BKuehn seems to be the only one here who gets it. The USGA is an organization of golf CLUBS and the by-laws limit voting to clubs run by members as opposed to owners. In other words, the USGA is basically run by the representatives of a few thousand overwhelmingly private clubs. As for the hundreds of thousands of individuals who send them money every year, here's what the USGA has to say: "individuals who pay prescribed annual amounts to the Association, called Associates prior to July 1, 1991, will be called Members but will have the same status as Associates had before that date. They will not have any of the rights or obligations of Member Clubs". Individuals are simply making a donation and getting a few benefits in return.
If it's worth $25 a year or whatever to you to feel like you're supporting golf, or to get first crack at tickets few people can use or a rule book you can buy for $4, that's your choice and good for you. But if you think it will actually make you a member and you'll get any say whatsoever in running the organization or setting the rules, you're falling for a snow job. The USGA couldn't care less what you think. That I was a USGA "member" for more than two decades, and they never so much as sent me an opinion survey proves that.