@GaryPotter I’d have to disagree with most of that. Very few courses are owned or subsidised by the public, save for St Andrews, which is the exception, not the rule. But @doublecross is right that even the best clubs allow visitors on certain days or times. It’s not even that expensive. I live just north of London and am a member at the lovely Essendon Country Club with 2 courses and a pretty awesome club house which costs me £1,450 a year (less than $2K). There was no joining fee, but there is a waiting list.
The difference, however, is more social. The British just don’t like spending money. It pains us. We’re essentially super cheap, mean, bastards and if clubs here charged the kind of lunatic fees you get charged in the US they’d have no members. Wentworth was recently taken over by new owners who have jacked up the rates to something like the US and though most of the existing members can easily afford it, they’ve left en masse!
The British like to keep their money in a bank and count it, whereas in the US you like to spend it to show off. This is largely due to hereditary wealth in Europe, where one family have been rich for 900 years because some ancestor blew the King and was given Scotland … or something. You don’t keep money for an entire millennium if you pay $100K joining fees for sporting clubs.
In the US the CC membership is more of a social status than it is here. People covet it to show off their success. Here nobody gives a shit. It means nothing. It’s just about playing golf. That wasn’t always the case. But it’s definitely become that. The days is exclusivity are long gone.
I’ll tell you a great story though - only one club has ever lost its “Royal” status, The Berkshire. Many years ago the Prince of Wales had a lovely day there and enjoyed the company of his caddie, so he invited him into the bar for a drink after. The club captain said that caddies were not allowed in the club, despite the fact he was with the future king and current patron of the club! The prince took him to the pub across the road and the next day a letter arrived from the Palace informing them they were no longer the Royal Berkshire. They’ve never got it back! Remember, blow the King, get Scotland. Annoy the King, excommunicated forever.