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Does your private club publish membership rates?

private dues rates country club

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#1 dbowl79

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 10:24 AM

I'm currently doing a market study in my area to determine the price points which private clubs set for membership.  I'm learning that for some reason, many or most private golf clubs do not publicly publish their rates online or in brochures / pamphlets.  The #1 question potential members want to know is simply, "What is the cost to join?"

Can anyone help me understand why private clubs do or do not publish rates, and what is the current trend / best practice for communicating rates?  I would like to hear what you club's policy is and why or why not the rates are published online.

Thanks for the help!


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#2 abergervt

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 10:28 AM

because they want you as a prospective member to have to contact them and they will then try and get you in the door and on sight. You should reach out probably get a few free meals and rounds of golf out of this if you do it right!

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#3 HackerDave

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 10:51 AM

I know our club does not.  The members know and since they are the ones referring new members, the word gets out.

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#4 raynorfan1

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 10:56 AM

View Postdbowl79, on 13 February 2018 - 10:24 AM, said:

I'm currently doing a market study in my area to determine the price points which private clubs set for membership.  I'm learning that for some reason, many or most private golf clubs do not publicly publish their rates online or in brochures / pamphlets.  The #1 question potential members want to know is simply, "What is the cost to join?"

Can anyone help me understand why private clubs do or do not publish rates, and what is the current trend / best practice for communicating rates?  I would like to hear what you club's policy is and why or why not the rates are published online.

Thanks for the help!

The spectrum of private clubs is quite large, but from my POV, you don't publish rates (publicly) for a few reasons:

(1) The rates can be complicated and the numbers don't necessarily tell the whole story (initiation fees, minimums, rates tiered by age, etc.);
(2) Traditional clubs are inherently private places. Some clubs don't have a publicly accessible website, let alone publish anything on one;
(3) Since membership information is quasi-public (via GHIN) you don't want to potentially embarrass members with the information of how much it costs out there (boss says he can't afford to give me a raise, but can pay $20K to play golf?).

And realistically, there is a good sized group of clubs who don't want members whose "#1 question is how much does it cost".

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#5 umassgolfer

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 10:58 AM

I say what I am about to as a current prospective new member. It has been annoying having to email clubs, with half of them being way out of my reach financially. But I get it.

All clubs (in the US) want to present themselves as best as they can. In the US, more expensive = better/more prestigious. Pricing creates an immediate impression and would make all but the most expensive clubs look less impressive.

Another key point - US clubs generally strive for the most discretion possible for their members. And not publicly posting how much their members pay to belong certainly falls in that category.

Lastly, clubs offer varied pricing for different members, specials during membership drives, etc. - better to avoid confusion by not posting this online. Not to mention, members who join at a higher price point would not be happy to see members joining for lower price points.


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#6 farmer

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 11:16 AM

If you have to ask, you can't afford it?

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#7 North Butte

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 11:21 AM

View Postdbowl79, on 13 February 2018 - 10:24 AM, said:

I'm currently doing a market study in my area to determine the price points which private clubs set for membership.  I'm learning that for some reason, many or most private golf clubs do not publicly publish their rates online or in brochures / pamphlets.  The #1 question potential members want to know is simply, "What is the cost to join?"

Can anyone help me understand why private clubs do or do not publish rates, and what is the current trend / best practice for communicating rates?  I would like to hear what you club's policy is and why or why not the rates are published online.

Thanks for the help!

Not normally but we have done a couple of times during membership drives in recent years.


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#8 MidwestGolfBum

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 02:36 PM

The majority of the clubs in my area do publish rates, but as said, it doesn't tell the whole story. You have to take into account discounts for membership drives that may be going on, other specials that may be available at the time of joining, changes in rates for age that may not be published, minimums in the bar, and so on.

I know we publish rates but the majority of the club is paying something other than those for all of the reasons above and it has led to some interesting conversations with some of my customers, employees, friends, and family when they "happen upon the pricing".

