I've reached a point where the game is mostly social.
Don't get me wrong I still look to put up a good number, and win a little cash if possible - but I'd rather have a mediocre score with a good group of friends then have a good round with miserable folks. I still go out and work on improving being more consistent, as my score will improve from hitting more fairways, and hitting the ball solidly rather than mishits. Hell sometimes I'd rather just stay on the range, then go to the practice green - especially if they allow (or don't actively disallow) adult beverages.
I wonder if the difference is between private clubs created as part of a housing development vs. those that were not.
In my area of Vancouver, BC, Canada we do not have any private clubs created as part of a housing development. There are a couple of golf courses that were created as part of a housing development (Morgan Creek and Westwood Plateau) but they were never private.
None of the private clubs in my area has gone to public play.
+1. You have to stay in play to give yourself a chance. I think drivers are too hard to hit reliably for most casual golfers. I just got rid of mine and ordered another one w/ higher loft.
I told my new instructor I wanted him to show me how to hit the driver alongside the irons, not after I had mastered the irons (like the last guy I went to). Driver instruction is very poor in my experience, and this is extremely frustrating. If you can't hit your driver fairly consistent your ceiling for this game is very low.