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B.Boston

Thinking of going (semi-)Private... Pros and Cons?

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Hey Spies,

 

I’m hoping to get some feedback from those of you that have experience being members at a private or semi-private club.

 

There is a course near me that offers a good price on memberships for those under 35. I would not get voting privileges, but get all other benefits the club offers.

 

I am considering this because I like the course, and it works out to be less expensive than just the rounds I play in my league. I could play in their league and tournaments and they also have a practice area that I would have access too.

 

It’s closer to home than my league course too!

 

So, from that list it sounds like a great deal for me... what am I missing? Anyone here ever been a member and regretted it? What sort of things should I be looking for?

 

Also looking for a spot where we can have some general private vs public discussion. I think this is a good spot for it, but Mods feel free to move if I should have placed this in a different spot in the forums.

 

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I hate to give a cop out answer but I think it comes down to the individual. I travel a ton so the league at my club is not an option. The guys I know that play in it love it. The under 35 guys at my club love it because it’s a great deal. The guys turning 35 tell me they probably won’t rejoin because of the bump in price, family, no longer a tax write off, etc...The older retired guys love it because it is their life. They are there every day and that is where all their friends are.

For me at 51 I’m glad I belong because I can just show up and play at pretty much any time. Pace of play is way better than public. The tournaments are a blast and the people are good. I play more golf than ever because it is easy when compared to public.

With that being said I find myself getting a little bored playing the same course the majority of the time. I feel like I should play when I really don’t feel like it because I’m paying for it. I have a guy trip to Florida next week and for the first time I’m a little meh about the trip because I’ve played so much this year. But I can’t imagine leaving the club either because the social aspect is great, the convenience can’t be beat and it is great taking my family there for dinner overlooking the course.

I say go for it but be prepared to be spoiled by access you will have to golf.


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I'd do it. I was fortunate to have a public course offer a 2 year deal last year for an unbelievably low price and I jumped on it. But, when the membership expires at the end of next year, I can't see myself not joining another club. In fact, I'm already looking at memberships for various clubs now and I hate to say it but Firestone is looking like the best value at the moment.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Wedgie said:

With that being said I find myself getting a little bored playing the same course the majority of the time.

This is my problem. I really do enjoy my home track, but I also relish the challenge of learning and adapting to new ones. Plus, playing multiple courses is obviously going to be a good way to make sure your game travels which is important if you like to take trips or play tournaments.

Edited by TR1PTIK
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I went private this year and it has been great. Similar to you under 35 so no voting rights but less total cost.  I have been getting out more and also jumping on for quick 9’s as I can. The club I am at is also part of a network system so that opens up the opportunity to play courses while traveling too. All that said I am not sure that I am really saving on my price per round since it is a bit expensive. In the past when I have played a lot it was on a public course. I would say the main difference is how busy it gets in the summer for me. The private course is more predictable while the public could be under 4 hours or almost 6 depending on the day. 

Make and make sure there is not an up-charge for the league as some places you need to pay extra. 

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I belong to a private club - no voting right since it's not an 'equity' type club (no ownership position).. Since my wife and I are retired, we play frequently, at least 4-5 times a week which includes league play. We pay an annual fee for golf so I can go out anytime even when the course or pro shop are closed.  Our course is challenging for us and differences in weather can really change it up a bit (our course is on Lake Erie).  Perhaps if we were scratch golfers we'd find it boring - but then maybe not.  Another big advantage is I never have to look far for a playing partner(s).  Most nights I'll get a group text from guys looking for partners and vice versa.   Also our group of guys has an informal weekly road trip to different courses. 

However, at the end of the day it comes down to two things:

1. Economics - does it makes sense given the # of times you'll play and it fits within your budget. As many times as we play through out the season - April through November, I figured each round costs $13. including our trail fee. Our unlimited play package also includes the driving range,  2 practice holes and a waiver of entry fees for club events (championships). 

Note; When you look at the fee structure find out if there are additional charges; league, events, etc. Since our club is a combination boating, social and golf, we have two golf fee structures: one is per round and the other is unlimited play. 

