Monday, July 31, 2006

If I Founded a Private Golf Club

My course would have great contours and minimal emmenities

If I had the money, I would love to build a golf club. First off if I were to build a course it would be public, but I’m going to offer up my version of how I would set up a my own club through all my experiences with private clubs.

The golf course has to take priority over every facet of the club, since it’s the reason people join. It must be a great golf course that is enjoyable to play each and every day. My model would be the National Golf Links of America which is full of limitless options, playability and enough challenge even for the better player. The National is a course where you would be as happy at 20 as you would at 70.

There should be no tee times. This eliminates certain groups controlling key times and promotes a more social atmosphere of waiting and “finding” a game. The course will have no cart paths although carts will be available to those with a doctor’s note. Ideally a real honest youth caddy program would be established. They will be juniors who will be offered access to all facilities, have lessons offered twice a week by the professional staff, and once a month receive a short lecture from “a member” to help them gain important life skills for their future (like understanding compound interest). I’ve seen this work extremely well in other areas and wonder why this hasn’t come into golf. The membership will be encouraged to interact with the staff and visa versa. My favourite club to work at actively encourages this policy and it makes for a wonderful place to be. They have almost no staff or membership turnover – not hard to figure out why.

The clubhouse should be small and understated. There should be a pro shop, a place to get a burger and a beer and nice locker facilities – that’s it. The showers must have the Merion style waterfall heads, if you’ve experienced them you’ll understand why. There should be no dining room, since they can’t compete with restaurants, and lose money for the club. The food should be good, but I’ve never seen the value in a chef and a menu. There should be no outside events on the course or in the clubhouse. There should be no workout facilities, curling rink, tennis counts or pool - you belong to play golf. By doing this the clubhouse will make money or the prices can be kept very reasonable.

The club will have full practice facilities including a short game facility and a wildly rolling green like the putting course at St. Andrews. There will be no shuttling of players, golf bags or anything else back and forth; you will have to carry your own bag if you want to go somewhere.

Finally the structure of the club is important too. There will be a board and they will only make decisions on financial and clubhouse issues. There will only be one committee, the green’s committee, which will deal only on issues related to the course. In my version of things the superintendent will have the final say on everything but budget. His job is up for review after each contract so he has enough pressure already without facing micromanagement.

While I would keep the rules to a readable two page document with simple rules of decorum, I would insist upon two items. One that allows the board to pay a member back at any point if he has become a detriment to the club, and the second being no changes can be made without the input of the architect.


dave k said...


I asked a question along these lines the day we played Allandale (ie. could a no frills private club exist in this market?) I would be interested to discuss *hypothetically* the financial model of such a place the next time we meet.

dave k

WayneK said...

What is the closest thing to this in Canada? The closest that I have seen is Redtail - with the exception of the junior program and caddies and perhaps the lack of playability for older/junior members but that could be fixed with forward tees.

Ian Andrew said...


It's a sure thing, the numbers are even reasonable.


Yes, most of the model is there at Red Tail although the course does not fit my "playability" model at all.

Anonymous said...

Where do I sign to join?

What a great idea. Especially the clubhouse. I fear our course is building a new facility to create dining space and other "extras."

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