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How do you justify your private club membership ? Do you even need to?


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Of course, there are the intangibles.   No reservations.  Empty course.  Social element.  Higher quality course.  If you can afford it, why not?  I've joined a club in the past and felt it was a huge value.   Now, I only dabble occasionally, so the math changes for me

 

The gambit of a private club is tricky, regardless of income.  Part of it is dictated by frugality DNA.  The irony is that if you're working hard to earn big, you may only golf 1x a week in 30s/40s/50s.  

 

Even if you're a billionaire, it's hard to justify paying, pro rata, $1000 per round at your local CC, if $15k annual.  And if retired, and playing 5x a week, your pensioner budget may not afford $15k for golf.  Time vs. money.  The eternal tug of war.

 

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At least, that is how I am content playing local muni for $35 a pop.    Anticipate 15 rounds max.  $500/summer.   No way I can justify paying 10x to 30x.  The only way the numbers really work out is if you have an entire family that plays golf.  

 

  • I love playing the same course.  Nothing worse than an unknown course.  Hit a great shot and then realize there's a lake yonder the hill.
  • I also can play on weekdays, so the muni weekend logjam is something I sidestep.   Makes muni much more tolerable.
  • I also play as single, so getting a decent tee time is not an issue.
  • The muni are 5-10 mins from my house.   I live in an expensive area.  Private clubs within 15 mins. are big money.   
    That truly ends the debate for me.   In a way, I'm glad a $5k option does not exist near me

 

So, for me, the passive golfer, the delta is not a big deterrent.

 

The muni greens are slow, but you get used to it.

I cringe when I get to the green and see ball marks that were not repaired.

 

That said, I loved my years at the private club.  

It's really where I learned the short game.

And it is simply not a numbers thing.   

Certain things can't be quantified.

 

Edited by mangohead
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In Quebec golf is pretty cheap, you can get a membership at many private clubs, even very nice ones for <5000$

 

If you play 50 rounds a year that's 100$ a round. Not insane , and you get the benefits of competitions and easier bookings as you say. My club is very nice and costs 4000$ with no assessment. Pretty easy to justify even if you aren't bathing in money

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18 minutes ago, mangohead said:

Of course, there are the intangibles.   No reservations.  Empty course.  Social element.  Higher quality course.  If you can afford it, why not?  I've joined a club in the past and felt it was a huge value.   Now, I only dabble occasionally, so the math changes for me

 

The gambit of a private club is tricky, regardless of income.  Part of it is dictated by frugality DNA.  The irony is that if you're working hard to earn big, you may only golf 1x a week in 30s/40s/50s.  

 

Even if you're a billionaire, it's hard to justify paying, pro rata, $1000 per round at your local CC, if $15k annual.  And if retired, and playing 5x a week, your pensioner budget may not afford $15k for golf.  Time vs. money.  The eternal tug of war.

 

Henry Bemis : And the best thing, the very best thing of all, is there's time now... there's all the time I need and all the time I want. Time, time, time. There's time enough at last.   

 

At least, that is how I am content playing local muni for $35 a pop.    Anticipate 15 rounds max.  $500/summer.   No way I can justify paying 10x to 30x.  The only way the numbers really work out is if you have an entire family that plays golf.  

Then why the question?

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We all have different priorities and different resources, we can't figure it our for anyone besides ourselves.  For me, my wife and I play a combined 150 rounds a year or more at our club, for a yearly base cost of under $5000 (dues plus food minimum).  We don't feel any need to "justify" our membership, but it sure makes a lot of sense money-wise, before even considering all of the other positives.

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8 minutes ago, JeffreySpicoli said:


Because the OP really desires a private club membership, can’t justify it himself, hopes someone here will justify it in a manner that he can then justify to himself?

Maybe, fair enough.  Or it's about all sorts of things the OP thinks are "the" defining aspects of private clubs for some reason and hot takes (and not really accurate, IMO).  He's been a member before now plays less and cheaper, sounds like he has it figured out and great for him.