 2. Looking to expand your network of like minded golfing friends/partners. Both my wife and I have developed lots of friendship that, while centered around golf, extend beyond it. 

Hope this helps. 

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If you’re planning on spending X amount on dues, plan on 25-30% extra to include incidentals. 

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When I think about memberships it usually boils down to the economics. How do the dues compare price-wise to how much I expect to play. Most courses set their dues at about equal to one round per week. If you anticipate playing more than that, I'd consider it a PRO, if you play less then price is a CON.

The other benefit of membership at a private or semi-private club is access for practice. If there is a quality practice area I'd always call that a PRO.

Personally, I chose just the practice membership at my 'home' course because of the quality of the practice areas and it leaves me free to play various courses. 

The con side of a membership depends on how much you like to play a variety of courses. 

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If you can afford it and it fits socially, then go for it.

Let’s see, what’s not to like?

  • usually much better practice facilities 
  • pace of play is better than public = by a great deal near me
  • tournaments and competitions are lots of fun
  • locker rooms, bag storage, attendants
  • demo clubs from pro shop
  • get to test all the new stuff when the OEMs come to do demo days
  • staff are super focused on getting you whatever you need (hustling for tips, but never any sense of entitlement to one)
  • usually nice restaurant and grill room
  • spontaneous access - you can usually just show up and play

Potential cons, lots of which are related to having paid up front and being locked in

  • Course maintenance issues for any number of reasons (weather, personnel, etc.)
  • Add on fees (these should be anticipated going in)
  • changes to membership - groups coming or going changing the morale or comeraderie of the membership
  • if an 18 hole club, a sense of lack of variety

i was fortunate to be able to go private several years ago, and I have loved it.  Definitely not a value proposition in terms of $/round, but I appreciate all the extras enough for it to be worth it.

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Lots of great feedback so far!  To address some of the questions that have been coming up:

1) Economics of it:  Based on this year's rate I'd be paying less for the year than I do for just my league rounds (about 20, 9 hole rounds) at the other course's league rate.  As far as I know, the only additional fee is that I can either get a season cart rental, or pay $10 per round if I want a cart.  This course is VERY walkable and since you're allowed to walk during league play, I probably would. (maybe I need to factor in the price of a nice push cart....)

1b) As far as I know there is no longer a restaurant or proshop minimum, but I would have to verify that.

2) playing other courses:  I have to agree that I enjoy playing many of the courses around.  However, the majority of my rounds come from my week night league.  If i replaced that with a membership here I would be more likely to jump out for a quick round (even if its just 3-4 holes as time permits because it is closer to home and could serve as good practice).  A membership here would not stop me from playing elsewhere on weekends for those rounds.

3) Pace of play:  I hadn't really thought of this, but now that it's been brought up the two times I've played at that course this year we played 9 holes with 3 or 4 people in under 2 hours.  I've had some league matches that we were waiting on each an every shot that lasted nearly 3.5 hours (for 9 holes!!!).  This might be a benefit I had not thought of.

4) It is a 9 hole course, which is fine with me since the majority of my rounds are 9 hole from league play, and it reduces the potential maintenance issues and costs associated with additional land.

5)  Here are some of the benefits:

  • Unlimited Golf for Full Members
  • Club Tournaments & Social Events
  •  Impeccably Manicured Course
  • Men and Women Member Leagues
  • Use of Practice Facility
  • Preferred Tee Times

I requested additional information, so hopefully I'll know soon about additional fees or potential adjustments.  I also found out they use a payment plan too, so I could pay for the membership over the course of the season (I think 3 payments).

Quick math shows my league only play costing about $700 ($35 per round), this under 35 membership was less than $600 for the year this year.  It also helps that the finance committee (Read: My Wife) Approves of the idea of the membership (She's great, I know!).

 

 

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Sounds like you’ve found a situation that fits your needs, and with it being non-equity, you have no long term commitment. 

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Sounds like you’ve found a situation that fits your needs, and with it being non-equity, you have no long term commitment. 

 

Yeah, I like the idea that it’s something I could walk away from the following year without really losing anything other than my spot in the current league.

