Are Five-Day Golf Memberships A Good Idea?

Do they offer flexibility or just a discount for the time-rich?

Five-Day Golf Memberships
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Golf Monthly regulars Jeremy Ellwood and Fergus Bisset debate whether offering a five-day membership would be of benefit or detriment to golf clubs.

Are Five-Day Golf Memberships A Good Idea?

Yes says Jeremy Ellwood

I hear what my learned colleague has to say below, of course - the idea that those who typically use the course the most should pay the least can be a little galling for some.

But I think we need to see a slightly broader picture here and appreciate that, at the moment, golf clubs need as much flexibility as possible within their membership structures to ensure that there really is something for everyone.

Given that most golf clubs are busiest at weekends, a five-day membership is really an off-peak membership, and it’s pretty standard for these to not only cost less but also have no real restriction as to when they might be used within the stipulated off-peak hours.

Gym memberships are a prime example.

In all the ‘play the most, pay the least’ rhetoric I think it’s easy to forget that five-day members are sacrificing certain elements of club life.

Most of the club competitions – and certainly the ‘majors’ or honours board events – will be played at weekends, so by opting for a five-day membership, you are ruling yourself out of those.

And let’s not exaggerate the extent of the reduction five-day members enjoy either.

In a Google search of ‘5-day membership’, the first four clubs where membership fees were readily available on websites showed that five-day members were paying between 71 and 84% of a full seven-day membership, with three of the four around the 80% mark.

If those figures are typical, is it really worth upsetting the apple cart and potentially driving people away to the club down the road by doing away with a membership category that generates a considerable sum of much-need revenue?

Are Five-Day Memberships A Good Idea?

No says Fergus Bisset

The modern members’ golf club should be a democracy in which all ordinary members feel they have equal chance to receive value for money from the subscription they contribute.

It won’t happen that way as some are more time-rich than others and can dedicate more of it to pastimes, but the opportunity should be there for all on an equal footing.

Discounted five-day memberships undermine this democracy.

They will largely appeal to, and be taken up by, a particular group of people – the retired.

They are the time-rich mentioned above, but they are also, generally, in a position where they have financial security and accrued wealth.

These are the people golf in this country needs to step up and contribute fully for our clubs to survive.

A discount for the wealthy retired is not the way to keep golf alive.

The people likely to take up five-day membership are lucky enough to have flexibility in their calendars.

Those who work Monday to Friday can only consider getting out for golf on the weekend.

They shell out for full membership in order to have two days of potential golfing.

Why on earth should they be paying more than the person using the club on five of seven days?

Offering five-day membership is a mistake.

It allows the time-rich to contribute less to the running of the club but to play every day Monday to Friday.

They play in the mid-week competitions, senior matches and other events, they turn up for Sunday lunch at the club to join family members who have enjoyed their one round of the week.

They’ve played five rounds, spent 30 hours at the club and paid 25% less for the year for the privilege.

Is that equitable? No.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?