Pros and Cons of Golf Memberships: Are They Worth It?

Buying a golf membership can be a fantastic way to get outdoors, spend time with friends, get more exercise, and, of course, play the game that many of us have come to love. 

However, golf memberships certainly aren’t cheap. 

And when you tack on other expenses like clubs, cart rentals, golf balls, and other necessities for the sport, the costs can add up quickly.

Many people thinking about purchasing a golf membership end up asking the question – is it worth it? Here’s the quick answer:

To find out if a golf membership is worth the money, simply divide the cost of the membership by the number of rounds you intend to play during the season. This will give you the average cost-per-round. If the average cost-per-round is lower than the regular green fee at the course, a golf membership is worth it.

However, there are many other considerations when deciding on whether or not to purchase a golf membership.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of buying a golf membership to help you decide if it’s the right choice for you!

Pros:

  • Pay once and get unlimited golf
  • Exclusive deals and benefits
  • Priority tee times
  • Locker room access
  • Access to other amenities
  • Opportunities to meet new people + network
  • Potential tax benefits.

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Less likely to play other courses
  • Can be a distraction from important responsibilities

If a golf membership simply doesn’t fit in your budget, we’ll also consider a few alternatives that will help you play more golf without buying an expensive membership. 

Let’s get to it!

Table of Contents

Pros of Buying A Golf Membership

If you love the game, there are few purchases that will bring you as much joy. Let’s take a look at the best benefits of buying a golf membership!

Pro #1 – Unlimited Golf

The most obvious advantage of being a member of a golf club is that it will allow you to play unlimited golf during the season – assuming, of course, that you have enough time in your schedule.

With a membership, you could swing the sticks every day if you wanted to.

What’s nice about this is that the more you play, the less you pay per-round. 

For example, let’s say your membership costs you $1,500. Here’s a look at the average cost per-round based on the number of times you can get out to the course:

# Of Rounds PlayedAvg. Cost-Per-Round
10$150
20$75
30$50
40$37.50
50$30
60$25
70$21.43
80$18.75
90$16.67
100$15

As you can see in the chart above, if you got out just 10 times during the season, you would pay an average of $150 per round.

However, if you were able to play 100 rounds, you would only pay $15 per round!

Pro #2 – Exclusive Deals and Benefits

Most golf memberships provide a whole lot more than just access to the golf course. They also come with exclusive deals and benefits. The perks provided to members vary depending on the golf club you join, however, here are a few of the most common membership incentives:

Discounts In The Pro Shop

Some golf courses will offer members a special discount in the pro shop as an incentive for them to buy a membership there. This discount can range anywhere from 5 to 15 percent, although 10 percent is common. 

Keep in mind, there might be restrictions on this discount. For example, you might be able to get 15% off clothes but only 5% off clubs.

Not all golf courses will offer a pro shop discount for their members, but it never hurts to ask!

Complimentary Range Balls

At some golf courses, a membership will include a complementary range-pass for the season. 

If you’re like me and enjoy hitting a bucket of balls before every round, this perk can save hundreds of dollars during the season!

For example, let’s say you play 40 rounds in a year. Let’s also assume the average cost for a bucket of range balls is $10.

If you hit one basket of balls before every round to warm up, that’s a total cost of $400 when it’s all said and done!

Many golf courses will include the range pass with membership fees as part of a special promotion. 

For instance, at my home course, every Christmas there’s a special deal that includes a season range pass with the purchase of a membership. 

Discounted Green Fees For Guests

If you’re considering buying a golf membership, chances are that you’re not planning on golfing alone. (If you are, check out this guide that shows everything you need to know about playing golf solo). 

Most golf courses will offer discounted rates for non-member guests. These discounts will vary by course, however, in most cases, a member’s guest can save about 50% on their round. 

Some courses even provide the option to bring a guest for free once a month!

Play Member-Exclusive Tournaments

With a golf membership, you’ll also be able to play exclusive, members-only tournaments at your course. 

These tournaments can be a variety of formats including scrambles, match play, stroke play, and more.

The most popular members-only tournament at most courses is the club championship. This is usually a stroke-play event that allows members to compete in flights based on their handicap. 

Pro #3 – Priority Tee Times

One of my favorite things about being a member at my home course is that it allows me to book priority tee times.

Most courses will restrict non-member bookings when the course is busiest. For example, on weekends or during the summer. 

If you have a membership, you’ll be able to have your pick from the best tee times available!

Also, members have the ability to book multiple tee times for up to a week in advance. If you wanted to golf at 2 PM every day, you could reserve this tee time for the entire week. 

Pro #4 – Access To Locker Room

Another benefit of buying a golf membership is that it will give you access to the locker room at your course. 

This is handy if you have a busy schedule. You can come straight to the course after work or straight to work after playing a round.

You can have a quick shower after your round, grab some extra clothes from your locker, and speed off to wherever you need to be!

