Private club membership provides extra services, personal relationships and well-tended clubhouses, like this one at The Reserve, which you cannot find at most daily-fee clubs.
My friend Bob and I played Wintonbury Hills in Bloomfield, CT, last week, and I am happy to report that the municipal course, which Pete Dye designed for a $1 fee, is still a challenge, still in fine shape and still a great way to spend four hours. You can read my review of a year ago by clicking here.
There are many fine municipal and daily fee courses across the country
Let us say, for example, that you are looking for a home in the Myrtle Beach, SC, area. Of the approximately 120 golf courses within an hour of town, fewer than a dozen are truly private. One, The Reserve in Litchfield Beach, SC, is a beautifully appointed club with a grand clubhouse and sleek, pleasurable layout by Greg Norman. DeBordieu Colony, another private club, is just 15 minutes down Highway 17 from The Reserve; membership fees at DeBordieu top $50,000. The initiation fee for Reserve club membership is $32,000 (non-equity membership), with monthly dues per golfing couple of about $400. Assuming 10 years worth of play with a straight-line amortization of the $30,000 membership fee at $3,000 per year, as well as the $4,800 per year in dues, the annual outlay at The Reserve (cart fees excluded) would by about $8,000. Home prices inside the gated Reserve, by the way, start in the $600s and run into the millions.
Dozens of excellent daily fee courses within a few miles of The Reserve command average green fees of between $60 and $150, the higher ones for such well-regarded tracks as Caledonia Golf and Fish Club and The Founders Club, both just five minutes from The Reserve. A Myrtle Beach Passport card costs just $39 and provides discounts up to 40% off green fees at virtually all the area courses; any local resident is eligible to purchase and use the annual card. (Note: Many golf-rich areas provide such arrangements.)
Assuming the couple in our example at The Reserve lives there year round and plays golf on average three times per week (six rounds between them), or 312 times annually, their cost per round is just $25, comparatively a good deal. If they live at The Reserve half the year, then the benefit begins to narrow, as it does if only one spouse plays golf or if their combined rounds are less than the six per week. At one round per week, for example, or 50 per year, the per round cost at The Reserve would be $160, and the financial aspects of private club membership become a little more complicated. Keep in mind also that most higher end daily-fee courses include use of a golf cart in the fee.
Private club membership offers many intangible benefits, such as the ability to make strong personal associations with fellow members, planned social events that are typical of such a club, personal services and the ability to play without having to make advance tee times. As at the Cheers bar, it is also nice to go where everybody knows your name. But for those whose fixed incomes may not support an upward movement in dues and assessments that are always possible at a private club, daily fee golf at high-quality courses provides a viable alternative.
Caledonia Golf & Fish Club is one of the highest rated daily fee courses in America (according to the Zagat guide).