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joining fees

You want me to pay what on top of my annual subs – a joining fee?

Why must we empty our wallets simply for the privilege of then handing over more money? Joining fees are nothing more than a tax on membership, says the Angry Club Golfer
 

As the recession started to loosen its stranglehold, I saw a worrying twinkle in the eyes of some golf club officials.

With the economic cold front finally receding, they mused, the time was ripe to bring back one of the sport’s most egregious charges.

I’m talking about joining fees.

I’ve never understood why some golfers so willingly queue up to fork out what’s basically a tax on membership.

Why do they hand over hundreds and even thousands of pounds in some cases just to get the code to the clubhouse door? Then they splurge again for annual fees and bar duties. They must be really, really, keen to join the club. Or maybe they’re just snobs.

What you do these clubs want next – blood?

Defenders of the joining fee – often quite vociferously – point out that it’s a loyalty payment, and a way of proving your commitment to the club.

If I’ve just emptied my savings account for permission to step onto the plush carpet then I suppose it’s true that I’m not likely to sod off because you’ve stuck the fees up or because the club down the road is offering 15 months for the price of 12.

But is that really the answer? Shouldn’t we be encouraging membership retention based on the quality of the course or the service, and not simply because you can blackmail me with the thought that I’m allowing a couple of grand to disappear if I ever get itchy feet or my circumstances change?

Some clubs I’ve talked to wear their joining fee like a badge of honour: “Yes, we lost loads of our members when the economy went south,” they say. “We almost closed, but we didn’t ditch the joining fee. We stood firm.”

Very good, so how many of those now ex-members have returned? And how many new people are coming through the door, or are they still baulking at the prospect of shelling out?

I’d suggest if yours is a business model that relies upon entrants propping you up with a significant initial outlay, it’s probably not a great one.

We live in a deal culture. Every time I click on my phone, I’m being offered another incentive – the must-buy give-away to hook me in as a new customer.

Golf must be one of the only sports I know that seems to go out of its way to put newbies off.

And for those clubs that ditched the joining fee and have now brought it back, how do those incoming members feel, when they settle down in the clubhouse and learn they’ve had to cough up a sum half of those in the bar haven’t paid?

And all because a club was desperate for income once and now isn’t?

“We’ve got some more people in,” they claim. “We’re quite busy now, so if you want to join you’ll have to pay…”

Now if that’s not an exploitative charge on new people – at a time when we’re supposed to be all about ‘growing the game’ – I don’t know what is.

If you enjoy the Angry Club Golfer’s work, you can follow him on Twitter.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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