 

When we belonged to a private when we were first married we didn't need to "justify" it, it was the way we chose to enjoy our golf.  None of it bore any relationship to what the OP talks about. No privates around here when we moved and have enjoyed that as well and don't "justify" where we play other than we enjoy it and works for us.

 

LOL, and some of us work plenty hard, have families and still manage to play golf a lot more than once a week in 30s - 50s - experiences vary and aren't easily compartmentalized.

Edited by Hawkeye77
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There should be a difference between a private country club and your $35 Muni, if both tracks are the same and accessibility is similar, it would be near impossible to justify.  Depending on the club, there is the nicer food options as well as the exclusivity and amenities.  There is a certain value in being able to invite your friends to a private club and know that your car is safely parked and the course will be in great shape and the patrons will be civilized can be considered priceless.  It all depends on the quality of the Muni vs the quality of your country club.   

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Being in my 30's and having a 5 y/o boy, it was more about spending time with him.

Between the 60hrs+ work week and other things that keep me busy, there's not much time left for golf, especially if I have to try to get tee times and drive 30mins each direction.

 

The club I joined is 5mins from my house and I try to get in 9 holes every other day after work. My son will also tag along.

 

It also helps my wife is interested in getting back into golf.

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I love golfing at a private club (as a guest) and could afford to join if I wanted.  But fact is there's parts of it that I really don't want or need.  Yes the social aspect is great and so are no tee times.  But I've already got plenty of friends and we already golf together at the abundance of nice public courses in western NY state--- most of which are reasonably priced $~35-$60/round.  I also like golfing at different courses and if I'm a member then I'm way less likely to play elsewhere on a regular basis.   Am I going to blow off my long time friends just to play with new friends at the private club?  No.

 

The other part of being a member at a private club is you have a vested interest in the success or failure of the organization.  I'd feel the responsibility to serve on committees to help the organization and of course that comes inevitably with politics.  Maybe some people thrive on that, I don't.  I have other interests and hobbies that I don't want to give up time for that would inevitably be consumed if I joined a private club.  

 

So for me it's a weighted formula with factors including; cost, time, existing vs desired social circle, other extra curricular activities and availability of quality public courses. 

 

   

Edited by BlackDiamondPar5
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There are four people currently living under my roof, but I’m the only one currently generating an income and also the only one who would use the local club if “we” joined. 
 

I’m not a cheapskate but I do intend to get my money’s worth from any big spend. I know I would overdo it if I belonged to the club. I’d probably practice or play 4-5 days a week, which would be a lot of time doing something that takes me away from my family. 
 

If it was my absolute favorite course in town I’d be more tempted, but it’s pretty mediocre.
 

I’m sure I’d play mostly in the club’s money games instead of all over town with my current playing buddies. That’s another reason I haven’t considered it. 

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 I've considered a private club ( on the lower end of cost) often, but I can't justify it to myself. I don't want to feel confined to one course, and I'm not a real "socialize at the club" kind of guy. I'd feel guilty as I tried to get my money's worth out of my membership. I do like the idea of a step up in course conditioning, though. 

Where I live there are quite a few really good courses with reasonable rates, and I like variety.

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It definitely varies from person to person (cool reading through this thread already and seeing the different takes every has on the subject).  If it's worth it to you, then you will pay whatever amount of money it costs.  Some people like cars, boats, hunting, etc.  I just chose golf.  Any hobby these days takes time and/or money.  My club is less than a mile away, has no tee times, is (fairly) inexpensive, and moving to a new state knowing no one but my wife has given me a lot of close friends and a place where most everyone knows me (good or bad).  

 

Sure, my wife gets on me every once in a while for playing too much but it never distracts from my roles as a husband or dad, nor does it interfere with my career.  You pay for the convenience and the community of a club.  Golf will always be expensive if you play it enough. 

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 Joining a club is about becoming a member as well. You dont get that at the local muni. Amazing how many late afternoon rounds you end up playing on a whim. And while greens fees are already covered, it doesnt matter if you play 6  holes or 10. Stop by the club to just chip an putt. So much more golf than just getting that 18 hole round in.