Pro #5 – Access To Other Amenities

Some memberships provide access to much more than just the golf course. Country clubs have all kinds of different amenities.

Some have tennis courts and fitness gyms. Others have exclusive members-only restaurants. Some even have saunas and spas!

As you might expect, the more amenities offered, the more you’ll pay for your membership.

Before buying a golf membership, always ask if the cost includes access to other amenities. 

If you’re only interested in golf, see if you can cancel some of the other amenities to reduce the cost of your membership.

Pro #6 – Meet New People + Networking

A golf membership is a great way to make new lifelong friendships.

You will meet tonnes of people who already share a common interest – golf.

I’ve met some of my best friends on the golf course and I’m sure I’ll meet more great people on the course in the future!

It’s also no secret that golf is a favorite pastime for the business elite.

“90% of Fortune 500 CEOs play golf, and 80% of executives say that playing golf enables them to build new business relationships.”

Forbes

Perhaps the reason golf is so effective for building business relationships is that it takes place in an informal setting over a long period of time.

Instead of going for a coffee with someone for an hour or less, you spend 4+ hours together on the golf course! The fact that you’re outside and participating in an activity rather than just talking creates a more relaxed atmosphere.

This helps potential business partners get to know each other better (both personally and professionally) so they can make a judgment call on whether or not they would like to work together. 

Pro #7 – Golf Can Be Tax-Deductible

I’d like to start off by saying that I am not an accounting professional. If you’d like to know for sure if your golf expenses are tax-deductible, I’d highly recommend getting in touch with a professional. 

That said, depending on the tax laws in your particular area, your golf expenses might be tax-deductible. 

If you own your own business, you might also be able to write off the cost as a business expense, particularly if you take clients out on the golf course or for a meal after your round.

To learn more about the regulations surrounding golf tax deductions, I’d recommend checking out this article from Nolo – one of the best resources online for tax and legal information. 

In the article (linked above) they go on to discuss that writing off golf expenses isn’t as simple as checking a few boxes on a form. Certain criteria need to be met for you to be eligible for a tax deduction.

However, this is something definitely worth looking into with your accountant as it could potentially save you hundreds (possibly even thousands) of dollars every year. 

Cons of Buying A Golf Membership

Alright! We’ve seen the arguments in favor of purchasing a golf membership. But what about the cons of golf memberships? There are a few you might want to consider. Let’s take a look!

Con #1 – Memberships Are Expensive

There’s no denying that golf is one of the most expensive hobbies you can have. There are a few reasons for this.

Golf Courses Are Expensive To Maintain

According to an article published by golf.com, to maintain a satisfactory condition for players the average public golf course costs about $500,000 a year to maintain. For private courses, this number jumps to $1,000,000 per year.

Because the bulk of revenue for most courses is generated from membership sales, these steep maintenance costs are reflected in membership prices.

Golf Equipment Is Expensive

In addition to purchasing your membership, you also need the proper gear. A new set of golf clubs can run you anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the brand. 

Even if you purchase a used set of decent quality clubs (2-3 years old), you’re still looking at a price tag of $750+.

Golf Memberships Traditionally Signified Class and Wealth

In 1939, automaker Alfa Romero released the Alfa Romero 8C. There were only 12 of these cars ever made. 

This particular car was designed as a luxury vehicle for the upper class.

In 2016, one of these classic automobiles sold for $19.8 million in an auction.

So, why would someone be willing to pay nearly $20 million for a car that was manufactured more than 80 years ago?

It comes down to the element of exclusivity. Because there were only 12 ever made, people are willing to pay a whole lot more than if there were 12,000.

A similar effect can be observed when it comes to golf memberships. In the past, they were considered exclusive. Only those part of the financial elite could afford to play, therefore, golf memberships were hard to come by for the average middle-class citizen.

A lot has changed since the early days of the game, however, the aura of class and wealth surrounding golf still lingers, causing some golf memberships to cost more than they’re worth.

Con #2 – Less Likely To Play Other Courses

Another downside of golf memberships is that they’re only good for one course.

If you live in an area with several courses, it can be nice to change it up once in a while. 

But if you spend thousands of dollars on a golf membership, it’s hard to justify paying green fees to play other courses.

So, if you’re someone who gets bored of playing the same golf course every day, you might prefer to skip the membership and just pay green fees at a variety of courses in your area.

You won’t be able to play as much golf for the same price, but at least you won’t get sick of playing the same old course all the time. 

Con #3 – Golf Might Distract You From Important Responsibilities

Owning a golf membership means that you can play golf during all hours of the day.

This becomes a problem if you start prioritizing golf over other important areas of your life like work or family. 

Did you know you can actually become addicted to golf?

It sounds ridiculous, but yes, golf can get to the point where it’s an addiction and a detriment to your overall quality of life.

