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Food For Thought - The Best And Worst Of Golf Club Food

By: | Sun 07 Jul 2024

Derek Clements offers his thoughts on the experience of food at golf clubs during his many years of playing the game along with his most recent experiences.  Whilst many golf clubs are doing a great job he asks whether there is more still to be done at some clubs when it comes to the dining options.

Food, glorious food! Or perhaps not…

If you are a regular reader of my missives you will know that golf-club food is one of the things about our sport that gets me on my soapbox. When it is good it can be outstanding, but when it is bad it can actually ruin your experience on a golf day. It is 2024 - there is no excuse for bad or overpriced food.

Despite the early-season weather, I have played a lot of golf this year and have visited quite a few courses. The first thing I have to say is that despite the challenges faced by an abnormally wet winter and spring, the courses I have played have generally been in outstanding condition. 

Golf CLub Food

But the quality of food remains as inconsistent as ever and, for the life of me, I simply cannot understand why.

To spare embarrassment to all concerned I am not going to name the worst offenders, but if they read this they will know who they are and, hopefully, just might address the issue.

In April I arranged a round with a friend I had not seen for a while. We had a lot to catch up on so agreed that we would make a day of it at a reasonably well-known course. The weather was dry and the course lived up to our expectations, with decent greens and lush fairways. It was a good experience, punctuated by lots of laughs - we even managed to hit some decent shots and hole a few putts.

After putting our clubs in the car and freshening up, we headed to the clubhouse for lunch. 

To be fair, the menu looked pretty appetising. Not especially cheap but everybody is facing rising costs so you grin and bear it. 

We both ordered “pie of the day”, which was billed as being home-made steak and ale with flakey puff pastry. Hmmm...

With a pint of beer in hand, we sat down and started to chew the fat. As we were talking I heard a loud “Ping” coming from the kitchen. Now I have seen enough episodes of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares to know the sound of a microwave when I hear it. And I also know that it is something Gordon Ramsay quite rightly frowns upon. It is lazy - and it means the food cannot possibly be fresh.

Seconds later, our food arrived - probably three minutes after we ordered it. The plates were put down in front of us and when I moved mine closer I almost burnt my fingers. The plate was red-hot, a sure sign that it had come straight from the microwave. The pastry was hard and the meat was steaming hot - uncomfortably so. It actually burnt our tongues.

We were both hungry so battled through and ate as much as we could. When we had finished a waitress came to collect our plates and asked if we had enjoyed our meals.

“Those pies are advertised as being home-made, is that right?”

“Yes love.”

“Were they heated up in a microwave?”

“I don’t believe so. They are all freshly made.”

This was clearly either untrue or she really didn’t know. Either way, the £16.95 each that we paid was daylight robbery - and neither of us will be going back.

There is a club in Norfolk at which one of my closest friends is a member. This year he has seen his annual subscription climb from £1,200 to £1,500 without a word of explanation. I recently played with him at his course. The condition was absolutely outstanding. The same cannot be said for the bar prices - at the end of our round, a pint of beer set me back £8.50. I am sorry, but there is just no excuse and no reason for charging golfers such an extortionate amount.

I recently played at Diss Golf Club with the chap who now pays £1,500 for his golf. It is a hugely underrated golf course. I also have to tell you that I will be going back, not only for the golf but for the food - the menu was extensive, the food was genuinely home-made and reasonably priced. It was delicious. And two pints of beer cost us just over £8.

Earlier this year I returned to Scotland, the land of my birth, and spent some time staying on the banks of Loch Tay. I had the absolute joy of playing Killin Golf Club, a nine-hole golf course that will live long in my memory. Despite only having a single greenkeeper the layout was in truly outstanding condition. The golf was as cheap as chips. 

And the food was the best I have ever eaten at any club - EVER! Instead of the usual clubhouse fayre we were treated to an incredible array of Indian food. And it was so good that a clubhouse that had struggled to get people through the door was now attracting people in their droves.

Golf CLub Bar Food

I used to be a member at a course in Suffolk that was outstanding in every single way - apart from the food.

I recall playing in a team match. We were told that we were going to be served gammon, egg and chips at the end of the round - traditional golfers’ food. We were charged £15 per head, as were the visiting team we faced. Our gammon, egg and chips turned out to be a slice of ham, overcooked fried egg and chips so overcooked that I thought I had broken a tooth when I bit into one.

This same golf club used to routinely serve sandwiches on stale bread. It actually became something of a standing joke.

It doesn’t need to be like this. Sheringham Golf Club on the Norfolk coast does things the right way with options that include home-made sausage rolls and, wait for it, crab and lobster caught from the sea just below the course as well as  locally reared lamb, beef, venison, pork and poultry. Unsurprisingly, the local population are regular visitors - and are made to feel welcome.

If you went out for a meal and the food and/or service were poor you would complain. If we want our golf clubs to improve the overall standard of the food they serve us we should all be doing the same thing. They will get the message.  Maybe!


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