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Country club membership is exactly the same as classical music. There is constant worry that when the current older generation dies that the music will die with them. 
The reality is that people have generally never preferred classical music when they’re young. We get older, we listen to classical music more. The young don’t generally have the time and expendable income to be CC members. They will grow old as well.

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@Dr.Zevia

The club I just left was in a county seat of 15,000 people in a county of 60K or so, but adjacent to the farther suburban counties of Chicago.  New owners took over, started making improvements, and In 2018 or 2019 they bought out an 18 hole daily fee course that is across a rural road from their property.  Then Covid hit.  Between the improvements, the extra 18 holes, and Covid, the membership jumped from "not enough" to 640 at last count.  And a lot of the new members are young and middle age.    Last I heard, they might have to start a waiting list.

 

Part of the explanation is that there are no other courses in the county.  There are a handful that are roughly a half hour drive in all of the various directions.  To me this is how it must have been back in the day, before all the courses were built (a half hour away) in the 80s/90s/00s.  You either joined the country club or you didn't golf.  I realize this is specific to this locale.

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5 minutes ago, Moonlightgrm said:

I am sad to report that our club (we’ve been members for 24-years) went semi-private a couple of years ago. Our club was always in pristine shape with a challenging 18-hole Geoffrey Cornish layout. We hosted the LPGA Friendly’s Classic golf tournament for four years. Since we were bought out, the new ownership has done next to nothing to maintain our course. The bunkers are in need of drainage repair and fresh sand. The cart paths are in horrible shape, the fairways have become very “thatchy”, and the rough gets mowed twice each month. At least they are maintaining the greens as our putting surfaces are smooth and quick usually running between 10 and 11. The ownership has informed us that “public play will save the day”. They will never go back to private. Another private course in our area has gone to semi-private this year. That leaves two private clubs within a thirty mile radius of my home. My town has four public courses that are packed each day. We miss the country club atmosphere. The fine dining, the pool and tennis, a manicured golf course with course availability almost every day (never needed a tee time during the week, just show up and tee off), and especially golfers who know etiquette and pace of play. 

 

Sorry to hear about your club. I've belonged to clubs off and on over the years. Pluses and minuses. If I'm living somewhere that has very few courses, a private club is great. And I like getting to know people - they are almost small communities ... people you play with (and eat and drink with) often over a season. Have made some lifelong friends at private clubs. And, as you say, the level of etiquette tends to be higher (sometimes really significantly) than on some public courses.

 

Downside, however, is when you pay to join a decent private club, you almost feel like you have to play there (to justify the cost). I like a lot of variety. So in places where there a lot of courses, I often don't join a club and just play around. Have plenty of friends that are members at clubs, so I can usually play private as a guest if I want. 

 

Almost all the courses (close to me - in the northeast) have had a couple of banner years. Public courses as busy as I've ever seen them. Wait lists on private courses that are longer than usual (in fact, friends at a couple private courses tell me their clubs are raising membership prices - demand is through the roof). 

 

Covid was disastrous to a lot of industries, but golf was not one of them. It is the ultimate "social distancing" sport. Played outdoors in usually beautiful surroundings. A lot of social activities slowed down or even stopped. And further, for at least some discretionary income increased - as they were staying home a lot of the time, and spending a lot less money. 

 

At least in my experience, I must respectfully disagree with the OP. At high end, expensive private clubs the average age is always going to be higher - a person generally needs to be at least mid-to-late career in a job that earns a good amount of money to even consider joining. On the public courses I play, however, I see a good number of Millenials and even Gen Zs. Yes, some (but definitely not all) folks in those generations have substantial college debt, and certainly can't yet afford $50K membership fees + $400/month food/drink requirements, but for $75 they can play a fairly nice public course once a weekend. And some of the teenagers I play with are really into the game.

 

I'm not at all worried about the future of golf. 

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2 hours ago, aenemated said:

 

Left Los Angeles last spring after ~15 years to move back to Vegas largely because of this.

 

I have multiple income streams and do pretty well for myself but the amount of money I was basically just giving away in CA - and not just taxes but ALL the ways they find to nickel and dime you to death - while getting practically nothing for it finally broke me.

