As the CEO of Nextgengolf, I often get emails from young adults in our community asking me about the best private golf clubs to join in the Boston area, which clubs are looking for junior members or if we have any tips for joining a private golf club. I’ve never been a member of a private golf club, but am fortunate to have many friends who have invited me as their guest.
Over 12 years of caddying at 5 different private clubs and conversations with many young adults who are members of clubs, below are the most common themes I have heard that you should consider before joining a private golf club.
1) Food minimums?
Many private golf clubs want you to spend money both on and off the golf course. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been a guest at a country club and my host is encouraging me to order more food than I can eat since they need to hit their food minimum for the month. Depending on the club, food minimums can range from $50-$200 per month, but if you do not live close to the club and/or are the type of person that does not grab a meal after the round, the necessary food expense is something to expect as a member of a private club. Also, depending on the club, drinks/alcohol may or may not be included in their food minimum.
2) Restricted tee times?
Recently a friend of mine joined a private club and was very disappointed to learn that new members could not tee off before 10am on the weekends. The premier early tee times were reserved for the long-standing members and since he had a young executive membership which costs less, those tee times were not available to him. Especially if you are getting a discounted young adult membership, make sure you ask about any tee time restrictions.
3) Walking restrictions?
Depending on the golf courses, some facilities are very pro-walking versus some courses are very pro-riding. Depending on the type of golfer you are, you should understand if the golf club is friendlier to walking or riding. If you are someone that loves to walk like me, you especially need to be careful if you are considering joining golf courses in the southeast which require riding since there are long walks between holes. At some clubs, there is a mandatory cart fee for every round, even if you decide to walk.
4) Average member age?
There are a number of different “types” of private golf clubs out there. Some clubs are much more traditional, have an older crowd and are focused on the “old school” way of life whereas other clubs are more friendly to younger members, have relaxed rules, dress codes, and a younger population of members. Both types of clubs have pros and cons, but I’ve heard from a number of friends who decided to switch private clubs after a season or two given they felt more comfortable at one versus the other. Especially if there are non-refundable initiation fees, making the right decision the first time is important.
5) Assessments in the last 10 years?
Asking the average member age is not just important for the type of members, but also for the future financial sustainability of a golf club. If the club has primarily older members who may not be there 10 years from now, the younger members are going to need to pick up the financial responsibilities for the club which could add costs to your membership in the form of assessments. Some clubs are always upgrading to the latest and greatest such as a new clubhouse, pool, or golf simulator whereas other golf courses are focused on improving the golf experience.
You should understand whether you are joining a Golf Club or Country Club. At a Golf Club, investments focus on the golf course versus a country club where they are dedicated to enhancing family activities, the golf course, and non-golf investments. During my time caddying at an exclusive private club, assessments were always a big topic of conversation among the members.
I hope the above advice helps you during the time you are considering joining a provide golf club. I’m excited to join my first private golf club in the future and look forward to providing some perspective as a member versus a guest! What else should someone consider?