In a recent report from, ngf.org (National Golf Foundation) on private country clubs in the U.S. they found a drop in the number of private courses over the past 5 years. Unfortunately, rather than closing their doors, the majority of these private clubs simply convert over to becoming public facilities and never tell their members they have converted.
In case you are one of millions of private country club members here are a few ways to recognize you no longer belong to a top-tier private club:
The Dress Code is Waved.
First, you will see people are wearing collared shirts that look more like Hockey Jerseys and they are not tucked in. As for slacks, the attire on the course has turned to cargo shorts with pockets large enough to hold three dozen yellow Top Flites. As far as headwear, you will see a long eared toboggan cap or a straight brim golf hat worn backward with unreadable symbols posted on them. If you are seeing these individuals placed in your group, your private club may have turned to a daily fee course.
Tennis Shoe Dudes
Next, if the fellow you’re paired up with isn’t even wearing a collared shirt, has clubs of the yard sale variety and wearing shoes more suitable for the tennis courts than the golf course, you may have been paired with a Non-member. You may also get a clue if your playing partner is a “daily fee’er” if his course etiquette is atrocious and on nearly every hole you must help him find his ball in the woods. You may also have to take over the cart driving duties due to his consumption of cheap beer. If this is the case, your private club may now be a public golf course.
Lines At The Tee-Boxes
You can bet the private club has gone public if there are three to four groups lined up on the first tee and the starter is requesting everyone to go ahead and tee off even though the group in front is only 150yds away. When the beverage cart is emptied before it get’s to the second hole is also another sign the private golf club is now public.
Pace of Play is Nonexistent
Mostly due to the before mentioned heavy beer drinking and lines at the Tee-Box, a 2.5 – 3 hours round of golf is now well over 4- and even 5-hours. If you are experiencing this long of a round of golf you can bet your private golf club has gone public.
Reasons for the Change
Private Clubs, like any other business directly associated with Golf, are struggling. The culture of golf is changing and the younger generations are not yet understanding the benefits of being a member of a private club. This means most private clubs are not able to maintain the number of members they need to meet their budgets. To subsidize the shortage they open the tee sheet first to guests of members and then once the guest of a guest wants to play it is just a short time before they private club just opens the tee sheet to daily fees.
Since the public courses are drying up due to cities budgets not being able to support their muni golf courses it makes for fewer and fewer golf courses for non-private club members to play. This shortage of golf courses funnel all of the golfers who have yet given up on playing golf due to it’s over the top high expense to get in line at the remaining muni golf courses. When a private club opens their tee sheets those waiting two hours to play at the muni are now ponying up the fees to play at a private club where they think the pace of play will be better. It is just a short time before the Private Club’s are seen as just a high-end golf course open to the public.
If you are a member of a private club and you see any of this happening, you can be certain your private club is now a public golf course. Next step is yours.
Let me know how I can help.