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Opinion on pros and cons of private club membership

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 

I have gotten addicted to golf over the last year and have now sucked in my wife and all three kids.  With 5 golfers in the household, I'm thinking seriously about a country club membership.  Our local club is pretty pricey.  Since everyone has different economics, rather than state the price suffice it to say that there is no way that I could financially justify it on pure economics (i.e., rounds played * greens fees at even a very nice public course will never equal buy-in + monthly dues).   

 

So the question is whether the other benefits outweigh the cost issue.  Here is my short list and I'd appreciate hearing from others who have made the decision one way or another:

 

Pros:

 

easy access; club is 1 mile from our home;

less crowded!;

flexibility to play on the spur of the moment; 

chance to play the occasional 5-some with the whole family when the course is slow;

beautifully maintained, challenging course

 

Cons:

 

once you pay that much, probably want to play your home course all the time and miss some variety;

buddies from work who I like to play with are not members;

$$$$

 

In any case, would appreciate input from the group.  I played 40 rounds in 2012 and took my average score down from 125+ to high 90's and legitimately broke 100 several times.   I have  LONG way to go, but I think I've crossed over from "hack" to "golfer" and I absolutely love being out there.

 

I expect I'll play at least 50% more this year now that my wife has the bug too.

post #2 of 56

I can only speak about the private clubs I've been to and belonged to. If I had to do it over again I'd live on the course. Being closer makes it easy to play more, especially after work. My parents live on a private course and they roll their cart out of the garage and up to the clubhouse. The only time we ever experience slow play is pure bad luck, getting stuck behind the guy teaching his noob friends on the course late Sun afternoon or something like that. Otherwise it's rare to come close to the group in front or behind, rare to have to wait to hit a shot there ever. The course conditions are always great and the course is challenging, long par 5's, deep rough, real fast greens etc. A truly great golf experience.

 

But it is expensive. I had a chance to join their club again last year, was previously a member there some years ago. The membership was cheap enough. There members can sell their memberships for whatever. Many do it for just the transfer fee because they've fallen on hard times and can't afford the dues. In the end I couldn't justify it because I live too far away to make it work and all I can afford there now is a townhome or condo and not many are on the market. It would have cost me $7800 a year in dues just to golf and I know I didn't spend anywere near that playing the cheap courses I frequent.

 

I live 5 minutes from the local course I play and during the summer after work I am usually one of a few out there. It's no country club, real far from it. But I can play 9 during the season 7 days a week for $22 per player with a cart, and it takes me around an hour to do it. I played there at least 60 times from July-Nov. Had I given it a chance earlier in the year it would have been significantly more than that.

post #3 of 56

There are many benefits to joining a private club as a family as you indicated.

 

Pro's

Overall, your costs would probably be equal or lower than golfing with your family anywhere you play.

You can golf more frequently, even if it is just for several holes after work.

Most clubs offer very good rates for Junior Membership, usually under 40 years of age.

Private Clubs are generally in exceptional condition as you indicated.

Close proximity to your home is a convenience.

Private clubs offer very good guest rates and your buddies will want to golf at your club.

Clubs offer reciprocals at other clubs when your club host an event.

Play at this club should be less crowded, especially during the weekdays.

Usually a good chance to meet new golfers and make new friends.

Clubs offer very good kids and beginning women programs.

 

 

Cons

Yes, you may miss golfing a few rounds at other courses.

Yes, you may spend more as a member, but you can set a monthly budget.

 

I would suggest joining a club to any golfer who intends to golf frequently.
Many clubs offer a one year commitment with no initiation fees.

 

Overall, it should be a great experience.

 

Club Rat

post #4 of 56

For me to ever consider a Country Club, a couple of qualifications have to be met:

 

1.  It has to at least be close to the same amount of money as I would otherwise pay, preferably less.

2.  It has to be really close to home or work or along the way so I don't have to go out of my way to get there.

 

The benefits I see:

 

1.  Less traffic on a well groomed course.  The idea that I could play in 4 hours or less whenever I wanted.  And if I had less time I could play 9, or any random number of holes for that matter, whenever the mood struck.

