In discussion: Does it cost too much to play top-end courses?

The green fees at the Home of Golf have recently increased. It now costs £160 to play the Old Course. Is this too much, or does it represent value for money? Two of our writers discuss this...

Joe Whitley (JW): It now costs £160 to play the Old Course at St Andrews, a figure I believe is reasonable. Personally, though, there is no other course in the UK I would even consider paying this much for. What’s the most you’d shell out for a round of golf?

James Tompkinson (JT): I don’t think you can put one price on what ‘a round of golf’ should cost. Surely it’s about where you are playing and at what time of year? I wouldn’t pay more than about £50 for most normal courses, but would happily pay more to play at some of the best courses in the country – i.e. Muirfield, Turnberry, Hoylake, Carnoustie.

JW: OK then, it’s the height of summer, you’re alone on the championship layout of your choice, it’s calm, warm yet comfortable. You’re playing well and in good company. How much would you be willing to shell out?

JT: Well, to use a practical example – you could play at Hoylake for £110 on Mondays this year. Expensive? Definitely. But when normal clubs are charging £40 for a round I would say you’re getting better value out of playing an Open Championship venue and paying more for it.

I’d write a blank cheque for the Old Course because of its history and the sheer number of times I have played it on computer games over the years. JW: I’ve played Royal Liverpool and I absolutely love it, but £110 in these tough economic times is a lot. That’s over £6 a hole. Imagine giving that to someone behind every green. I don’t think I could. Only at St Andrews would this be acceptable for me.

JT: I think any Open venue is going to be special when you experience it for the first time. I think it depends what you are looking for. For me, there are two levels, one at around £120 for a top class course and another at around £25 for your average weekend round. It’s more about value for money than direct cost in my eyes.

JW: But how are you measuring value for money? I think you’re overcomplicating things. For a well-designed, maintained and established course, I would happily pay £70, but no more. I’d write a blank cheque for the Old Course because of its history and the sheer number of times I have played it on computer games over the years. Anywhere else in the UK and I’m struggling to justify paying anything near £100.
I’ve been to St Andrews three times, but never played it. Each time you see the course the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. That’s the sort of experience worth paying for, but nowhere else in the UK can offer that.

JT: I agree with you about the Old Course, simply for its history. I’d give anything to play there. They could charge more and I’m sure people would go for the experience. I think the reality of the game as it is today means that you can’t play the best courses around for £70, so if you want those experiences then you have to pay the money. It’s an unfortunate compromise but that’s the way it is. I just think that playing Hoylake or the likes for around £110 gives you a better experience, and therefore better value for money than say paying £50 for a course which is more ordinary.

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