When I joined my current club, I made a bunch of phone calls, went to play the course as a prospective member so that I could get a better feel for what I was getting into as far as culture, speed of play, money games that may happen, as well as what kind of reception I was possibly going to get as a new, younger member. Through this I found the club that was the best fit for me, what I want out of a club when it comes to facilities and offerings, and have been more than happy with where I am for the past 9 years now.
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#9 dbowl79

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 03:24 PM

View PostMidwestGolfBum, on 13 February 2018 - 02:36 PM, said:

The majority of the clubs in my area do publish rates, but as said, it doesn't tell the whole story. You have to take into account discounts for membership drives that may be going on, other specials that may be available at the time of joining, changes in rates for age that may not be published, minimums in the bar, and so on.

I know we publish rates but the majority of the club is paying something other than those for all of the reasons above and it has led to some interesting conversations with some of my customers, employees, friends, and family when they "happen upon the pricing".

When I joined my current club, I made a bunch of phone calls, went to play the course as a prospective member so that I could get a better feel for what I was getting into as far as culture, speed of play, money games that may happen, as well as what kind of reception I was possibly going to get as a new, younger member. Through this I found the club that was the best fit for me, what I want out of a club when it comes to facilities and offerings, and have been more than happy with where I am for the past 9 years now.

This is great feedback!  I like the fact that you sought out more of the "experience factor" than just the published rate.  I find it interesting that at many clubs, there are inconsistencies in pricing based upon the "special discounts", age, or year a member joined.  I can see where this would lead to very difficult conversations down the road if members were paying anything other than the published rate.

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#10 MidwestGolfBum

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 04:05 PM

View Postdbowl79, on 13 February 2018 - 03:24 PM, said:

View PostMidwestGolfBum, on 13 February 2018 - 02:36 PM, said:

The majority of the clubs in my area do publish rates, but as said, it doesn't tell the whole story. You have to take into account discounts for membership drives that may be going on, other specials that may be available at the time of joining, changes in rates for age that may not be published, minimums in the bar, and so on.

I know we publish rates but the majority of the club is paying something other than those for all of the reasons above and it has led to some interesting conversations with some of my customers, employees, friends, and family when they "happen upon the pricing".

When I joined my current club, I made a bunch of phone calls, went to play the course as a prospective member so that I could get a better feel for what I was getting into as far as culture, speed of play, money games that may happen, as well as what kind of reception I was possibly going to get as a new, younger member. Through this I found the club that was the best fit for me, what I want out of a club when it comes to facilities and offerings, and have been more than happy with where I am for the past 9 years now.

This is great feedback!  I like the fact that you sought out more of the "experience factor" than just the published rate.  I find it interesting that at many clubs, there are inconsistencies in pricing based upon the "special discounts", age, or year a member joined.  I can see where this would lead to very difficult conversations down the road if members were paying anything other than the published rate.

I highly recommend going to several clubs that you find are in the budget, talking to the membership director around a time that you may actually be golfing there or a men's day (this was the option I took), and seeing if it would be possible to play a round with one or more of the members based on your handicap, age, style of play (fun, grinding it out, want to gamble, etc.), and possibly ask to have a dinner on the property on a busier night to see what kind of people you may be spending more time with going forward. I have made some of my best friends at my club so knowing that they at least seem like those who I may want to spend time with should be an important part of your choice.

Don't expect anything to be comped when you go, though in reality it all pretty much will be as long as it's obvious you're not there for the one day with no interest.

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#11 dbowl79

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 04:15 PM

View PostMidwestGolfBum, on 13 February 2018 - 04:05 PM, said:

View Postdbowl79, on 13 February 2018 - 03:24 PM, said:

View PostMidwestGolfBum, on 13 February 2018 - 02:36 PM, said:

The majority of the clubs in my area do publish rates, but as said, it doesn't tell the whole story. You have to take into account discounts for membership drives that may be going on, other specials that may be available at the time of joining, changes in rates for age that may not be published, minimums in the bar, and so on.