2.  Unlimited practice on a presumably nice empty facility.

 

The cons:

 

1.  Being bored after awhile because you are playing the same course all the time.

 

Since I have 2 toddlers, I certainly don't have the time right now to satisfy my first qualification.  Plus there aren't any close enough to where I live right now to fit my second qualification. :)

post #5 of 56

I am going to disagree with the guys that say its cheaper (it generally isnt when only one person in the family uses it) - however with 5 golfers in the household, there is a good chance it would be cheaper for you. While it may be cheaper, it probably will not be cheap - depends on if you have to pay a cart fee each time, when/if walking is allowed.

 

Even with a private cart and trail fees, different clubs have different rules - like at my club, only one member of a family membership is allowed to tee off before 11am on the weekends (a rule that hasnt been enforced for a couple of years, but would be if membership ever grew)

 

I have been a member at the same place for 4 years, and have never tired of it - i probably play less than 15 rounds a year at other courses. (we also have reciprocals with 40+ courses around the country, but there are only 5 or 6 within reasonable driving distance)

 

Our guest fees are a bit on the high side and personally I feel they should be - I pay an average of $100/round since I am not retired and cant play everyday.

 

I am guaranteed my 8 am tee time every Saturday morning, pretty much a 4 hour round with double tee times on weekend mornings and do not have to worry that someone booked an outside tournament. It can be slow *popping in* during the week because many people with private carts jump out of their back yard and start playing from whatever hole they live on.

 

Our Men's Golf Association is starting to grow with varied tournaments every month - points are kept for the year and there is a year end awards dinner.

 

To me, it's worth it (was just a little more financially worth it when the wife would play too, since it meant I got to play more)

post #6 of 56
I have a membership at a 9 hole course for $100/month. Really nice to be able to pop in after work and play 4-5 holes without worrying about the cost.
post #7 of 56
There are alternatives to private clubs that might be a bit cheaper. Many courses have tee-times set aside on Sat or Sun AM for "members"- you buy a foursome, or get in on one with others and get the same time each week. Rain or shine, that's your time. It usually includes a few perks like discounted tee times at other times. discounts in the pro shop or on range balls, etc...

Might be a good intro into club type life for a start. One of the perks of a full CC membership are the reciprocals with other clubs around the country or even the world. A letter of introduction from your club might get you into some of the other private clubs in your area or near where you might be vacationing or visiting. You're not getting into Augusta, though- And private clubs may not be the exclusive enclave of snobbery and fees like it used to be. Many clubs in Florida have opened to outside play just due to economics. Not enough equity members to keep the place going so you have to allow others in. There are some courses on Long Island that are those mid-level types of clubs with no "Grill minimums" and other fees long associated with Private Club memberships.
You could probably find a course that would fit your needs at a reasonable cost without the full commitment. Maybe the kids lose interest and move on to other things. You might find that. as many retirees find, having golf available any time you want, gets a bit "old" and you don't play nearly as much as you thought- especially if you're only playing one course all the time.
post #8 of 56

1484,

 

How are the practice facilities?  If you want to become a better golfer, this may be the best advantage.  You may still only play 3 rounds a week, but could practice everyday.  That is where I see the advantage.  Most of the private clubs near my home are very pricey and hard to get into.

post #9 of 56
The only con is private vs public membership. Private cost more

To me, everything else is a pro.
Faster rounds
Better practice facility (usually)
More of a family atmosphere
You can usually always find a money game (if you're into that)
post #10 of 56
I was a member of a private club last season... the family joined for the facilities... since the club was uber kid friendly.

The reason we're one and done with private country clubs is not the actual cost but the nickel and diming where we felt we were getting gauged. When one spends 10k+ on a membership... 2 ice creams a piece of fruit and a soda at the pool shouldn't be $17.

