Memberships for rich and famous – Inside Golf

Opinion
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TALES about the late media mogul Kerry Packer abound.
One of my favourites was the day he ‘allegedly’ turned up to play at his home club in Sydney and found it had been booked out by a group (I think it may have been dentists) and found it was closed to members until their day was over.
The story goes that he asked how much they had paid to use the course and immediately wrote out a cheque for the same amount and handed it over, demanding they not be there next year at the same time, should he turn up for a game.
Ah, the joys of a private golf club.
Which brings me to this month’s gripe … where did things go wrong in ‘The Lucky Country’?
Australia has always prided itself on being a place where the man in the street could afford to join a golf club.
Suddenly, and the Covid-19 pandemic must shoulder some of the blame, it is becoming a sport mainly for the rich and famous.
Every one of our great sportsmen and women appear to name golf as their favourite ‘second’ sport. (See Charlie Earp comments page 43).
And maybe our golf clubs are waking up to that fact.
Just when it appeared the old guys were beginning to die off and young people could join some of the best golf clubs in our major cities things appear to have taken a turn for the worse.
Now there are waiting lists, again, if you want to join some of the best golf courses around Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
That spells danger for our older private clubs because suddenly, you just aren’t as welcome anymore.
Why? Because if you don’t come back and pay your fees, there is probably a young doctor or lawyer on the waiting list quite prepared to pay an exorbitant joining fee as well as annual fees to have their half a dozen games a year and call the place ‘theirs’.
How do I know this? Well, a club near me has lost 30 to 60 days of golf already this year due to Sydney’s big wet.
They’re no different to most Sydney clubs as most have been closed almost as often as they’ve been open for play, of late.
So, what do they do? Put the annual fees up about 10 per cent, of course. Seriously, they did.
With no golf being played and plenty of money in the bank, they’ve actually decided to raise their annual subs.
Obviously, they don’t really want you to stay and play. They want some new blood, new faces … and they must be sick of yours.
That’s all very well but one of my golf buddies can only play golf every 3-4 weeks. We worked out he must be paying about $300 a round. Is any club worth that? This isn’t St Andrews or Pebble Beach, I’m talking about.
Sadly, this is a private club that you think would want to look after its members.
Another private club recently put up the fees for its members’ competitions. Again, the reason given for that is that the club was running a little short of funds.
Now that it is ‘back in black’, is there any thought of dropping the comp fees back to what they were? Not a chance.
One member wrote to Inside Golf and said he won a weekly competition and lost 1.1 shots off his handicap – and here’s the rub, winning the comp earned him a $20 open order in his pro shop.
The problem with that is he paid $12 to play in the ball competition and another $1 for a nearest-the-pin.
So, he won the competition that day, involving about 100 players, and finished up a massive $7 in front. You have to agree that’s a little greedy by any members’ only club.
We get a lot of letters at Inside Golf, because club members do read our magazine. One keen golfer said he was a member of two clubs and the membership of both clubs was so vastly different that he couldn’t believe it.
One is what he referred to as a members’ club where the members vote on how the club was run/administered and the membership was asked if it agreed with management decisions.
An annual AGM is run to vote in or out the movers and shakers of that type of club based on those administrators’ views for the following 12 months.
At the other club, members had no voting rights as to how the club was administered because it was a ‘company run and administered’ golf club effectively attached to a restaurant and part of a business model with the profit being the bottom line.
He suggested more members should be made aware of the different types of administration involved and the different issues that arise from each management type.
What does your club do? We’d love to hear from you on what could be quite a contentious issue with your members.
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