Long term viability of the American Country Club model?


I’m fucking riveted by this chatter about land taxes!

And just so you know, not only are UK golf clubs waaaay cheaper for membership, and to play at as a visitor, but we don’t even HAVE property taxes here! They tried it once a couple of hundred years ago and they got strung up for it.

So there. Enjoy writing that $50k cheque. Nah nah nah nah nah. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


Which club are you at? I’m also a Gamecock alum in Charlotte and starting to look around at junior memberships.


I’m curious how many people commenting come from a CC background?

I grew up around various clubs and honestly if I ever have children, one of the first things I’ll do is find a club to join. I travel a ton and am fairly busy so it wouldn’t be a sound fiscal decision currently. As a few people mentioned here in the USA clubs are about convenience: a place to center all your activities around. A place where you and your family plays golf and other sports, does business, swims, eats, goes nuts in a safer environment, makes friends etc. I don’t think clubs are largely intended for single people which is why many in this vertical don’t understand them and see many issues with them.

I think as long as America is doing well and people have disposable income, the top clubs will do fine, the ones that are at risk are the lower tier clubs b/c they can’t really lower their rates and stay viable. What’s funny is the most snobbish members I ever met were all at lower tier clubs. I had recently moved to Utah and went to a lower level club out there and I had the tour and asked how much the dues were and such. The director got all uppity about how they’ll let me know that if I’m deemed suitable and shit like that. Needless to say I didn’t go back. Later I found out their joining fee was less than the monthly fee was at my childhood club lol.

I think the idea of status and such largely comes from the outside, I don’t think I ever heard anyone talking about their memberships like it made them better than anyone else besides the few new money Kardashian types. My area has quite a few clubs around and we loved meeting kids from other clubs and going to play their tracks even if they weren’t as good as ours, just kids having fun and it seemed like all our parents felt the same. Some friendly rivalry but nothing more. I know families that have memberships at multiple clubs in the area, that seems insane to me but their kids loved it (and so did we when we could tag along).

That’s just my 2 cents.


I’m at TPC Piper Glen, also a junior member. Love it so far. Send me a DM and I’d love to answer any questions you have.


Definitely don’t come from a club background growing up, but I joined one in NJ 5 years ago and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. In the NYC area, if you want to play regularly without costing you the entire day, or if you want your kids to learn the game, joining a club is basically the only way to accomplish either.


When I originally posted this thread I was generally curious if other parts of the country lacked affordable options that were better than a normal daily-fee in terms of course upkeep and facilities. It seems to be true that every major city has 3-5 elite, or status symbol clubs (initiations > $50k), that are well maintained, but then there is a hug drop-off in quantity and quality at lower price points. Anecdotally, I do not see many options in the $10k-$35k range. There seems to be far too many options less than $10k that provide very little benefit over daily-fees and muni’s.

The neighborhood-centric clubs that offer few advantages over daily-fees success seems to be dependent upon the quality of the real estate development surrounding it. If, since the building boom of the 80’s and 90’s demographics have changed, the course seems to be struggling.

In this new age of minimalist golf course design, with an eye towards reducing irrigation costs, I would hope that the tide would start to turn. I have heard that bunkers and irrigation can eat up the majority of a course’s operating budget. Hopefully going forward, initiation fees can drop while course quality and conditioning improves.


I just wanted to reply in general because this is a large concern of mine. I don’t know about the whole country club model in general, but I’m hopefully gonna make it in the professional world in the next couple years here and a membership at some type of course is one of the only things I really care about. Of course, getting to have a home club of some kind, where I get to know people, eat at the clubhouse, have drinks, etc. But I just don’t want to sink between 50-80k in membership initiation even if I can pay it over time if the club is just gonna fold after 6 years


i agree. i grew up a cc kid. mainly just did swim/tennis at a private club in Atl. started playing golf as a teenager and wore out that starter and tee sheet all through college. ill never forget my (parents) club number.

my grandfather belonged to 5 clubs. 1 in NC, 1 in FL and 3 in GA. I dont know why, it was a big part of his lifestyle and upbringing. he loved golf/hunting and enjoyed it everywhere he lived. all of his clubs were private. i dont mind public / muni golf - on the weekdays. but i joined a club and my family and i love it. we use everything but the resturaunt (its cc food). we love the golf (27 holes, teaching pro, active club tournaments), swim and my 13 yr old just picked up tennis. we pay over $1200 mo. in the summer (because we eat and drink so much) its expensive. but so are a lot of things. like travel baseball. and owning a lake house and a boat, trailer, truck, etc., or competetive cheer - people spend their money on weird stuff (myself included).

i do wish we had better access to better golf here in the US. if you dont know a member who is willing to play w/ or call you in as un-accompanied; its really hard to play the best courses here. shame. but that’s one of the perks to belonging to a club, sometimes. the pro at my club got us on the tee sheet at MPCC last summer with one phone call. we played the shore and the dunes course, we paid full freight but it was worth every penny. but he cant get me on everywhere, just some choice spots.

people in the UK think we are in bananaland, and rightly so. we are such fools to pay so much to play a game that is on dirt/grass. culture here with private clubs, status, the finer things, exclusivity - it’s everywhere and not going away. The US is just obscene about it, and I think @Soly went to some real swanky spots in Asia this past year. i think they may take it to a whole new level.


