To join a Twin Cities country club

200px-PinkArgyle_svgInterlachen Country Club.  Spring Hill Golf Club.  Windsong Farm Golf Club.  Woodhill Country Club.  Wayzata Country Club.  Edina Country Club.  Town & Country.  Somerset Country Club.  The list is large and plentiful if you find yourself living within the urban and suburban “prime” areas.  Facilities and golf courses that most only see partially from a road or sneak into the parking lot and turn around.  Many may look at with envy, jealously, disgust or indifference.

Ask a typical kid from a well to do suburb or urban area in the Twin Cities about these places – and you’ll get a spectrum of responses.  I attended a wedding there.  I’d love to play that golf course.  I used to work there.  I used to play at the pool.  I have a friend who was a member there.  My boss is a member there.  I’m a member there.

As people continue to work through their 30’s and into their 40’s, the idea of joining one of these clubs may begin to surface.  Traditionally most members are of the older and wealthier generation – top white collar jobs or family wealth.  As generations age, each club looks to build out their future membership base, often times by trying to attract younger people with a “junior” membership.  Sometimes a “deal”, or simply a deferral on the true cost of membership.  A membership that gets you to commit financially, but access to 80% of a regular membership.

Before I break down some key aspects for those considering joining a club, let’s call a spade a spade.  There are different tiers of clubs in the Twin Cities – whether it’s the golf course, history, or location…not all clubs are created equally.  Can you really go wrong with any of these?  Of course not.  Well, unless your life spirals into a nasty case of “keeping up with the Jones’”.  Which could happen…

Why would someone in their 30s and 40s join one of these clubs?

  • Family pressure or family encouragement
  • Friend or neighbors suggestion
  • Status symbol
  • Looking to enjoy the amenities of a club (you pay a lot already for golf or tennis)
  • A true passion for golf, tennis, or social engagement
  • Meeting new friends (or staying close to your current bubble of friends – how dare we associate with those outside the gates!)
  • Young kids and looking to find positive physical and social activities for them
  • You just made a lot of money and don’t need a 4th car

Key factors to consider?

  • Is the club an equity or non-equity club?  Important to know should you join and cancel in the future.
  • What amenities would you use?  Is it dining and events for social outings?  Kids activities?  Pool access?  Golf or tennis?  If you want your kids at the pool, don’t join a golf only club.
  • Where does one live?  Who wants to drive 40 minutes each way just to eat a popover.
  • How often will I or my family be there?  If no one at that club knows who you are, you’re probably not there enough.
  • Am I comfortable having my friends and family members as guests?  Will this impact any of my close relationships?  It’s not the scene for every person.
  • Can you financially afford to join?  More importantly, can you afford to both join and live the lifestyle you’re now a part of.  If you saved just enough for the initiation fee and monthly dues, but are mad they never have happy hour specials, you may need to reconsider.

What does it cost?

Besides your soul?  Okay, there are four main components at play here: (1) Initiation fee; (2) Monthly minimums (usually food and beverage); (3) Special assessments; and (4) Ongoing lifestyle cost.  Just like buying a car or a house – you have to be able to afford the original asset and maintain and use the asset.

The cost here is at the upper tier of disposable income.  You have your normal life costs (mortgage, car, utilities, clothes, food, entertainment etc.), retirement goals, cost of kids, kids’ education, safety net for your parents or family, general safety net, non-profit giving.

If you have to sell part of your stock portfolio or adjust your budget to squeeze it in, you can’t afford it.  If every time you’re at the facilities and are adding up the bill or concerned you just spent too much, you can’t afford it.  It is play money and you have to be comfortable knowing our kids may invite three friends and rack up a $100 lunch bill.  Or bring out three guests to play 18 and walk out with a $500 charge to your membership number.

Just like where you live, who your friends are and where you spend your money – they are all individual choices. Everyone gets utility out of different things.  If you can say yes to one of these two items, then those gates may be ready for you: (1) you make so much money there’s not another painting or car you care to own or (2) You will utilize the club to its fullest year round and don’t blink an eye at any of the costs.

All that said, it’s time for me to order that Arnie Palmer at Betty Danger’s in Northeast Minneapolis.  Happy hour is almost up.

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