I'm sure all clubs are different, but I felt that being treated like I don't care about costs was too much for me. If you have the disposable income and want to pay a premium... then it's worth it. Just make sure everything is layer out up front... we had a lot of little surprises during the season...
post #11 of 56

If it were just me getting the membership, it would be all about the golf course & the value.

 

But 1484, you're talking about a family membership with 3 kids. That introduces other dynamics -

 

They got a nice pool? Junior golf programs? Spa? Restaurant?

 

It's basically going to be your family's social outlet. 

post #12 of 56

I assume you are talking about belonging to a Private Club (an equity membership?).  I belong to one, but it is seasonal, and the other half of the year I'm a vagabond and play many different courses ranging from municipal to resort.  I really don't mind doing that but it requires you to be more active in finding tee times.  So I have a variety.

 In my case the club I belong to is certainly more expensive than the public courses based on a per round cost, but a lot more convenient.  But it is great having your clubs stored at the course, shoes taken care of , and a locker for your wind shirts, hats and etc. and a nice club house.  Also a benefit for me has been having a great practice facility and a couple of pros to give lessons.  But the biggest drawbacks are being subject to special assessments when the club needs to raise money for improvements/additions or refurbishments.  I have been member for about 14 years now and only one special assessment so it has not been a problem for me but in some clubs these can occur more often. Make sure it is a course you'll enjoy playing as you'll play it a lot.  Also try to get to know some of the members as different clubs can have different "personalities" and character.  At my club our dress code if fairly casual and so is the club house dress code.  I have to admit you get used to having your clubs cleaned and set out before your tee time, shoes cared for then put into your locker, etc. so when I'm in the vagabond period I miss that.  They even put warm water in the bucket for you to soak your towel (actually the club's towel) for on course club cleaning.  Well I won't go on as you can see you do get service for the money.  Having said that if there was good public course I liked closer than 30 miles away from my summer home I probably would not spend the money for club membership but the club's course is about 1 mile from my house. So a significant savings in time and wear and tear on the automobile.

 

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post #13 of 56

I joined the local 9 hole course. No brainer really. $500 for the year. $200 of that is credit for the range balls, free golf before 1pm, and a great practice area, for members only, including a sand bunker and a chipping area. The course is very well maintained and just a pleasure to play.

post #14 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by zipazoid View Post

If it were just me getting the membership, it would be all about the golf course & the value.

 

But 1484, you're talking about a family membership with 3 kids. That introduces other dynamics -

 

They got a nice pool? Junior golf programs? Spa? Restaurant?

 

It's basically going to be your family's social outlet. 

This. With 4 golfers in my family, our local CC has become our hangout, with pools, unlimited range access, tennis, etc.

post #15 of 56

Costs vary considerably from 225/month with no initiation to 75k initiation with 600/mon min(and I am sure there are higher ones).  The first one you can financially justify if you play golf once a week and hit balls a couple times. The second one is a lot harder since you need to play a lot of $150 rounds to make back the initiation fee. The second one is all about lifestyle and convience.

 

The tricky part with clubs is as you say they can have really expensive guest fees. You might find that very few of your current golfing friends want to pay those more than a couple times a year.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by meenman View Post

I am going to disagree with the guys that say its cheaper (it generally isnt when only one person in the family uses it) - however with 5 golfers in the household, there is a good chance it would be cheaper for you. While it may be cheaper, it probably will not be cheap - depends on if you have to pay a cart fee each time, when/if walking is allowed.

 

Even with a private cart and trail fees, different clubs have different rules - like at my club, only one member of a family membership is allowed to tee off before 11am on the weekends (a rule that hasnt been enforced for a couple of years, but would be if membership ever grew)

 

I have been a member at the same place for 4 years, and have never tired of it - i probably play less than 15 rounds a year at other courses. (we also have reciprocals with 40+ courses around the country, but there are only 5 or 6 within reasonable driving distance)

 

Our guest fees are a bit on the high side and personally I feel they should be - I pay an average of $100/round since I am not retired and cant play everyday.

