Playing at Private Courses


So, after much consideration I’ve decided to finally out myself. We’re all in the trust tree here, so this is as close to a safe space as I think I’ll ever get.

I’ve never played at a private golf course. Ever.

I’ve played plenty of semi-private, resort and high end public courses but never a course with a private membership.

This leads to my question, what’s different? I can assume there are many perks, but what can I expect the day that I finally get the call to play a local private track? High stakes gambling? Stud caddies? Wildly successful members? Or am I psyching myself up for nothing?

A little background, I’ve dabbled in the game of golf since high school, but got deep into it around 2 or 3 years ago. Since then I’ve probably played 40 or so rounds per year. Just never gotten the opportunity to play private.


You might see all of those things you mentioned, or none of them. Conditions should be great if it’s a nice club and pace will be exceptionally better, but beyond that it’s mostly all the ancillary stuff, like locker rooms, locker room attendants, pyramids of quality range balls, free tees, etc.


Depends on the club. Mostly keep your head on a swivel, keep up, keep calm, and remember to remove your hat indoors.


and dont be like @djpie and tuck your shirt in


Been fortunate to play a couple private clubs. 1st and foremost, don’t be afraid to ask if there is anything you should know before arriving, call the pro-shop, ask the member, etc.

I played a club where there was no cash, no debit/credit, and could only be charged to the members account. Here I am ordering a sandwich and I can’t pay for it, the member (I was his client, not a friend) had a good chuckle over it and I got the impression (it was a member guest) I shouldn’t offer him cash in front of another member.

I noticed: pace of play, course condition, the odd ball rule (no hats in clubhouse) but nothing to get psyched up out over other then playing a new course.


i would also find out if its a tipping club or not, and if it is come prepared.


All good info. To be clear I haven’t been invited to play anywhere. Just hoping someday lol


I’ve played Morfaintaine in France, ranked as Europe’s nr. 1 course (not in my opinion, but soit). It’s also one of the most exclusive clubs, so we were really anxious not to ruffle any feathers when we got to play it.

  • Call ahead and ask for a copy of the clubs policy, and if they don’t have any, ask if there are things you should know, like the dress code.
  • Ask for the tipping policy!
  • Keep your phone in your pocket as much as possible
  • Don’t be intimidated by the atmosphere or environment.

Gambling is not a common thing on European courses, so I didn’t see anything like that happening, but given the wealth of the members, a bet here probably isn’t for a 3$ beer after the round. Shrug it off, and don’t get drawn in to betting for shit you can’t afford. The course was largely deserted, there were a lot more people in and around the clubhouse than on the course. In terms of course conditions: They were great. The staff? Great. The clubhouse? Great. You get the point…


Depending on where you are from you’d be surprised that most private courses aren’t as fancy or stuffy as you think. Obviously many are, but they are certainly nothing to be intimidated by. Many are just groups of people who are middle class and like to golf. That can be very different if you are around NYC or a other large city. Usually expect slightly better conditions, better pace of play, and a few more rules. If your first time happens to be at a big name club, it will definitely be more on the stuffy side with all the amenities possible. But that is more of an exception to the rule.


A big thing people get hung up on are changing shoes at private tracks… Generally if I’m playing somewhere private, I’ll wear docksiders or something similar to the course instead of flip-flops and changing them in parking lot. Everywhere I’ve been will have a guest locker for you to use, and it’s generally accepted to change shoes there. Some places do shoe shining, and (if it’s a tipping club), it’s expected to tip the attendant for it. Figure that out ahead of time or leave your shoes in the locker instead of on the floor in front.


This is a great question because every single one of us, to a man or woman, has/had the same question at some point in our life or will at some point . In my experience private courses / clubs run the gamut from low-key and laid back glorified public courses to high end stuffy / super traditional clubs. The most basic thing I can say is once it’s balls in the air it’s just a bunch of grass, sand and water, no different to any other golf course, apart perhaps from conditioning and possibly layout (although there are certainly many public courses that can eat the lunch of many private courses layout / architecture wise). So it’s just golf, have fun, don’t be an a-hole, use the etiquette you’ve already been playing with and it’s hard to get into trouble.

