GOLF DIGEST: GOLF & FINANCE OPEN INVITATION

Eager to play more private courses? These companies want to help make it happen.

No matter what you think of private golf clubs, they do have their advantages at times. They are generally less crowded and in better condition than public courses, for starters. Many are also in a pretty vulnerable state at the moment. The roller-coaster economy is to blame, along with the time pressures putting the squeeze on any leisure activity-much less one that takes four hours. A handful of companies are doing their best to capitalize on this, by encouraging more nonmember play at private clubs. Their pitch to clubs: Couldn’t you use some extra money for your unused tee times?

Allowing the public to play for the price of a guest fee “goes against every fundamental principle we believe in,” says Gary Rosenberg, co-founder of New York based Tour GCX. His company, which sells access to about 275 private golf clubs, works something like a fractional-jet program. You load your membership card with golf rounds (“tour units”) and then have 12 months to use them. Its clubs are chiefly in big business markets, including New York, Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago. A Tour GCX corporate membership starts with a $14,200 annual fee and includes a block of 20 tour units that can be used by multiple people within the organization. Each tour unit covers all golf-related fees for a foursome. The annual fee for individuals is $950, and a 10-pack of tour unit’s costs $4,750, or $118.75 per round. About 10 percent of the clubs in Tour GCX’s network are “branded” names and cost more. Some require two units for one foursome to play. “I really can’t name them because people always get sideways about it,” Rosenberg says. “Let’s just say they’ve hosted major championships.”

“It’s a benefit for members. It’s more exposure for the club, and it’s creating revenue from unused inventory. It’s a win-win-win!”