If you love golf, you probably understand the most obvious benefits of belonging to a private club. Who wouldn't want to hone their game on a scenic course like North Oaks, work with our excellent instructors, and meet other people who love the game as much as you do? Throw in a place for family gatherings and the opportunity to host friends and business associates at the club, and you understand why private golf clubs are so popular.
But there are also some hidden perks to private golf club membership that aren't quite as well known. The perks that can best be described as "you've got a guy for golf."
What do we mean? It seems like everybody has at least one friend who has "a guy" for everything. An insider who has all the connections. Suits? He's got a guy. Hookups for tickets? He's got a guy. A great mechanic? He's got a guy. And when you belong to a private golf club, it feels like you've got a guy. Or, more exactly, multiple guys for golf.
At North Oaks Golf Club, it starts at the Pro Shop. Head Pro Ray Vennewitz stocks his shop with four major club lines, but the selection isn't what makes the pro shop special. Ray is what makes it special. He's "your guy," so he can special order just about anything. If you see it in a golf magazine or on your favorite website, he knows where to get it. If you see a pro wearing some cool shoes, he knows where to order them. Try finding that at a big box store.
In fact, try trusting the opinion of the kid who shows you clubs at a big box store – somebody who doesn't know your game and might not even know the game. Ray knows whether you hit a cut or fade, whether you've been searching for a comfortable putter for years, and whether your eyes are bigger than your driver should be. He'll recommend the right clubs for your game because he knows your game. And he wants to get it right because he'll be seeing you all season.
Demo Days and Fitting Days
That's one reason he sets up Demo Days and Fitting Days for members. Ray is a big believer in "test drives" – for drivers and all other clubs. Members get plenty of opportunities to try new clubs whenever he sells them, and he also sets up special Demo Days early in the season.
This spring, his Demo Day had representatives from Ping, Callaway, TaylorMade, and Cobra available to test clubs and answer questions. He then set up fitting days for each of those companies for the following week.
"That's just a nicer way to go about the process of buying clubs," says Ray. "On the main Demo Day, you try everything and kind of think about what you liked, and then hone in on one company that you want to buy your clubs from. Then we will set up a custom fitting session where you will get your clubs fit exactly to your body type and swing. We measure lie angle, shaft length, shaft flex and grip size to make sure that your clubs fit you exactly right.
Mill River Club
When you shop for clothing at the pro shop, it definitely feels like you've "got a guy." Members belong to the Mill River Club, a popular benefit at many private golf clubs, which allows members to pay 18-percent over wholesale.
At North Oaks, golf members have the $150 membership fee added to their dues and social members have the option to join, and it doesn't take long for the Miller River Club membership to pay off. Since Ray stocks premium brands like Peter Millar, Vineyard Vines, Foot Joy and Under Armour, members get a chance to clothes you'd find at Nordstrom and Macy's for prices you'd expect at Costco.
"That's why I do so many special orders for Peter Millar," says Ray. "The members will see a shirt for $90 at Nordstrom, where I'm going to be charging $60-65 for it." Just like your friend who's "got a guy."
Play with the Pros
Another obvious benefit of a private club is the opportunity to learn from the best. Clubs like North Oaks have multiple teaching pros, and you can pick any of them for private instruction. Yet the hidden perk is how easy it is to play with them.
In fact, North Oaks has a season-long Play with the Pro competition going on this year to encourage members to play with them.
Each of the pros is setting aside six days, and three members can sign-up to play with them. They're even keeping score for how each of the foursomes performs, with some prize money and bragging rights going to the winners. But the real goal is to give the members access to a different kind of instruction.
"The members can learn a lot from the pros when they play with us, like how to read particular greens or how to hit certain shots," says First Assistant Golf Professional Nick Sage. "But it's really great for us, because when you're out there for four hours with them, you really get to know them better."
But that's not the only time the members and pros play together. For example, Nick and General Manager Phil Anderson (also a PGA Professional) organized a road trip in mid-May to Sand Valley, a premier course in Rome, Wisconsin named the Best New Course 2017 by Golf Digest. "We want to provide our members with unforgettable memories," Nick explains. "The concept is to travel together and deliver bucket list trips, as well as building relationships with our members beyond just North Oaks!"
Sand Valley is a public facility, so the members could obviously go on their own, but going with the pros really was like having "a guy."
"The pros took care of everything," Nick says. "All they had to do was pretty much show up and enjoy a great golf facility. The pros took care of all the logistics for transportation, golf, dining, and lodging. And we all had a great time!"
Of course, they did, because it pays to "have a guy."