 

 

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2 hours ago, B.Boston said:

Lots of great feedback so far!  To address some of the questions that have been coming up:

1) Economics of it:  Based on this year's rate I'd be paying less for the year than I do for just my league rounds (about 20, 9 hole rounds) at the other course's league rate.  As far as I know, the only additional fee is that I can either get a season cart rental, or pay $10 per round if I want a cart.  This course is VERY walkable and since you're allowed to walk during league play, I probably would. (maybe I need to factor in the price of a nice push cart....)

1b) As far as I know there is no longer a restaurant or proshop minimum, but I would have to verify that.

2) playing other courses:  I have to agree that I enjoy playing many of the courses around.  However, the majority of my rounds come from my week night league.  If i replaced that with a membership here I would be more likely to jump out for a quick round (even if its just 3-4 holes as time permits because it is closer to home and could serve as good practice).  A membership here would not stop me from playing elsewhere on weekends for those rounds.

3) Pace of play:  I hadn't really thought of this, but now that it's been brought up the two times I've played at that course this year we played 9 holes with 3 or 4 people in under 2 hours.  I've had some league matches that we were waiting on each an every shot that lasted nearly 3.5 hours (for 9 holes!!!).  This might be a benefit I had not thought of.

4) It is a 9 hole course, which is fine with me since the majority of my rounds are 9 hole from league play, and it reduces the potential maintenance issues and costs associated with additional land.

5)  Here are some of the benefits:

  • Unlimited Golf for Full Members
  • Club Tournaments & Social Events
  •  Impeccably Manicured Course
  • Men and Women Member Leagues
  • Use of Practice Facility
  • Preferred Tee Times

I requested additional information, so hopefully I'll know soon about additional fees or potential adjustments.  I also found out they use a payment plan too, so I could pay for the membership over the course of the season (I think 3 payments).

Quick math shows my league only play costing about $700 ($35 per round), this under 35 membership was less than $600 for the year this year.  It also helps that the finance committee (Read: My Wife) Approves of the idea of the membership (She's great, I know!).

 

 

You've answered your own questions - go for it. 

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I think you could ask 100 people, and get 100 different answers and feedback as to why someone chooses or not chooses to get a membership at a club.  Part of this I think is that everyone's lifestyle and golf circumstances vary not only personally, but geographically.

I'll simply give you my situation, and let you take from this whatever you wish, or none of it at all.

I joined a club in July (Kinderlou Forest) that is actually in another state, about an hour from my house, that I specifically joined to play in their dog fight on Saturdays.  I say in another state, because I am about 10 minutes from the Georgia state line, so different states in this area (Tallahassee) are meaningless for the most part.

Several reasons why I choose to drive over an hour once a week (each way) just to play a round of golf.  First off, it's $130 a month for a golf course that could host a PGA Tour event tomorrow.  The greenskeeper at this club is given a blank check and spends as much as he wants on maintenance at this course.  The greens are always impeccable and stimping faster then pretty much any other course I ever play.  The rough resembles what you saw on TV at East Lake, where when the pros hit it there, they were left to wedge it out as their only option.  So in short, the conditions of this course are always phenomenal from tee to green.  The course itself was designed by Davis Love III, and every hole provides a unique challenge, and no two holes are the same.  One of the best layouts I've ever played.

I get a non-resident membership at that price, and pay cart fees of $22 every time I play.  You can do the math if you want, but it's about $50 a round when I just play on Saturdays.

Why don't I join a club closer to my house that I can play more often you ask?  I'm so glad you asked me that.  There's a swanky private club 5 minutes from my house that wants $350 a month just for the privilege of showing up every month.  Then they charge you cart fees, and even a walking fee, along with a food and drink minimum.  I did the math and if I played this even 10 times a month I was looking at over $500 a month.  Well, I just can't afford that.  One other private course close by is about $250 a month, plus your cart fees and all of that, but it's the same deal, when you start factoring in all of the cart fees, etc.  And that course is having legal and financial issues, so I didn't want to get involved in a club that may not even be in existence in 6 months.

