$25 a month for golf & dining

On Friday, we posted a quick deal for a membership with ClubCorp Travel. In a nutshell, for $50 a month, you could play golf and dine at locations across the country (and some international spots) provided you did so at locations that were 100 miles or more away from your home. It gets better — thanks to Reader Kevin for sharing that his membership fee was less, we’ve discovered that this membership is available in a handful of states for just $25 a month.

Membership for $25 a month

As stated above, some states have lower fees. We’ve found that people joining in the following states are charged just $25 a month for membership:

Iowa
Minnesota
Montana
North Dakota
South Dakota
Utah
Wyoming

I said it was a great deal at $50 a month. At $25, it’s a steal for the right person.

Greg totally disagreed — this morning he posted Should I pay for free dining and golf?, in which he explained why he didn’t think this deal would be worth it for him (at $50 a month). He still thinks it’s not worth it for him at $25 a month. And I can’t disagree — this deal isn’t for everyone. But I think someone who travels weekly could make out quite well at fifty bucks and really well at $25. Or someone who golfs and takes a vacation in a place with a number of good courses could also come out ahead. At the $25 a month price, if you golf once a month, you’re probably already beating the greens fees at most clubs — add in the cost of borrowing clubs (also free with membership) and it could be a fun way to try out some courses as you travel.

But there are restrictions

Of course, for $25 or $50 a month, you can neither golf any time you want nor eat dinner for free at all of the restaurants in town. Not being a member myself, I can’t speak to how restrictive it is in practice. And to be clear, we have no financial tie-in with ClubCorp — I posted this because it looked like a deal that might work out really well for a segment of readers.

So what are the restrictions? Read on.

Golf Restrictions

As for golf, the first thing of note is that it says carts are required, so there will be some cost in that rental. Additionally, tee times are available at any time on weekdays (subject to availability and blackout dates) and after 12pm on weekends. I’m not a golfer, but I understand that morning tee times are more preferable for a lot of reasons — not the least of which being afternoon heat in some places. That’s going to be one of the tradeoffs for the cost here. It looks like tee time reservations must also be made 21 days in advance — which I think is the even more restrictive term.

That said, you could book golf several days in a row and do pretty well on vacation. Here is an example given from the FAQ on ClubCorp’s page:

I am planning a trip to Palm Springs, California. How does it work?

With one call to ClubLine, you can take care of all your reservations. There are currently four country clubs available in Palms Springs. With ClubCorp Travel, you can enjoy two complimentary* green fees at Mission Hills Country Club, two complimentary* green fees at Indian Wells Country Club, two complimentary* green fees at Desert Falls Country Club, and two complimentary* green fees at Rancho Las Palmas Resort, all in one trip! That equates to more than $1,200 in complimentary* green fee benefits. 

ClubLine can also assist you with your dinner and hotel reservations in Palm Springs at one of our numerous alliance restaurants and hotels.

Unfortunately, there are no restaurants with complimentary dining listed in Palm Springs. On the other hand, on Greg’s recent trip to San Diego, he could have golfed 6 times and eaten two free meals at the University Club.

That said, the first golf club on the list doesn’t actually mention the complimentary loaner clubs in the benefits. And Greg’s not a golfer. But if he were, he might get well more value than his $600 in annual membership fees in one trip. If he lived in a state where the cost was $300 a year, that’s icing on the cake. Of note, there are some golf courses that are not ClubCorp-owned that list free golf, like the LPGA International course in Daytona Beach:

Restaurant Restrictions

There are definitely some restrictions to be found here as well. Not all of the restaurants listed offer free meals. Many of them say this:

VIP access? What does that mean? I don’t know, but I suspect not much. My guess is it means that Charlie Palmer is paying ClubCorp something to list the restaurant and it doesn’t mean much for you and I. And most of the restaurants listed only show that “VIP Access”. That’s not worth much of anything.

However, some restaurants have a free dining benefit. For example, on Friday, I showed that LeCirque in Manhattan includes a free 2-course meal twice a month:

Now, one big caveat here: I don’t know for sure that you can eat for free at LeCirque. The list of benefits of membership include these bullet points:

  • Dine at private business clubs in more than 50 cities across the country with two free* 4-course meals per club, each month
  • Special offerings at more than 1,000 hotels, resorts and restaurants
  • And so much more!

Does that mean you can only dine for free at the ClubCorp-owned clubs? Are places like LeCirque part of the special offerings at restaurants or part of the “and so much more!” clause? I don’t know. The reader who passed this on to Gary at View from the Wing only mentioned meals he ate at ClubCorp-owned clubs like the Metropolitan Club in Chicago:

At clubs like this, you get two complimentary 4-course meals per clubMeaning that if you alternated between the two available clubs in Chicago, you could eat for free four nights in a row.

Is the food any good? I dunno. Gary’s reader says the Metropolitan Club was good…and it looks like an OK joint to me. The menu looks decent and the view looks good, too. I think you’d easily get $50 out of one meal there. If you do business in Chicago regularly, I think you could easily beat the cost of membership without golfing if you like eating at those clubs. Of course if you’re in Chicago and don’t get out to Logan Square or Wicker Park or Old Town for a meal, I’d say you’re really missing out. But it’s hard to argue with the value of membership if you’re looking for a meal downtown.

Interestingly, Gary’s reader only mentioned ClubCorp restaurants in Chicago, Washington DC, Houston, and Waco. Could it be that the restaurant benefit of a travel membership is somehow different from another type of membership? Maybe. But as I read the terms, I think you get all of the benefits listed in the various cities in the drop down on this page. That means dinner at restaurants like LeCirque that list a free dining benefit. Note that the golf courses do not usually include free dining based on my searches so far.

