Tips for joining a country club
Independent travel tips for the professional at Leisure
Janet and I have joined several country clubs over the years, and there are some
important things to consider when joining any country club. We hate
showoffs and pretense, and all we want from a country club is good golfing and
“real” people. North Carolina has some of the best country clubs in the world,
and we had a bewildering array of choices.
Most all country clubs have an application processes and they commonly conduct a
background investigation, accessing your work and financial history. In
addition, many country clubs screen potential members for grace and charm to
ensure that don't accept new members who will not fit-in with the existing
Remember, country clubs are private clubs, and they can reject
applications for any reason, or no reason whatsoever.
Over the years I’ve been invited to play (as a guest) at a wide range of country
clubs, from some of the most prestigious country clubs, to good Ole Boy redneck
Some country clubs consider more than your pocketbook!
Even if I had more money than Bill Gates, I would not pay $100,000 to join and
$50,000 in yearly fees. Sure, it’s prestigious to belong to a high-class country
club, but I have no need to show off to anyone, I just want to golf. For those
shopping for country clubs, here are my notes. I categorize country clubs into
two tiers, with four distinct types of clubs:
Posh country clubs - Posh country clubs fall into two categories, Old
Money clubs and country clubs that cater to the Nuevo Riche. These
clubs are quite luxurious, and men’s room of the swanky country clubs has
fake French attendants in tuxedos with a towel hanging over their forearm.
They have shelves of stink-pretty cologne and the attendants fawn all over
you, offering to help you with everything, short of shaking your wiener for
Working class country clubs - Laymen country clubs are less
ostentatious and are geared toward golf lovers and both blue-collar and
professionals alike, essentially anyone who must work for a living.
These country clubs cater to business executives, and blue-collar workers.
Within the choices of country clubs, we see differences in both price and
amenities. I've categorized country clubs into these specific areas:
Old Money country clubs - Very selective, based on heritage, not
Nouveau riche country clubs - Show-off clubs, gaudy and pretentious.
Executive country clubs - Made for working professionals, very nice
Working class country clubs - Made for the golf lover, no pretense or
Now, it important to note that people do not always congregate with their fellow
classes, and you will find millionaires in the working class clubs.
The “Olde-Money” Country clubs
These are old clubs where your grandparents are more important that your
financial status, country clubs gear toward the idle rich.
Join fee: $500,000 - $1,000,000
Yearly dues: $100,000 - $300,000
Amenities: Five-star restaurant, wine cellar, polo
Downsides: Snobby, formal, cliquish
It’s funny, the Old-Money country club members are remarkably unpretentious,
nice people who have no need to show-off, and they often exclude the
newly-minted zillionaires from their clubs, and for very good reasons. These are
clubs with strict membership requirements, and include members of the Robber
Baron descendents like the Getty’s, DuPont’s and Rockefeller, (but not
Carnegie’s as they have no money left). The only outsiders allowed to join these
clubs are the “novelty” members, including the occasional politician or movie
The “nouveau riche” Country clubs
This class of country club is geared towards the "New Money", from dot-com
zillionaires to movie stars and drug lords, all it takes in lots and lots of
Join fee: $100,000 - $250,000
Yearly dues: $30,000 - $200,000
Amenities: Five-star restaurant, wine cellar
Downsides: Pretentious, over-the-top, gaudy
These clubs will take anybody with the money to pay the fees, and they are
populated with many folks who only want the status of membership, not the golf.
There are many derogatory terms for the Nuevo-Riche such as “Beverly
Hillbillies” and “Bel-Arabs”, and I’ve
noticed that, by and large, newly wealthy people have a compulsion to display
their wealth via ostentatious and obscene displays.
Also, may of the newly-rich will
build their own golf courses, perhaps in conjunction with their friends.
At the end of each year, the costs are tallied and divided between the members.
BTW, an 18 hole golf course can be created for as little as $20,000,000 and a
nice clubhouse costs $5,000,000.
Executive country clubs
Executive country clubs are geared towards working professionals (physicians,
lawyers, businessmen) and tend to be priced accordingly:
Join fee: $5,000 - $80,000
Yearly dues: $6,000 - $50,000
Amenities: Indoor restaurant, wines with corks
Downsides: Retired professionals
This working-class of country club is populated by first generation successful
people, mostly businessmen, corporate executives (country clubs fees are tax
deductible to a corporation), plus sundry lawyers and physicians. This class of
country clubs include the “community” clubs and local clubs that have high fees
to keep out the riff-raff. Our favorite examples of the executive class
country clubs include
The Broadmoor country club - Nice, not not pretentious
Working class country clubs
These are the least expensive and pretentious of the country clubs, those that
cater to those who really love golf and have no need for the amenities of the
classier country clubs:
Join fee: none
Yearly dues: $1,200 - $5,000
Amenities: Snack bar with hot dogs and beer
Downsides: Open to the public
These are the most common country clubs, and for what they lack in terms of fine
dining and amenities, they make-up for with a lack of pretense.
In sum, country clubs are organized according to their relative costs and
amenities, but the upwardly-mobile will have a hard time getting accepted into
an old money club. For the rest of us, the choice of country club is
limited only by the depth of your pockets.