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Why don't U.S. Private clubs allow outside play like the Scottish clubs do?


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#1 Fbgstaff

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Posted 18 August 2017 - 01:16 AM

Will the golf economy ever get to the point that the private clubs in the U.S. Allow outside play for a price. I would think that adopting some of the standards like tee times at certain times of the day or opening the courses to the public on Tuesday and Thursday would benefit these courses greatly. What are your opinions on this? Am I just a fool for thinking this way?


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#2 BEND OF THE RIVER GC

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Posted 18 August 2017 - 01:44 AM

The private courses that don't allow it probably don't need the money or the members prefer the exclusivity. In Europe almost all privates are accessible, albeit you may pay a high fee to play. I wish we took this approach as well. In short, golf, for whatever reason, is more pretentious here than overseas.

Edited by BEND OF THE RIVER GC, 18 August 2017 - 02:19 AM.

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#3 raynorfan1

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Posted 18 August 2017 - 05:45 AM

There are two primary reasons that outside play isn't allowed at most US private clubs:

(1) by opening to the public, clubs would lose their non-profit tax status. You're now running a business, not a membership club.

(2) clubs would need to comply with ADA requirements and a bunch of other 'public accommodation' rules.

It's just not worth it for the vast majority.

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#4 munihack

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Posted 18 August 2017 - 08:46 AM

raynorfan nailed it

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#5 Golfnuck

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Posted 18 August 2017 - 10:54 AM

View PostBEND OF THE RIVER GC, on 18 August 2017 - 01:44 AM, said:

The private courses that don't allow it probably don't need the money or the members prefer the exclusivity. In Europe almost all privates are accessible, albeit you may pay a high fee to play. I wish we took this approach as well. In short, golf, for whatever reason, is more pretentious here than overseas.

I did some research on this issue in another post titled "How does one go about playing a private course".

One of  the replies also implied that US private clubs are more pretentious than in the UK.

I am restating some of results of my research - UK golf courses
- 65% of clubs are private, 26% are proprietary clubs (private club but not owned by the membership but owned by an owner for commercial return), 3% are Artisan (class of members who gain access at private clubs at low cost but had limited rights for example green keepers etc) and 6% are municipal.
- average annual membership fee for UK private club is 850 British Pounds or US$1,100
- 36% of private clubs have joining or initiation fees which average 930 British Pounds or US$1,200
- 71% of private clubs accept daily green fees

US golf course
- approx total number of golf courses 15,500 of which 11,581 have public access (75%), 2,449 are municipal courses (16%) and that leaves 1,470 as private (9%)

Clearly there is a huge difference in the number of private clubs between the UK and the US. In fact they are diametrically opposite.

Also note the minimal annual membership fees in the UK and the fact only 36% of private clubs have initiation fees. It seems to me that a majority of so called private clubs in the UK are essentially semi private clubs with annual fees.

So based on the above information I will address the posters points.

The private courses that don't allow it probably don't need the money or the members prefer the exclusivity. In Europe almost all privates are accessible, albeit you may pay a high fee to play. I wish we took this approach as well. In short, golf, for whatever reason, is more pretentious here than overseas."

The difference is not due to US golf culture or pretentiousness rather it is due to the structure of golf membership in the US vs. the UK.

The majority of UK clubs are defined as private 91% whereas only 9% of US clubs are private.

You state you would prefer the UK model but it looks to me the average US golfer has more access to golf courses than the UK golfer. US - 91% UK - 74% ((71%*(65+26))+3+6).

IMHO the difference to me has more to do with the definition of "private club" in the US vs. the UK rather than the perception that private US clubs are more pretentious because they restrict public access.

In the UK there are very few public/municipal clubs (6%) and the majority of clubs are termed "private" but are essentially clubs owned by an organization other than a governmental body that give access to "public players".

In the US the vast majority of clubs (91%) allow for public access.

So for the remaining 9% of private clubs in the US as raynorfan has stated there are dire implications for a private club to offer public access.

Edited by Golfnuck, 18 August 2017 - 11:05 AM.


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#6 Thrillhouse

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Posted 18 August 2017 - 11:03 AM

I love that the UK private clubs allow non member play. I've played both courses at sunningdale, wentworth west, both courses at Walton Heath, and others through it, had great experiences and played some of the best courses I've ever played, absolutely awesome.

That being said I wouldn't want to be a member at a club that allowed it in North America where it's not our practice. I like that my club is members and guests only, I like the atmosphere and sense of community that is built when everyone is a member. Also we do have reciprocal play at private clubs in North America, where we sort of share our clubs with other private club members, which is a great way to get to play private courses in other places.

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#7 Liquid

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Posted 18 August 2017 - 01:32 PM

The UK courses need to allow limited outside tee times if they want to host the Open Championship. That's why you see a handful of groups playing Muirfield two days per week. Also applies to Troon, Turnberry, etc. You will NEVER see that at any U.S. private courses.

