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Tips for joining a country club

Independent travel tips for the professional at Leisure

October 2008



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 membership. 


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 golf clubs.


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 you.

  • 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 current wealth.

  • Nouveau riche country clubs - Show-off clubs, gaudy and pretentious.

  • Executive country clubs - Made for working professionals, very nice and pragmatic.

  • Working class country clubs - Made for the golf lover, no pretense or snootiness

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 actor.



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 cash.

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.


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.






Note: The opinions expressed on these pages are the sole opinion of Donald K. Burleson and do not reflect the opinions of Burleson Enterprises Inc. or any of its subsidiaries.

Suggestions?  We are always seeking new tips for the professional at leisure, and any suggestions would be most welcome.  If you find an error or have a suggestion for improving our content, we would appreciate your feedback. 

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