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Public Golf Courses Vs Private – How Does It Work?

As experienced golfers will tell you, not all golf courses are born equal. While some courses have an annual membership, others have a pay-to-play system to cater to the general public. With this in mind, one confusing topic for beginners recently has been the difference between public and private golf courses. Which should you choose? 

Public Courses 

Generally speaking, public courses are catered to casual players who don’t want to spend lots of money on an annual membership because they know it won’t get used too often. If you play infrequently or like to play different courses, a public course might be the best option for you. Although public courses do have memberships, most people pay a fee each time they play. 

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In terms of quality, some will say that private courses are kept much better, and this is probably true. Additionally, because membership isn’t required, the fairways will be busier. On the other hand, this makes it a perfect place to start as a beginner. You don’t want to commit to one course for a full year, so you pay every time you fancy playing instead. With players of all abilities, there’s no pressure and you can just enjoy striking the ball and improving that swing. 

If you’re nervous about joining a private club, please don’t feel alone. Every year, we hear about players not wanting to visit a private club for fear of laughter from more experienced players. We suggest two steps for these players: 

  • Take classes from somewhere like Boyne Golf (there’s no quicker way to learn the game of golf than with an expert!). 
  • Visit different public courses and enjoy the fact that you’ll see people of all abilities. 

Private Courses 

If you choose to go private, the vast majority of golf courses in this niche will charge a membership fee (this could be monthly, or it could be the more common option of yearly). Depending on the course you choose and the facilities they offer, you could pay hundreds, or you could pay thousands for a membership. For the high-quality, exclusive clubs around the country, they charge north of $100,000 per year. When choosing a private club, we think it’s best to find the balance between quality and cost – a balance that the aforementioned Boyne Golf seems to master in Michigan, for example. 

With this fee, you’ve probably guessed that it keeps most amateur players away. If you aren’t committed to a regular game, you’re unlikely to want to pay for a year’s membership. When it comes to the cost, the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ applies in this situation. As the membership increases from one course to another, you can be sure that the quality of the course, the facilities, and the coaches improve. 

As you move into the luxury market, you’ll find that a golf course is just the start of the package and you’re actually in a resort with tennis courts, restaurants, spas, massage facilities, and more. 

One benefit of choosing a private course with a respectable membership fee is that you have a home course. Furthermore, memberships normally come with extras including free lessons, guest deals, and social events. For those good enough, you might even enjoy tournaments and competitions.


If you’re serious about golf, private courses often come with a community and social aspect as opposed to a simple round of golf. But, equally, sometimes we just want a round of golf. The choice is yours!