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#8 golfandfishing

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 05:51 AM

View PostLiquid, on 18 August 2017 - 01:32 PM, said:

The UK courses need to allow limited outside tee times if they want to host the Open Championship. That's why you see a handful of groups playing Muirfield two days per week. Also applies to Troon, Turnberry, etc. You will NEVER see that at any U.S. private courses.

Simply untrue. Not uncommon at all for a private club in the US to allow outside play from non members. Resort guests from affiliated properties, member for a day promotions and flat out making a small amount of times available to the public are all found at private clubs throughout the US.

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#9 fawley

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 07:05 AM

View PostThrillhouse, on 18 August 2017 - 11:03 AM, said:

I love that the UK private clubs allow non member play. I've played both courses at sunningdale, wentworth west, both courses at Walton Heath, and others through it, had great experiences and played some of the best courses I've ever played, absolutely awesome.

That being said I wouldn't want to be a member at a club that allowed it in North America where it's not our practice. I like that my club is members and guests only, I like the atmosphere and sense of community that is built when everyone is a member. Also we do have reciprocal play at private clubs in North America, where we sort of share our clubs with other private club members, which is a great way to get to play private courses in other places.

This.

I pay for the privilege to play at my private club.

Part of that privilege is that outside of scheduled events, I can play whenever I want (there are no tee times), I know that the vast majority of people playing the course will take care of it because it's "their" course, the amount of play the course gets is low enough that the greens staff can always keep it in excellent condition, and I know it'll be rare that it takes me more than 4 hours to play.

All of those things would go away if the club allowed public play.

If the club offered members, say, a $5k per year discount on their dues with the offset being that it would make up the revenue from greens fees from public play, I would guess that 90%+ of our members would rather pay full dues and maintain the status quo.

That's not to say that other arrangements don't work well for other clubs (semi private, resort courses, corporate owned clubs etc), but members at those clubs also know the deal and are presumably ok with it when they join.

Edited by fawley, 19 August 2017 - 07:06 AM.


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#10 shotmark

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 07:27 AM

View PostLiquid, on 18 August 2017 - 01:32 PM, said:

The UK courses need to allow limited outside tee times if they want to host the Open Championship. That's why you see a handful of groups playing Muirfield two days per week. Also applies to Troon, Turnberry, etc. You will NEVER see that at any U.S. private courses.

There at only ten courses on the open rota so this is hardly an issue.


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#11 MadGolfer76

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 07:45 AM

Someone said "accessing privates." :secret:

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#12 Fbgstaff

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 08:52 AM

It's seems to me that the way to keep memberships cost low is by allowing outside play. The Scottish courses are a great example of that. Look at what Murfield does, play allowed on Tuesday and Thursday at set times and they basically charge whatever they want.


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#13 Thrillhouse

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 10:37 AM

View Postfawley, on 19 August 2017 - 07:05 AM, said:


If the club offered members, say, a $5k per year discount on their dues with the offset being that it would make up the revenue from greens fees from public play, I would guess that 90%+ of our members would rather pay full dues and maintain the status quo.


Count me in the group that would rather pay full price and keep it private. My membership is a big expense for me right now (I guess as I get older it won't be, but right now it is). I live in a really densely populated area, where yes we have a lot of courses but the pace of play is atrocious and the ones you'd actually want to play are often in the $200 CAD range, so golf is expensive regardless. The club I joined has a fantastic layout (a top ranked course in our country), is always in great shape (because we have the budget for it and everyone takes care of it), no pace of play issues as I can always play in four hours, and has lots of great people to play golf with and socialize with. A semi private club can't guarantee the pace, can't guarantee the course conditions, wont have the same atmosphere, and lacks the mechanisms to control bad behaviour should it come up.

I have a busy schedule, so I can't afford to play five and a half hour rounds of golf. I also don't want to deal with people generally behaving like idiots on the golf course (being drunk, not replacing divots or raking traps, playing slow and refusing to let people play through, etc), especially when my recreation time is limited and I want to make the most of it. I know I pay a premium on a per round basis to play private golf, but honestly the benefits and the avoidance of the issues you face with public play are worth it for me.

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#14 raynorfan1

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 01:09 PM

I wouldn't be opposed to a Muirfield style arrangement that allowed a handful of groups out Tuesdays and Thursdays in exchange for 75% lower dues.

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#15 tiderider

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 04:42 PM

View PostLiquid, on 18 August 2017 - 01:32 PM, said:

The UK courses need to allow limited outside tee times if they want to host the Open Championship. That's why you see a handful of groups playing Muirfield two days per week. Also applies to Troon, Turnberry, etc. You will NEVER see that at any U.S. private courses.

scottish courses are required by law to allow some public play, regardless of intent to host any tournament ...

Edited by tiderider, 19 August 2017 - 04:43 PM.


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#16 raynorfan1

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 06:58 PM

View Posttiderider, on 19 August 2017 - 04:42 PM, said:

View PostLiquid, on 18 August 2017 - 01:32 PM, said:

The UK courses need to allow limited outside tee times if they want to host the Open Championship. That's why you see a handful of groups playing Muirfield two days per week. Also applies to Troon, Turnberry, etc. You will NEVER see that at any U.S. private courses.

scottish courses are required by law to allow some public play, regardless of intent to host any tournament ...

