TL/DR: I found a country club that has reasonable prices for the goods of golf because they cut back to just the essentials.
This is an interesting thread and I think an overlooked issue with Golf, especially with older generations cycling out for a younger audience. I also have a lot to say about it, at least I think. I’m in my twenties, and consider myself a very true fan of golf. When I am looking for a place to call my golf home (public or private), I feel like I get the most out of my experiences with the following:
(1) Adequate, if not exceptional pace of play standards (table stakes)
(2) Accessible practice facilities that suit most if not all of my game
(3) Challenging golf course that has longevity in it’s features (i.e. older, tested, strategically interesting, not necessarily fast/firm/double rolled daily)
(4) Regular crowd / membership that sees the game at least somewhat similarly to me
#1 above probably plays to my biggest issue with golf, which is the time commitment. My wife does not play, and while she actually loves watching and talking golf, she finds the learning curve too steep to pick up in your twenties+. Hopefully one day she can pick it up, but I can’t count on that. For me, she comes first, and if she gets bothered by the amount of time golf takes, then I have to figure something out.
I live in an Ohio metro area. The public courses are all slow unless you take a morning off of work or get that coveted first time off on Saturday, which is usually blocked for a good ol’ boy who knows the pro anyways. So public golf has been a challenge for me, I can’t accept 6 hours door to door as an okay time commitment for a hobby, just not my M.O.
But I found a country club that has seen a resurgence of sorts in the past 5 years in town. They were known for what @4left4right said above “dying membership…literally”. Course was built in the early 20th century when builders just looked at a plot of land and a course popped up. Membership was sustained through one of the many corporations HQ’d in town that offered the club to it’s Middle/Upper management. But as that trend went away, so did their golfing membership. Less golfers eventually lead to less revenue in dining rooms eventually lead to declining membership eventually lead to a course that was neglected and unattractive. On top of that, it’s located in the city proper, so when Dye, RTJ, Nicklaus, Norman, etc started building out in suburbs, so went the golfers.
The club had to make a move. A neighboring course/club was in even worse shape, and they acquired their membership and kept only one of the courses, the better of the two. They made a decision that they want to attact a new generation of players that can not only be an alternative to the high dollar clubs nearby, but are pretty good themselves. Throughout the 2000s, they did a number of things to cut back to only the essential elements of what they were targeting:
(1) Retrofit the clubhouse to cut down on maintenance costs and get rid of unnecessary amenities that lose money
(2) Use clubhouse space to aggressively host weekend wedding that can be reserved by anyone, not just membership
(3) Ink a partnership with all (3) of the local universities for their Women’s Golf Team to be based there…this drove investment by the schools into the facilities and gave the membership a kickass short range and heated bays.
(4) Limit dining to 5 days a week, only staff clubhouse in afternoons & evenings
(5) Offer 18 month intro membership at $500 initiation, $150 a month, $1000 food minimum
It’s not perfect, but it’s no frills and focuses on what the membership wants…Golf. The course is kept firm and fast. Unless there’s a drought, they water minimally. Fairways are general width, with about 15 yds of rough either side…then fescue that is just cut semi annually.
I joined and have been a member for coming up on one year. I can play however long I want, whenever I want. This has been a game changer in terms of my concern with time and there’s no looking back on it. I’ve played more golf and done more with my game than I ever would have on a public course. There are no tee times. I can hit a few balls, work on a couple specific shots, and drag a cart out to exactly where it’ll count on the course, bring a tote bag of balls and hit that shot on the course. No problem at all. If someone is playing though, no problem, just go to another part.
The result is what I think is a great offering for a club. Is it the nicest course in town? No. Is it the hardest? No. Is it the most fun? Maybe. Is it an affordable option for younger golfers to have that accessibility and service that normally costs a mortgage? Hell yeah.