Why would anyone join a golf club in 2020?

John Craven

Carl Weathers talks to Adam Sandler in a scene from the film 'Happy Gilmore', 1996. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

There was an interesting story out of England where a member of a golf club was reportedly kicked out of said golf club for playing too much golf. On a side note, I was kicked out of an Albertsons on a J1 in California for eating too many free samples of chicken wings so naturally, the story resonated with me, but I’ll get back to that summer in Orange County later.

Sunningdale Golf Club, one of the most exclusive 18-hole haunts in the United Kingdom where 007 himshelf, Sean Connery plays as a member, is being sued by John Cawood who claims to have been given the boot for teeing up more than 30 times this year. I know what you’re thinking, 30 rounds in a year is a modest number, but there’s more at play here than Mr. Cawood’s claims.

You see, Cawood was an overseas member playing at a discounted rate at Sunningdale, a course dripping with prestige and costing an eye watering £60,000 to join. The full annual membership at Sunningdale is said to be £3,750, three times the cost of Cawood’s overseas price. Apparently, Cawood only frequents the UK for three months every year to golf and it was around now that the elitism I had swallowed for four paragraphs of that report tickled my gag reflex and made me nauseous.


So, rather than focus this article on a bunch of blazers suing each other over who’s monocle’s the most whopper, I thought I’d ask the question, why join a golf club next year?

Unlike some golf commentators, if I can call myself that, I wouldn’t be of the opinion that nomad golfers are parasites on the game. In fact, my experience working in golf operations in Ireland and Australia would suggest the opposite. I was told that you only wanted to see members once a year – when their subscriptions were due – with tee sheets grateful for the glut of cash green fees brought to the table. It makes sense – a regular punter off the street playing full whack plus lunch for a hit on a quiet Monday is much more beneficial than a club relic rocking in for a quick nine without paying the clubhouse a visit. However, I don’t think one extreme could exist without the other so let’s hope we land on some balance when weighing up our options for next year.

The most obvious consideration here is cost. How much golf can you reasonably expect to play each year against the price of the annual sub. Golf once a fortnight divided by a €600 annual fee equals €23 a round. Bargain! Plus, depending on the calibre of club you join, there could be numerous member only privileges adding to the value after that. You will have the opportunity to bring guests to the club, member’s discounts on everything from green fees for friends to lunch for business associates while many subscription packages will even put money behind the bar in your name. But that’s not all.

If you’re competitive, a golf membership allows you to submit three cards, record your average score to par and create and retain a handicap to constantly gauge your progress against the game of golf. You can test yourself in midweek and weekend competitions throughout the year and when that goes awry, you can build a relationship with your very own PGA professional situated behind the golf shop desk to support your every need – from lessons, to equipment advice, club-fitting, regripping, counselling, whatever.

Sure, depending on where you join, there’s a high possibility you’ll encounter a fossil in a dusty suit spouting archaic rules from the rafters but away from the Clandestine committee meetings, there’s craic to be had too. You’re never too old to add to your inner circle of friends and given the pace of modern existence, where else could you reasonably spend five hours with a stranger free from technology to walk and talk as life intended?

Still struggling to justify the fee to the wife or husband? Never fear, golf membership can be an experience shared with all the family with cut price junior fees and get into golf programmes for beginners making the game more accessible than ever. Get your child hooked on playing golf and you’ll even save on babysitting costs.

We had a young lad dropped to the club religiously from 7am to 9pm whenever school holidays rolled in. He spent so much time rooted to the spot on the practice putting green that he burned two footprints in the grass. As a member, he was entitled to come and go as his parents pleased but be warned, it was never the same after that – just like me and Albertsons.

When I walked in after that fateful day, shamed, famished and frothing from our two-bed crack den sleeping 23 Irish students that summer, a metal sign reading ‘No Free Samples’ had been installed over the chicken wing section of my lunchtime buffet.

Like Cawood has supposedly done, I’d abused the privilege to my detriment but who am I kidding? They probably don’t even serve chicken wings at Sunningdale.

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