What to Ask When Selecting a Private Golf Club

The Sacramento area offers multiple options for people shopping for a private country club. Here are some questions we invite prospective members of Sierra View to ask:

1) Could you see yourself coming back here regularly?

This is an important question for both skilled golfers and newer golfers. Another way to phrase the question might be, “Is this course challenging and interesting enough for all levels of players?” The only way to answer that is to play the course at least twice with a member who knows the course well. Newer golfers should feel like the course is one that will help them improve their game and not get discouraged, while low handicap golfers should feel like the course will present new challenges each time they come back.

2) Do you offer reciprocity at other private clubs?

Most private clubs do offer reciprocity at other private clubs, and a good manager or golf professional will offer to help you get access to clubs in its network.

3) Do you offer skill-building? And programs for Juniors as well?

Inquire about pricing, schedules and availability of both golf and tennis lesson programs. If you have children or grandchildren whom you want to encourage, make sure the club has established lesson programs. If the tennis and golf pro at the club you are considering has a long tenure at the club, that’s a sign that these professionals take pride in developing their members. Ask not only about the program but about the longevity and standing within their field of expertise.

4) What’s the vibe in the Club’s lounge and dining room?

If you are looking for social connections, for friendships, a place resembling “Cheers,” spend an hour or two in the areas where the members enjoy their meals or beverages. Friday afternoons or any time on a nice Sunday are good times – those days are typically not designated as “men’s day” or “ladies day.” You’ll find a mix of both men and women. If the vibe is stiff or formal, keep looking until you find an atmosphere that is more relaxed, friendly and even laid back. A real bonus is if someone recognizes you as new and introduces themselves. Make note! Private clubs are not just about playing golf or tennis, they’re where you hang out with new friends. Can you see yourself saying, “Let’s meet at the club for a cocktail” based on the vibe in the lounge? Is this somewhere you see yourself spending many of your leisure hours?

5) Will the club hold you hostage if circumstances change and you need to resign?

Many private clubs will not allow you to resign your membership unless you can find someone to purchase it. Many private clubs will relentlessly pursue you if you walk away from your membership. Look for a club that has a reasonable exit policy to fit the potential of changing circumstances. If a club makes it harder to leave than to join, reconsider.

6) Is there a vibrant women’s group and men’s group?

A good measure of a private club is the health of both the men’s group and the women’s group. A private club that can attract only a few people to play in their respective gender groups is a club that might be stuck in the past, when country clubs catered more to men than women. Ask if they hold regular golf clinics specifically for women. Ask about the numbers – how many belong to each group. It’s a true measure of how relevant and current the club is.

7) What percent of people walk or ride?

If walking a golf course is important to you, or to members of your family, there are very few golf courses in the Sacramento area that are considered truly “walkable.” If a club tells you that most people ride, it means either that the course is not easily walked, or that the membership is perhaps an aging population. On the other hand, a large percentage of walking golfers is an indication of the vitality of its members. (FYI, Sierra View is perhaps the MOST walked course in the area.)

8) Does the club have a robust online tee time system?

Spontaneity is one of the biggest benefits of private golf club membership. Clubs with online tee time applications give you the opportunity to do last-minute signups, join a three-some, create your own foursomes.

9) Are there hidden charges in the club’s fees?

Some clubs charge you for lockers and club storage whether you want them or not. Ask about mandatory fees.

10) What is the club doing to encourage and develop new golfers?

Keeping golf alive and vibrant as a sport in the US depends on how much effort private clubs devote to making non-golfing partners feel comfortable venturing onto the first tee box. Weekly golf clinics for spouses and partners are just one way to contribute to maintaining the health of golf. Couples, especially empty-nesters, recognize that golf is one of the few sports that couples can play together for the duration of their lives. Unless private clubs take an active role in encouraging and developing new golfers in a comfortable setting, who will?

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