Not quite correct. Scottish courses are required to let anybody walk the course (there is a "right to passage" law that allows you to traverse any land in the country), but they don't HAVE to let anybody play. Skibo and a couple of others are completely private.

Many of the classic courses are actually on leased public land (most of the links land is publicly owned), and as a term in the lease, are required to offer some public play - but it's not a law, just a contractual obligation.

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#17 Thrillhouse

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 07:13 PM

Does anyone have an explanation for why UK private clubs allow public play? It's so common there must be a reason (beyond some courses being on public land as stated above).

Edited by Thrillhouse, 19 August 2017 - 07:14 PM.


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#18 6x6

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 01:02 AM

View Postfawley, on 19 August 2017 - 07:05 AM, said:

View PostThrillhouse, on 18 August 2017 - 11:03 AM, said:

I love that the UK private clubs allow non member play. I've played both courses at sunningdale, wentworth west, both courses at Walton Heath, and others through it, had great experiences and played some of the best courses I've ever played, absolutely awesome.

That being said I wouldn't want to be a member at a club that allowed it in North America where it's not our practice. I like that my club is members and guests only, I like the atmosphere and sense of community that is built when everyone is a member. Also we do have reciprocal play at private clubs in North America, where we sort of share our clubs with other private club members, which is a great way to get to play private courses in other places.

This.

I pay for the privilege to play at my private club.

Part of that privilege is that outside of scheduled events, I can play whenever I want (there are no tee times), I know that the vast majority of people playing the course will take care of it because it's "their" course, the amount of play the course gets is low enough that the greens staff can always keep it in excellent condition, and I know it'll be rare that it takes me more than 4 hours to play.

All of those things would go away if the club allowed public play.

Thanks for denigrating those of us that don't have the means, connections or the desire to join a private club. My personal experience has been different than yours.

I have been fortunate for the opportunity to play private courses, often with friends. Contrary to your suggestion that if the public were allowed to play, the course would not be taken care of. My three older brothers taught me to respect the game. This includes repairing ball marks, replacing divots, raking bunkers basically all the normal things one should do, while all the time treating others with respect and courtesy. The friends I play with also have the same habits. Yet, when I am playing a private course as a guest or visitor I try to make certain I go even further in "taking care" of the course and being respectful of the surroundings. During my younger years I worked as a caddy and later I worked at another club in a different capacity for a couple of years. I witnessed many examples of member's boorish behavior and the attitude because it is "their" course, rules and accepted etiquette doesn't apply to them. These folks were not in the "vast majority" yet there were enough to make up a noticeable percentage of the membership.

Regarding pace of play, I was lucky enough to play Royal Birkdale, Ballybunion, Lahinch and many of the courses in the Open Championship ROTA this past April and May. Most rounds were under four hours and nearly all of them stressed the importance of ready golf.  Muirfield was especially vigilant in keeping up pace of play. During the round the Marshal/Ranger would drop by every few holes to briefly chat with the caddies and our group, consisting of two Japanese gentleman and one man's wife, as a reminder to keep us on time.

So, based on my experience allowing visitors to play at a private club for limited tee times on certain weekdays, the condition of the course or your ability to play in under four hours would not "go away".

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#19 fawley

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 05:54 AM

View Post6x6, on 20 August 2017 - 01:02 AM, said:

View Postfawley, on 19 August 2017 - 07:05 AM, said:

View PostThrillhouse, on 18 August 2017 - 11:03 AM, said:

I love that the UK private clubs allow non member play. I've played both courses at sunningdale, wentworth west, both courses at Walton Heath, and others through it, had great experiences and played some of the best courses I've ever played, absolutely awesome.

That being said I wouldn't want to be a member at a club that allowed it in North America where it's not our practice. I like that my club is members and guests only, I like the atmosphere and sense of community that is built when everyone is a member. Also we do have reciprocal play at private clubs in North America, where we sort of share our clubs with other private club members, which is a great way to get to play private courses in other places.

This.

I pay for the privilege to play at my private club.

Part of that privilege is that outside of scheduled events, I can play whenever I want (there are no tee times), I know that the vast majority of people playing the course will take care of it because it's "their" course, the amount of play the course gets is low enough that the greens staff can always keep it in excellent condition, and I know it'll be rare that it takes me more than 4 hours to play.

All of those things would go away if the club allowed public play.

Thanks for denigrating those of us that don't have the means, connections or the desire to join a private club. My personal experience has been different than yours.

I have been fortunate for the opportunity to play private courses, often with friends. Contrary to your suggestion that if the public were allowed to play, the course would not be taken care of. My three older brothers taught me to respect the game. This includes repairing ball marks, replacing divots, raking bunkers basically all the normal things one should do, while all the time treating others with respect and courtesy. The friends I play with also have the same habits. Yet, when I am playing a private course as a guest or visitor I try to make certain I go even further in "taking care" of the course and being respectful of the surroundings. During my younger years I worked as a caddy and later I worked at another club in a different capacity for a couple of years. I witnessed many examples of member's boorish behavior and the attitude because it is "their" course, rules and accepted etiquette doesn't apply to them. These folks were not in the "vast majority" yet there were enough to make up a noticeable percentage of the membership.

