Let’s face it, if you drive a luxury car, own more than one home, fly first class to Europe on vacation, never drink domestic wines and have a disposable income in the high six (or even seven) figures, then you belong on the left-hand page of this argument with all the other elephants.

  You probably also vote straight GOP (okay, maybe not in either Rhode Island or Massachusetts), drive a Mercedes a Porsche, or some other luxury car, have somebody else tend to your lawn and have a really stiff old guy named Jeeves or Hobson answering your front door.

  You are a member of a private golf or country club and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

  Now for those 95 percent of us who live in that other world; the nine-to-fivers who have to worry about braces for the kids, car payments on the Chevy, mortgage payments on that cute little house on Elm Street and the ever present three-headed monster (expanding health care premiums, food and utilities bills), there’s also a burning need for a sanctuary that provides greens, fairways and bunkers as well as a 19th hole.

  Being on the right-hand side of this argument, geographically as well as politically, I’ll be the first to admit that I would rather be an elephant than a donkey (some would say jack…..). Give me the wherewithal and I’d join a private club in a heartbeat. I’m not a hypocrite, just a pragmatist.

  As in most things in life, it all comes down to money. Have enough of the green stuff and you can live just about anywhere or in any style you prefer. A bunch or Benjamins beats a cluster of Washingtons every day of the week

  I love visiting and playing private courses and having been a golf writer for over 35 years I’ve had ample opportunity to sample how the other five percent plays and kicks back after a round. It’s great and I can’t wait for my next round at a club where my clubs are taken from the trunk when I arrive and returned cleaned and polished when I leave.

  I just can’t afford to belong to such a place and when you come right down to it, no matter how pretty it’s packaged, it’s still just dirt.

  For the most part I play public and municipal courses and I’m not going to apologize for that.

  I have been a member of two public/muni courses (not at the same time) for my entire golfing life, which extends back to 1970 when the pro at Triggs Memorial in Providence asked if I wanted to pay greens fees and I answered, “No, I want to play the whole golf course.” 

  Now while private courses are almost always better maintained and have fewer people on them, many public tracks are just as challenging for the elite player (not me).

  The most appealing aspect to playing at a public course is the ability to walk if one so chooses (without having to take a caddy). It’s cheaper as well as healthier and if you don’t opt to hoof it you may still rent a gas/electric cart and motor around the five or so miles while your cardiovascular system remains dormant (unless the cart girl shows up).

  Another positive to belonging to or playing at the local muni/public course is the diversity of the clientele.

  At a private club you are most likely to play with or rub elbows with lawyers, doctors, stock brokers or the owner of five car dealerships. While at the public course you still could be paired with any of the above, but it’s more likely that you will push your “Sun Mountain” three-wheeler down the fairways with people whose fingernails still have grease under the nails or whose hands are covered with calluses.

  Need advice on how to fix up the retaining wall in the back yard, where to buy good primer for the back porch, or who’s a good plumber or electrician? Don’t expect to get those answers inside the 19th hole at a private.

  At a private you may play with the Police or Fire Commissioner. At a public it’s more likely to be the guys who walk the beat or rush into burning buildings.

  In short there’s more human diversity and a lot of free advice available at the public course.

  If you really do need legal or financial advice than the odds favor the bar in the grille room of a private club.

  But all that’s going to do is allow you to make an appointment for next Thursday.


  (Tim Geary is a Rhode Island based freelance golf writer with over 35 years of experience, but not nearly enough money to belong to a private club).