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The Barriers to Become a Golf Club Member

By: | Thu 19 Oct 2023

I have recently returned to the sport after recovering from a long-term shoulder issue. I missed playing golf more than I can say, especially as I spend so much of my life writing about it.

To be offered golf trips and have to turn them down because my body had let me down is more depressing than you can ever imagine unless you have been there yourself. I even resorted to visiting some clubs and simply walking round the course.

Having finally been given a clean bill of health I decided that it was time to join a golf club again. A simple task, you may think.

Well I am here to tell you that, in and around Norwich at least, the local courses have consistently failed to deliver.

To save their embarrassment, I am not going to name any courses but I am going to share my experience with you in the hope that the clubs in question - and others around the country - might read this article and start asking themselves some serious questions.

Websites & Communication

I have played all the courses in question so decided my first course of action would be to look at their websites. Did you know that it is 2023? Well you might want to let some of these courses know that. 

In this day and age there is simply no excuse for an outdated, clunky website, but that’s what I found. Many of them were slow and almost impossible to navigate. 

It strikes me that many would-be members would be turned off at that point and would decide not to take things any further. 

I sent each and every one of them an email, asking for details of membership deals, both five-day and full membership. Only one came back with an automatic reply to tell me that my email had been received. 

Golf Memerships

Costs & Joining Fees

And the first club that did respond properly said they would be delighted to meet me but informed me that they no longer offer five-day membership and wanted a £400 joining fee. Really?

When I emailed these golf clubs I told them what I did for a living and informed them that I could help with their website content. I was not looking for any special favours. I made the offer because I genuinely wanted to help.

The second club to respond said it would be happy to discuss what I could do for them and offered to reduce the joining fee from £1,000 to £500. And the annual membership fee for 12 months? A tad under £2,000. Thank you, but no thank you.

Another quoted £825 for full seven-day membership but yet again there was a £400 joining fee, although that did not apply for five-day membership at £795. 

Yet another club asked for a £100 joining fee if I wanted seven-day membership. However, five-day members do not have to pay this.

I am struggling to understand why you would have to pay a joining fee for one category of membership but not another.

But perhaps the most puzzling response came from a golf club that wanted to charge me £1,204 for seven-day membership. Puzzling? Well, yes, because I have a close friend who is a member of the same club and I happen to know that he pays less than £1,000 a year. What this means is that they are penalising new members. 

It is also interesting to note that this is a golf club that just two years ago announced it would not be admitting any more new members.

Ironically, the club that I had decided to join was one that didn’t reply. But it has two courses that drain well in winter, rarely employs winter greens and is set in beautiful countryside. I also have a couple of friends who play there. There is no joining fee and the annual subscription is affordable.

However, at the last gasp I received an email from a club that had taken the time to check out my work on Golfshake, told me there was no joining fee and that I could have a winter trial membership, running from November 1 until March 31st for £155. 

Furthermore, if I decide to join after that I will get £70 knocked off my annual subscription and my first direct debit will be free. Now that is what I call an incentive.

I should stress that this is a deal they are offering ALL would-be members.

It seems that the days when golf clubs actively wanted to recruit new members are gone. We all know that the end of the pandemic saw a huge increase in the numbers of people playing golf and joining clubs.

But the economic climate has changed dramatically since then. Interest rates have climbed, inflation has soared and many of us are now having to watch every penny we spend. 

That being the case, I find it absolutely extraordinary that clubs are still asking for joining fees. It smacks of greed and I believe they are biting the hand that feeds them. I also wonder if this so-called boom really can continue. I get the impression that many are trying to cash in while the going is good. 

And one of the reasons I want to join a club is because of how difficult it is to get tee times as a visitor, especially with shorter winter days on the way.

We are running a survey on this very subject. It will be fascinating to share your experiences.

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What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

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