Regarding pace of play, I was lucky enough to play Royal Birkdale, Ballybunion, Lahinch and many of the courses in the Open Championship ROTA this past April and May. Most rounds were under four hours and nearly all of them stressed the importance of ready golf.  Muirfield was especially vigilant in keeping up pace of play. During the round the Marshal/Ranger would drop by every few holes to briefly chat with the caddies and our group, consisting of two Japanese gentleman and one man's wife, as a reminder to keep us on time.

So, based on my experience allowing visitors to play at a private club for limited tee times on certain weekdays, the condition of the course or your ability to play in under four hours would not "go away".

Firstly, no one is denigrating anyone.

I played at munis and public courses my whole life up until a couple of years ago when I was fortunate enough to join my current club. As I'm sure that plenty of other people do, I always tried to take care of those courses and play quickly back then also.

Regardless of whether you or I personally do the right thing, in my experience, there's a significant gap between the effort that members at a private club make to take care of their course, and the effort made by the general public at their local muni.

I played Bethpage pretty much every weekend for years. The greens staff there did a good job, but the number of unraked bunkers and unrepaired divots and ball marks was unbelievable. Whether through ignorance of what needs to be done, or more commonly, an attitude of "I paid my money I'll do what I want", a lot of people just don't take care of golf courses when they play.

My club does a few outings on Mondays and Tuesdays over the course of the year. I can always tell when I'm playing after an outing from the number of unrepaired ball marks on our greens. The caddies and greens staff notice too, and work harder to correct the damage.

Again, stating (factually) that the general golfing public does not take care of a golf course as well as a group of members at their own club doesn't imply that no public golfers take care of the course when they're playing. It does however imply that enough don't take care of the course that it makes a difference to conditioning.

With regards pace of play, I acknowledge that many public courses / courses open to the public do a good job maintaining pace of play. However the more people on the course, and the greater variety of the pace expectations of those people, the larger the challenge of maintaining pace of play becomes.  I'm not arguing that it's impossible, but I do think that members at a private club would prefer not to risk longer round times with an increase in the number of people playing the course.

Edited by fawley, 20 August 2017 - 05:58 AM.


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#20 BlackDiamondPar5

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 06:12 AM

You can play a lot of private courses in the US. Many reserve Mondays for outside events like charity tournaments which someone could play. Clubs get some nice revenue from those Monday events. Private clubs also host their local usga district events which you can play.

If I joined a private club, I probably wouldn't want it open to the public as a general rule. Outsiders often play slower and don't care for the course like members. Unfixed ball marks and unfilled fairway divots are far more frequent on public tracks vs private because the public just doesn't care as much about the course.


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#21 apprenti23

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 06:44 AM

What's the point of paying for a private club if anyone can go and play their for a price? Doesn't seem like a private club anymore to me.

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#22 MyShortGameSucks

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 06:54 AM

View PostThrillhouse, on 19 August 2017 - 10:37 AM, said:

View Postfawley, on 19 August 2017 - 07:05 AM, said:


If the club offered members, say, a $5k per year discount on their dues with the offset being that it would make up the revenue from greens fees from public play, I would guess that 90%+ of our members would rather pay full dues and maintain the status quo.


Count me in the group that would rather pay full price and keep it private. My membership is a big expense for me right now (I guess as I get older it won't be, but right now it is). I live in a really densely populated area, where yes we have a lot of courses but the pace of play is atrocious and the ones you'd actually want to play are often in the $200 CAD range, so golf is expensive regardless. The club I joined has a fantastic layout (a top ranked course in our country), is always in great shape (because we have the budget for it and everyone takes care of it), no pace of play issues as I can always play in four hours, and has lots of great people to play golf with and socialize with. A semi private club can't guarantee the pace, can't guarantee the course conditions, wont have the same atmosphere, and lacks the mechanisms to control bad behaviour should it come up.

I have a busy schedule, so I can't afford to play five and a half hour rounds of golf. I also don't want to deal with people generally behaving like idiots on the golf course (being drunk, not replacing divots or raking traps, playing slow and refusing to let people play through, etc), especially when my recreation time is limited and I want to make the most of it. I know I pay a premium on a per round basis to play private golf, but honestly the benefits and the avoidance of the issues you face with public play are worth it for me.

100% agree with this.  Nailed.
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#23 medicoreMAgolfer

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 07:02 AM

View PostBlackDiamondPar5, on 20 August 2017 - 06:12 AM, said:

You can play a lot of private courses in the US. Many reserve Mondays for outside events like charity tournaments which someone could play. Clubs get some nice revenue from those Monday events. Private clubs also host their local usga district events which you can play.

