You’ve just retired. Or, you have reached a point in your career where you can take the next step and actually join a country club. Possibly you just want to belong to the local course down the street and not have to worry about shelling out a green fee each time you visit. Maybe you just want the comfort of knowing there are always people available for a game at a moment’s notice.
Whatever the reason, joining a golf club, golf course, and/or country club is a big, and potentially expensive, decision.
I polled some Shooting Your Age readers and asked for their input and experiences when they went through the process. Following are…
The Top 10 Criteria (plus a bonus)
Using the “Late Night With David Letterman” countdown method:
#10. If you have a spouse, does he/she want to become a member of a club? Is this a joint decision, or just your decision? Will you be having dinner once a month at the club? Is that something you both want to do? For that matter, does he/she play golf at all? Bottom Line: This needs to be a joint decision, EVEN IF only one of you happens to play golf.
#9. Does the club have a spa? A sauna? A jacuzzi? Bag storage? Locker rooms with reserved lockers? Are those important to you, or your spouse? Bottom Line: Find out all the amenities the club has or doesn’t have
#8. How large is the membership? Is it capped at a reasonable number? If you join a club that has 500 full members, plus junior members, plus corporate members, plus senior members…you may never get a tee time. Bottom Line: Ask how large the membership is in all categories. All clubs have to have large enough memberships to make money but they need to be small enough to give the members ample tee time opportunities.
#7. What kind of leagues and golf programs do they offer? Are there leagues or regular weekly games of some type just for seniors (and what is the definition of a senior, anyway- 50 years old? 60? 70?). Are there women’s leagues, and if so, when do they play? A large junior program, if that’s important for you and your kids? Bottom Line: Determine on the front end how often and how formalized you want your golf to be, then see if the course offers those leagues and programs. Also determine if those times work with your schedule.
#6. Is there a food/drink minimum, and if so, how much? Are you going to take advantage of it? If there is, for example, a $100 monthly minimum, you should know if you are going to eat and drink at the club that often. Bottom Line: Determine how often you will use dining options at the club to avoid leaving hundreds of dollars on the table each year.
#5. On a related subject, what is the overall cost of membership? What is the initiation cost, plus the monthly membership? How often does the club levy special assessments and is there an average amount? If you’re paying $500 monthly to be a member, PLUS are getting a $2000 assessment every other year, you’re actually paying $7000 annually, not $6000 annually. Bottom Line: Ask about assessments and all fees when you are doing your due diligence.
#4. What is the guest policy? Can you bring guests, how often, and how much is the guest fee? Bottom Line: Determine how much entertaining you will be doing, and how often you will be bringing guests vs. how often you will be playing with your regular foursome. Factor the guest cost into your overall annual cost of membership.
#3. How important is a quality range and practice area? Is it extensive such as this one at Harbour Ridge in Palm City, Florida? Do you want a facility that allows you to practice and work on your game at regular intervals, or are you mostly interested in playing? Bottom Line: Check out the range and practice area and see how well it is maintained- is it the same calibre as the course? Are the practice greens the same condition and speed as the 18 you will be playing?
#2. Does the Club or Course host outside groups for fund-raising activities?
Are there outings on weekends that limit play from members, or is the course focused solely on the membership? Bottom Line: Ask during your preliminary visits if the course hosts fundraisers and outside organizations, and if so, how many and when.
#1. How convenient is it to where you live? For that matter, do you want to live on a golf course, or in a golf community? (If so, I highly recommend you review Home On The Course, which is Larry Gavrich’s excellent publication on buying and living in a golf community). Do you want to walk out the back door to the course, or is 30 minutes away close enough? Bottom Line: Factor in the location of the course from where you live; commute times; and convenience to and from the course.
Bonus. Saving the most important criteria until the end, everyone I spoke with said essentially the same thing: How comfortable do you feel with the membership? How much do you have in common with the rest of the members? If you are a golfing couple, is this a golfing couple club, or is it 98% males and juniors? If you are a baby boomer, do you fit in or is the “vibe” aimed more at the 30-something-up-and-coming professionals? Do your interests, and frankly, your income level, mesh with those of the rest of the club? It’s very possible you are being sponsored or invited to join by a friend or business colleague, but even so, you want to feel comfortable with the membership at large. Bottom Line: Obviously, some of this you just won’t really know until you join. However, get references. Talk to some of the more established members. Talk to someone who just recently joined and ask them why it was a good fit. Discover as much as you can about the club’s demographics and see how well they mirror your situation.
With the above guidelines, your foray into joining a golf club should be smooth sailing! (Sorry about the mix of metaphors there- I guess that would be better suited for joining a yacht club!)
Thanks for reading, and Enjoy Shooting Your Age!