arenas is usually a selection of leisure facilities like gourmet restaurants, lively bars, full-service spas, reading rooms, bowling alleys and more. The clubs as their name suggests, are ‘exclusive’, and membership into these enclaves is hard to come by.
Long waiting lists, sky-high joining and subscription fees and debentures are part and parcel of the club membership process in Hong Kong. Club memberships are passed down through generations or then acquired by invitation or marriage. Many companies in Hong Kong offer club membership to their senior management as a part of their compensation package. There also exists a healthy secondary market trade in club memberships in Hong Kong.
Popular private clubs in Hong Kong include: -
Perhaps the most prestigious of all the clubs in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Club. Located smack in the heart of Central, the club is the oldest private member’s club in the SAR and dates back to 1846. It, however, presently occupies a 1980’s building. Set up as a solely white, British male domain, the club until as recently as 1996, denied women entry into its various areas. The club underwent extensive renovations in 2013 and today offers facilities like a well-stocked Library, a Card Room, a Billiards room, two squash courts, a gym and a bowling alley. The club also has on its premises several restaurants, bars and private function rooms.
The Hong Kong Country Club
The stunning Southside of Hong Kong Island plays host to the Hong Kong Country Club. The club extends over two, lush hectares and affords stunning views of gorgeous Deep Water Bay. Mr. J. R. Jones, a legal adviser to the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation helped to found the club in 1962. The club’s founding fathers wanted to establish a family-friendly recreation and leisure space open to all nationalities. This policy has endured until today,for the club boasts of cosmopolitan membership body, which enjoysits plentiful recreational and dining facilities.
The Aberdeen Marina Club
The Aberdeen Marina Club overlooks the yacht-strewn Aberdeen typhoon shelter on the Southside of Hong Kong Island. The homegrown Shangri-La hotel group manages this tony club equipped with a private marina. The club is renowned for the excellent food offerings served at its six-onsite restaurants and is kitted out with facilities such as a bowling alley, a fitness center, squash and tennis courts along with an ice-skating rink. Martial arts, dance and music lessons are some of the other activities on offer at the club.
The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club
More water-sporting recreation is on offer at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, another historic institution that was established in 1894. The club operates out of three sites; Kellet Island in Causeway Bay, Middle Island in Repulse Bay and Shelter Cove in Sai Kung. The clubs membership base features much of Hong Kong’s sailing and rowing fraternity though both members, as well as non-members, can avail of the club’s rowing and sailing courses. The club also has facilities for sports like swimming, bowling, tennis and squash.
Bang next to the super-exclusive Aberdeen Marina Club is the more accessible Aberdeen Boat Club. The club offers a range of water-sporting activities like sailing, swimming, scuba diving, fishing and scuba diving. Also on offer here are dry land activities like karate, yoga, snooker and golf. The club operates from two sites Aberdeen and Middle Island in Repulse By and has five restaurants serving a range of cuisines.
The Hong Kong Golf Club
Founded in 1889 as the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club, the club is yet another prestigious member’s enclave in Hong Kong. Known simply as the Hong Kong Golf Club, after 1996, the club is the host site of the prestigious Hong Kong Open Golf tournament. The club operates from two campuses at Deep Water Bay and Fanling in the New Territories.While the Deep Water Bay site features a nine-hole course, the Fanling site offers the 18-hole course. Both sites club feature dining and recreational facilities, while theFanling campus also offers overnight accommodation facilities perfect for golf weekends or even ‘staycations.’
The American Club functions as a home away from home for American expatriates in Hong Kong. The club came into existence in 1925, and it operates from two sites, the Country Club in Tai Tam and the Town Club at Exchange Square, Central.
The Hong Kong Cricket Club
The Hong Kong Cricket Club dates back to 1851 and holds the position of the oldest cricket club in Asia. In addition to cricket, the club has provisions for various other traditional British sports like Lawn Bowling, field hockey, rugby, squash, netball, tennis and squash. The club occupies an expansive, verdant space on Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, but it also has an outpost in Central in the form of an upscale seafood restaurant, Dot Cod in Prince’s Building.