If I joined a private club, I probably wouldn't want it open to the public as a general rule. Outsiders often play slower and don't care for the course like members. Unfixed ball marks and unfilled fairway divots are far more frequent on public tracks vs private because the public just doesn't care as much about the course.

Also, many state golf associations host "member for a day" programs at private courses.  Massachusetts has a roster of ~20 days where the public can essentially just sign up and play a private course as long as the player is a member in the MGA.  Every year they mix up the courses and outside of maybe the top 10 courses in the state they have some real gems in the program

I think the bigger issue is that the money for a club isn't as much as we would think.  Let's say a good, not great private course opens for play on Mondays.  In mass, that means probably 20 days during the season.  Let's say they charge $100 per player and let's say they get 100 golfers a day - that is $200k in extra revenue (I would argue that it would be hard to fill those 100 slots too for Monday's - people work!)

$200k in extra revenue offset probably by $75k in costs - $125k in profit.  Let's say average private has 350 members - that would only reduce their dues by $360.  With most of the good, not great courses (at least in Mass) having dues north of $6k per year - it's just not that much money!

Heck even take Brookline (best course in Boston) and let's just double the revenue figures and it still doesn't mean that much for the members to offset their costs...  also, remember that these courses frequently have corporate outings on Monday and charge $200 (and up) per player


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#24 MyShortGameSucks

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 07:05 AM

View PostBlackDiamondPar5, on 20 August 2017 - 06:12 AM, said:

You can play a lot of private courses in the US. Many reserve Mondays for outside events like charity tournaments which someone could play. Clubs get some nice revenue from those Monday events. Private clubs also host their local usga district events which you can play.

If I joined a private club, I probably wouldn't want it open to the public as a general rule. Outsiders often play slower and don't care for the course like members. Unfixed ball marks and unfilled fairway divots are far more frequent on public tracks vs private because the public just doesn't care as much about the course.

The only time I see unrepaired pitch-marks, un-raked bunkers or cart directional signs totally ignored is out-side players/unattended guests.   Fortunatley its rare but I just cannot understand people who have that little respect for the course.  When I am a guest at another club i always consider myself an an ambassador for my club, am thrilled to be playing another course and generally go out of my way to respect the course, membership and the staff.   I also always make a point of thanking the pros and telling them how much I loved playing their course - usually buy something in the pro-shop as well.
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#25 raynorfan1

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 11:16 AM

View PostmedicoreMAgolfer, on 20 August 2017 - 07:02 AM, said:

View PostBlackDiamondPar5, on 20 August 2017 - 06:12 AM, said:

You can play a lot of private courses in the US. Many reserve Mondays for outside events like charity tournaments which someone could play. Clubs get some nice revenue from those Monday events. Private clubs also host their local usga district events which you can play.

If I joined a private club, I probably wouldn't want it open to the public as a general rule. Outsiders often play slower and don't care for the course like members. Unfixed ball marks and unfilled fairway divots are far more frequent on public tracks vs private because the public just doesn't care as much about the course.

Also, many state golf associations host "member for a day" programs at private courses.  Massachusetts has a roster of ~20 days where the public can essentially just sign up and play a private course as long as the player is a member in the MGA.  Every year they mix up the courses and outside of maybe the top 10 courses in the state they have some real gems in the program

I think the bigger issue is that the money for a club isn't as much as we would think.  Let's say a good, not great private course opens for play on Mondays.  In mass, that means probably 20 days during the season.  Let's say they charge $100 per player and let's say they get 100 golfers a day - that is $200k in extra revenue (I would argue that it would be hard to fill those 100 slots too for Monday's - people work!)

$200k in extra revenue offset probably by $75k in costs - $125k in profit.  Let's say average private has 350 members - that would only reduce their dues by $360.  With most of the good, not great courses (at least in Mass) having dues north of $6k per year - it's just not that much money!

Heck even take Brookline (best course in Boston) and let's just double the revenue figures and it still doesn't mean that much for the members to offset their costs...  also, remember that these courses frequently have corporate outings on Monday and charge $200 (and up) per player

This is another important factor - maintenance costs (and expectations) are so much higher in the US than in the U.K. that the price where it would begin to make sense for the private course would be waaaay out of line for the general public golfers. A better private club would probably want ~$400 in greens fees, maybe more, and not many people (other than those who are members already) are willing to pay that kind of money.

Same thing in Scotland to some degree - I know a bunch of guys from the East Lothian area, and none have played Muirfield - it's "too expensive"...


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#26 Thrillhouse

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 11:29 AM

View Postraynorfan1, on 20 August 2017 - 11:16 AM, said:

View PostmedicoreMAgolfer, on 20 August 2017 - 07:02 AM, said:

View PostBlackDiamondPar5, on 20 August 2017 - 06:12 AM, said:

You can play a lot of private courses in the US. Many reserve Mondays for outside events like charity tournaments which someone could play. Clubs get some nice revenue from those Monday events. Private clubs also host their local usga district events which you can play.

If I joined a private club, I probably wouldn't want it open to the public as a general rule. Outsiders often play slower and don't care for the course like members. Unfixed ball marks and unfilled fairway divots are far more frequent on public tracks vs private because the public just doesn't care as much about the course.