I know we publish rates but the majority of the club is paying something other than those for all of the reasons above and it has led to some interesting conversations with some of my customers, employees, friends, and family when they "happen upon the pricing".

When I joined my current club, I made a bunch of phone calls, went to play the course as a prospective member so that I could get a better feel for what I was getting into as far as culture, speed of play, money games that may happen, as well as what kind of reception I was possibly going to get as a new, younger member. Through this I found the club that was the best fit for me, what I want out of a club when it comes to facilities and offerings, and have been more than happy with where I am for the past 9 years now.

This is great feedback!  I like the fact that you sought out more of the "experience factor" than just the published rate.  I find it interesting that at many clubs, there are inconsistencies in pricing based upon the "special discounts", age, or year a member joined.  I can see where this would lead to very difficult conversations down the road if members were paying anything other than the published rate.

I highly recommend going to several clubs that you find are in the budget, talking to the membership director around a time that you may actually be golfing there or a men's day (this was the option I took), and seeing if it would be possible to play a round with one or more of the members based on your handicap, age, style of play (fun, grinding it out, want to gamble, etc.), and possibly ask to have a dinner on the property on a busier night to see what kind of people you may be spending more time with going forward. I have made some of my best friends at my club so knowing that they at least seem like those who I may want to spend time with should be an important part of your choice.

Don't expect anything to be comped when you go, though in reality it all pretty much will be as long as it's obvious you're not there for the one day with no interest.

For the clubs in your area that do publish rates, are they perceived as being "cheaper" or "lower-end"?  Is there a correlation between disclosing rates and perceived value of the club?

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#12 hollabachgt

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 04:17 PM

I've found that a good way to measure a clubs openness to adding new members or gaining public attention can be measured by their web presence.

The more information that is published, the more open the club is at attracting new members:
If they publish their rates, its open hunting season for new members.
If they publish their classifications of memberships, they are open, but not to everyone.
If they publish that membership is available upon invitation, they are open to inquiries but will only work with the right outsiders to get them in.
If they don't say anything about membership, then you need to know the right people.
If their website is a homepage only with a login screen, or no homepage at all, then you need to have come from the right family.

Typically a clubs openness to potential members correlates with their financial and social status. The more they tell you up front, the more they need you.

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#13 MidwestGolfBum

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 04:30 PM

View Postdbowl79, on 13 February 2018 - 04:15 PM, said:

View PostMidwestGolfBum, on 13 February 2018 - 04:05 PM, said:

View Postdbowl79, on 13 February 2018 - 03:24 PM, said:

View PostMidwestGolfBum, on 13 February 2018 - 02:36 PM, said:

The majority of the clubs in my area do publish rates, but as said, it doesn't tell the whole story. You have to take into account discounts for membership drives that may be going on, other specials that may be available at the time of joining, changes in rates for age that may not be published, minimums in the bar, and so on.

I know we publish rates but the majority of the club is paying something other than those for all of the reasons above and it has led to some interesting conversations with some of my customers, employees, friends, and family when they "happen upon the pricing".

When I joined my current club, I made a bunch of phone calls, went to play the course as a prospective member so that I could get a better feel for what I was getting into as far as culture, speed of play, money games that may happen, as well as what kind of reception I was possibly going to get as a new, younger member. Through this I found the club that was the best fit for me, what I want out of a club when it comes to facilities and offerings, and have been more than happy with where I am for the past 9 years now.

This is great feedback!  I like the fact that you sought out more of the "experience factor" than just the published rate.  I find it interesting that at many clubs, there are inconsistencies in pricing based upon the "special discounts", age, or year a member joined.  I can see where this would lead to very difficult conversations down the road if members were paying anything other than the published rate.

I highly recommend going to several clubs that you find are in the budget, talking to the membership director around a time that you may actually be golfing there or a men's day (this was the option I took), and seeing if it would be possible to play a round with one or more of the members based on your handicap, age, style of play (fun, grinding it out, want to gamble, etc.), and possibly ask to have a dinner on the property on a busier night to see what kind of people you may be spending more time with going forward. I have made some of my best friends at my club so knowing that they at least seem like those who I may want to spend time with should be an important part of your choice.

