What Is a Semi-Private Golf Course and Who Can Play There?
Written by Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years. Current Handicap: 8

Updated on December 12, 2023

A semi-private golf course have both paying members and are open to the general public. However, members typically get priority on tee times and access to certain facilities.

That means the club generates revenue from golf membership dues and green fees from members of the general public. This enables the establishment to hire more experienced staff and maintain the course and facilities. Semi-private golf courses are far better manicured, making them a pleasure to play on. They may not be perfect like private clubs, but they offer the average golfer excellent value for money.

These courses have variable and invariable revenue streams compared to a private membership club. When the links are quiet, semi-private courses can open up to the general public and generate revenue from green fees and food and beverage.

However, private clubs get their membership fee monthly or annually. This income helps to cover the operations. That’s why exclusive private golf clubs ask for an outrageous fee from current and prospective members.

Therefore, since semi-private golf courses make revenue from the public and their members, they can offer a quality, affordable experience.

 

Examples Of Semi-Private Golf Courses

Torrey Pines

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Torrey Pines is a fine example of a semi-private golf course. If you are a resident of San Diego, you can play the host venue for two US Open for under $80. However, if you are not from “America’s Finest City,” you can expect to cough up approximately $250.

Out-of-towners who intend to play Torrey Pines a couple of times a year may consider the membership. The first-year fee is $500. After that, the renewal fee is $175.

Pebble Beach

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Pebble Beach is an exception to the norm of affordable semi-private golf outings. A total of $575 is what it takes to play a round at the home of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. If you think that is hefty, the initiation fee for membership is $18,000, but after that, it runs you $260 per month.

The point is that despite its membership program, Pebble Beach is open to the average Joe, making it a public golf course.

Pinehurst

Pinehurst has hosted three US Open Championships and remains a celebrated name in golf. It forms part of a golf complex with nine courses. The most famous being No. 2. Effectively, the nine layouts at Pinehurst are resort courses and range in price.

Green fees fluctuate from $50 to $450, depending on the golf course you are playing and the time of year. Expect to pay approximately $450 if you tee off at the coveted No. 2 course.

 

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Pros and Cons of a Semi-Private Golf Course

Pros

Well-Maintained

Semi-private golf courses have the resources to employ the correct human resources and acquire the ideal equipment. Therefore the golf facilities are generally well maintained. The greens, fairway, and rough are manicured, while the clubhouse, restaurants, and tennis courts remain in order.

Relatively Affordable

As you saw with my example of semi-private courses, green fees vary for visitors. However, when you can play well-maintained layouts for less than $100 in some cases, that is a bargain.

Naturally, courses such as Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, and Pinehurst No. 2 will cost more, but that is expected from venues that host PGA Tour events.

Better Pace of Play

Semi-private golf courses cost more to play at than municipal clubs. Therefore, it often attracts a serious type of golfer who doesn’t embarrass themselves over 18 holes. These golfers typically respect the rules and possess superior etiquette.

In addition, semi-private clubs should have starters and marshalls who keep an eye on the pace of play and step in when needed. An attentive marshall is vital to keep the field moving swiftly.

Superior Facilities

The final advantage is that semi-private courses have superior facilities. Generally, the clubhouse, halfway house, and pro shop are in better knick than municipal courses. Plus, they offer a wider variety of products and services.

Cons

Preferential Tee Times for Members

The downside of a semi-private course is that members get preference. As it should be. However, that means you need to work around the club’s schedule. Sometimes, management may allow you to tee off in the late afternoon for 9-holes.

Furthermore, you can forget about getting onto the golf course on club competition days.

Higher Green Fees Than Municipal Courses

As you noticed, semi-private courses carry higher green fees than municipal golf courses. Some of them are reasonable but remain pricey for golfers on a budget.

 

My Recommendation on Courses to Play

Beginners

If you are starting out, I suggest testing your skills at a municipal course. The laid-back attitude of the field and officials is the right environment to learn. There is no pressure or stuck-up folks. These are the courses you can make mistakes on.

Golfers On A Budget

Golfers looking to maximize their playing time for as little dough as possible should also stick to municipal courses. This is where you will save the most money.

On the odd occasion, check the semi-private courses in your area for special deals. Alternatively, you can sign up to a site such as Tee Off, where they offer an array of discounted green fee deals.

Low Handicappers

Superior golfers will appreciate the manicured greens and fairways of private clubs and semi-private courses. In addition, the surrounding golfers are as serious as you about the game. Plus, they are well-versed in the etiquette and rules of golf. Therefore the pace of play is bound to be better.

 

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Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years. Current Handicap: 8