There is more we don’t know

You can find a list of frequently asked questions here, and terms and conditions are here. There is a lot more we don’t know about ClubCorp than the bit we know from what we’ve read. If any readers are members and can chime in with other key details, please let us know.

Greg still wouldn’t be a buyer at $25 a month. I probably wouldn’t either since I neither golf nor travel to cities with clubs/meaningful restaurant benefits often enough. But a golfer who plans a week in a location with multiple courses might make out well on just one trip. Of course, if you’re interested in membership, I would highly recommend digging through the terms and conditions for anything we may have missed. If you live in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, or Wyoming and can take advantage of the benefits, $25 a month is hard to beat. The benefits are somewhat restrictive — but the price is also far below that of a typical country club membership. Whether or not that makes sense depends on your travel patterns.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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Comments

  1. 21 day Advance Tee Time reservations is a FEATURE! It’s like being able to book an award ticket up to 330 days in advance. It didn’t say that you can’t book a tee time LESS than 21 days in advance, but your CAN’T book one MORE than 21 days in advance.

    People who plan a vacation would obviously want to book months out as is done at some resorts.

    • I see! Shows how little I know about golf :-). I was thinking that business travelers would need the flexibility to book close-in tee times. But I see how it would be a benefit (and how I read it wrong). Thanks for the clarification!

  2. ClubCorp Travel is an awesome benefit. I currently have the full ClubCorp membership, with the San Diego University Club as my home Club. The food is great, and the staff is like family to me. Like all of us on this blog I try to maximize my membership. I use golf and/or dinner membership whenever I leave SD. (The 100-mile thing may not be a HARD 100 miles) I use my Out-of-Community benefits all the time in Orange County, about 70 miles from my home. Club Corp uses major Metropolitan areas as a Community. (San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Palm Springs, Chicago, etc) The free meals are generally offered at the Business Clubs, which are usually some of the best places to eat in the city. The meals alone may not want a newbie to take advantage, but if you golf or want to golf, the deal doesn’t get much better than this. Courses that generally cost $100 to $250, you can play for $20 (cart fee). I’ve already sent the link to a few friends who I know love to travel. The loaner club deal adds to it as well. I hate dragging clubs all over the place.

    Just my two cents.

    Feel free to let me know you have any questions.

  3. You know, it seems to me that if you’re going to write 3 separate posts on this, one of you could pick up the phone and actually call the company to find out the answers to some of these questions, instead of posting them rhetorically (and uselessly).

  4. The ClubCorp program is every bit as good as advertised. The restaurants are excellent, usually with excellent views of the city, and fine service – all for the $50 per month, and tax and gratuity. The eligible restaurants are clearly marked Signature Gold on their website and the quarterly magazine. Although I haven’t used the golf benefit, they are at excellent courses, and you don’t even have to carry your own clubs when travelling. I have a home on the Mission Hills course, and it is a magnificent course, impeccably maintained.

  5. I’ve been a clubcorp member at a course where we have a second home. I see this as clubcorp, a publicly traded company, trying to inflate their membership numbers for a few points on their stock price. Unfortunately it completely disregards the long term and their core customers. Private clubs are able to charge a premium due to exclusivity and ease of use. I’ve never had difficulties with dining reservations in the past and the dining experience has been private, hopefully that remains the case. At $50/month this experience will start to look like crowded airport lounges due to priority pass memberships included with an increasing number of credit cards.

    As far as some of the questions. The dining is only complementary where it says it is complementary. Even complementary however has a 20% service charge. You can look at the menus. Lets say you order a $15 appetizer, $12 salad, $30 main, $11 desert the total would be $68 that you aren’t paying but pay a 20% service charge of $13.60 + tip. I feel like the tipping policies vary from club to club. Some places there is a line for tip some places no line for tip. I figure if there is a line for a tip the expectation is to tip, we’ve also left a tip when there was no line. For example in Chicago at the Metropolitan there was a line for tip but at Mid America no line for tip but we still left a cash tip (great service and a table with a great view of the fireworks at the Navy Pier). Add alcohol if you desire (some places have $3 well drinks for happy hour and some places charge $10 for a well drink).

  6. “Gary’s reader” here to respond to some of your points.
    – As another commenter pointed out, the 21 day advance tee time is a maximum, not a minimum.
    – I agree with your thoughts on the VIP access: I haven’t tried it but I suspect it doesn’t mean much.
    – Le Cirque definitely offers the “free” dining benefit. There’s another in Manhattan by the same owners but I forget the name. Mostly, the free dining is only with ClubCorp owned clubs, but there are a few others.
    – Just about every major U.S. city has a club with the dining benefit, and quite a few smaller cities too. I’ve only tried the four I mentioned to Gary. Of those, I really enjoyed the Met in Chicago – everything about it, especially the faire, was top notch. Washington was great too. I was underwhelmed by Baylor but, for $8.30, it was still well worth it. And, to be fair, I should give it another chance.

    On another note, I’ve used the free access to fitness centers twice now – in Dallas and in Houston. Both were excellent. Played racquetball (by myself, unfortunately) in Dallas.

    It’s really a great deal. If you travel in the U.S. all the time. And you enjoy golf or fine dining. My dining bill has gone down and I’ve had some nicer meals than I might otherwise.

  7. Another thing to take note of – some of the clubs require jackets. I did not try the Mid America in Chicago because I didn’t have one with me. Always ask about dress code before you book.

    • Dave as a heads up many of the places that require a jacket will let you dine at the bar without a jacket. Mid America is such a place.

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