What course? I’m in STL too.


I’m out at Fox Run. It’s a test, some days I wonder why I put myself through it, other days I love it.


I’m guessing one of the clubs you mentioned is Hillwood. While expensive at 40k you can pay over several years and there are plenty of younger members. The membership is active, there is always a game and well worth it if you can stomach the initiation. Best of luck!


I’m actually more ok with the 40k but it’s also the monthly dues and quarterly dues make it awful. Hillwood is nice but I was referring to Richland in my post. Still 40k is a ton for a 28 year old and then add on another 10k a year. I’ve got a good job but not that good.


I grew up a country club kid. Dad was a member of multiple courses in town.

Dropped me off at one on his way to work in the summer and picked me up on his way home. I charged a lot of cheeseburgers to the account.

I have 2 young kids, so once they are a little older, I want them to have the same opportunity.

Currently, I could join any of the semi-privates around, but I am slightly turned off by the “semi” approach as there wouldn’t necessary being any cost savings or improvement in pace of play.

The privates, with very little research, is just too expensive at this time, especially in a role where I’m likely to be relocated in the next few years. Moving really hurts with the idea of a initiation fee.


If you are upfront about the moving aspect at some clubs they will work with you. If they allow you to pay initiation fees over time then you can do that and I’ve heard that (some) clubs will basically just let you off the hook of the rest that you owe if you move. So basically you’d be adding to your monthly dues with the initiation fee until you moved. But I’m sure lots of exclusive have other thoughts on this.


This happens all of the time. A club will take a member for three years versus not having one at all.


I agree with this. I also live in NJ (Bergen County, outside of NYC) and at this point in my life, I’m playing local muni’s, searching golfnow for good deals and trying to squeeze in golf around family. As I get older and the kids become golfing age. I would love to join a club. We have a few very close by (within a 2-5 mile circle, we’ve got 4 clubs) that vary in cost quite a bit. I would love to join a club that has a decent restaurant, a nice pool, great practice facilities and a thriving junior program. If the club becomes a family affair then it is much easier to validate the expense vs 1K a month to the place where Dad goes to disappear every weekend. Around here though the cost might be so high that I just might not live in the correct tax bracket to take part.

I do also worry about the climate of raising my kids in a sort of WASP’y upper crust environment. A lot of the clubs around here are old money kind of things. That might be changing as the membership turns over and stuff, but it’s something I’ve thought about.


just join white beeches for a few years and then hackensack when you arent a junior anymore.


The Gladwell pod was a good listen. He admits as much that the broader topic is tax loopholes for the rich, and said in another interview he knew the golf angle would grab attention.

On the note of private clubs not letting people on. Its for the most part true. If you have to bank on knowing someone, being a volunteer for an event, call and beg, working there, winning a lottery as a media member, etc - then it still holds true that they arent accessible to the broader golf population. Which is fine, private is private and people pay for that.

One of my problems with the Fried Egg podcast and coverage of courses is that while it is interesting to see some of these places, he seems to focus most of his effort on covering private courses that I will never have a chance to see other than complete luck or aggressive networking.



This quote from an interesting (albeit dated) article was fascinating to me. The cliff notes of the article are essentially that courses sell for 1.0-1.6x gross revenue, very few make money, and in a sale no one seems to care about past profitability.

While most brokers prefer to use these numbers to determine a course’s worth, a large percent of courses that are currently for sale are not making a profit. A recent survey by Golf Course Industry shows that only 32 percent of all courses made money in 2011. That forces brokers and buyers to rely on gross revenue.


Agreed on the Gladwell thing, he has a kind of annoying way of framing things and the big headline aspects of it were simplistic and unreasonable, but the tax stuff was interesting and something I didn’t know.

Yeah in my experience if it’s a private course you’re not getting on unless you know someone and even then it’s hard to get on. My in-laws belong to a club in NY and they’re only allowed one outing with guests per month and they’re pretty strict about it. Really only way you’re getting onto a private course with any regularity is if you or your company belong to it which sucks because there’s a lot of great courses that the majority of people will never get a chance to see or play. I get why they are that way, if I spent $50k in initiation fees and couple grand a month to belong I’d be pissed to see other people getting on for a relatively small fee, but it definitely contributes to people’s view of golf as an elitist sport.