Don't expect anything to be comped when you go, though in reality it all pretty much will be as long as it's obvious you're not there for the one day with no interest.

For the clubs in your area that do publish rates, are they perceived as being "cheaper" or "lower-end"?  Is there a correlation between disclosing rates and perceived value of the club?

Here, no. There's all kinds of various rates based on what the clubs have found work best for them. Most of the clubs in this area are all competing for a very small subset of people who are looking to join so there is generally a competition of sorts between them to attract new, younger members. The average age of a lot of the clubs have started to creep up and if that doesn't change fairly quickly, they will start to feel the strain on their pockets in a short amount of time. At this point, what club(s) you look at joining are based on where you live and work for my area and finding the balance between cost, amenities offered, and how active the membership is or isn't.
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#14 dbowl79

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 04:49 PM

View Posthollabachgt, on 13 February 2018 - 04:17 PM, said:

I've found that a good way to measure a clubs openness to adding new members or gaining public attention can be measured by their web presence.

The more information that is published, the more open the club is at attracting new members:
If they publish their rates, its open hunting season for new members.
If they publish their classifications of memberships, they are open, but not to everyone.
If they publish that membership is available upon invitation, they are open to inquiries but will only work with the right outsiders to get them in.
If they don't say anything about membership, then you need to know the right people.
If their website is a homepage only with a login screen, or no homepage at all, then you need to have come from the right family.

Typically a clubs openness to potential members correlates with their financial and social status. The more they tell you up front, the more they need you.

So, if I understand correctly, a club that discloses rates publicly will be perceived to be more desperate for membership and less solid financially?  In your opinion, is there a correlation between publishing rates and private club prestige?    

Does a club lose that sense of exclusivity by publishing rates, and therefore some of the appeal of membership?

Great feedback!  Very much appreciated!

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#15 raynorfan1

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 05:52 PM

Publishing rates also may put the club on a slippery slope towards being ruled a “public accommodation” under the ADA and other State and Federal laws. It could be construed as an offer of membership, at which point you’re no longer a private club (one of the tests to be a private club is in selectivity of membership).


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#16 lacosteguy

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 08:26 PM

Are you doing a market study for the Ohio area?

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#17 carrera

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 10:46 PM

View Posthollabachgt, on 13 February 2018 - 04:17 PM, said:

I've found that a good way to measure a clubs openness to adding new members or gaining public attention can be measured by their web presence.

The more information that is published, the more open the club is at attracting new members:
If they publish their rates, its open hunting season for new members.
If they publish their classifications of memberships, they are open, but not to everyone.
If they publish that membership is available upon invitation, they are open to inquiries but will only work with the right outsiders to get them in.
If they don't say anything about membership, then you need to know the right people.
If their website is a homepage only with a login screen, or no homepage at all, then you need to have come from the right family.

Typically a clubs openness to potential members correlates with their financial and social status. The more they tell you up front, the more they need you.

That's a pretty good summary, in my experience (YMMV).  

Note that for clubs that require members to introduce and sponsor new members (fewer and fewer these days), they will assume that the member will inform the prospective member about the financial details.

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#18 ChipDriver

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 11:05 PM

One of the main reasons a club will not publish rates - is that the price may change - thereby upsetting other members.  It provides the club the ability to be flexible with the seasons and get members when they can without pissing off the old/previous members.

Example:  in spring of 2017 a membership may cost X.   In winter of 2017 the same membership may cost X-minus 20%.

It can create animosity/anger/annoyance/panic with some members who now want the same discount or worse - a refund.

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#19 az2au

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 09:43 AM

View PostChipDriver, on 13 February 2018 - 11:05 PM, said:

One of the main reasons a club will not publish rates - is that the price may change - thereby upsetting other members.  It provides the club the ability to be flexible with the seasons and get members when they can without pissing off the old/previous members.

Example:  in spring of 2017 a membership may cost X.   In winter of 2017 the same membership may cost X-minus 20%.