 

 


I lived in LA too, and also left in '15, but in the fall.  LA is far from a golf town unless you've got a ton of money.  I do miss the jaunts up to Ventura to play and cool off when it was 100 in LA.

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34 minutes ago, Jeff58 said:

Country club membership is exactly the same as classical music. There is constant worry that when the current older generation dies that the music will die with them. 
The reality is that people have generally never preferred classical music when they’re young. We get older, we listen to classical music more. The young don’t generally have the time and expendable income to be CC members. They will grow old as well.


It's an interesting point.  The thing with younger people now who will eventually grow old is they are saddled with much more debt and higher cost of living vs their parents.

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2 hours ago, RichieHunt said:

Currently I'm in the Roanoke area.  Prior to that I was in the Orlando area.  


My private club in Orlando was doing quite well and doubled their initiation given the improvements they made to the clubhouse and driving range.  I think the rest (CCO, Keene's Point, Alaqua Lakes, Interlachen, etc.) were doing fairly well.  I think Lake Nona has had a dropoff, but Isleworth is still big time.  Bay Hill isn't exactly private, but I don't think they are hurting.  

The members at my club in Orlando were mostly in the 40's to 60's with a lot of junior members.  I know Alaqua Lakes is pretty similar.  CCO was more older clientele.

 

In Roanoke they've had some issues in recent years reading up on some things.  However, from what I gathered a couple of the clubs went from 500 members to 450 members.  That's still a lot of members and the fact that the club is struggling financially at 450 members is more of an indictment against management than the drop in members, IMO.  

I'm a member at Roanoke CC and it's not struggling.  It has a wide range of clientele, age-wise.  Although most of it is 30-70 years old.  It's a true CC so they have a pool, tennis/pickleball courts, etc.

 

You have to remember that most private clubs don't need to make a profit or are not trying to make a profit.  They are just trying to basically break even with enough to keep re-investing into the club.  If they return too much of a profit, they'll lose tax exempt status.

 

That's the thing I think that keeps private clubs going versus public courses that need to make a profit.  I think public golf is is in trouble because even if the course is profitable, often times land developers will seek the land because they can build something else there that will be more profitable.  That leaves public courses having to seek locations out of the middle of nowhere so land developers are not so prone to build over it

 

With private clubs that are in great locations, they can keep the land and do just enough to suit their members needs.

 

 

 

 

 

RH

 Do you mind me asking why you think Nona has had a dropoff??

 

Last few times I've been there, the club has been busier than ever and the golf course is the best it's looked in a long time

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I work at what was described earlier in the thread as a "Third Tier" private club.  We have a full membership of 310 with a small wait-list.  I'd say our membership is pretty balanced between 65+, 40-64, and under 40.  We have 3 local professional athletes as members.  We are im good shape for the immediate future without a doubt.  

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It’s a mixed bag in my town, but I don’t think golf is the reason.   I live in a part of the country where our unemployment rate hovers around 1%.  There is money everywhere and young professionals appear to be joining because that’s what they think they’re supposed to do.  In 3-5 years a fair portion of these members will drop off and the clubs will be recruiting with cut initials and dues.

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6 hours ago, MaineMariner said:

I'm a Millenial obsessed with golf and I don't think I'm alone, at least if my social media feeds are to be believed.

 

I also have no interest in joining a private club, mostly due to the costs involved. I think the vast majority in my age group and economic position are probably in the same boat. Around me, at least, private clubs are pretty damn expensive, and with volatile job and housing markets and an uncertain path to eventual retirement, I cannot possibly commit the required amount of money to a country club.

 

At least you admit that.  I think the whole "exclusivity" and stuff that gets thrown is simply a way to cover the fact they can't or don't want to pay the costs involved with a private club.

 

  

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1 hour ago, Dr.Zevia said:


It's an interesting point.  The thing with younger people now who will eventually grow old is they are saddled with much more debt and higher cost of living vs their parents.


