Private Golf Clubs: Where Change Has to Be Made

by IBGS on February 15, 2009

So where are Private Golf Clubs and Private Country Clubs going?  The first reaction to this question would be they are going the way of the Pet Rock. Being a member of a private golf club was something that was fun while it lasted but you really can’t figure out what to do with it now that the fantasy has worn off and rationalize the costs for the membership.

Yaw, OK, that was a crappy analogy, but it gave me an opportunity to think about this stupid Pet Rock that is sitting on my desk that I paid like $25 for 20 years ago.

Memberships at private country clubs and golf clubs is not stupid.  For many it is a much cheaper alternative to playing daily fee golf.  But still, the price tag is high and many people are going to question….

“are private club membership fees a valid household expense”

Jim Dunlop, has an interesting article in Golf Inc Magazine on Private Club Survival Strategies .  What made the article on this very important issue a bit more intriguing is how they buried it at the end of the magazine.  Nonetheless, there were some interesting and potential solutions to keeping the mainstay of quality golf going.

Here are some interesting stats:

Reasons for Joining a Private Country Club

  Full-Service Membership

Golf & Clubhouse Only

Golf Course Quality



Less Crowded



Convenience/Location to Home



Social Aspects



To Stay physically Active



For other amenities



Provide spouse and children amenities



For business/networking



Corporate memberships



Reasons for Leaving a private club

Dues to expensive 46%
Might not be able to afford it 38%
Choose to play high-in public golf 36%
Cost per round hard to justify 33%

Any of the above


Source: National Golf Foundation: “The Future of Private Golf Clubs in America”


The issue here is costs and what is driving the pricing private golf clubs are pushing out to potential and current members.  It seems the mission for some private golf club environments I have been associated with over the years was to charge the members for the ‘Air” they were breathing while they were at the club.  Now, it seems the smarter thing to do is charge for what a member actually uses.  If they use the facility for golf..then just charge them for golf..if they use the entire facility for everything..then charge them for the full service.  Smart move, but falls short of what else can be done to cut costs.

I liked the suggestion of taking wasted portions of a golf course and make it into something usable like small Par 3 executive courses or some sort of short courses for the juniors and spouses to use if they find the full scale course to challenging. 

I like the marketing to the member’s interest instead of the marketing to the open market approach.  Still, more clubs need to look close to home for potential revenue instead of trying to offer members who live miles away from the club offers that even if they was FREE they would think twice about taking the time to use.

There were some good suggestions made in this article.  However, there is still room for improving the viability of being a private golf club member.  One of the statistics above was, to me, shocking to a point…”For Business/Networking”.  Could it be that the percentage of usage of the private golf club for business purposes by members is low because the members, nor the club management, know how to use golf as a business tool or promote the use of the club as a business tool?  Hummmm, I wonder who could help them out there?

The show on this issue has just begun.  There will be more thoughts given to what can be done and there will hopefully be the meeting of minds in some kind of summit of people to hammer out what needs to be done in the Private Golf Club and Country Club arena to keep this very important part of the golf economy going.

I’ll be back to report on other finding I make and provide my thoughts on what else can be done to save golf.  Until then, Let me know how I can help.








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