Golf: High Societies
Originated in Scotland in the 18th century, golfing societies have long been popular in the British Isles. But the concept—a membership group that hosts matches and other events, and offers access to various courses—has never caught on in the United States, where the local country club has been the affiliation of choice. In recent years, however, a few nontraditional golf clubs have cropped up in the States, each offering its own take on a Scottish-style society.
Launched in February 2010, the invitation-only Outpost Club is to golf what destination clubs are to real estate. Membership in the Ohio-based organization allows limited visits to dozens of private courses that are otherwise open only to the courses’ members and their guests. The club also hosts about 50 group trips and friendly competitions worldwide each year, with recent examples including an Argentina event combining Carnival with rounds at the Jockey Club in Buenos Aires and other top venues. An annual eight-on-eight match lets a few members play the ultra-exclusive Cypress Point club on California’s Monterey peninsula.
For many of the people who have joined the Outpost Club, playing the world’s best courses is commonplace: The organization has attracted members from clubs including Augusta National, Pine Valley, and Shinnecock Hills. "It is not designed to replace traditional club membership, but to augment it," says Outpost Club cofounder Quentin Lutz, a golf developer who has played every course on Golf Magazine’s World Top 100, for which he is a panelist. "Over 95 percent of our members belong to a golf club—or several."
Robert Pedrero, an Outpost Club member from San Francisco, belongs to a few top private courses but joined the Outpost Club because he has his sights on several more. "I have a list of architectural gems around the country I want to play," says Pedrero. "When I researched the Outpost Club, it was a no-brainer."
The Outpost Club furnishes its list of partner clubs only to prospective members, but the more than 40 courses include several of the most exclusive names in golf. "Our main criteria is architectural significance," says Lutz, "and almost all associated courses are in the top 100 of Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, or Golfweek."
Like the Outpost Club, the New York–based Tour GCX Partners club offers limited access to private courses. But the 6-year-old group is geared more toward business entertaining, and most of the more than 200 courses in its network are in or near urban centers such as New York and Los Angeles. Functioning much like private-jet cards, Tour GCX memberships involve prepurchasing a set number of tee times, with prices starting at about $5,500 for 10 four-player rounds.
More expansive in scope than the Outpost Club and Tour GCX, the year-old Tour Club is a golf-themed destination club that combines access to vacation homes with rounds at the PGA’s 26 Tournament Players Club courses and other tracks. A partnership between the PGA Tour and the Quintess destination club, the group also organizes travel experiences and corporate events for members, and provides VIP access to PGA Tour events. Pricing for the Tour Club starts at $40,000 plus $9,600 in annual dues (and per-night usage fees) for unlimited travel.
The Outpost Club is just $5,000 to join, with annual dues of $900 plus $900 in spending credits. Access to the courses in the organization’s network is limited, but, says Pedrero, "If I use it just once a year to play someplace like Olympia Fields or Mid Ocean Club, it’s totally worthwhile."