What Are the Differences Between Private and Public Golf Courses?

What Are the Differences Between Private and Public Golf Courses? | Back 2 Basics Golf

If you are new to the sport, or your schedule has changed and you find you have more time to devote to your pursuit of the game of golf, you may be deliberating over whether to invest in a membership at a private golf course or to stick to one of the public facilities available in your area. 

Just like with most things, there are benefits and disadvantages to either choice.  It may take some contemplation and discussion with others who have invested time in the game.  Here are some things that may make it easier for you to decide.

Public Course

This is a golf course that is open to anyone.  The golfer pays a fee for the opportunity but there is no membership requirement.  They can be funded by a municipality (city, etc.) or privately owned. 

These are nice because the fees are inexpensive.  Also, if you are able to play during what are commonly work hours, the tee times are pretty open.  Check with the facility about whether you can book a slot.  They are very accommodating to all levels of players and frequently have no minimum number of players.  It also offers a more relaxed atmosphere.

Some of the drawbacks are that the facilities are not always as broad as private facilities.  The course can seem too easy for a seasoned player and lack the challenge of other sites.  If green fee players are allowed on the course at the same time as other players, there is some overlap that many people don’t like.  Particularly if it is a municipal course, they grounds may not be maintained as well or as often because of budgetary constraints.

If you are not able to play very often, a public course would be fine.  There is no good reason to pay a membership fee when you only play once or twice a month.  If your city is large enough, you may have several public courses to choose from.  This will give you the challenge of different layouts but still at a lower cost than a private course.

Private Course

A private golf course is one that requires a membership.  Depending on the specific rules, guests can be included or invitations extended to prospective members.  It is also possible to play a round if you are part of a tournament, especially one that benefits a charity, that is being held on the grounds.

Frequently these courses will include additional amenities like a club house and putting, chipping, and/or driving range.  The dining facilities are usually very nice and they employ staff to make sure everyone is indulged.  Members can also have the opportunity to rent the facilities for private events like parties, bridal showers, etc.

The course layout is generally more challenging and they employ groundskeepers who keep the course in good condition on a regular basis.  If you think you would get bored with the same course on a regular basis, it might be a good idea to consider a membership at a private club.  Depending on the fees involved, it might be more economical to take on a membership and cart pass than to pay a hefty fee to play only a round or two.

Drawbacks include the price tag.  Some of these places can get a little expensive.  They also usually require a minimum number for play.  So, if you like to go it alone, or your companion cancels out, you are out of luck.  Depending on the popularity, there can be a long lead time to book.  Also, there may be restrictions about what days you can and cannot use the course.

One of the reasons a private club is attractive is the social aspect.  If you are fond of networking, this could give you a great place to connect with new clients or make friends with people you would not ordinarily encounter.  Some clubs sponsor tournaments or leagues.  Any type of special event can be a fun experience.

Semi-Private Course

In some cities you also have the choice of a semi-private course.  This is a hybrid that, while open to the public, also offers a membership for perks not available to everyone.

The fees will be higher than a strictly public course but those charges usually go toward maintaining the fairways and greens.  Generally they have less traffic than a public, municipal course.  They also have practice areas, offer lessons and other amenities.  They are more likely to have a restaurant than just a snack bar. 

This makes a nice alternative for someone who wants more services but still would like to be conservative in their spending mode.  Semi-private courses frequently offer a trial run, complimentary round to encourage folks to take on a membership.  They can also include carts at no cost.

For many this is a good, compromised option between the private and public courses in their city.

Actually, there is no real conclusion.  It is up to you.  It will depend upon how much of your salary you are willing to allocate, the rates offered by each course, and the quality of the facility.  For serious players, the private club is a great getaway from the office, an opportunity for family time, or a place to network.  For the newer player, the private club can seem intimidating.

Either option can have a course that you find challenging.  Maintenance can vary even in a club with a hefty price tag.  Depending on the time of day and day of the week, either course can be crowded or sparse.  Interest in the game can vary and you can find yourself waiting in line to tee off or losing your spot because you were delayed with some sort of emergency. 

The next time you come in to Back2Basics.Golf to shop for some accessories or a new club, take time to chat with our knowledgeable staff.  Golf is our passion and we are happy to help with insights on the benefits and disadvantages of both private and public courses.  We can give you some food for thought so that you make the best possible decision.

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