Private Clubs RIP?

I don’t always read Geoff Schackelford but when I do it’s usually pretty good.  This is no exception, from yesterday:

Gary McCord is usually good copy and usually makes pretty good sense.  In his interview with Golf Magazine, he talks about how a lot of private clubs are dying out- his quote, excerpted from Geoff Schackelford’s website:

Golf is in a tenuous situation with the current socioeconomic climate. I’m at the end of the baby boomers. We supported all these clubs, and now there’s nobody to tap us on the shoulder and take over our memberships because the game is too expensive, takes too long, and is too hard. People can’t invest so much energy into something that’s not giving them much in return. So how do you fill these clubs that are being depleted? That’s a problem.

I’m not a boomer…I’m solidly a so-called Gen X in my early 40’s (I’m taking lessons on how to yell “get off my lawn!” and “you damn kids!” though…all part of the process).  I don’t have kids, and my family can be counted without needing to remove footwear.  I love to play golf (I did the Golfstyles “Solstice Survival” on two occasions…so I know what it’s like to play 54 holes in one day).  Joining a private club sounds intriguing, but honestly the options are, at best, limited.  Howard County options are laughable and trucking down to your country club havens like Bethesda or up to Baltimore is the very opposite of my idea of a relaxing weekend.

Plus, I don’t want to pony up a massive joining fee and be relegated to the dregs of preferable tee times.  I’ve already seen the “old boys club” in action over at Hobbits Glen (and my two visits were, to put it politely, very underwhelming).  What I want, more than anything, is pure golf.  I already pay for a gym membership that has a slew of locations, pools, and classes.  I’d like a standing tee time of sorts, and I’d like to be able to get around fairly quickly and play with golfers who share these views.

I’ve visited private clubs on several occasions.  I’m not a rube or a hayseed.  If you met me you’d probably (I hope) find me to be a fairly well-mannered, polite, decent guy.  Maybe a mensch of sorts.  I’m middle-aged, and yet- my experience in these private clubs has been more than a bit underwhelming.  Maybe because I don’t roll in like Judge Smails and make references to dreary old Manhattan I don’t have people waiting on me hand and foot (although that would creep me out to no end).  Part of it is that I’ve come of age in a “DIY” “self serve” world.

What would I want from a private club?  A minimal initiation fee, less focus on dining and social activities and more focus/emphasis on golf.  A course that challenges but one that makes for fast play (the 7500 yard tracks aren’t helping).  Good reciprocal play (I don’t expect to get into Augusta National but to quote Dr. Evil “throw me a frickin’ bone here people).

They reference the Palm Springs area (been there several times).  Not sure and myself and my Lovely Suitress would want to retire there if that’s ever an option (pretty sure a bit further west and more tropical would top the list) but we’ve enjoyed our visits and would go back quite happily.  Again, it’s all about value and what you get for your money.

What do you think?  Are private clubs dinosaurs in waiting?  Do they need reinvention?  What would you want from a private golf club?

1 Comment

  1. Dollars aside (initiation, monthly minimums, cart fees, et al.), the major discouraging factor is “same old, same old.” With the costs, “members” usually feel like they’re cheating themselves if they play somewhere else. So, they don’t travel well … and week in, week out, they’re at the same layout with the same guys. The players — and the game — can get pretty stale and formulaic that way — no spontaneity or “let’s try something new.” On the other hand, retirement and (golf relocation) changes the whole private club dynamic.
    BTW, seems to your Hobbits Glen assessment rings true for weekend golf; play’s much better — and more fun — on weekday mornings …at least for us retired golfers.

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