Club management’s challenge in structuring a guest policy is balancing competing interests reflected in the following hypothetical comments:

Member A: “I acquired my membership so I can play golf with my friends, so don’t restrict me from playing with them.”

Member B:  “Member A has played golf with the same guy 10 times.  His friend should get his own membership.”

Member C:  “I want my brother and his wife from Boston to play the course on Friday, but I can’t join them.”

Member D:  “I keep seeing non-members playing the course.  I thought this club is private.”

Membership Committee Chair:  “We need to introduce the club to new prospects through our guest program.”

Guest rules and policies should properly balance the interests reflected in these comments, taking into account the nature of the club, the membership and the club’s business goals.

Specific provisions may include:

  • Prohibition or restriction on unaccompanied guest play;
  • Provision for host committee to play golf with members’ guests when the sponsoring member is not available;
  • Restriction on number of times a person can be a guest in a year;
  • Black-out of peak periods when guests are not permitted;
  • Restriction on number of guests at one time; and
  • Rule governing payment of guests’ charges; and
  • Special rules or fees for extended family and/or houseguests.

Club management can take measures to minimize problems and maximize guest program benefits.  First, management should strictly enforce guest adherence to dress codes and guest rules to minimize member objections.  Second, the club should invest in software to track guests both for purposes of enforcing limitations and identifying membership candidates.  Third, the club’s guest policies should be regularly communicated to members and prospective members to avoid surprises and embarrassment to members and their guests. 

Most clubs welcome members’ guests, but sometimes the welcome mat need some definition.