 

I am guaranteed my 8 am tee time every Saturday morning, pretty much a 4 hour round with double tee times on weekend mornings and do not have to worry that someone booked an outside tournament. It can be slow *popping in* during the week because many people with private carts jump out of their back yard and start playing from whatever hole they live on.

 

Our Men's Golf Association is starting to grow with varied tournaments every month - points are kept for the year and there is a year end awards dinner.

 

To me, it's worth it (was just a little more financially worth it when the wife would play too, since it meant I got to play more)

post #16 of 56

I've been playing 90% of my golf at the same club for almost thirty years and I have never been bored. If you are getting bored then the course is not very interesting and your green staff is lacking as well.

There are plenty of options in my area (Philly suburbs), from ridiculously expensive and exclusive to affordable and welcoming and, while there are some very good public facilities in the area, I would never go that route after belonging to a club for so long. It is very important to me to be able to play where the pace of play is important to everybody, I can play whenever I want and the course is well maintained at all times. I belong to one of the "affordable and welcoming" clubs, but our course has a great history and will challenge you to use every club in you bag. There really are no two holes that are alike.

In any particular year I end up playing with at least 40 different people, yet I also have the option to play with a regular group. I play regularly in team matches against other clubs, so there is the opportunity every spring to play other private clubs in the area at no cost. The area courses have reciprocal programs when there is heavy work that may shut down a course, and we really get to go on tour in those instances. Our course went through a heavy reconstruction a couple of years ago and I played golf at 11 different private course in the Philly area that fall (at no cost other than a caddie or cart) because we reciprocate in kind.  

I have also have the opportunity to play a lot with my family and my kids will probably play the game for the rest of their life. We have a well maintained practice facility. The green staff is on top of everything at all times, like leaves in the fall. We never have to play the "leaf rule". The staff knows us and we know them, so there is mutual respect that carries over to both parties taking care to maintain the course properly.

The price is the only con that I can think of. Not ony the dues, but we can't carry our own bag until 3:00 PM so there is always an additional cost of a caddie or cart. I love playing with a caddie (we have a robust caddie progam) so that is a cost that I must endure. Some years (college years for the kids) I ended up playing a lot with a cart or late in the day. Still, I wouldn't do it any other way.

post #17 of 56

Obviously the big issue is cost for  most people.  I've never considered joining a club, primarily because of that.  My wife only plays on rare occasions, so I'd be the only one playing.  We don't really get that excited about upscale dining either, so that isn't an attraction for us - the pool and tennis courts also don't interest me.    

 

I've played plenty of times at a few private clubs, and quite frankly, I never felt that comfortable, never really seemed to fit in.  I was blue collar my whole career, and trying to be buddies with executive types just rarely seems to work for me.  Guys start talking about their work, and when I say I was a machinist for 33 years, I'm like no longer part of the conversation.  I'm not even saying that it was a deliberate snub, just nothing in common to talk about except golf.  I can usually have a better time with 3 strangers met at a local public course, even if they hold white collar jobs, because they are generally lower end employees and we have similar interests and backgrounds.

 

So for me, the cost and the companionship will keep me on public courses (anything from the local muni to some pretty nice upscale public venues) for what remains of my golfing life.  It just works better for me.

post #18 of 56

Find out about "ladies days" and other times when the course is not accessable. A lot of private clubs are closed on Mondays. I was a member at a private club, and on Mondays I would play at a semi private club. The pros at the SP club treated me better than I was treated at my private club. I only had time to play 9, and the semi private club would allow me to go to the back. That never happened at the private club. Ask about the financial stability of the club. A lot of places with no initiation and attractive packages are in bad shape financially. Get ready for assesments. If you can find a club that fits your needs and is stable, that is a great way to go. If you are like me, and are more interested in golf than the social aspects, there may be better places.

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