 

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2 hours ago, MtlJeff said:

In Quebec golf is pretty cheap, you can get a membership at many private clubs, even very nice ones for <5000$

Hello @MtlJeff

This is interesting. 

I've heard in the UK and, now I learn Canada, that golf is much more affordable than in the USA.  Why do you think this is so?

For example, I live on US West Coast and the best private course near me is a $50,000 buy in with about $9600/yearly in dues, etc., And while it's a nice course, it is certainly not famous. 

I could join a couple of courses near me for about $4000  buy in but they're run by Club Corp so it's more like semi-private and those are about $4800/year in dues. 

I plan on joining a club once my youngest graduates college but it will kill me to drop $50K or more on an initiation. But what the hell, you only live once and I finally will have a grass driving range. Ha ha!

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 Obviously all depends...

 I have no interest in a club except for playing golf

 Living in South Florida, with an abundance of courses, I rarely need to pay more than $25 a round with Golf Pass as long as I am flexible with tee times ( played a lovely old Donald Ross course for $18.00 today )

 

 I don't eat, shmooze or hang out at a club

 Things should get even more open once covid clowns go back to bowling, or whatever they did  before they invaded golf

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26 minutes ago, PJE said:

Hello @MtlJeff

This is interesting. 

I've heard in the UK and, now I learn Canada, that golf is much more affordable than in the USA.  Why do you think this is so?

For example, I live on US West Coast and the best private course near me is a $50,000 buy in with about $9600/yearly in dues, etc., And while it's a nice course, it is certainly not famous. 

I could join a couple of courses near me for about $4000  buy in but they're run by Club Corp so it's more like semi-private and those are about $4800/year in dues. 

I plan on joining a club once my youngest graduates college but it will kill me to drop $50K or more on an initiation. But what the hell, you only live once and I finally will have a grass driving range. Ha ha!

 

My guess is it's mostly related to real estate. Montreal land is worth a lot more now but there are no courses near the city. Once you get out to where the courses are, land is less expensive. So it's probably a lot easier to maintain and pay for properties with those rates.

 

People also wouldn't pay huge initiations and yearlies when you can only play 6 months a year. The highest initiations are probably Laval Sur le Lac or Royal Mtl and both of those are way under 50,000. Royal i think is less than half of that now.

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Playing any of the nicer courses in the area or the two redone munis in the area that are now very nice (and cheap) and trying to get through a round or simply get a time is enough justification for me when I finally feel like I can afford it. Not to mention no good practice facilities near by to work on all aspects. No real short game facility near me. 

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I would love to join a club, but even though there are 5 courses within 10 miles of my house non are private and all are either very short or very  bad in some cases both. It is cheap but not what I would like at this stage of my life. 

Also in Florida if you are over 60 they really stick it to you, there are two really nice clubs in town and both are ridiculously high cost to join and then a high monthly mandatory tab at the bar/ restaurant. 

If it were possible I would do it tomorrow.

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4 hours ago, davep043 said:

We all have different priorities and different resources, we can't figure it our for anyone besides ourselves.  For me, my wife and I play a combined 150 rounds a year or more at our club, for a yearly base cost of under $5000 (dues plus food minimum).  We don't feel any need to "justify" our membership, but it sure makes a lot of sense money-wise, before even considering all of the other positives.

My wife and I made the same choice and play about the same number of rounds…..well I do as she doesnt play at all.  But the maths the same!🙄

 

I was fortunate enough to get in on a lifetime membership offer at my club.  The equivalent of about 6 1/2 years worth of dues cost wise for lifetime membership.  Also covers locker and bag storage and eliminates food and beverage minimums. I have less than a year to go to hit the break even point and it’s all a benefit from there. Plus have the option to sell the membership and the second guy gets it for 15 years.

 

All in all a great deal.

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It all comes down to where you live and how much money you make. Being a member of a private club means drastically different things when you live in a major metro vs. elsewhere.

 

For instance, my hometown in Oregon has decent clubs you can join for less than 10K and have very reasonable monthly dues. Assuming you played somewhat regularly and expected to maintain the membership for a long period of time, I could justify joining this club any day of the week from a per round cost. 