It can create animosity/anger/annoyance/panic with some members who now want the same discount or worse - a refund.
I’ve never belonged to a club where current membership costs weren’t readily available in the members section of the website or that weren’t published regularly.

I have seen both significant price drops and increases in clubs I’ve belonged to over the years and never heard of anyone having the expectation that they should have a refund because this is quite clearly communicated on joining.

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#20 mmckee02

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 01:42 PM

Clubs that aren't as desperate for members aren't going to publish their rates.


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#21 schley

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 02:55 PM

View Postraynorfan1, on 13 February 2018 - 05:52 PM, said:

Publishing rates also may put the club on a slippery slope towards being ruled a “public accommodation” under the ADA and other State and Federal laws. It could be construed as an offer of membership, at which point you’re no longer a private club (one of the tests to be a private club is in selectivity of membership).

You mean to keep their tax exempt status as they are termed social clubs and one aspect is that they meet socially and have a limited membership soas not to be available to everyone in the public like a public good.

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#22 raynorfan1

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 03:13 PM

View Postschley, on 14 February 2018 - 02:55 PM, said:

View Postraynorfan1, on 13 February 2018 - 05:52 PM, said:

Publishing rates also may put the club on a slippery slope towards being ruled a “public accommodation” under the ADA and other State and Federal laws. It could be construed as an offer of membership, at which point you’re no longer a private club (one of the tests to be a private club is in selectivity of membership).

You mean to keep their tax exempt status as they are termed social clubs and one aspect is that they meet socially and have a limited membership soas not to be available to everyone in the public like a public good.

Possibly, but not necessarily. Tax rules are one of a broad range of implications that come from being open to the public vs. private.

I'd be more concerned with ADA issues, and the potential to be handcuffed in potentially discriminatory rules (like offering lower dues based on age).

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#23 hnryclay

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 03:38 PM

Honestly the cost should probably be one of the last things you used to determine which club within reason. In most areas there are Top Tier with 6 figure initiation fees, some of which are invitation only. A lot of these clubs charge only what it takes to run the club once you are a member. Could be 12,000 a year, might be much more. Then Mid Tier generally 5,000-10,000 initiation fees these days,(used to be MUCH more) although sometimes for some people a lot less or spread out over time. Most of these in our area are 450, to 600 a month for Standard family memberships less for singles, and "young executives". Below that there are the bottom tier privates which generally do not have initiation fees any longer. I have seen rates from 125 a month to 250 depending on how you set it up, cart plan, range plan etc.. I would also put semi privates in this group. It's pretty rare that the clubs compare outside of the ranges, and most of them will be priced very competitively  within there respective group, except for the elite who generally are not interested in people that ask how much it costs, and since you are asked to join these, not vice versa probably not an issue.

Much more important is if the club fits your needs, in my opinion rather than saving an extra $50 bucks or less a month. I prefer a club with a proper locker room, an attendant for shoes, and a nice clean shower area as I golf and return to work or attend social functions after my round. I also want a great golf staff, with good instruction, club repair, club cleaning and storage. Good practice area, that is maintained frequently, with a short game area or two.  Some people might choose a club over child care options, pool, tennis etc. I would find the place that checks off as many boxes as possible, play every course you are thinking of joining first, try to gauge the membership and see if you want to be there. It's no fun writing a check every month for a place you hate, even if you save money. Really in any case I agree with the consensus above that mid-tier clubs and above will not post prices online, and are not going to change this practice.

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#24 highscoreinky

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 04:28 PM

My club does.

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#25 schley

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 09:33 AM

View Postraynorfan1, on 14 February 2018 - 03:13 PM, said:

View Postschley, on 14 February 2018 - 02:55 PM, said:

View Postraynorfan1, on 13 February 2018 - 05:52 PM, said:

Publishing rates also may put the club on a slippery slope towards being ruled a “public accommodation” under the ADA and other State and Federal laws. It could be construed as an offer of membership, at which point you’re no longer a private club (one of the tests to be a private club is in selectivity of membership).