Many people have already commented on the details but I’ll reiterate:

Usually bad form to change shoes in parking lot. Wear some “nice” shoes (aka not tennis shoes) and bring your cleats in a little duffel bag and change them in the locker room. If you don’t know where the locker room is just ask the first club employee you see. If nobody is in the locker room when you get there, just sort of stand there and wait or poke around and there should be an attendant somewhere who will be more than happy to help you. Just tell them the name of the member you’re playing with and they’ll hook you up with your own locker. Tipping these guys is never a bad idea, 5 bucks is fine I’d say but others may think that’s light or heavy, dunno.

Many of the nicer clubs have a no hats policy inside parts of the clubhouse. I always err on the side of caution if I’m not sure or just observe and follow the lead of others.

If the club has caddies, and I don’t know standard operating procedure around tips, I’ll ask my host walking up 17 or 18 if I can help or take care of the tips. In 100% of my experience the host has always shook his head and thanked me for the offer and then taken care of the tips for our group once we’re off 18 green. Just in case a host hits your bid on that offer I always bring a few hundo in cash but have always left with it apart from the many times I’ve lost it on the course.

I send a thank you e-mail to my host after the round. If it’s a really good relationship or a particularly baller track (I’m talking on the top 100 you can play list, or not but still super exclusive), I’ll even send a bottle of vino and a handwritten note but that is certainly not normal/required. E-mail or text thank you is required in my view.

About all of the above, not necessarily universal so I would just ask host ahead of time if there is anything special I should know. Don’t have to but if you’re worried about it they’ll be happy to answer the question and it’s one they’ve gotten many times before.

But back to basics, it’s just golf. Just be a nice person for 4-5 hours, follow a little bit of tradition if it’s called for, and voila you’ll get an invite back which is one of the main goals in all of this.


Maybe this is just one of those things, but: why is it bad form to change shoes in the parking lot?


I think it’s simply a left over protocol from a time when it actually had merit back when golf spikes were metal and would destroy any interior flooring. I’m in the camp that it’s currently a ridiculous rule (but also not a big deal to adhere to… so whatever I guess haha).


I think the metal cleats comment was much smarter than what I’d say but really it’s just that there is a locker room so use it. Private clubs are aware of appearances and the “look” of people changing in a parking lot is frowned upon. Honestly I kind of like the rule, when you go, take your time and enjoy the facilities. It’s a different and frankly nicer experience when you change in a plush locker room, grab a tasty lunch in the grill room, then leisurely jump out on the course for your round. The rushed shoe change in the parking lot, run to the tee, then being met by grumpy starters on your local muni isn’t quite as nice of a day. Then the pace of play is typically MUCH better so even though using the locker and getting lunch extend your day, it often isn’t much more than a half hour longer than your 4.5 hour muni round and you got “more” than just a muni round and a hot dog.


I’m just a public course guy with country club aspirations myself, but I would think that to the members (or some members) it just looks tacky…or like a public course…or that you’re a club noob…or at most fickle, like you’re trying to avoid tipping the locker room attendant. The clubs have the amenity and have likely voted on an expensive remodel of it at some point, it is there for you to use, and its a nice perk getting your shoes shined while you play. Probably moreso the case the more prestigious the place is. Its not a big deal, but the whole thing is easily avoided if you speak to the member in advance - ‘should i meet you in the locker room’ or something like that. By all means, tip your locker room attendant unless you are told that it is specifically a no-tipping club, but that would be highly unusual.


its the showers. I’m totally serious. If I’m at my club or a friends club I’m usually changing shoes in the car and I’m not making the day anymore than what it is, golf with my buddies, my peers. If go to a high end “national” club then I’m getting it all. I’ve very fortunate to have played at some awesome clubs, and without name dropping, the showers at some of these places are tremendous experiences. The amount of water that they can force through a commercial shower with blatant disregard for the environment can be astonishing. It’s not every club, frankly it very few of them, but if it has some history the showers are probably worth a rinse. It probably sounds ridiculous, but a world class shower is something every man should experience, and the best showers are at old money clubs.


You know what, I’d never noticed this, but it’s so true. They do have awesome high pressure showers! :joy:


Cost of showers at Rye > Cost of rest of clubhouse

Renaissance Club in East Lothain is hands down the best shower I’ve ever had. Multiple options for angles, pressure that would quell a riot and temperature controlled by the degree. Many people saying the menu was almost too big.


St George’s Hill = awesome shower
Sunningdale = awesome shower
Moor Park = awesome shower
Woburn = awesome shower
Royal Portrush = awesome shower

This is a thing.


Wow, this whole shower conversation was not at all what I was expecting, but I’m hooked.