I have intentionally chosen to be a public player. I truly enjoy the variety and diversity of golf courses and golf experiences within Canada. I cherish the freedom and flexibility which I have to play at any given date or time. Convenience, business, value and opportunity are all factors which contribute to the approximately 25 different courses I have played each year since 2008 in Canada. I am the baseball or hockey equivalent of a free agent. I reflect back with great memories of enjoyment and discovery, stumbling upon courses I was not aware of, or, simply would not have made the time to experience otherwise.
This is not to chastise the Golf and Country Club model and experience, quite the opposite. In fact, I’d like to present a contrarian argument for the merits of membership and for me it would start and stop with one factor. The day I join a club it will be for this reason. The obvious factors – finance, course/conditioning, convenience – are straightforward to me. But here is why I can see myself joining a golf club within the next 5 years; belonging.
Last week I teed up with a good friend at the Member-Guest event at the Brampton Golf Club. This is a venerable course designed by a Stanley Thompson protégé, Robbie Robinson. It’s immaculate and presents a very fair test of golf on a course which is walkable. The course can be set up for high level competition such the recent Ontario Women’s Amateur Championships but generally plays at an even higher degree of difficulty (especially, so I hear, around Club Championship time). The course boasts a high volume of play from an active membership. My experience last week, in addition to playing a practice round earlier this month, left me feeling impressed with the community of golfers which exists. My partner and course member happens to be Men’s Captain this year. He seemingly knows everyone there and they know him. The value of these relationships helps create a community which extends, in many cases, to entire families. And while this is nothing new and I may well be describing any number of Golf and Country Clubs across the country, the fact remains that golf is one thing that is a constant for most members in Brampton, allowing them to develop, maintain and build friendships around a game they’re passionate about.
Juxtaposed to this is the experience of a public player who does not have this sense of belonging but trades that in for freedom and flexibility to play at numerous courses and/or often or in my case infrequently. And while I am not paying annual dues or membership fees I also lack access to facilities for practicing. On a personal level this is a very simple and straight forward contrast. The complexity emerges when you get into membership consortiums like ClubLink or Pacific Links. Access to several courses is intriguing to me but the relational aspect of belonging is not quite the same. Similarly for public players, sites like GolfNow or consortia like GTA Golf Club unlock issues of access but to me there is a critical element missing.
That missing piece is belonging.
And it is the sense of belonging which will drive me to join a Golf and Country Club in the future. For now, I’ll enjoy my free agency and the chances to experience all that Canada has to offer in terms of public golf!