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"The coolest new wrinkle in the private-access game might be the Outpost Club."

John Paul Newport looks at the many ways you can get on private clubs through the array of group membership concepts, including a nice shout-out for the architecture-driven Outpost Club.

Modeled after historic golf societies in Great Britain, it does not own a course but members can play, on a limited basis, more than 50 private "partner clubs" in North America. Members (currently 340) pay a $5,000 initiation fee plus $900 in annual dues and a $900 annual minimum in golf and lodging at partner courses. The club is "by invitation only," requiring an application, but the process is about gauging seriousness.

"People don't join our club for the status, they join because they are avid golfers who appreciate great architecture and like to play fast, usually walking, with fellow members who feel the same way," said co-founder Colin Sheehan, who is Yale's head golf coach. The club won't release the names of the courses, but I've seen the list and almost all were designed by heavy hitters, dating from Ross and A.W. Tillinghast.

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Reader Comments (32)

Bob Coore?
06.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmporer's Lackey
Uh yes, I saw that. Rupert Murdoch hasn't been hiring fact checkers at the Journal apparently.
06.4.2011 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Fact checker? That shouldn't even have made it past Mr. Newport's first draft. As an editor, I would eliminate stuff like "super-elite havens" from the description of just about any club, much less Winged Foot.
06.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterKevin
Regardless of the errors, the Outpost Club is a great idea, run by reputable people. Colin is one of the great people in the sport. Will is just so-so! (Just kidding Will! ;) )

A lot of private clubs should be jumping on this, as well as potential members.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTommy Naccarato
Outpost club is a wonderful concept and as Tommy mentioned it is organized and run by people who know and appreciate great golf courses and great golf clubs.It is a win-win for outpost members and clubs.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterGeoffreyC
With a little planning, just about anyone can play all of the top golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland. It is tragic that most of the great golf courses in the US are closed to all be the super-rich and/or super-connected. My solution: private courses in an area would open up the course to play one day per week (probably a Monday or Tuesday) to out of town travelers. To ensure as many people as possible got to enjoy the course, visitors would be limited to 1 round lifetime.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrad Ford
Let's see. I am being asked to pay $5900 for the right to play certain courses , sometimes for free and sometimes for gren fees.I think I can find better uses for the money if I want to play good golf courses.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterBuffett
Yeah, maybe. But how about this? As with the clubs I listed in a previous thread, why won't these American clubs simply play nice?

If they are worried about getting overrun by the hoi polloi, they aren't thinking very well...what a shock. All of the non-American clubs on my list (and virtually every other club in their category) WELCOME VISITORS. Even Muirfield now has a visitor-friendly website. But there are conditions, which include a valid current handicap below some cutoff and access limited to certain times (e.g., Tuesdays and Thursdays, for an hour or two in the morning and afternoon). Advance arrangements are essential. You might be required to take a caddy. A letter of introduction from the pro at your course (public or private) might be required. As a WAG, the requirement for a handicap card eliminates in excess of 90% of Americans who play, or play at, golf. A walking requirement would eliminate many of the remaining otherwise eligible golfers. The thought of >$200 plus caddy fee and tip eliminates a further large slice (including me, depending on the course). Actually being required to plan in advance eliminates another slice. So we are left with, what, a number of golfers that can be comfortably reckoned in the tens of thousands? All of whom know who MacDonald, Raynor, MacKenzie, Ross, Tillinghast, Byrd, Wilson, Crump, Bell, Thomas, Maxwell, Fownes are. Most of them will also know how to pronounce "Ouimet" and know who O.B. Keeler was. They just will lack membership in the Lucky Sperm Club. There is simply no legitimate downside to welcoming visitors under these conditions. Besides, the extra money will be free.
What Ky said. At the $5K entrance fee plus $1800 a year, it is out of my price range until two kids are out of college. And by then, who knows what the golf community and situation will look like?

What few well-known private courses I been lucky enough to play (Winged Foot, Olympia Fields, Champions, Congressional, Lowes Island (now Trump something-or-other), Firestone South) I have gained the opportunity via invitations from club members I've met playing relatively high-end courses in Arizona or other locales while on vacation. Looks like that will have to continue to be my modus operandi, as the Outpost Club ain't gonna be it.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
**Looks like that will have to continue to be my modus operandi, as the Outpost Club ain't gonna be it.**

modus operandi= jump fence on 13 one hour before dark?
06.5.2011 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Why is the list of courses a secret?
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
*Why is the list of courses a secret?*

That is a secret, too.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Why is the list a secret?

a1) The clubs want to keep their involvement 'hush hush' because they feel they will diminish their snob-appeal by letting the riff-raff play even on rare occasions.
a2) The club general managers (or starters etc.) are allowing the outside play without letting the members know.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Nelson
What Ky and RickABQ said. For that price, I could join the local country club and my kids could swim in the pool. Of course, I don't have that money. So it's academic. I do, however, know how to pronounce Ouimet.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJordan
I know an Outpost member and he's a Doctor with little time to golf. I would rather play more affordable golf than be able to afford an Outpost membership!
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterArdmoreari
For those of you dinging the Outpost Club, well obviously it isn't for you. Those I know who are involved with it are pretty happy with what their membership is bringing them.

That's all that matters!
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTommy Naccarato
How do the members at the clubs that have joined in with the Outpost Club feel about the deal?

Is it hurting the ability to sell membership at those clubs? It seems like a delicate balancing act.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTighthead

Don't get me wrong, if I had the money, and the free time, the Outpost Club would be great. So I'm just resentful that I can't join something like this. And I would obviously prefer a system like Britain or Australia, where the top courses are available to the unwashed masses like me.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJordan
@Tommy -

For those of you dinging Industry Hills Golf Course, well obviously it isn't for you! I am sure there are many people quite happy with the courses there, and that's all that matters!