The only other semi private or private courses in town that are options are just as expensive, and not as close to home for me to even consider.  One course on the south part of town is jam packed right now, because FSU's Seminole course is still closed for renovation and they are getting all of the business from what used to go there.  It would be a 5 hour round every time, and I've driven by there after work, and there are always 6 guys lined up on the first tee to play there.  So a membership there would be a waste of money, because it's basically like a muni, and overbooked with dudes all over the place.

The one public muni in town is so packed right now with Seminole closed that I can't even walk on as a single on the weekend to try and tee it up.  They bluntly told me that without a tee time of at least a twosome that they wouldn't let me out to play on weekends.

In short, golf in Tallahassee is either too expensive, or a five hour round, or both, at least compared to driving an hour to play a golf course that is in better shape than any other course within 200 miles of here (and yes, that includes TPC Sawgrass, which is within that radius).

All that said, there are some side benefits to my membership at Kinderlou that I hadn't even factored in when I joined.  First off, I played in my first Club Championship a month ago, and that was a great experience.  I've played in several other member tournaments and had a great time.  And I'm now part of a Saturday morning core group of golfers that are at my level (6 handicap) or better, so I am constantly playing against golfers of my skill level or better, which can only help improve my game.  Walking on to the local muni or just going out a single and teeing it up at a public course, generally speaking you are paired with golfers in the 15+ handicap range that don't respect the rules, have any sense of etiquette, or care about pace of play.

I am very thankful for the privilege of playing Kinderlou at least once a week, and I gladly drive the hour each way, once a week to play it.  And once I get my work situation worked out to where I have a solid backup, I plan on taking off on Fridays to play then to.

But in general, I think regardless of where you are considering joining as a member, as long as you can get a normal game with other members, that to me greatly increases the value of your membership, because sure, I don't mind playing practice rounds by myself, but it's the social aspect with the other members that truly makes any club a much better experience then just taking your chances with public golf courses.

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GSwag nice to see you!

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you are paired with golfers in the 15+ handicap range that don't respect the rules, have any sense of etiquette, or care about pace of play.


GSwag - great post. Only one 'bone of contention' lumping all of us higher handicappers into your statement. At our private club our league play includes guys from a broad range of handicaps. Regardless of the handicap we're all pretty fastidious about rules, fixing ball marks, fill divots on the fairway, etc. and perhaps that's the difference between joining a club and being respectful of the property and playing public courses




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30 minutes ago, tony@CIC said:


GSwag - great post. Only one 'bone of contention' lumping all of us higher handicappers into your statement. At our private club our league play includes guys from a broad range of handicaps. Regardless of the handicap we're all pretty fastidious about rules, fixing ball marks, fill divots on the fairway, etc. and perhaps that's the difference between joining a club and being respectful of the property and playing public courses




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For most the season I was a 30 handicap, yes I need to practice my short game more, and I play most weekends with a group that includes a 2.4, 6.8, and 16. We move fast to keep pace of play up and all respect the course. I would hope this type of play is not only found at a privet course (currently what I play on) 

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45 minutes ago, tony@CIC said:


GSwag - great post. Only one 'bone of contention' lumping all of us higher handicappers into your statement. At our private club our league play includes guys from a broad range of handicaps. Regardless of the handicap we're all pretty fastidious about rules, fixing ball marks, fill divots on the fairway, etc. and perhaps that's the difference between joining a club and being respectful of the property and playing public courses




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I play with High handicappers all the time. My Saturday group has a 14 & 18 and they are fine. However I do get the point he made as I have seen it many times. Just shouldn't have been lumped together like that. 

9 minutes ago, the_hammer said:

For most the season I was a 30 handicap, yes I need to practice my short game more, and I play most weekends with a group that includes a 2.4, 6.8, and 16. We move fast to keep pace of play up and all respect the course. I would hope this type of play is not only found at a privet course (currently what I play on) 

Unfortunately it is much more common to see the direct opposite at public courses, I have seen it at privates as well but members are able to police some of it. As with everything people just do what they want to do regardless of how it affects anyone else. 

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I think it will come down to when their league plays, and how often I'll be able to get there realistically.  Thanks everyone for your feedback.  I'm sure I'll update when the time comes!

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