Don’t take this the wrong way but I suspect living in the bay area might lead you to conclusions not applicable to 95% of the rest of the US 😉

 

Where I am (TX) I would absolutely love to join a club and there are tons around me but they’re all crazy expensive and have more wanting to join than they can take. The closest would literally require a years salary plus monthly dues 50% higher than the mortgage payment of our first house, and that would be after waiting forever to get the opportunity. I’ve been golfing in this area for about 40 years now and it seems golf is as popular as it ever was. If the future meant that interest would drop to where I could join a club without selling a kidney I would not be opposed to that.

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The clubs I am most familiar with went from hungry for new members and at 70% or less of golfing member capacity in 2019 to full or near full right now. No waiting lists yet that I've heard. I've also heard some griping about trouble getting weekend morning tee times, and one club that used to not have tee times at all, has them now.

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8 hours ago, Dr.Zevia said:


I should qualify I live in the bay area of CA.  Very left leaning here, and cost of housing is extremely high.  But that's why I proposed the question.

Can’t speak for your area, but I belong to a club in the NE and the South.

Private clubs are thriving, with one caveat. I’ve noticed a recent trend of courses/clubs closing so they can be  converted to housing developments.

Down south, it can be explained away because way too many courses were built 15-20 years ago during the Tiger boom.

Up north, the property is so damn valuable.

This is an interesting topic, I’m looking forward to going back and reading everyone’s responses.

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I live in Toronto, I live down the road from site of the 2022 RBC Canadian Open and that area has I'd say 6-10 private courses within a 10-15 min drive of that course. All of these courses have like a 5+ year wait list, all have an entrance fee of 50k+, when I drive by them the parking lots are always full.

 

I've been looking to join a club and since I'm younger I qualify for a lower membership and most have gone away with those for more full time memberships, have a 2-3 year wait list or now asking for entry fees to join. I managed to find 2 clubs with a wait list of a year or less I put my name down on and not guaranteed I get into either even with a member vouching for me at one.

 

Even public courses most are booked 7-14 days in advance where I am unless you can play weekday.

 

Golf is alive and well in Toronto and the surrounding areas.

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9 hours ago, MaineMariner said:

I'm a Millenial obsessed with golf and I don't think I'm alone, at least if my social media feeds are to be believed.

 

I also have no interest in joining a private club, mostly due to the costs involved. I think the vast majority in my age group and economic position are probably in the same boat. Around me, at least, private clubs are pretty damn expensive, and with volatile job and housing markets and an uncertain path to eventual retirement, I cannot possibly commit the required amount of money to a country club.

You didn’t go to Maine maritime by any chance did you? 

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Clubs are booming around here. Some younger member, but lots of older ones with average age around 60-65. For the most part that should surprise no one. What makes sense at one stage of your life does not make sense in another and the idea of playing a flat rate for unlimited golf does to make sense for allot of young people that dont have the time to take advantage of it.

 

If you are retired and golf 4-6 times a week, private clubs are often the most cost efficient way to play the game. I was talking to one of our retired members and his per round cost was under $14.

 

I love seeing muni's booming as most private course golfer start their golf journey in the muni world, unless they are next generation private club members. 

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What I have noticed in my area is that the lower level private clubs, 
that either weren't that great a course, not run great or not 
maintained well, so when golf was slow, they either closed or 
became public.   
 
The privates where there is some prestige/pride to join are doing 
well with waiting lists.      
 
I think a lot of the privates that were going to fail have already failed.  
 
I do agree the younger generations are less likely to join things, it 
doesn't mean all of them. 

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13 hours ago, Dr.Zevia said:


It's an interesting point.  The thing with younger people now who will eventually grow old is they are saddled with much more debt and higher cost of living vs their parents.

 

What often isn't mentioned in these discussions is that as a generation, millennials will likely inherit record amounts of wealth from their boomer parents, more than any past generational transfer adjusting for inflation. 

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 "Let's not forget younger people don't look favorably at the idea of a private clubs that aren't inclusive for everyone."

 

The paradigm shift is swift and pronounced once they have more money than time.  Suddenly the time suck of public golf vs convenience of private becomes more important than an enigmatic "inclusive" favorability rating.

