So you've arrived at the point in your game where you want to play more, meet other golfers and have access to better tee times, facilities and fairways...it's time to join a golf club! Before you drive to the closest one or sign up because a friend said so, play these 18 holes to properly evaluate the club you have in mind.
Believe it or not, there is a difference. Country clubs tend to have a lot more to do than just play golf. Swimming, tennis, fitness, dining, parties, networking and more can be part of the country club setting. A golf club tends to be strictly golf with a high emphasis on member tournaments, outings, instruction and practice facilities.
#2.Is the golf course player-friendly - can all skill levels be accommodated? Whether you are a new golfer or an advanced player, the last thing you want to do is join a club with an impossible golf course. Imagine playing the same course each week and not having any fun. Think about, too, who you will want to play with. If your family, friends or co-workers enjoy playing with you but the course isn't very friendly, it could be a challenge to get them out there.
#3.Are there more than three tee boxes per hole? This is a good way to note firsthand a course's playability. Limited tee boxes mean limited options for the average golfer. Courses who cater to all skill levels tend to have at least 5 teeing points on every hole.
#4.Check the forward tees - are they randomly placed just to be closer to the hole or was some thought given to the shot required?
The forward tees are the closest to the hole. You can play from any set of tees you like, but there is a tendency among beginner to intermediate amateur women to play the "reds," which on most courses are the forward tees. You know a course doesn't care much about women when these tees are placed behind trees or way off to the side with no real thought given to the shot it creates. If they are not clearly marked or as well-manicured as the other tee boxes, don't join that club. You are an afterthought.
#5.How many "forced carries" are there throughout the course? So many beautiful golf courses are great to walk but downright upsetting to hit a ball around. A forced carry is a wide ditch or patch of wildflowers or shrubbery or large pond that crosses the fairway, forcing you to hit your tee shot or approach shot over it. Count how many tee shots will require you to hit the ball well over these obstacles before finding the fairway. If you can't hit the ball in the air far enough to clear them but you really love the club, stock up on balls.
#6.How many "open greens" are there on the course? Similar to the forced carry concept, how many greens have no hazards in front of them?
#7.Does the club have a ladies only day or ladies tournaments? Ask the pro for the golf shop calendar and count how many events are exclusively for women or include women golfers.
#8.Is the club family-oriented - are children welcome? Depending on whether or not you have children, this will be important to you. Consider your extended family as well, if you plan to invite them to accompany you to a club function or to play golf.
#9.Are there other amenities besides golf: pool, fitness, spa, massage, holiday parties, fine dining, etc.? Even the serious golfer wants to get the most for their money. Make sure you are comparing golf balls to golf balls when evaluating clubs.
#10.Do you already have friends that are members? This can come in handy when a sponsor is required for joining a private club. Often times, you must be recommended for membership by a current member. Joining a club with familiar faces makes sense.
#11.How far is the club from your home? Do you want to get away or really get away when you play golf? If you're not big on driving more than 30 minutes in any direction, that narrows your options. Having the club close is a convenience many families enjoy for instant entertainment and relaxation.
#12.Do the fees fit your budget? Not all clubs are priced out of this world, but if it seems too expensive, it probably is. Make sure you are ready to commit to an initiation fee or stock purchase, plus monthly dues. In addition, you will see charges on your bill every month for dining, cart fees, assessments and so forth. Ask if there are annual locker room fees or driving range fees. Be clear on these before signing on the dotted line.
#13.What is your goal for joining? If you just want to play more, weigh it against hitting your public course more frequently. If you want to meet new people and enjoy all the amenities a private club has to offer, you could be ready! As a business professional keep in mind the amount of time you have available to play a round of golf. Typically, a public course is just that...public. Public courses and high end daily fee courses are there to make money and fill as many tee times as possible in a day, which can equal slow play. Ask the club pro what a typical tee sheet looks like in a day during the week and on the weekends. You may find that you can complete a round in 3 -3 1/2 hours (or well under four) most days at a private course.
#14.Can you play the course a few times before joining? Take a tour of the facilities and play a round of golf with the Membership Director. Play again with friends who may already belong. Ask to play on a league day with the club's lady members.
#15.Find out the club's tee time policies - what are the restrictions, if any? Talk to the pro shop about who can play when. Some clubs do not allow women or juniors on the course certain mornings and weekend tee times. This may not bother you when first joining, but if your goal is to play more and get better, you might find this limiting. Also find out if the course has a "starter" on the first tee, or if it is more casual in that you can just come out to the club and get on easily.
#16.Ask about cart fees and caddie rules. Joining a club generally means playing the course is part of your membership fee. Carts are usually an extra charge and caddies most definitely are, including tip. Keep this in mind when making your tee times so you understand the charges when your bill comes.
#17.Be sure to understand the club's guest and kids' play policies. As a member, you enjoy many privileges. Your guests are not members, so there are often charges associated with bringing in guests. Some clubs allow you to bring the same guest out for golf a few times at no charge, but there is usually a cap on that. Leaving kids' unattended is a no-no; familiarize yourself with where children can play and if the club has a day care staff, explore the possibilities.
#18.If I don't like the club after I've joined, can I just walk away? If you resign, it's possible you will have to continue paying dues until a new member joins in your place. Talk to the club about their cancellation terms and get to know their team, facility, other members, etc. as best you can before committing to membership. That is the best way to ensure you've found the club and community that's right for you.