Long term viability of the American Country Club model?


If you are ever back check out stewart creek and silvertip. Arguably better, less cost, but lacking some of the mystique.


The course near me in alberta went from 50K - to 10K - almost dust with the oil market.


I live in a golf neighborhood in Georgia. 6 courses, 6 restaurants, 3 pools, tennis courts, gym and other amenities. One course is hosting a Web.com tournament this year.

A junior membership initation rate is rather affordable, payable over 5 years, plus if your average household age is under 36, dues are cut in half. After that it’s cut 40% for a few years and so on until your 50. Most residents in the neighborhood also own golf carts. If you join the club, they let you use the course with your own cart for a flat fee per month…about the same cost as one round at a public course. No greens fees so basically besides paying my monthly dues, I haven’t paid for golf in a few years.

I’m building a practice so I don’t have tons of free time to play golf but that’s the beauty of the club I joined. When I get home from work, my wife and I jump on the golf cart and ride to any course any hole (open play after 2pm) and play 5 quick holes before or after dinner. It allows me to get my golf fix without the 4-5 hours being gone every weekend and play some during the week.

For neighborhoods with golf courses, this is a model that has attracted a lot of young people. But I must say our club is ran amazingly. They keep all the courses in amazing shape.


is it the landings on skidaway?


I’m a ClubCorp member and they seem to have a nice model.

  • Buy CC’s that are doing just ok, but are nice.
  • Put a $million or so of renovations in.
  • Offer price competitive membership rates that enable you to also play the other ClubCorp owned courses across the country (which I’m guessing most people don’t take advantage of)

I would think the future of the American Country Club model will look much more like this, with fewer privately owned, super exclusive clubs.


I’m not sure where you play, but my experience in Houston with ClubCorp has been less than positive. It’s attractive to some professionals who get moved a lot for work (i.e. Oil & Gas), but overall the clubs are of much lower quality than their competition. They’re also very far outside the city center, with limited in-town alternatives for fitness clubs, etc.


I am also a ClubCorp member and very much enjoy it so far. They bought the club about two/three years ago, have put about $1M into the course so far to redo the bunkers, about to replace all of the greens with champion bermuda (same strand that was put down at Quail Hollow for the PGA), and will be building a new gym, updating locker rooms, and updating some areas of the club house.

The course is quite difficult but is also a fair test of golf every time we go out there. Before the club was bought by ClubCorp it was quite expensive ($75k initiation - likely why they went bankrupt during the recession in a banking city) and they have goals to bring it back to the same level of prestige without the associated costs to the membership.


You’re totally right about that. 90% of clubs in the UK are just courses with a small bar that serves average at best food and has a function room for white trash weddings.

Despite all that though, it still doesn’t add up.

The price of land in the UK, especially in the south, generally outweighs the majority of the states. Halving close to a million dollar home doesn’t make you rich, it makes you middle class.

With land costing what it does, and maintaince costing roughly the same here, if not more due to our wet winters, where is the money going at those prices?

Sure they’re businesses, but that seems like a piss take.

Wentworth is one of the best courses in the world and it’s cheaper that half of your top tier courses. It hosts the BMW every year and is in one of the most expensive parts of the country, surrounded by £100m houses. Prior to the recent take over, joining fees were around £40,000.


Keene Run is the other. Kentucky State Am was actually there this year so its also a solid course.


A lot of comments in this thread revolve around the “American Corporate Country Club Model” (American Golf, Club Corp, etc.) which is a completely different- and apparently well received- model.


I know that. You said another course in town was making similar efforts. Curious what club that was. I know Keene and Champions are together.


Oh my b. Lexington Country Club is the other. They’ve been offering lower initiation and monthly dues


There are many ways of structuring clubs in the UK, but the vast majority don’t pay tax simply because they’re not run at a profit (which is sort of the point of a members’ club).


The kind of place that does semi public wouldn’t be demanding $50k buy in. I would pay dues to a semi private/semi public because I would have say in club decisions and be eligible for the board positions, while also not having to pay the crazy fees for all the extras I don’t find value in.


As Malcolm Gladwell will tell you, some US clubs (he focuses on California) also avoid a great deal of tax liability because their massive acreage is not subject to property tax laws that would typically assess the value of the property at its “highest and best use,” and further that those assessments are locked in at where they were set in the 1970s so long as the club is not sold to new owners (and somehow an equity membership with constant turnover does not constitute new ownership).


