Golf Memberships 101

Choosing a club can be a daunting decision as there are thousands of great private and semi-private golf clubs across the U.S, each with their own unique blend of offerings. Beyond the course and amenities, each club has its own particular "feel" - a factor which should be of the utmost importance in your decision. As you peruse the courses listed, try to keep in mind exactly what you are looking for in a club - and ask pointed questions around your needs. Are you looking for a course that in more golf centric than amenity centric? How far are you willing to drive to participate in club events? Are family options more important or are you looking for a place simply to play golf and build new friendships around the great game of golf? What kind of fees can you afford?

Are you looking for a club with a high percentage of low handicap golfers? Are you looking for a club that is rather formal or informal? Your answers to these questions (and many others) will help you to determine what club is right for you. To that end, below, you will find a brief outline of the standard fees and membership types that are offered across most all clubs.

Private Clubs:

Private course/clubs memberships have a wide range of costs and amenities offered. The golf course and other club amenities (pool, restaurant, etc…) are closed to the public. Most private clubs do an excellent job of building a strong community, offering multiple golf events (tournaments, weekly matches, etc…) as well as social events (brunches, holiday parties, etc…) for their members to enjoy. Most clubs have a guest policy that allows members to bring guests - albeit, a fixed amount of times a year/month. Some even allow guests to play without a member as long as the members call in to the Pro Shop to make proper arrangements.

The typical cost structure and membership types offered are:

Initiation Costs
A one-time fee that can range anywhere between $2,000 upwards to $100,000 although there are several clubs that fall outside of either end of that range. Most clubs afford new members the opportunity to break up the initiation fee into manageable payments over a year or two periods. Clubs that offer equity memberships normally refund a large percentage of the initiation fee upon a member's resignation from the club. Non-equity clubs (like those typically found in the north/northeast) typically do not offer any refund of the initiation fee.
Annual Dues
Annual dues tend to run in a range of $3,000 - $10,000 per year or $300-$1000 per month (depending on the type of membership: Family, Individual, Corporate, Out-of-State) although there many clubs that fall outside of either end of that range. Typically, the annual dues cover unlimited use of the golf course, pool, etc…. More often than not, cart fees are not included.
Food & Beverage Minimums
Food and Beverage minimums are commonplace across all private clubs (and for good reason - many clubs are seasonal and they need to average certain monthly cash flows to maintain high levels of service). Typically, you can expect the minimums to fall somewhere between $50- $150 per month. Most members have little trouble spending that amount during high golf season and many clubs that are in fact seasonal (northern), reduce the minimum for the winter months.
Miscellaneous Fees (Locker Rental, Club Storage, Range Fees)
Some clubs have separate fees for their ancillary amenities while others include them in their monthly dues - as there is no "typical" arrangement. For those clubs that do charge separate fee's, plan on spending $10-20 per month for Locker Rental & Club Storage and another $10-$30 per month for range fees (if applicable).

Typical Memberships Offered

Most clubs offer five (5) types of memberships:

Family
Just what it sounds like, full access to the club's course and amenities for the entire family. Depending on dues structure, there may be a small additional charge for each family member added.
Individual
An option for those individuals who wish to join a club individually. Typically, an individual memberships gives an individual unlimited access to the golf course, dining room, practice facilities, etc…You may find clubs that charge and individual member an added fee for use of a pool (if applicable). Many clubs offer reduced initiation fees and monthly dues for members under 36 years old. Upon reaching 36 years of age, these clubs typically start to increase the fees over time until they reach the "standard" individual membership fee levels.
Social
The typical social membership usually includes unlimited access to the Pro Shop, restaurant and all social activities. Many clubs also included limited golfing privileges for social members - typically, the right to play once or twice per month.
Out-of-State (Non-Resident)
Several clubs offer memberships at a reduced rate for individuals and/or families who live a certain distance from the club (measured in miles) or who reside out of state.
Corporate
Corporate memberships tend to be structured in a similar manner to family memberships (initiation fees and annual dues based on a number of members associated with a prospective company). Beyond, golf privileges, many clubs offer other amenities such as "fee-free" meeting rooms to corporate members.

Semi-Private Clubs:

Like Private club memberships, Semi-Private memberships have a wide range of costs and amenities offered. As all Semi-Private clubs offer access to the golf course to the public on a daily fee basis, the "feel" is quite different from private clubs. Members generally have priority access to tee-times (usually they can make them far in advance of when the public can make them). Like Private clubs, most Semi-Private courses offer several members only tournaments, weekly leagues, etc… The typical cost structure and membership types offered are:

Initiation Costs
A one-time fee that can range anywhere between $1,000 upwards to $25,000 depending on the club. Many semi-private clubs do not charge an initiation fee; instead they charge a lump annual fee for full access to the course.
Annual Dues
Annual dues tend to run in a range of $1,000 - $5,000 per year or roughly $100-$400 per month (depending on the type of membership: Family, Individual, Corporate, Out-of-State) although there many clubs that fall outside of either end of that range. Typically, the annual dues cover unlimited use of the golf course. Cart and practice range fees may or may not be included in the annual dues.
Food & Beverage Minimums
Most semi-private clubs do not have food & beverage minimums. Members are treated the same as paying customers although, from time to time, you will find clubs that offer charge privileges to members.
Miscellaneous Fees (Locker Rental, Club Storage, Range Fees)
Most semi-private clubs do not offer locker rentals or club storage. The ones that do typically charge a small annual fee ($50-$100) for the added service. Range fees are sometimes assessed for members that want full access to the practice facilities.

Typical Memberships Offered - Most clubs offer five (5) types of memberships:

Family
just what it sounds like, full access to the club's course and preferred tee times for the entire family. Depending on dues structure, there may be a small additional charge for each family member added.
Individual
An option for those individuals who wish to join a club individually. Typically, an individual membership gives an individual unlimited access to the golf course and preferred tee times.
Social
Typically not offered at semi-private clubs.
Out-of-State (Non-Resident)
Several clubs offer memberships at a reduced rate for individuals and/or families who live a certain distance from the club (measured in miles) or who reside out of state.
Corporate
Corporate memberships tend to be structured in a similar manner to family memberships (initiation fees and annual dues based on a number of members associated with a prospective company). Beyond, golf privileges, many clubs offer other amenities such as "fee-free" meeting rooms to corporate members.

Featured Clubs

Eastern Hills Country Club
Eastern Hills Country Club Garland, TX
Prairie Dunes Country Club
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South Bend Country Club
South Bend Country Club South Bend, IN
Ruby Hill Golf Club
Ruby Hill Golf Club Pleasanton, CA
Staley Farms Golf Club
Staley Farms Golf Club Kansas City, MO
The Woodlands Club
The Woodlands Club Falmouth, ME

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