Also, many state golf associations host "member for a day" programs at private courses.  Massachusetts has a roster of ~20 days where the public can essentially just sign up and play a private course as long as the player is a member in the MGA.  Every year they mix up the courses and outside of maybe the top 10 courses in the state they have some real gems in the program

I think the bigger issue is that the money for a club isn't as much as we would think.  Let's say a good, not great private course opens for play on Mondays.  In mass, that means probably 20 days during the season.  Let's say they charge $100 per player and let's say they get 100 golfers a day - that is $200k in extra revenue (I would argue that it would be hard to fill those 100 slots too for Monday's - people work!)

$200k in extra revenue offset probably by $75k in costs - $125k in profit.  Let's say average private has 350 members - that would only reduce their dues by $360.  With most of the good, not great courses (at least in Mass) having dues north of $6k per year - it's just not that much money!

Heck even take Brookline (best course in Boston) and let's just double the revenue figures and it still doesn't mean that much for the members to offset their costs...  also, remember that these courses frequently have corporate outings on Monday and charge $200 (and up) per player

This is another important factor - maintenance costs (and expectations) are so much higher in the US than in the U.K. that the price where it would begin to make sense for the private course would be waaaay out of line for the general public golfers. A better private club would probably want ~$400 in greens fees, maybe more, and not many people (other than those who are members already) are willing to pay that kind of money.

Same thing in Scotland to some degree - I know a bunch of guys from the East Lothian area, and none have played Muirfield - it's "too expensive"...

The price the top UK private clubs charge is extremely high (probably for the reasons you're noting). Wentworth West was over 400 GBP ten years ago when I played it, so roughly $800 USD at the time (for the record I didn't pay that much lol, would have been crazy). Sunningdale was less but still expensive, over 200 GBP for sure. They offer a daily thing as well where you can play both courses and get breakfast and lunch, I think it's 300-400 GBP, something like that.

So even though they "allow" public play they price it so high hardly anyone is going to pay it. You'd either have to be very wealthy (and still a member of a club somewhere so you can have a letter written for you, some places will ask for that), or be a complete golf nerd who is willing to pay a lot to tick a great course off of your list.

If I could play Winged Foot and The Country Club in Brookline and other places like that for $400 would I do it? Sure, maybe once a year I'd go knock out a top 100 private club. If it was $1000? Probably not, I mean I might do that for once in a lifetime places like Augusta or Cypress Point but it's just excessive, and I think the top U.K. Private clubs are aware of this. Honestly it costs so much I doubt the outside play is much of a revenue stream for the London clubs (might be different for the Open venues), which again makes me interested about the reasons why they allow it.

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#27 6x6

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 08:29 PM

View PostThrillhouse, on 20 August 2017 - 11:29 AM, said:

View Postraynorfan1, on 20 August 2017 - 11:16 AM, said:

View PostmedicoreMAgolfer, on 20 August 2017 - 07:02 AM, said:

View PostBlackDiamondPar5, on 20 August 2017 - 06:12 AM, said:

You can play a lot of private courses in the US. Many reserve Mondays for outside events like charity tournaments which someone could play. Clubs get some nice revenue from those Monday events. Private clubs also host their local usga district events which you can play.

If I joined a private club, I probably wouldn't want it open to the public as a general rule. Outsiders often play slower and don't care for the course like members. Unfixed ball marks and unfilled fairway divots are far more frequent on public tracks vs private because the public just doesn't care as much about the course.

Also, many state golf associations host "member for a day" programs at private courses.  Massachusetts has a roster of ~20 days where the public can essentially just sign up and play a private course as long as the player is a member in the MGA.  Every year they mix up the courses and outside of maybe the top 10 courses in the state they have some real gems in the program

I think the bigger issue is that the money for a club isn't as much as we would think.  Let's say a good, not great private course opens for play on Mondays.  In mass, that means probably 20 days during the season.  Let's say they charge $100 per player and let's say they get 100 golfers a day - that is $200k in extra revenue (I would argue that it would be hard to fill those 100 slots too for Monday's - people work!)

$200k in extra revenue offset probably by $75k in costs - $125k in profit.  Let's say average private has 350 members - that would only reduce their dues by $360.  With most of the good, not great courses (at least in Mass) having dues north of $6k per year - it's just not that much money!

Heck even take Brookline (best course in Boston) and let's just double the revenue figures and it still doesn't mean that much for the members to offset their costs...  also, remember that these courses frequently have corporate outings on Monday and charge $200 (and up) per player

This is another important factor - maintenance costs (and expectations) are so much higher in the US than in the U.K. that the price where it would begin to make sense for the private course would be waaaay out of line for the general public golfers. A better private club would probably want ~$400 in greens fees, maybe more, and not many people (other than those who are members already) are willing to pay that kind of money.

Same thing in Scotland to some degree - I know a bunch of guys from the East Lothian area, and none have played Muirfield - it's "too expensive"...

