A spot of fly-fishing and 12 rounds of golf a year ... for £40,000

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An elite Highlands golf course frequented by American business tycoons has become Britain's most expensive club by charging a £40,000 joining fee.

An elite Highlands golf course frequented by American business tycoons has become Britain's most expensive club by charging a £40,000 joining fee.

The sum, believed to be double the previous rate, means the Loch Lomond Club now costs considerably more than four times the joining fee at Wentworth in Surrey, previously considered Britain's most expensive course.

By setting the new tariff, Loch Lomond has caused eyebrows to be raised among the game's aficionados, who hitherto have accepted that club membership is generally a matter of arcane rules rather than big cheques.

Many believe that the fee – which is unequalled in Europe and rivalled only by a handful of courses in Japan and America – is, in effect, designed to bar future membership to all but an élite group who think little of crossing continents for a weekend's golf.

The course, designed by the 1973 Open Championship winner, Tom Weiskopf, was opened in 1994. Thanks to its much-lauded design and stunning views, it is now ranked as the 44th best in the world.

On top of the joining fee, members, who include Sir Sean Connery and the footballer-turned-television-pundit Ally McCoist, have to pay an additional £1,750 in green fees per year. Guests accompanied by members pay £135 for 18 holes.

Members are limited to a dozen rounds a year and are reminded by club rules that facilities are for the "occasional use of members" and that "the club is not meant as the primary club for a member".

In common with many other élite clubs, the Loch Lomond was reluctant to discuss details of membership fees and procedures to join.

Sited next to the waters of the West Highlands lake, the course aims to attract globetrotting executives with the added attractions of pheasant shooting, fly-fishing, hill walking – and a slice of genuine Scottish heritage. The former ancestral home of the Colquhoun clan, the 18th -century Georgian mansion called Rossdhu House, has been converted into 23 luxurious bedrooms with views of the course.

The course has had a chequered history. It had financial troubles under its previous owners in the early 1990s and was taken over and run by the local authority. At that stage it was considered one of the best value "pay-and-play" municipal courses in the land.

The American property developer Lyle Anderson bought the club from the council and invested heavily. However, the club has only recently remedied a problem with persistent flooding caused by the wet local climate and the fact that part of the course is beneath the level of the loch.

Well-travelled golfers say that Loch Lomond stretches the definition of the traditional golf club and liken the clubhouse atmosphere more to an exclusive Pall Mall gentlemen's club.

It is marketed at international tycoons who typically fly in for a weekend of golf in a party of eight players, making up two four-balls. They are treated to exceptional levels of service – and can expect to have their spikes taken away and cleaned while they shower after a match.

The course also stages the annual Scottish Open, which is shown on the Golf Channel, an American cable station. Its coverage favours shots of the rolling hillside, the loch and kilted bagpipe players – all of which are essential marketing tools for the club's owners.

Loch Lomond was among several Scottish courses to bid for the honour of hosting the 2010 Ryder Cup between Europe and America but was beaten by Celtic Manor in Newport, south Wales.