 

However, in LA, it costs 150K+ to join any club worth a salt. Monthly dues would be a lot too (2k a month). It's a little harder to justify that, even when playing at a world class course. However, if you make $2mm a year (or come from a family with a ton of money...), live in $5-10mm home, and your only alternative for golf is a muni, joining makes all the sense in the world. Not to mention the non-golf elements, such as networking, a place for your kids to play tennis, play in the pool, etc. 

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It's a course I really love to play and I can afford the dues. Simple as that.

 

There are some parts of the country where between the rich-man cost of private club membership and the overcrowded, five hour round public courses I'm pretty sure I would never have taken up the game at all. Or wouldn't have stuck with it for long in any case. But fortunately I don't live in those places. 

From August 18, 2021 I will be away from GolfWRX for a while.

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Posted (edited)
  • I love playing the same course.  Nothing worse than an unknown course.  Hit a great shot and then realize there's a lake yonder the hill.
  • I also can play on weekdays, so the muni weekend logjam is something I sidestep.   Makes muni much more tolerable.
  • I also play as single, so getting a decent tee time is not an issue.
  • The muni are 5-10 mins from my house.   I live in an expensive area.  Private clubs within 15 mins. are big money.   
    That truly ends the debate for me.   In a way, I'm glad a $5k option does not exist near me

 

So, for me, the passive golfer, the delta is not a big deterrent.

 

The muni greens are slow, but you get used to it.

I cringe when I get to the green and see ball marks that were not repaired.

 

That said, I loved my years at the private club.  

It's really where I learned the short game.

And it is simply not a numbers thing.   

Certain things can't be quantified.

 

 

Edited by mangohead
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4 hours ago, LeftDaddy said:

Unless you play a lot it is hard to justify financially. But “saving” on golf is not why you join a club. You join for camaraderie, nicer golf course (usually), avoiding the big crowds and 5 hour rounds (usually), other perks like bar and grill, lockers, pool, tennis, etc (if part of your club), not having to fight for tee times, unlimited range balls, playing just a few holes if you so choose, etc. 

 

I’ve done this “math” several times over the years, and the money isn’t why you do it. You do it because you don’t have anything better to spend your money on, and/or you are willing to pay extra for the extras that come along with membership in a private club. Simple as that. I consider myself a value-conscious dude, but I’ll pay for club memberships all day everyday considering how much I love golf, etc. 

Most of the folks I know who joined clubs end up playing 50-100 rounds per year (some play more). With dues around 500/month, it usually ends up being a good value for a much-better-than-muni course.

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29 minutes ago, thezinfan said:

Most of the folks I know who joined clubs end up playing 50-100 rounds per year (some play more). With dues around 500/month, it usually ends up being a good value for a much-better-than-muni course.

This was even more true during Covid. Golf was essentially the only thing we could do and every public track was stuffed to the gills, you'd be lucky to get a tee time and slog it out for 5hrs+ once a week. I got in 100+ rounds in 2020 on an exponentially better course for less than the cost of the local ragged out muni with shaggy greens.  Having played on nice courses with slick greens, I always loathed the local slow/inconsistent greens (which they grow out on purpose for pace of play)

 

The other intangible not mentioned is the club golf, which simply can't be replicated in a public setting. The club championship, member-member, member-guest, etc. I played in a bunch of men's leagues prior to joining and the fun factor just isn't remotely the same, while the sandbagging is way worse.

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33 minutes ago, thezinfan said:

Most of the folks I know who joined clubs end up playing 50-100 rounds per year (some play more). With dues around 500/month, it usually ends up being a good value for a much-better-than-muni course.

I completely agree with this. There is an increased ease of access that may not be fully quantifiable but will provide value for most. I play quite a bit even though it's at less than great munis. If I had access to a private club, particularly one close to me (there are multiple that come to mind), I would play and practice way more. I'd find a way to get in 9 more often, hit the range more regularly, you name it. This would be a huge factor in overcoming any sticker shock, at least for me. 

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