Edited by vallygolf
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My club is doing well. I'm at a mid-tier club, joined in 2018 under a great new member deal where initiation was $1k. Today we are at full membership, have a waiting list, and initiation is back up to $10k. Many of the people waiting to get in for full memberships are joining now as social members. 

 

A few miles away is Oak Hill CC (host of multiple PGA Championships, the '95 Ryder Cup, and the '89 US Open). I don't know for certain, but rumor has it they've increased their dues, still have a long waiting list, and all this even after they hit the members for a large assessment to rebuild a large chunk of the course in prep for the 2023 PGA Championship. 

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1 hour ago, vallygolf said:

 Let's not forget younger people don't look favorably at the idea of a private clubs that aren't inclusive for everyone.

 

The paradigm shift is swift and pronounced once they have more money than time.  Suddenly the time suck of public golf vs convenience of private becomes more important than an enigmatic "inclusive" favorability rating.

Yes and it is a well established phenomenon that put start out idealistic when they are young and become more pragmatic as they age. 

 

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Middle age me = Bald, round belly and spending my spare time on tax planning

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22 hours ago, Dr.Zevia said:

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day regarding the future of private golf clubs.  I quipped the number of private clubs will continue to decline in the coming years.  His retort was there are no shortage of members where he plays.  I ask what's the average age of the members, and he says about 65.  The fact in the next 10 years at least half of the membership will have passed away or have stopped playing seemed to be lost on him.  I also mention the next generation of people that would need to join said club to keep it afloat are now saddled with student loan and mortgage debt.  Let's not forget younger people don't look favorably at the idea of a private clubs that aren't inclusive for everyone ect.
Wherever you may be, are the local private clubs starting to get hard up for new members?

 

Status - more of them and now there are waiting lists.

 

The average age of members at country clubs has likely always been skewed to the older crowd.  They are the set that has the disposable income, kids college paid for, house paid for and the time to make use of the club for it to "make better financial sense."

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I am in Northwest CT and we have been the lucky recipients of all the New York City resident who decided to by homes "in the country side" during the summer of 2020 to escape Manhattan and the NYC Boroughs. For example we had a family friend who put their house on the market in May 2020, 2nd day after it hit MLS, had an offer waving inspection, sight un seen, for $250,000 over asking all cash offer. They sold the .75 acre, lake front, 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom for $1.52 million ! 

 

This aspect in NWCT has basically made our local private club go nuts. And it is not even a higher end emenaty club. It is just the golf course, a small short game practice area, small range , with no pool, gym, or sauna, etc.; plus a very mediocre restaurant and bar. And a very aging membership , so finding a game is a bit tough. They went from Tuesday night membership board interview to Wednesday afternoon round type club , to we have a 3-4 year waitlist; but hold on  "I hear Mr. So and So is heading to nursing home" so cross your fingers that you can get a check for the initiation fees. Unfortunately once people start heading back to the NYC metro area from our neck of the woods , I do not see a sustained path for this type of membership growth. The biggest problem is that they have not done much locally to get the local members who are the ones that can sustain the growth of that type of club, nor have they done anything to attract families like clubs an equi-distance away from my home. It is hard to justify no pool , no tennis, no workout facilities, and a mediocre restaurant experience for a membership that is just golf.     

 

I am fortunate that I play a good amount at this club with a family member who has been a member for 40 plus years. Plus I have some friends in high places that let me use the short game area. But for now I will play at two great semi privates about 20 mins from me and practice at a public course range that is a hidden jem!    

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On 12/1/2021 at 11:53 AM, Dr.Zevia said:

Let's not forget younger people don't look favorably at the idea of a private clubs that aren't inclusive for everyone ect.

Only the ones the news shows you on TV. That’s not really the overall feeling of the country.

 

clubs are packed all over south Texas. Even the more rural ones

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On 12/1/2021 at 11:53 AM, Dr.Zevia said:

Let's not forget younger people don't look favorably at the idea of a private clubs that aren't inclusive for everyone ect.

 

As long as they let me in I don't care if they don't let you in for whatever reason.  Private club, private rules.