(one can also insert "Rees Jones designed course" in place of Industry Hills Golf Course in above sentence) :-)

It is my understanding that people on this site have the right and privilege of commenting, pro or con, on a whole host of items that oftentimes don't directly affect them, and as long as we keep it civil we can all learn things from each other (that is why I read here). I am happy that the Outpost Club is a wonderful thing for your friends, but you gotta admit it is for a fairly limited few. And that's OK with me!
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
You guys who keep harping on the American private clubs don't seem to get one thing: The members of these clubs pay for the privacy as well as the golf and other amenities. If you still don't get that, look at it this way...if you live in a cool, interesting, or neat house, why don't you allow anyone on the planet to come over a spend the day watching your T.V., eating the food out of your fridge, or watching the ball game while laying on your couch in your living room? Of course, limit them all to only one visit to your house during your lifetime. Yeah, that would suck coming home after a hard days work to see some stranger in your house.

Take the concept to your exclusing private club. Hard weeks work, you want to go hit some balls, and play some golf and unwind. Oh yeah, its Thursday and that is the day the club is open to the public...the course is packed with people taking 5 hours to play it, taking pictures, not fixing ball marks, drinking beer, and acting like fools. Why'd you join this club again? Scrub this, I'm moving to a different club.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMRP

Because only the unwashed masses take 5 hours to play? And only we don't fix ball marks? And only we drink beer? And act like fools? This doesn't happen at your club? Really? Glad you can afford the luxury. Given a chance, I play pretty damn fast. (Sadly, the munis I frequent don't offer fast rounds. Wish they did. Sort of a big reason why I'd like to play at a private club.) And I always fix my ball mark. And many others that I didn't make. (I've had superintendents stop and thank me.) And I don't drink beer on the course. Or smoke cigars for that matter. And I've never taken a picture on a golf course. And I don't think I've ever acted like a "fool." But thanks for assuming anyone who wants to play your precious course who can't afford it otherwise is going to ruin it for you.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJordan
@MRP - Go reread Ky's post. The hoi polloi won't overrun your club, and he explained why not. Something as simple as requiring that Outpost Club members use a caddie can ensure that all club protocol is followed. You won't have to worry about 5 hour rounds, unreplaced divots and the like.
There is an entire cohort of golfers, who are decent at the game, have an appreciation for its traditions, are respectful to their fellow players, but who don't happen to belong to a private club or an exclusive club. Your assertion that the bulk of non-members of your club are heathens is as ridiculous as the thought that every member within the most exclusive clubs all know how to live graciously in community with their fellow golfer.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterEast End Golfer
I don't belong to a private club! But I'm not sure why people are bashing them. If u have the money and view the exchange equitable, who is anyone to criticize? what about people that spend 80k on a BMW instead of 30 on a honda.? It's their bleeping money. But as far as the posts above! It's obviously not just the golf course that brings em. Hanging out with at least semi familiar folks, dropping by after work for a round with whoever happens to be there (but u know them sort of). All seem pretty cool to me. It's like fraternities in college. Pretty good deal all the way around, and hey nobody forces u to join. Most of the critics are basically envious lets face it
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian S
As much as I like the British (and Australian) system, it could never work in America. The better clubs in Britain and Australia usually have joining fees of $US10,000 or less, and annual dues of less than $US4,000. Most of the best clubs in America charge many multiples of this. If I had spent 50-100-200 thousand to join a club – and 20 thousand per annum in dues - I would see red if I saw someone off the street (even if they have a letter of introduction etc etc) play for a couple of hundred dollars.
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Why is the list of courses a secret?
06.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
The Outpost Club strikes me as a wonderful opportunity for some. Some day folks will fully understand that money matters and that is why we all want it, but to be bitterly envious of the (undoubtably) lucky minority isn't a trait which wears well. Sure I much prefer the GB&I system, but I understand the US system adn the right to privacy. However, I would point out that exclusivity is a double edge sword. Extreme exclusionary policies will not endear the great many that may not even play golf and the largesse of these fringe individuals may become important in future years if and when access to water becomes an even more serious issue than it is today. I believe it could possibly pay long term dividends to provide limited access today in return for public goodwill in the future.
06.6.2011 | Unregistered CommenterEl Gringo
Just remember that this situation is an accurate representation of everything in life. "It's not about the money, right up to the moment where there is money involved."
06.6.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMoney Man
I seems obvous that the clubs whom are ''members'', are in need of the fiunding from the additional revenue the ''outposties'' bring.

period, the end, ~finis~
06.6.2011 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
@MRP: Your comment was a perfect example of missing the point and erecting a straw man containing at least 5 round bales of fine fescue. And perfectly representative of a certain strain of "American," but completely unrepresentative of the ideal of hospitality of our state (which is honored in the ideal rather than the real more often than not, I admit). If you think we would act the fool at your golf course because we are not members, well then, we are not going to miss much at St. Ives, or wherever your inner sanctum is. By the way, I am a member of a "private" club, too. It is full of avid golfers and open to anyone with a few hundred dollars a month and the willingness to be considerate of others. Even when the course is full, it never takes more than 4 hours to play. More than a few members could learn how to repair ball marks, I admit. I am not resentful or envious of the members of Winged Foot or any other golf club, but the custodians of such national treasures would not lose anything by making their work of art accessible to nonmembers a few times a week. That's all.

Can't speak to all of the clubs but I am familiar with some of the clubs that are Outpost participants and the two that I have the most familiarity with do not need the money. In fact, the amount of play from OC members is nominal.
06.6.2011 | Unregistered Commenterrose
Why is the list of courses a secret?

@ rose, which courses is it that you speak of?
06.7.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
Is this Outpost Club a for-profit operation?
06.7.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk

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