Public Courses vs. Private Clubs – Which type of golf is really better?

I have played golf all over the country, in all different types of weather and conditions, with rental clubs and my own sticks, walking or ridding, at night, I even played once with a set of wooden clubs and a gutta purcha ball.  I have played the best public golf courses this country has to offer and I have been invited to play some of the best and most exclusive private clubs.  Does this make me an expert on golf courses in the US, maybe just in Chicago? I don’t know if I am an expert, I know that if you bring up a course there is a pretty good chance I have played it.  With that being said, where does the die hard golfer have more fun public or private.

I think the question should be is it worth spending all of your golf money on one course or riding the discount wave at different courses all the time.  I have been a member at a few different clubs here in Chicago, not at the same time but over the last 5 years I have bought a membership or two.  Here is my opinion on the Public vs. Private debate:

Private Clubs:
To be a member truly means that you belong.  The cart kids know your name, and what kind of cart that you like (I always wanted a convertible).  Everyone in the club house calls you MR. or MRS. Your shoes and clubs are always clean, all you have to do is mention that you need some new balls and you will find them in your cart, bag or locker (whichever you prefer).  You don’t always need a tee time, you can put everything on your account, and you can always find a guy or two to play with who knows you and your game (makes for better betting games).  Plus you can play cards in the clubhouse, and have a drink or two (the bartender knows what you like), and you can take a dip in the pool or hit up the tennis court if that is your thing.  HOWEVER, it is expensive and you are stuck to one golf course every day of your golfing season.  Those are two big negatives when it comes to the private sector.  Playing the same course over and over, means you get good at the shots required for your “home course”, but you struggle when you go elsewhere (the few times a year you do play somewhere else).  And it is expensive.  Dues, and cart fees, and locker fees, and Evan Scholarships donations, and Tree funds, and the clubhouse needs a new roof or the tennis court needs to get the nets restrung.  There are countless expenses when you are a member, and they add up quick.  Plus the members are as clickey as a high school.  Each clubhouse has its cool kids, and the nerds, and the jocks, and the gamblers, and the guys know one wants to play with.  Be prepared for some politics when you join up, and you are going to have to try to impress the cool kids, or be an outcast in the corner.

Public Golf Courses:
Joe Public gets to play some great courses depending on where you live and what you are willing to pay.  Play Cog Hill’s Dubs Dread and you will know every bit of beautiful golf course as those private sector guys.  You are free to play where you want ( a golfing nomad if you will ) and when you want, and can scourer the internet for those tasty deals.  Variety is the spice of life, and when you are Joe Public you can literally play anywhere your heart desires.  You can get away with your shirt being untucked, and you will never get a letter from the member’s comity about your swearing or club throwing.  HOWEVER, you do have to make a tee time.  You will have to wait in line like everyone else.  No one knows who you are even if you are a regular.  Just another one of the guys in the proshop saying “comon Steve you know me…”.   Joe Public is subject to outings, and random leagues for beginners.  And the courses are not always as nice, especially the greens.  Public golf courses get so much more play that the course cannot stay in as good a shape as a private club that gets half the amount of play.  On the plus side though you can regulate how much you spend on golf, and when times are tough you can play your local dog track for $20-$30 bucks during twilight.

All in all there are benefits and disadvantages to being a member at a private club, and working the public tracks.  I can argue with you one way or the other about private clubs vs. public courses but in the long run there is no right answer.  Private courses are great, and members will tell you they could never go anywhere else.  Joe Public will tell you argue that he couldn’t get locked into one course and all that money is just not worth it.  Ultimately you as the golfer have to decide which is the right choice for you.


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