That podcast episode is both very interesting and obnoxious. Basically a liberal hit piece on both the sport / culture of golf, as well as LACC. Regardless, I’d recommend it to anyone interested in this topic. I believe that property tax issue is unique to California. Without going O/T and into obnoxious detail, it allows property purchasers to pay tax on the purchase value of the property. Therefore, clubs which haven’t changed ownership in 50yrs pay VASTLY lower amounts of tax than they probably should.

I think the most interesting discussion on clubs in America is the equity vs. non-equity comparison. Both have pro’s and con’s. Equity: total control and financial risk. Non-Equity: No financial risk and no control. Neither has proven superior to the other in the last century or so.


If that’s his point, then Malcom Gladwell is an idiot. Real estate is assessed for property tax purposes on an as-is basis, not the highest-and-best use.

Imagine owning a 20-acre farm and wanting to keep it as a farm, or even you just own that much land around your home and you like the quiet or whatever. And your municipal/county tax assessor does his annual assessment and says yeah I know it’s a 20-acre farm but it’s highest-and-best use is a 40-home subdivision. Or a 20-acre office park. Or a retail center.

So no, property taxes aren’t based on highest-and-best use, nor should they be.


His point was more that the value of the land the club is on hadn’t been re-assessed in 50+ years for some clubs since they hadn’t changed ownership, even though practically none of the original members were still with the club, which leads to some of those clubs paying what he views as less than their fair share of taxes. So basically, he blamed golf for problems he has with California tax code and the lack of public parks in LA rather than identify the real problems. I like some of the stuff Gladwell does, but this podcast was a worthless, get off my lawn type rant.


The Gladwell post also ignores the cause/effect nature of land valuations.

If you look at pictures of when the present site of LACC was developed, you’ll see it was out in the middle of nowhere. The same is true with many other older private golf clubs in America. They are called country clubs for a reason. Often they had a 5,500yd course somewhere close to a city, and then as golf grew and the city became more congested, and as more members owned automobiles, the clubs moved to much larger sites 20-230 miles from city centers and built modern golf courses and beautiful clubhouses that reflected the wealth of the 1910’s and 1920’s

And then the wealthy members and wanna be members followed along, building nice neighborhoods surrounding the new country clubs. But if the clubs were there first, why should they be penalized for what developed around them, and often because of them? And don’t they already contribute to the common good thru greenspace, noise reduction, less traffic etc. Would the value of the Beverly Wilshire really increase if 3,500 new homes were built on the land that is now LACC?

Another point on his podcast which is just flat wrong is the idea that private clubs don’t let anyone play except members and their guests. Even the most elite clubs in America allow outsiders on their courses. ANGC lets long time tourney workers and winners of the press lottery play. Anyone can go and watch the Crump Cup at Pine Valley, and if you are good enough you can play in it. Same with the Coleman at Seminole. Cypress allows unaccompanied play and hosts a college tournament every year. Camargo has hosted a USGA Am qualifier for anyone with a $100 and a 2 handicap for at least the last 30 years. You can make a strong case that top American clubs aren’t as welcoming as UK clubs, but blanket statements like Malcolm Gladwell’s do nothing but play on folks envy and stir misplaced resentment.

Back to original post, LOL, if you’re going to pony up to join a club, my advice is to make sure it’s one with equity and voting rights. Otherwise you are not really a member, you are a locked in customer.


Then honestly, his point is almost just as misinformed. That’s not a golf-specific issue, and it’s not unique to California. Some states even have regulations which legally prohibit tax assessors from reassessing individual properties unless appeals are filed.

He’s also ignoring that a lot of these clubs are expensive because of the business value associated with their balance sheets and their names/history (goodwill/intangibles). I’m sure a lot of us know super exclusive clubs with courses that might be well-maintained but suck from an architectural and enjoyment perspective. What is the value of that actual golf course if the membership vacated it, along with the club name and cash held by the business, and turned it over to the public as a muni? It’s a lot different. That’s the difference between real property (what is assessed and taxed) and the club value.

I’ll get off the soapbox now but yeah, it’s a bad take.