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A Slice of Heaven at the Chattooga Club of Cashiers

Words by Emily Davis

A summer spent in the mountains can feel like returning home. The slower pace of life, fresh mountain air, and cooler ambient temperatures provide true rejuvenation for the mind and body.  

But for members of The Chattooga Club, time spent at their private retreat is not just coming home; it’s coming home to the open arms of a large, extended family.

Tucked into the lush landscape of Cashiers, North Carolina, The Chattooga Club represents the epitome of refined Southern living ensconced within an authentic mountain ambiance. The exclusive private club offers its members a unique blend of luxurious amenities, impeccable service, and access to the breathtaking natural beauty that defines the Blue Ridge Mountains. From its inspiring origins to the diverse array of activities it provides, The Chattooga Club is a haven for those seeking a harmonious balance of elegance and outdoor splendor — spent with friends who feel more like family.

Founded in 1988, the club has deep roots in the history of Cashiers. Owner John Rivers, a Charleston native, sought to create a retreat where members could escape the rigors of everyday life and immerse themselves in the tranquil beauty of the surrounding mountains. However, the towns of Cashiers and Highlands already featured several private clubs — mostly centered around their golf courses — and Rivers wished to create something distinct and unique.

Inspired by a vacation to the United Kingdom, where he and his wife witnessed firsthand the English enthusiasm for croquet, Rivers was determined to bring the game to his mountain home away from home. The Chattooga Club was conceived as a private croquet club, and so began the origins of croquet on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau! Over the years, numerous other local clubs followed suit, with croquet gradually becoming one of the area’s favorite pastimes. In fact, Rivers himself progressed from novice to skilled player after founding his own club!

True to the founder’s vision, The Chattooga Club places deep emphasis on outdoor activities and engagement with the natural environment. The main building’s architectural aesthetic seamlessly integrates with the natural surroundings, creating an atmosphere of timeless elegance. The surrounding grounds are meticulously maintained, and members frequently hike or drive up to Mac’s View, a park-like setting atop a hill with a breathtaking long-range view of Whiteside Mountain and the rolling hills beyond it.

 

Today, The Chattooga Club has evolved to provide additional amenities for its members while retaining its commitment to serving as an exclusive sanctuary. 

New General Manager Michael Krause came on board at the club in September 2023 and enthusiastically shares his love of the community and his new home. Originally from Munich, Germany, Krause has spent over forty years managing resorts in Switzerland; Palm Beach; Florida; Hilton Head Island; and other hotspots throughout the Southeast. In search of cooler summer temperatures, Krause and his wife discovered Cashiers. 

It was love at first sight when they arrived at The Chattooga Club. Krause effuses, “If there is a slice of heaven in this world, this is it!” In addition to the welcoming atmosphere at the club itself, Krause broadly compliments the communities of Cashiers and Highlands. “You hear about southern hospitality, and it’s true. When you meet people here, it’s like you’ve known one another forever.”

Not only do members contribute to the familial atmosphere, but the staff at Chattooga are highly valued for their specialized skills and dedication. With the dining room and social calendar closing from December through late April, the fact that employees return year after year provides a testament to the camaraderie shared inside the gates. 

Asked what makes The Chattooga Club unique, Krause reiterates that the people are the essential components of any community. “The members here are like one big extended family. Every summer, they’re not just going on vacation to the mountains. They’re coming home to unwind and spend time with family.”

 

Indeed, Krause’s description of the club’s dining area does remind one of a large family gathering. While the building hosts both indoor and outdoor dining, members clamor for the outside tables. Members and guests are encouraged to explore the expansive Victory Garden, where you can pick up fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers. With a view of the croquet lawn and Chimneytop and Rock Mountains providing a stunning backdrop, it’s easy to see why. The scene appears straight out of a Hollywood set. 

Krause proudly points to a table in the center of the outdoor dining area. “In the summer, our club florist creates an enormous display here. The flowers change weekly, and everyone loves seeing the new arrangements. It’s one of those special touches that makes this place truly magical.” 

Magical is certainly a fitting word. Every detail at The Chattooga Club appears carefully curated, creating an experience that sweeps members off their feet and away from the world outside its gates. 

Experiences supply another crucial element of club life. Throughout the season, from late April through November, club management endeavors to provide members with an itinerary that keeps them busy yet feels rejuvenating to the body and spirit.

 

Perhaps the most anticipated event of the summer, the Fourth of July brings a multi-day extravaganza of outdoor fun and fireworks to the club. The atmosphere is deliberately family-oriented, with multiple generations returning to gather year after year. But the festivities don’t stop there; from spring to early fall, Chattooga’s picturesque background provides the perfect setting for weddings, which are highly detailed and personalized to the brides’ and grooms’ tastes. 

Also held throughout the warm season, the club’s croquet tournaments invite everyone to enjoy the great outdoors. Members test their mettle and sharpen their skills during by-invitation tournaments with other local clubs and even international guests. However, it’s also a time to cut loose and enjoy the festive social atmosphere. Whether a first-time player or a seasoned wicket wielder, the primary goal is to have fun and make memories. 

Social life is vibrant at The Chattooga Club, with members crowding into The Bear Bar — an affectionate moniker styled after the enormous stuffed bear over the fireplace — for drinks and lively conversation on just about any evening throughout the season. “You almost can’t walk in here sometimes,” laughs Krause. “They pack in here like one big, happy family. Everyone greets you as you walk through the door, and it’s just like a family reunion night after night.” 

That social atmosphere extends to the dining room, where The Chattooga Club’s chefs impress diners with exquisite meals during lunch and dinner throughout the season. The kitchen churns out a steady schedule of wine dinners, guest chef experiences, and themed evenings. At the end of the season, members gather for a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast.

 

Situated on 200 secluded acres with about 80 private homes within the gates, The Chattooga Club operates on a by-invitation basis, but members come from all over the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau. With a significant golf club just down the road, many enjoy mutual memberships to access both golf and croquet, along with the fitness center, three Har-Tru tennis courts to test your tennis and pickleball skills, and a heated saline pool located on Chattooga’s grounds. 

At its core, the Chattooga Club is a community of like-minded individuals who share a passion for the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a desire for refined living, and, for many, a passion for the game of croquet. Their ambitious calendar of social events brings members together to celebrate, foster friendships that span generations, and enjoy the camaraderie that defines this exclusive private community.

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