 

This isn't a marriage.  You don't join a club hoping you can "change him" into what you want it to be.  You join because it is what you want it to be.

 

All I need is a golf course in good shape, access to it when I would like for the most part, a steady game to be had, fair practice facility and drinks at the bar.  It doesn't really matter what percentages the membership make up is in regards to demographic differences as long as it ticks the other boxes.

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I joined a private club during COVID. Honestly, most private clubs are full around me, many with waiting lists. I Don't think they're going anywhere anytime soon. 

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Basically every club in the Chicago area has added a bunch of members and/or people to their wait lists over the last year and a half. Clubs that were doing well before are now impossible to get into, clubs that were on the edge before are now thriving. From what I have seen, tons of these members are on the younger side, either junior members or the older half of the millennial set with young families. Lots of capital projects underway, as well, given the influx of members and money. 

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On 12/1/2021 at 7:40 PM, PuffyC said:


Don’t take this the wrong way but I suspect living in the bay area might lead you to conclusions not applicable to 95% of the rest of the US 😉

 

Where I am (TX) I would absolutely love to join a club and there are tons around me but they’re all crazy expensive and have more wanting to join than they can take. The closest would literally require a years salary plus monthly dues 50% higher than the mortgage payment of our first house, and that would be after waiting forever to get the opportunity. I’ve been golfing in this area for about 40 years now and it seems golf is as popular as it ever was. If the future meant that interest would drop to where I could join a club without selling a kidney I would not be opposed to that.


I’m new to north Texas, and it sure seems to me that more courses and clubs are needed.  From my travels throughout Texas over the years, I don’t see it as a state with a golf culture.  Not like the Midwest where I am from.  

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In Charlotte it's a waitlist for most. Even the ones with 100k initiation fees have 3+ year wait lists. The cheaper ones have raised their initiation fees by at least 100% too. 

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On 12/1/2021 at 7:02 PM, MakersMarsh3 said:

 Do you mind me asking why you think Nona has had a dropoff??

 

Last few times I've been there, the club has been busier than ever and the golf course is the best it's looked in a long time

 

Granted, I haven't been there since COVID hit.  But when I would go there before COVID I saw less and less people there and it was no longer talked about as the elite place to live in Orlando.  I knew quite a few people who ended up moving to Isleworth, Keene's Point or moved to the Jupiter/Palm Beach area instead.

 

 

 

 

 

RH

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      New Axis 1 model putter - - 2022 American Express
      Patrick Cantlay - WITB - 2022 American Express
      Mitsubishi MMT putter shaft - 2022 American Express
      Ping putter - 2022 American Express
      Abraham Ancer - WITB - 2022 American Express
      Jason Dufner - WITB - 2022 American Express
      Will Zalatoris - WITB - 2022 American Express
      The Surgeon 6109 wedge - 2022 American Express
      LA Golf "DJ Series" shafts (2022 American Express)
       
       
       
      2022 American Express - Monday #1
       
       
       
       
      • 40 replies
    • Sony Open Pics from January 11, 2022 Part 1
      I was able to get out to the Sony Open today to take a few pics.  I guess due to Covid precautions they kept the spectators pretty far from the players.  Also due to camera restrictions they've put in place, I wasn't able to bring the big lens like I normally do. Hopefully they'll ease up on the ropes and I'll be able to get more pics tomorrow!
      • 22 replies
    • 2022 Callaway Rogue ST drivers (in-hand photos)
      2022 Callaway Rogue ST Max driver
       

       
      2022 Callaway Rogue ST Max D driver
       
      2021 Callaway Rogue ST Max 
       
      2022 Callaway Rogue ST Max LS driver

       
      2022 Callaway Rogue ST Triple Diamond LS

       
      Rogue ST exploded views
      • 213 replies
    • Titleist Vokey SM9 Link on Wedge Works Coming Soon- UPDATED Pics Added Pg 4
      Looks like there is a link on Titleist Wedge Works for the new Vokey SM9, but doesn't show any photos yet.
       
      https://www.vokey.com/product/WM137.html#start=4
      • 237 replies

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