You mean to keep their tax exempt status as they are termed social clubs and one aspect is that they meet socially and have a limited membership soas not to be available to everyone in the public like a public good.

Possibly, but not necessarily. Tax rules are one of a broad range of implications that come from being open to the public vs. private.

I'd be more concerned with ADA issues, and the potential to be handcuffed in potentially discriminatory rules (like offering lower dues based on age).

ADA I don't see as an issue, have you ever heard of any lawsuits pertaining to this issue with a Golf Club?  Me either.

https://www.irs.gov/...ts/social-clubs

Under Internal Revenue Code Section 501©(7), social clubs like fraternities and country clubs can be recognized as tax-exempt organizations.
What is a social club?

Generally, social clubs are membership organizations primarily supported by funds paid by their members. In order to qualify as a tax-exempt organization, a social club must meet the following requirements:

    • Membership is limited
    • Organized for pleasure, recreation, and other non-profitable purposes
    • Substantially all of its activities must further those purposes
    • Must provide an opportunity for personal contact amongst members; there must be a “commingling” of the members for social, recreational, or similar purposes
    • Supported by membership fees, dues, and assessments
    • Net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any person having a personal and private interest in its activities
    • May not hold itself out as providing goods and services to the general public
    • Cannot provide pleasure or recreation on a commercial basis


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#26 schley

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 09:42 AM

View Posthnryclay, on 14 February 2018 - 03:38 PM, said:

Honestly the cost should probably be one of the last things you used to determine which club within reason. In most areas there are Top Tier with 6 figure initiation fees, some of which are invitation only. A lot of these clubs charge only what it takes to run the club once you are a member. Could be 12,000 a year, might be much more. Then Mid Tier generally 5,000-10,000 initiation fees these days,(used to be MUCH more) although sometimes for some people a lot less or spread out over time. Most of these in our area are 450, to 600 a month for Standard family memberships less for singles, and "young executives". Below that there are the bottom tier privates which generally do not have initiation fees any longer. I have seen rates from 125 a month to 250 depending on how you set it up, cart plan, range plan etc.. I would also put semi privates in this group. It's pretty rare that the clubs compare outside of the ranges, and most of them will be priced very competitively  within there respective group, except for the elite who generally are not interested in people that ask how much it costs, and since you are asked to join these, not vice versa probably not an issue.

Much more important is if the club fits your needs, in my opinion rather than saving an extra $50 bucks or less a month. I prefer a club with a proper locker room, an attendant for shoes, and a nice clean shower area as I golf and return to work or attend social functions after my round. I also want a great golf staff, with good instruction, club repair, club cleaning and storage. Good practice area, that is maintained frequently, with a short game area or two.  Some people might choose a club over child care options, pool, tennis etc. I would find the place that checks off as many boxes as possible, play every course you are thinking of joining first, try to gauge the membership and see if you want to be there. It's no fun writing a check every month for a place you hate, even if you save money. Really in any case I agree with the consensus above that mid-tier clubs and above will not post prices online, and are not going to change this practice.

I don't know where you live, but outside of the ultra exclusive CC or New York area private clubs 6 figure CC initiation fees are not that common. However, the initiation fee can very widely in the contract.  Initially clubs used the refundable initiation fee for xxx amount of money and could be refunded in 30 years, which gave the club a tax free loan for 30 years to have capital.  Further language then stated once you submit your resignation the club needs to have 1-5 new members before you receive your refundable initiation fee.  There are even clubs that have 100k refundable 50k non refundable for initiation fees. It is terminology to call them initiation fee, membership deposit, refundable deposit, refundable initiation fee.  You need to look at the fine print and ask questions about your exit scenarios and how that will impact your up front cost.