Craigengower Cricket Club
If the Hong Kong Cricket Club is the oldest cricket club in Asia, then the Craigengower Cricket Club near Causeway Bay holds the title of the second oldest cricket club in Asia. Its establishment date reads as1894. Aside from cricketing facilities, the club also houses squash courts, a golf driving range, a lawn bowling green, a fitness center, tennis and badminton courts and swimming pool. Restaurants and bars are available at the club as is the norm at private clubs.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club
The Hong Kong Jockey Club was founded in 1884.The club is the epicenter of horse racing in Hong Kong. The Jockey Club operates out of three campuses in Hong Kong at Happy Valley, Shatin and the Beas River Country Club; the club also has an outpost in Beijing. Membership to the Hong Kong Jockey Club is much coveted. Aspiring members in addition to the hefty joining fee ($400,000) also have to secure endorsements from two of the only 200 voting members, as well as three other members. The club’s memberships are available for sale on the secondary market, so membership wait times are typically long and in some instances can be as long as twenty years. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is an immensely rich club that operates several charitable institutions all over Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Football Club
The Hong Kong Football Cluboccupies a large plot on aptly named Sports Road near Happy Valley. The club is the hub of sporting activity. Sports like soccer, hockey, lawn bowls, squash, mini Rugby, netball, tennis, swimming and triathlon, golf, tennis and ten pins bowling, all feature on its sports menu. The club has various sports teams, which participate in a variety of international and domestic sporting events. In fact, if you are a keen sportsman/sportswomen you can acquire membership to the club by qualifying to play on one of its teams.
The Ladies Recreation Club
Louisa Coxon and a group of eighteen British ladies founded the Ladies Recreation Club in 1883.The club inhabits a spot on Old Peak Road in the heart of the family-heavy Midlevels district of Hong Kong.LRC as the club is popularly referred to offers a variety of sporting and dining facilities and also has a full-service spa on its premises.
The Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club
The Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Cluballows Hong Kongers an escape from the daily grind by way offering a wealth of recreational activity in a tranquil setting. The club features a nine-hole golf course, an ocean bordering outdoor pool, tennis and squash courts, an organic farm, a kid’szone and more.
Aside from the above listed relatively family-friendly clubs, Hong Kong also has several members’ clubs that are largely adult-oriented.
Spanning three floors of the Old Bank of China building in Central, the China Club evokes the style of 1930′s Shanghai. Fabulous Chinese artworks and artifacts dot the walls of the club; that observes a strict dress code and reservation policy. The club has a grand restaurant on the 13th floor, private party rooms and a bar on the 14th floor and rooms for cards and mahjong games on the 15th Floor. Sir David Tang, the founder of the Shanghai Tang boutiques owns the China Club in Hong Kong along with its sister clubs in Beijing and Singapore.
The 12th floor of the Bank of China building is home the Cipriani private members’ club. The club belongs to the renowned Cipriani group of clubs and restaurants, which originated from the famed Harry’s Bar in Venice. The membership list of the Hong Kong outpost features the who’s who of the city.
The Hong Kong Bankers Club
The Hong Kong Bankers Club began life as the Hong Kong Overseas Bankers Club in 1977. The club changed its name to the Hong Kong Bankers Club in 1995, and today has on its membership rolls several senior executives of banks operating in Hong Kong as well as various independent finance professionals. The club is housed in the Landmark in Central and offers five dining facilities. A strict dress code prevails at the Bankers Club.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club
The Foreign Correspondents’ Cluboccupies a historic building on Lower Albert Road in Central. The club is a hub for journalists and media folk in Hong Kong but does accept members from other fields as well. The FCC has a fitness center and three bars and restaurants. Talks and seminars by visiting media personnel and other dignitaries constitute the bulk of the club’s events.