The price the top UK private clubs charge is extremely high (probably for the reasons you're noting). Wentworth West was over 400 GBP ten years ago when I played it, so roughly $800 USD at the time (for the record I didn't pay that much lol, would have been crazy). Sunningdale was less but still expensive, over 200 GBP for sure. They offer a daily thing as well where you can play both courses and get breakfast and lunch, I think it's 300-400 GBP, something like that.

So even though they "allow" public play they price it so high hardly anyone is going to pay it. You'd either have to be very wealthy (and still a member of a club somewhere so you can have a letter written for you, some places will ask for that), or be a complete golf nerd who is willing to pay a lot to tick a great course off of your list.

If I could play Winged Foot and The Country Club in Brookline and other places like that for $400 would I do it? Sure, maybe once a year I'd go knock out a top 100 private club. If it was $1000? Probably not, I mean I might do that for once in a lifetime places like Augusta or Cypress Point but it's just excessive, and I think the top U.K. Private clubs are aware of this. Honestly it costs so much I doubt the outside play is much of a revenue stream for the London clubs (might be different for the Open venues), which again makes me interested about the reasons why they allow it.

The price is so high hardly anyone is going to pay it. That almost sounds like a Yogism, "Nobody goes there anymore it's too crowded". If they are priced so high why have those on the forums who have played some of the courses in the UK and Ireland done just that, while having to book their time many months in advance because the demand is so high for the opportunity. I guess we're just "nerds". I'll never get the chance to play WF or the Country Club so I'll just be content to play top 100 courses that give me the opportunity and appreciate my being there.

Not sure why Wentworth West would be so expensive when its not even ranked in the top 20 courses in the UK. Perhaps as you mention, it has to do with its location near London. Yet, you can play Royal St. George's for 190 GBP, Royal Birkdale for 205 GBP, Muirfield and Troon for 230 GBPs etc. So playing Birkdale for about $260, Muirfield etc for less than $300 doesn't seem too outrageous. Granted thanks to Brexit or other factors, the exchange rate is great for us going over from the states now.

A final thought, have you seen what Pebble Beach gets these days ($525?), Bandon Dunes, Whistling Straights? They are just as expensive or more yet people have no problem paying to play there.

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#28 Thrillhouse

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 08:35 PM

View Post6x6, on 20 August 2017 - 08:29 PM, said:

View PostThrillhouse, on 20 August 2017 - 11:29 AM, said:

View Postraynorfan1, on 20 August 2017 - 11:16 AM, said:

View PostmedicoreMAgolfer, on 20 August 2017 - 07:02 AM, said:

View PostBlackDiamondPar5, on 20 August 2017 - 06:12 AM, said:

You can play a lot of private courses in the US. Many reserve Mondays for outside events like charity tournaments which someone could play. Clubs get some nice revenue from those Monday events. Private clubs also host their local usga district events which you can play.

If I joined a private club, I probably wouldn't want it open to the public as a general rule. Outsiders often play slower and don't care for the course like members. Unfixed ball marks and unfilled fairway divots are far more frequent on public tracks vs private because the public just doesn't care as much about the course.

Also, many state golf associations host "member for a day" programs at private courses.  Massachusetts has a roster of ~20 days where the public can essentially just sign up and play a private course as long as the player is a member in the MGA.  Every year they mix up the courses and outside of maybe the top 10 courses in the state they have some real gems in the program

I think the bigger issue is that the money for a club isn't as much as we would think.  Let's say a good, not great private course opens for play on Mondays.  In mass, that means probably 20 days during the season.  Let's say they charge $100 per player and let's say they get 100 golfers a day - that is $200k in extra revenue (I would argue that it would be hard to fill those 100 slots too for Monday's - people work!)

$200k in extra revenue offset probably by $75k in costs - $125k in profit.  Let's say average private has 350 members - that would only reduce their dues by $360.  With most of the good, not great courses (at least in Mass) having dues north of $6k per year - it's just not that much money!

Heck even take Brookline (best course in Boston) and let's just double the revenue figures and it still doesn't mean that much for the members to offset their costs...  also, remember that these courses frequently have corporate outings on Monday and charge $200 (and up) per player

This is another important factor - maintenance costs (and expectations) are so much higher in the US than in the U.K. that the price where it would begin to make sense for the private course would be waaaay out of line for the general public golfers. A better private club would probably want ~$400 in greens fees, maybe more, and not many people (other than those who are members already) are willing to pay that kind of money.

Same thing in Scotland to some degree - I know a bunch of guys from the East Lothian area, and none have played Muirfield - it's "too expensive"...

The price the top UK private clubs charge is extremely high (probably for the reasons you're noting). Wentworth West was over 400 GBP ten years ago when I played it, so roughly $800 USD at the time (for the record I didn't pay that much lol, would have been crazy). Sunningdale was less but still expensive, over 200 GBP for sure. They offer a daily thing as well where you can play both courses and get breakfast and lunch, I think it's 300-400 GBP, something like that.