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#27 schley

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 09:46 AM

View Postdbowl79, on 13 February 2018 - 04:15 PM, said:

View PostMidwestGolfBum, on 13 February 2018 - 04:05 PM, said:

View Postdbowl79, on 13 February 2018 - 03:24 PM, said:

View PostMidwestGolfBum, on 13 February 2018 - 02:36 PM, said:

The majority of the clubs in my area do publish rates, but as said, it doesn't tell the whole story. You have to take into account discounts for membership drives that may be going on, other specials that may be available at the time of joining, changes in rates for age that may not be published, minimums in the bar, and so on.

I know we publish rates but the majority of the club is paying something other than those for all of the reasons above and it has led to some interesting conversations with some of my customers, employees, friends, and family when they "happen upon the pricing".

When I joined my current club, I made a bunch of phone calls, went to play the course as a prospective member so that I could get a better feel for what I was getting into as far as culture, speed of play, money games that may happen, as well as what kind of reception I was possibly going to get as a new, younger member. Through this I found the club that was the best fit for me, what I want out of a club when it comes to facilities and offerings, and have been more than happy with where I am for the past 9 years now.

This is great feedback!  I like the fact that you sought out more of the "experience factor" than just the published rate.  I find it interesting that at many clubs, there are inconsistencies in pricing based upon the "special discounts", age, or year a member joined.  I can see where this would lead to very difficult conversations down the road if members were paying anything other than the published rate.

I highly recommend going to several clubs that you find are in the budget, talking to the membership director around a time that you may actually be golfing there or a men's day (this was the option I took), and seeing if it would be possible to play a round with one or more of the members based on your handicap, age, style of play (fun, grinding it out, want to gamble, etc.), and possibly ask to have a dinner on the property on a busier night to see what kind of people you may be spending more time with going forward. I have made some of my best friends at my club so knowing that they at least seem like those who I may want to spend time with should be an important part of your choice.

Don't expect anything to be comped when you go, though in reality it all pretty much will be as long as it's obvious you're not there for the one day with no interest.

For the clubs in your area that do publish rates, are they perceived as being "cheaper" or "lower-end"?  Is there a correlation between disclosing rates and perceived value of the club?

As others have stated if you have a full membership with a waiting list, which isn't the norm, but the exclusive clubs have to be referred by members so the members are the carriers of information not the website.  Most high end clubs just have guest information for when you are lucky enough to get invited to play as a guest.  I don't think they want the public to know their fees for what benefit does it have for them, it can only be used against them and invasion of their memberships privacy.

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#28 raynorfan1

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 09:46 AM

View Postschley, on 15 February 2018 - 09:33 AM, said:

View Postraynorfan1, on 14 February 2018 - 03:13 PM, said:

View Postschley, on 14 February 2018 - 02:55 PM, said:

View Postraynorfan1, on 13 February 2018 - 05:52 PM, said:

Publishing rates also may put the club on a slippery slope towards being ruled a “public accommodation” under the ADA and other State and Federal laws. It could be construed as an offer of membership, at which point you’re no longer a private club (one of the tests to be a private club is in selectivity of membership).

You mean to keep their tax exempt status as they are termed social clubs and one aspect is that they meet socially and have a limited membership soas not to be available to everyone in the public like a public good.

Possibly, but not necessarily. Tax rules are one of a broad range of implications that come from being open to the public vs. private.

I'd be more concerned with ADA issues, and the potential to be handcuffed in potentially discriminatory rules (like offering lower dues based on age).

ADA I don't see as an issue, have you ever heard of any lawsuits pertaining to this issue with a Golf Club?  Me either.

Funny you should mention it, because a local (to me) club is in the midst of one:

https://scholar.goog...en&as_sdt=80006

If you read the details, there’s a section on “advertising for membership” as one of the tests for whether the club is private or not.

The income tax exemption, I see as a smaller deal (though still relevant) because most clubs don’t run a significant surplus on a year to year basis.

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#29 schley

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 09:55 AM

View Postraynorfan1, on 15 February 2018 - 09:46 AM, said:

View Postschley, on 15 February 2018 - 09:33 AM, said:

View Postraynorfan1, on 14 February 2018 - 03:13 PM, said:

View Postschley, on 14 February 2018 - 02:55 PM, said:

View Postraynorfan1, on 13 February 2018 - 05:52 PM, said:

Publishing rates also may put the club on a slippery slope towards being ruled a "public accommodation" under the ADA and other State and Federal laws. It could be construed as an offer of membership, at which point you're no longer a private club (one of the tests to be a private club is in selectivity of membership).

