Private Golf Clubs vs. Daily Fee Courses

Private Golf Clubs vs. Daily Fee Courses

Ever wonder how the cost of a private club compares to playing daily-fee golf? It’s hard to figure because there’s a wide variation in expenses. But using data from the National Golf Foundation, the Club Managers Association of America, and our own survey, we gave it a try.

The daily-fee calculation is straightforward, since green fees run anywhere from $15 to $150 for 18 holes. Country clubs are more involved. First, there’s an intiation fee of anywhere from $5,000 to $300,000, but it’s a one-time payment that usually can be financed and is often at least partially refundable upon withdrawing from the club. Then there are annual dues and food minimums, which must be paid whether you play five times a year or 50. Beyond that, most clubs also charge for a caddie or cart each time you play, guest fees, the occasional assessment for improvements, club-storage fees, and so on.

For something akin to the private-club experience without all the extra costs, many high-end daily-fee courses offer quality service and top-notch facilities. They allow great golf, top-notch amenities, and flexibility without the hassles of guest limitations, annual dues, or restaurant minimums.

But they can never replicate the atmosphere and feeling of belonging that comes with membership at a fine club, where the staff knows you by name and where it’s easier to get tee times. A club usually has other amenities, such as a pool or tennis courts, plus a pleasant social outlet for the whole family.

Keep those variables in mind as you look at the chart, which compares the annual costs for low- , mid- , and high-priced options in each category. Private club totals do not include the initiation fee or assessments, but do include dues, food, and a $23 per round cart/caddie fee (the national average).

One other thing to consider: A NGF study shows that only one quarter of all golfers in the U.S. play more than 25 rounds a year.

Join the Club — or Not
Daily fee Fee per round Dues Food Minimum Cart/caddie Actual Cost per round Cost/year (25 rounds)
Low $40 Included $1,000
Mid $80 Included $2,000
High $120 Included $4,000

Private club Fee per round Dues Food Minimum Cart/caddie Actual cost per round Cost/year (25 rounds)
Low $1,200 $600 $23/round $95 $2,375
Mid $3,600 $1,200 $23/round $215 $5,375
High $7,200 $2,400 $23/round $407 $10,175