The highs and lows of joining a new golf club

The Scoop

In Fourball, Mark Townsend is joined by his NCG colleagues to discuss what we're looking for from our new playground and how odd it makes some of us behave

Steve Carroll, Alex Perry and Dan Murphy join me to discuss the mental juggling of joining a new golf club…

You’re thinking of joining a new golf club. In what order are the following deciding factors and why? Price, course, social side, location?

Steve: It always helps if I know a few people there already. I’m not great with crowds, to be honest, so if there’s the chance of joining a small clique with little effort then that can be a deciding factor. The course wasn’t massively important when my golfing horizons had spread no further than the field down the street but, as I get older and play a bit more widely, it’s now getting more and more important.

Alex: Ultimately, I’ve got to like the course and enjoy playing it for me to sign up to play it at least once a week, so the course is important. I would never join a club if I couldn’t justify the cost, so that’s important. I wouldn’t join a club that was more than, say, 20 minutes from my house, so location is important. I don’t think the social side would really affect my decision my decision that much, unless I was living back home in Devon and joining my home club. So a nice course I can afford to join within 20 minutes of my house, please.  

Dan: Course, location, price, social side. I just want to play at a good course, and preferably one that is not a mudbath for half the year. Clearly the location is important, otherwise based on the previous factor I may as well join Royal Barbados. Then I am considering price. Finally, I am looking at the social side. In all honesty, I don’t envisage spending loads of time socialising at my new golf club, I would rather be playing or practising while I am there.

My verdict: For me it would be solely course with the proviso that it’s not extortionate so not solely course at all. About 10 years ago I drew up a five-mile radius, so you can add location to the list now, and played every course inside that circle. I went with the one that reminded me the most of where I grew up playing. So I should have added romance to the list.

Unlike Wimbledon Park, which was my first club, the ideal would now be to not start and finish in front of the clubhouse. That cocksure junior is a very different beast these days.

Golf club

If you knew that you weren’t going to get value for money how do you sell it to yourself in your head that it’s still a worthwhile investment?

Alex: A few hours a week from the ol’ ball and chain, amirite lads? Hilarious jokes aside, I rarely need to justify playing golf to myself. It’s the ol’ ball and chain I have to justify it to, amirite lads?

Dan: I just want to be proper. I just want to be respected. I just want to be able to think that I’ll pop down for nine holes before/after work or to do some short-game practice. I might even be able to make my way on to a minor sub-committee.

Steve: I can’t, but it’s golf so what am I going to do? It’s better than parenting… (If you’re reading, Kathryn, that is, of course, a joke.)

My verdict: I like to think of a terrible holiday and the expense that comes with that, or a new distributor or something else under the bonnet that I have no understanding of and it all becomes OK in my head. Eighteen holes in the summer, starting at 7.30pm and finishing with an al fresco pint at 10pm, might be the most precious gift that life can throw at a person. Just ahead of having children.

Sunset golf

How good/bad are you at making friends at a new club?

Dan: Not the best. Though I did once make the effort to meet lots of my fellow members by entering every single summer competition I was eligible for – from the scratch knockout to the mixed foursomes. I ended up playing a match every other weekday evening for about three months, which was a little excessive. Learning from my experiences, I fine-tuned my schedule the following year to just two events. I lost in the first round of both and that was me for the season.

Alex: I’m generally OK on this front. When I first moved to the north, I discovered there was a Facebook group for the estate onto which I moved. I wrote on there asking if anyone played golf/football/tennis/squash/chess and I’ve made a few golf/football/tennis/squash buddies out of it. No takers on the chess just yet.

Steve: Can I refer the honourable gentleman to my first answer? I’ve only ever joined one club where I didn’t know anyone at the start but, within weeks, I bumped into an old friend I hadn’t seen for a decade and found a new little group. I’m forever gazing at the board of phone numbers from people who want to find regular games without ever plucking up the courage to actually ring any of them. Given what I do for a living, this is very odd behaviour.

My verdict: Steve AND Dan both play chess so if nothing else comes from this discussion we might have found a chess buddy for you Alex. At one club I joined I played in a few Thursday roll-ups to get into the bosom of the club and everyone thought I was Danish for the first three which suggests I didn’t make a huge impact on the group.

I’ll give it everything for the first 12 months in the hope that I can filter that down to a pool of six people that will take care of the next two decades.

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