You mean to keep their tax exempt status as they are termed social clubs and one aspect is that they meet socially and have a limited membership soas not to be available to everyone in the public like a public good.

Possibly, but not necessarily. Tax rules are one of a broad range of implications that come from being open to the public vs. private.

I'd be more concerned with ADA issues, and the potential to be handcuffed in potentially discriminatory rules (like offering lower dues based on age).

ADA I don't see as an issue, have you ever heard of any lawsuits pertaining to this issue with a Golf Club?  Me either.

Funny you should mention it, because a local (to me) club is in the midst of one:

https://scholar.goog...en&as_sdt=80006

If you read the details, there's a section on "advertising for membership" as one of the tests for whether the club is private or not.

The income tax exemption, I see as a smaller deal (though still relevant) because most clubs don't run a significant surplus on a year to year basis.

interesting. This is another reason why clubs can't be seen as soliciting memberships to the public.

It isn't just the waiver of corporate taxes, it is the waiver of sales and property taxes.

Edited by schley, 15 February 2018 - 09:56 AM.


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#30 hnryclay

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 09:57 AM

View Postschley, on 15 February 2018 - 09:42 AM, said:

View Posthnryclay, on 14 February 2018 - 03:38 PM, said:

Honestly the cost should probably be one of the last things you used to determine which club within reason. In most areas there are Top Tier with 6 figure initiation fees, some of which are invitation only. A lot of these clubs charge only what it takes to run the club once you are a member. Could be 12,000 a year, might be much more. Then Mid Tier generally 5,000-10,000 initiation fees these days,(used to be MUCH more) although sometimes for some people a lot less or spread out over time. Most of these in our area are 450, to 600 a month for Standard family memberships less for singles, and "young executives". Below that there are the bottom tier privates which generally do not have initiation fees any longer. I have seen rates from 125 a month to 250 depending on how you set it up, cart plan, range plan etc.. I would also put semi privates in this group. It's pretty rare that the clubs compare outside of the ranges, and most of them will be priced very competitively  within there respective group, except for the elite who generally are not interested in people that ask how much it costs, and since you are asked to join these, not vice versa probably not an issue.

Much more important is if the club fits your needs, in my opinion rather than saving an extra $50 bucks or less a month. I prefer a club with a proper locker room, an attendant for shoes, and a nice clean shower area as I golf and return to work or attend social functions after my round. I also want a great golf staff, with good instruction, club repair, club cleaning and storage. Good practice area, that is maintained frequently, with a short game area or two.  Some people might choose a club over child care options, pool, tennis etc. I would find the place that checks off as many boxes as possible, play every course you are thinking of joining first, try to gauge the membership and see if you want to be there. It's no fun writing a check every month for a place you hate, even if you save money. Really in any case I agree with the consensus above that mid-tier clubs and above will not post prices online, and are not going to change this practice.

I don't know where you live, but outside of the ultra exclusive CC or New York area private clubs 6 figure CC initiation fees are not that common. However, the initiation fee can very widely in the contract.  Initially clubs used the refundable initiation fee for xxx amount of money and could be refunded in 30 years, which gave the club a tax free loan for 30 years to have capital.  Further language then stated once you submit your resignation the club needs to have 1-5 new members before you receive your refundable initiation fee.  There are even clubs that have 100k refundable 50k non refundable for initiation fees. It is terminology to call them initiation fee, membership deposit, refundable deposit, refundable initiation fee.  You need to look at the fine print and ask questions about your exit scenarios and how that will impact your up front cost.

Virginia, we still have a few. Again they are elite, and I would say off the top of my head there are 5 or so in the state, but there may be as many as 10? As I am not a member of any of them, I could not tell you if they are refundable.


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