Symptoms of golf addiction align most closely to the symptoms of exercise addiction and can be identified by the following criteria:

Obsessing over the behavior – constantly playing back your rounds in your head when you’re with your family.

Engaging in the behavior even if it’s causing physical harm – playing through pain at the expense of your physical health.

Engaging in the behavior even if you want to stop – not being able to take a day off from the course.

Engaging in the behavior in secret – lying to friends and family about where you are when you are at the golf course.

Many people also engage in other addictive behaviors when out on the golf course such as consuming alcohol or nicotine products.

Golf Membership Alternatives

If the cons on this list make you feel a little bit uneasy, that’s okay! A membership is a huge investment and it’s not for everybody.

But even if a membership isn’t for you, there are still some affordable alternatives that will allow you to play plenty of golf without shelling out thousands of dollars.

Purchase A Golf Punch Card

Lots of golf courses allow players to purchase rounds in bulk by selling punch cards preloaded with 10 or 20 rounds.

These punch cards are often provided at a discounted rate compared to the cost of regular tee times.

For example, let’s say that the regular green fee at a golf course is $50. That same course might sell a punch card for 10 rounds for a price of $400.

This adds up to an average cost-per-round of $40 and a total savings of $10 per round.

While you don’t get unlimited golf as you would with a membership, this is a great way to pay for a decent number of rounds at a discount!

Inquire About A Monthly Payment Plan

In recent years, we’ve seen a major shift towards a subscription-based economy. This means that people are more willing to pay for products and services in monthly installments rather than one lump sum.

Golf is no different. Many courses are catching on to this trend and have developed monthly payment plans to help hit their membership quota. This method is particularly popular with younger generations.

If you cannot afford to pay for your membership in one shot, consider asking if payment plans are available.

Keep in mind, golf courses would prefer it if members pay for their membership upfront. This guarantees that they’ll get paid for an entire year, regardless of how often you play. For this reason, payment plans might not always be advertised.

However, it’s unlikely that they will turn away customers who will only purchase a membership if they can make monthly payments.

Volunteer/Work At A Golf Course

I have personally used this strategy to golf for free at my home course.

I used to work on the maintenance crew at my home course. I would work from 6 AM to 2 PM every day, then hit the course for a quick 18 holes once my shift was over.

The nice thing about working at a golf course is that, not only do you get to golf for free, but you also earn an hourly wage!

But what if you already have a job?

No problem, golf courses are always looking for volunteers to help out on the weekends or evenings. Here are a few things you could do to earn free golf for the season:

  • Fill in as the starter on the first tee.
  • Help with set up and take down before and after tournaments.
  • Patrol the fairways as the marshall.

Also, if your current job has provided you with a skill set that would be useful for the golf club, you can offer your services for free in exchange for free golf.

For example, if you’re an electrician, you could perform minor electrical maintenance in the clubhouse in exchange for free golf!

Look for Deals On Tee Times

One of the best alternatives to buying a golf membership is to scan the web for deals on tee times.

This way you’ll still be able to play as often as you can, except without breaking the bank.

My favorite way to find discounted tee times online is by using GolfNow. They have a Hot Deals section on their site which allows you to find steeply discounted green fees at thousands of great courses!

Tag Along With Other Members

If a golf membership is out of your price range, you can always tag along with other members you know.

Most golf courses will provide discounted green fees for their members’ guests. In some cases (albeit, rarely) guests are even allowed to golf for free!

The Takeaway – Is a Golf Membership Worth The Money?

Many golfers wonder if buying a golf membership will be worth it.

The answer to this question is actually fairly easy to figure out. 

Here’s how you decide if a golf membership is worth it for you:

  1. Ask yourself how many rounds you would like to play during the season.
  2. Lookup the average green fee for the course you will play.
  3. Lookup the membership price for the course you will play.
  4. Multiply the estimated number of rounds played by the average green fee.
  5. Divide the estimated number of rounds played by the cost of the membership.
  6. Compare the cost-per-round in each situation.

Here’s an example of the steps above.

Let’s say you plan on playing 30 rounds this year.

The average green fee at the course you want to play is $80.

Average green fee ($80) x Estimated number of rounds (30) = $2,400 total at a cost-per-round of $80.

Now, let’s assume a membership at this golf course costs $1800. 

Membership cost ($1,800) ÷ Estimated number of rounds (30) = $60 per-round.

As you can see, in this case, a golf membership will save you $20 per round and $600 on the year!

Replace the numbers in this formula with figures that make sense for you and you’ll be able to tell if a golf membership is worth the money for you!

If you won’t play enough for a golf membership to be worth it, there are plenty of other ways to save money on golf:

  • Purchase a golf punch card
  • Ask about a monthly payment plan
  • Volunteer/work at the golf course
  • Look for deals on tee times
  • Tag along with other members

Hopefully, this article has helped you decide if a golf membership is the right choice for you!

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