So even though they "allow" public play they price it so high hardly anyone is going to pay it. You'd either have to be very wealthy (and still a member of a club somewhere so you can have a letter written for you, some places will ask for that), or be a complete golf nerd who is willing to pay a lot to tick a great course off of your list.

If I could play Winged Foot and The Country Club in Brookline and other places like that for $400 would I do it? Sure, maybe once a year I'd go knock out a top 100 private club. If it was $1000? Probably not, I mean I might do that for once in a lifetime places like Augusta or Cypress Point but it's just excessive, and I think the top U.K. Private clubs are aware of this. Honestly it costs so much I doubt the outside play is much of a revenue stream for the London clubs (might be different for the Open venues), which again makes me interested about the reasons why they allow it.

The price is so high hardly anyone is going to pay it. That almost sounds like a Yogism, "Nobody goes there anymore it's too crowded". If they are priced so high why have those on the forums who have played some of the courses in the UK and Ireland done just that, while having to book their time many months in advance because the demand is so high for the opportunity. I guess we're just "nerds". I'll never get the chance to play WF or the Country Club so I'll just be content to play top 100 courses that give me the opportunity and appreciate my being there.

Not sure why Wentworth West would be so expensive when its not even ranked in the top 20 courses in the UK. Perhaps as you mention, it has to do with its location near London. Yet, you can play Royal St. George's for 190 GBP, Royal Birkdale for 205 GBP, Muirfield and Troon for 230 GBPs etc. So playing Birkdale for about $260, Muirfield etc for less than $300 doesn't seem too outrageous. Granted thanks to Brexit or other factors, the exchange rate is great for us going over from the states now.

A final thought, have you seen what Pebble Beach gets these days ($525?), Bandon Dunes, Whistling Straights? They are just as expensive or more yet people have no problem paying to play there.

Well, speaking for myself I played those courses because I'm a colossal golf nerd ;)

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#29 aabcuue

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 09:47 PM

View PostmedicoreMAgolfer, on 20 August 2017 - 07:02 AM, said:

View PostBlackDiamondPar5, on 20 August 2017 - 06:12 AM, said:

You can play a lot of private courses in the US. Many reserve Mondays for outside events like charity tournaments which someone could play. Clubs get some nice revenue from those Monday events. Private clubs also host their local usga district events which you can play.

If I joined a private club, I probably wouldn't want it open to the public as a general rule. Outsiders often play slower and don't care for the course like members. Unfixed ball marks and unfilled fairway divots are far more frequent on public tracks vs private because the public just doesn't care as much about the course.

Also, many state golf associations host "member for a day" programs at private courses.  Massachusetts has a roster of ~20 days where the public can essentially just sign up and play a private course as long as the player is a member in the MGA.  Every year they mix up the courses and outside of maybe the top 10 courses in the state they have some real gems in the program

I think the bigger issue is that the money for a club isn't as much as we would think.  Let's say a good, not great private course opens for play on Mondays.  In mass, that means probably 20 days during the season.  Let's say they charge $100 per player and let's say they get 100 golfers a day - that is $200k in extra revenue (I would argue that it would be hard to fill those 100 slots too for Monday's - people work!)

$200k in extra revenue offset probably by $75k in costs - $125k in profit.  Let's say average private has 350 members - that would only reduce their dues by $360.  With most of the good, not great courses (at least in Mass) having dues north of $6k per year - it's just not that much money!

Heck even take Brookline (best course in Boston) and let's just double the revenue figures and it still doesn't mean that much for the members to offset their costs...  also, remember that these courses frequently have corporate outings on Monday and charge $200 (and up) per player

Your rates for private outing are way off, please check again. Have seen the financials and charges from a wide range of courses, muni, county muni, semi-private, mid range private, to top100 and top20 courses.

Most decent muni & semi-privates charge over $100/golfer to the group organizing an outing. Meals and other amenities are usually extra. A cheap outing is $150 while a good class outing will be $250 & up.

Any decent private will charge at least $300/golfer. Depending on the course financial health, they sometimes have packages and other tournament add ons. Most private course outings are $500 & up.

The notable top100 courses (e.g. Brookline) even if it gives break for a 501c cause, $ is always $500+/golfer. Typical outing cost is $750 on the low to 2k/golfer.

All groups add another $50-500/golfer to fundraise. Most groups try to raise $10k to $100k from a golf outing.

Expect the outing rate to rise $50-250/golfer for extra amenities/add-ons including hole-in-one insurance.

Although ideally most silent raffle items are donations from a group member or connection, others are bought @discount in lieu of projected profit.

Edited by aabcuue, 20 August 2017 - 09:53 PM.

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#30 shotmark

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 03:15 AM

View PostThrillhouse, on 19 August 2017 - 07:13 PM, said:

Does anyone have an explanation for why UK private clubs allow public play? It's so common there must be a reason (beyond some courses being on public land as stated above).

I think it's just the way its always been and it seems to work well.  I am a member of Huddersfield Golf Club which is probably one of the more expensive clubs in the area at just under £2000 a year.  I'm guessing this is a fraction of the price of American country club membership.


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