Tee times are going, going, gone.
With the number of golfers growing and Vegas tee times getting smaller/more expensive, I’ve had more than a few conversations about how to deal with the lack of tee times. Some people have mentioned Top Golf, RoboGolf, or 5 Iron as alternatives. Others have talked about road trips to SoCal, St. George, or Scottsdale to get a few rounds in. I’ve even seen a couple of guys switch to Pickleball.
One option that seems to be the most confusing is joining a club. What’s an initiation fee? Capital improvements? Mandatory tipping? Lots of questions this article will hopefully answer.
What is a club anyway?
Let’s start with the most basic question. What is a club? The short answer is that a Golf Club is a group of golfers that play at least one course regularly. It’s usually a little more complicated than that, as there are three main types of clubs. They are Social, Public, and Private.
aren’t part of a golf course; however, they bring golfers together to play. The best example of this here in Vegas is the Vegas Golf Network. No official golf course, just a group of people that play together regularly, are connected through social media, and have a love for the game. Social clubs usually have a schedule for each season, and the only thing you pay is a small initiation fee and entry fees/side game money for each event. Easy way to get guaranteed tee times.
Most public golf courses also offer memberships.
They range dramatically in price, with something like National going for 3K while Reflection and Rio go for around 6K. These price points can differ significantly, with it being cheaper the younger you are. Membership usually gives you unlimited golf. embers can typically book a week or more in advance of the general public, and members can play in weekly skins games. The disadvantage is once the tee sheet opens to the public, the tee times can be hard to get.
Private courses are what most people think of when you hear Club.
Some privates are semi-private clubs that are private most of the day and allow play at differing times. Pasatiempo is the most famous example. Another example is Barton Creek in Austin, which has multiple courses, each day allowing one to be played by the public. The vast majority of privates are truly private. The hallmark of private clubs is usually a faster pace of play and ease of getting tee times. From now on, this is what I’m referring to when I say Club.
So how much is this going to cost me?
Private clubs have numerous fees that all add up pretty quickly.
Initiation fee: This is the fee you pay to join the Club. n Vegas, the cheaper privates are around 10-20K, with Southern Highlands around 80K and Summit Club at 200K last time I checked. You never get this money back.
Dues: This is your monthly or yearly cost. Depending on age, these are $700 per month up to 2K
Cart Fees: Unlimited golf, yes, but if you want a cart, there may be a cart fee. $25 per round is the norm. You can prepay the year for $1200-$1500 to have a set cost.
Capital fees: If your Club is doing some renovation, those costs are passed onto the members as a monthly capital fee. New bunkers are nice, but that extra $100 per month isn’t.
Food Minimums: Plan on $100 or $200 per month. Alcohol is not included in this. If you like to get hammered on the course, make sure you eat food after because those beers don’t count.
Mandatory Tips: This one is deserved. However, most clubs add 18% to 22% to every food/drink you get.
Tournaments: I heard about those great Member/Member or Member/Guest tournaments; they are epic. hey also cost around $1500 to join.
Events: One of the best parts of the Club is spending time with the other members beyond golf. Clubs will organize various events such as tailgating, holiday parties, live music, wine tastings, etc.
MISC: Bag Storage, Locker Fee, Parking, Tips, and others are smaller fees that can add up.
Where is the value?
Some people will attempt to justify those costs by saying, I’ll play two times a week, 52 weeks a year, if I divide my costs by 104 rounds; that makes it a deal.
THIS. IS. WRONG.
You will be sick; you will take a vacation. Family/Friends will come to visit. You might want to take a break from Golf. Your job might change. Your non-member friends are going to want to play other courses. Making a dues payment isn’t bad when you play twice a week. If you’re home for two weeks with Covid, that payment stings. So why would anyone want to join a club?
The members of any club are where you find value.
This is true of social clubs like VGN all the way to Augusta. The course has to meet a minimum standard; however, you are getting more than the course or competitions is the interactions and comradery with the other members. Playing the same course, going to the same clubhouse, and having that after-round drink is a shared experience.
When you join a club, you belong to something.
You have a group that you play with. You have a bag tag that shows that to everyone. Just like Nations identify themselves through flags, your clubs’ logo shows what community you’re with. If you already have that group, you likely won’t find as much value in joining a club.
There is also value in exclusivity.
It’s cool to play courses other people can’t easily play. The pace of play is almost always faster. Tee sheets are usually not as full. here are discounts on soft goods and clubs. There is also a luxury component to it. People know your drink order when you walk in or can get your haircut at the Club right before your round.
What else do I need to know?
The Course: Good golf courses have different tee boxes and pin placements that keep the course interesting. That said, it’s still like your wife wearing different outfits. Jeans vs. dress makes it different, but it’s still basically the same. It’s okay to hate a hole; if you hate the course, even the best membership won’t help.
The Location: Southshore is my favorite course in Vegas. I’ll take the Southshore experience over any in Vegas. When I lived in Henderson, it was just close enough to let me get there in 20 min. Now that it’s 40 min away, the commute kept me from playing. If you don’t live close enough to play a quick nine, round trip in 2 hours, it will keep you from playing.
Guests: There is always an awkward moment when you invite people, and they wonder if you’re paying the guest fees for them. Get ahead of it and let people know what your expectations are. Some people are going to Venmo you instead of paying at the pro shop, and others will forget to pay, and you’ll only notice it when you get your monthly statement. Others you’ll pay for, and they didn’t want you to. Communication here is key.
Starting out: Knowing the value of a country club is the membership; once you join, play everything. Friday afternoon skins, jump on it. Sunday morning, big group, yes, please. Summer weekday series, yup, going to play that too. The way to get the most value is to meet the most amount of people. There is no better feeling than walking in with no tee time, seeing people you play regular games with, and jumping in with them.
The Staff: This one should be simple, the better you are to the staff, the more they will take care of you. Tipping is the best, but really just treating people well. I left my wallet after a skins game and had it returned to me with all the money in it. I had a staff member bring me a headcover they recognized as mine that I didn’t even realize I had lost. Some incredible people want to do a great job. Make it easy for them to do it.
Joining a club can be an absolutely rewarding experience where you meet lifelong friends. t can help your business by giving you access to an exclusive venue and potential clients. t can give you a great place for date night and activities for the whole family. f you’re reading this, golf has most likely had a major impact on your life. This is one more way to incorporate it.