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Mondays Off: Should you join a private club?

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We go through some of the reasons why you would want to join a private club, and money isn’t one of them! We talk about the next “Match” with Tiger, Rory, Day, and Matsuyama. Will we watch? Probably.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    Sep 27, 2019 at 9:57 am

    For Steve and friend, you guys came up short on describing the golf course sectors properly.

    Should have talked more about country club vs. semi-p golf club splitout, rather than over-emphasizing a private vs. muny scenario.

    The old-line, private-equity clubs require an initiation fee – you buy “stock” in the club. This can run from a few thousand dollars locally to north of $150,000 in New York City area. Add on $8,000 annual dues or more, and an assessment if the fine dining room loses money that year, or the parking lot needs repaving. Besides golf, you get a swimming pool, a fitness area, tennis – and sometimes a polo team!

    Here in Illinois across river from St. Louis, St. Clair Country Club (named after our county) is the only private-equity country club in town. Most other 1990’s additions are semi-private golf clubs. They had hopes of being private, but they never quite got there. Only so many people wanted a $350,000 (in 1998 dollars) along the fairway.

    The public and municipal can be a crapshoot. Some are well maintained, others are run-down tracts that are course in name only. Since 2011, our extended county has lost 90 holes of golf – one semi-private and the rest public/municipal.

    The semi-private golf clubs offer golf course, driving range, and snack bar with enough space for large outside events. The chef can cater your event, or you can have outsiders cater it. Since about 2006, the course restaurants have given way to snack bars with brats, burgers and wrapped turkey sandwiched. Don’t count on a pool or tennis, and there’s no polo ponies – just a few deer that wander the back nine.

    Some residents have arcane golfing privileges connected to their home lot, but many more golfers have annual memberships (no initiation fee). Unrestricted couple slots cost $3,800 and allow unrestricted golf with cart, and range balls, except when special events occur. Restricted couple slots cost $2,800 and allow the same access except before noon on holidays. Both allow you reciprocal play on nine other clubs managed by the management company – on a space-available basis – for $18. And the general public can play space-available.

    This year, I dropped back to a Senior pass, which allows unlimited range balls and $18 a round play – with cart (during the week). I played about 25 rounds in 2018, but more than half were on the road for lower level amateur circuit play. (A cost of more than $200 a round with restricted pass).

    If the golf club is along the route to and from your jobs, or in your back yard, and the couple can play 60 rounds between them, this can be a decent deal. You get priority play on a decent course.

    So, the Monday’s Off podcast question seems to miss the influence of semi-private golf clubs. In certain circumstances, especially with the public/muny shakeout, this semi-private route can be the best way to go.

  2. ChipNRun

    Sep 25, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    Steve and partner don’t seem to appreciate the idea of semi-private clubs. Here in Illinois across from St. Louis, St. Clair Country Club is the only true private-equity club in St. Clair County.

    Back in the 1990s, five upscale golf residential operations got built in St. Clair and just north and south of it. All were built with the assumption that millions of people wanted to buy a (in 1990s money) $350,000 homes along the fairways.

    All five sold quite a few lots, but only one really “sold out.” All ended up as semi-privates, with a crazyquilt of homeowner deals involving golf, plus some annual golf deals of various sorts.

    One of the five went out of business, and a second one has struggled to keep the course turf green year to year.

    My club is run by Walters Golf Management, so those with an restricted (no play before noon on Saturday and Sunday) or full membership have unlimited golf and range balls, cart included.

    And, members can play at other Walters courses – space available – for $18 a round. This is helpful being our course has lots of outside events.

    A couple’s restricted costs $2,800 a year, a couple’s full $3,800.

    Is it extravagant? Possibly. But, you get priority for open scheduling, and your golf group can get slotted for “road play” for $18 a round. And if you want to play five holes in the afternoon, you just grab a cart and roll.

    And because our club is a decent and challenging course, you sometimes get invited to play at some of the upscale private clubs.

    I’ve backed off from restricted. Last year I got in about 25 rounds, including some low-level amateur circuit tournament play, but only had six home-course rounds.

    Now I’ve got the Senior card: $450 a year for unlimited range balls, and ability to play for $18 – with cart – except on weekends.

    And, Steve and pal need to distinguish between Country Clubs and Golf Clubs. The Country Clubs have the big clubhouse, a swanky restaurant that loses on average $150,000 a year, and fruit cups at the turn. Also, you have swimming pool, tennis, and on occasion polo teams.

    Golf Clubs are places where people go to play golf. Quite a few are semi-private. You can get brats and burgers and wrapped turkey sandwiches in the snack bar. You can hold a wedding reception or a big scramble dinner there, but you must negotiate with the club chef on whether he will feed people or let you bring in a caterer. No standing swanky restaurant that loses $150,000 a year. You might have a swimming pool, but don’t count on tennis or a polo team. You may see three deer on the edge of No. 1 fairway, but no ponies!

    The downside of the private-equity Country Clubs is assessments. If member participation falls short, you pay extra to make up the restaurant losses, or repave the front driveway.

    Under the right circumstances, semi-private may be quite beneficial for the golfer. A lot of it has to do with the situation on munies and public courses in the area. In our neighborhood, we has lost 90 holes of public golf in the past five years. Or, if the semi-privates are noticeably better courses to play than publics or munies, access to them may be worth the money.

  3. DukeOfChinoHills

    Sep 24, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    “cliques”

    (I belong to a proper grammar & spelling clique)

  4. Simms

    Sep 24, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    I would hope you take a good look at who you are and what you stand for before you join a golf club…First you got to know there are going to be “Clicks” at a private course and if your the kind that wants to stay outside of them it is something to really consider, if you like being in with a group that is OK too because the “Clicks” may work well for you. Lots of people have long time friendships and really enjoy the Country Club life style while others think many horrible things of those groups. One key thing is think of is the COST, is it in your budget and leave you with plenty of money or do you have to cut back all over the place to pay dues to belong…Country Clubs can be very expensive beyond just the basic membership…best to belong where you can easily afford the cost and have money for lots of extras (because there are going to be some pretty expensive extras). I think if you LOVE golf and LOVE being part of a “Country CLub” life style and can easily afford it it makes sense….but if you are just trying to get to play on a very good course and need to watch each dollar NO.

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Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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