Ballpark estimate: $1,000 to $100,000 +
If golfing if your passion, how about investing in membership to a private golf course/country club so you can hit the links as often as your schedule permits? While occasional golfers may be satisfied playing at municipal or public courses (these are courses where anyone can pay a fee to play a round), more serious golfers typically prefer to join a private golf course where in return for a membership fee, they can play golf to their heart’s content. There are also semi-private courses, which offer some of the benefits of a private club while requiring less of a financial commitment.
Factors to Consider
When shopping for a private golf course, it’s important to know that each course can be very different in terms of what it offers, its rules and financial requirements or expectations for members, and what you get in return. Here are some details to consider when exploring golf course options in your area: how challenging the course is, how well it’s maintained, if there’s a fee to join, the monthly membership fee, what amenities it offers, and whether there are other benefits and/or financial requirements throughout the year.
Keep in mind that some golf courses also have stringent requirements for membership, such as being recommended by a current member in good standing, and some also have a long waiting list, so you may want to have a few choices and see what makes sense for your situation.
The Allure of a Private Golf Course
Private golf courses are exclusive country clubs that are restricted to members only. This means that people can’t just walk in off the street to play but instead they will need to belong, or to be invited by a member. Private golf courses often offer many amenities other than golf, such as tennis, pool, squash, and dining facilities. Each private golf course usually has its own unique personality or style as well. Some are casual and laid
back, whereas others are more conservative and require a formal dress code in the country club facility. Before selecting any club, you should visit the course and try it out for a day to see if you feel comfortable there. Remember that if you do select a more exclusive private club, you could have quite a wait to get in. You may need a member sponsor and may also have to provide references, since belonging to a golf course requires a substantial financial requirement. Membership to a golf course also means that you’ll likely need to follow the highest golf and social etiquette while on their grounds. Most private clubs also have initiation costs, which translates into a one- time payment upfront that in some cases, you may not get back if you decide to leave the golf course.
Cost of a Private Golf Course
While every private golf course/country club may do things in its own unique way, here is an example of how a private golf course membership might be structured:
This is a one- time fee that is required when you join. Some clubs let the member pay the fee over the span of anywhere from a few months to a few years. The initiation fee can be anywhere from $2,000 on up to $100,000 or more, depending on the exclusivity of the country club. Sometimes clubs will waive the initiation fee if they are in need of new members. Again, this is dependent on the club.
Depending on the type of membership, annual dues vary dramatically. There are memberships for individuals, family, corporate, and non-residents. The average cost will be between $3,000 and $20,000 + per year (which can often be pay in monthly installments). Corporate and family dues will of course cost more than individual ones. The annual dues typically includes all of the amenities the club has to offer, like pool, tennis, and golf.
Food & Beverage Minimums
All private clubs have food and beverage minimums that are based monthly. The average cost per month is between $50 to $150. Sometimes beverages are not included in the minimums so check with the club to see what their rules are. Minimums are required because on the off season the club has certain overhead to pay for and this brings in the revenue to cover costs during the winter months. This usually occurs in the Northeast and colder climates.
There are always extra fees that you need to be prepared for if you belong to a course. For instance, you may want to purchase a range plan, which allows you unlimited balls to hit on the driving range so you can warm up your swing before you hit the course. This can cost about $250 a year. Cart fees are an additional cost which range from $25 to $50 per round of golf. You can also expect to pay a locker fee (approximately $50-$100 per year), and golf club storage, (approximately $100 per year).
Questions to ask
When you are searching for a golf course that meets your needs, it’s important to know that many private clubs are member owned and have a board of directors and membership votes to decide the best course of action to take on major improvements to be done. The following are questions you should ask before joining a club:
- What is the debt the club owes to its banks? Anything over $1 million raises cause for concern. There has been a downturn of membership and many clubs are losing members and not able to cover expenses. They usually will go under or make assessments, which means going to its membership and splitting the cost owed among everyone. An example is when the country club has a pool repairs that cost $50,000 and there are 200 members. Each member will be assessed a one-time fee of $250 on top of all the other regular membership costs.
- What is the policy for children? Many golf courses will not let kids under the age of 16 go out on the golf course before 3:00 p.m.
- What is the policy for guests? Many clubs charge a fee ($50 to $100) and will only allow the same guest to play once a month.
A Less-Expensive Option: A Semi -Private Golf Course
If you find that a private golf course or country club is out of your price range, you may want to consider joining a semi-private club. In a semi-private club, you can become a member, but the public is also welcome to play on the course. The benefit of belonging is that as a member, you’ll have access to get preferred tee times and also to play in member tournaments. This is a good option for golfers who enjoy golf but don’t get out often enough to justify membership in a private course. It’s also a good choice for avid golfers who can’t swing the expense of a private course.
For semi-private golf courses, the cost structure is usually similar to the private club costs, but reduced.
Here is an example of what you can expect:
- Semi-Private Golf Course Initiation Costs
- Initiation fees at a semi-private club range from $500 – $15,000. There are also many semi-private clubs that do not charge an initiation fee at all.
- Annual Dues
- Depending on the type of membership annual dues vary dramatically. Like private clubs, there are memberships for individuals, family, corporate and non-residents. The average cost will be between $1,000 to $5,000 + per year. A rule of thumb is that a semi-private club is approximately half the cost of a private club.
- Food & Beverage Minimums
- If your semi-private club has a food and beverage minimum, it may be between $25 and $100 per month.
- Miscellaneous Fees
- The miscellaneous fees that come with semi-private membership will be in line with those described in private club costs.
With any golf course membership, the most important thing is to find a place where you can do what you love and challenge yourself to keep improving your game one hole at a time.