Why Overseas Golf Club Memberships Are a Great (and Affordable) Option


The wildlife at Brora GC, in Highland County, Scotland, is just one of the priceless attractions of the countryside. Another is the view from the 17th tee.

Brian Rowing

Proximity generally ranks high among a golfer’s considerations when looking for a club to join. The best design, the purest greens and the most luxurious amenities won’t beat a schlep. One exception: overseas memberships.

Many golf clubs in the UK and Ireland, from the most respected to the world renowned, offer some version of this category. The appeal to the club is obvious: it complements the bottom line. What’s more, Americans add a welcome diversity. For once, we are exotic!

For Yankees, overseas memberships have several attractions, including a reasonable price. “Let’s just say the membership structure is completely different from the United States,” says one of those lucky Americans, who requested anonymity.

Castle Stuart Golf Links designed by Mark Parsinen and Gil Hanse on May 5, 2016 in Inverness, Nairnshire, Scotland.

New Tom Doak Design Hits Acclaimed Top 100 Property in Scotland


jose sens

While our elite private clubs can cost six figures for initiation fees and five figures for annual dues, overseas memberships can cost as little as a few hundred pounds to join and just thousands in annual dues, or vice versa. That’s nothing and often the more prestigious the club, the more expensive it is. Still, it’s not prohibitive for golfers of means to make occasional use of these memberships.

Ranked No. 20 on our list of the top 100 courses in the UK and Ireland, Scotland’s magnificent Cruden Bay costs just $500 to join and $500 more per year.

Slightly steeper, Brora GC (No. 63) asks for $12,500 up front and a $400 annual fee. A handful of clubs offer lifetime overseas memberships for a one-time fee. Among them is Ireland’s Carne Golf Links (No. 66) for the bargain price of $3,800. (All quotes are approximate).

Unsurprisingly, several of the well-traveled individuals on the GOLF Course Evaluation Panel have overseas memberships. Their experiences make it clear that affordable ego gratification is the least of it. Luke Reese, a member of Chicago’s The Glen View Club, joined Ireland’s esteemed Portmarnock GC in 2000. Through his golf apparel business, he befriended a member, who introduced him to other members. They became buddies on annual golf trips, and then Reese’s buddies.

“I didn’t do a cost-benefit analysis,” he says. “I saw Portmarnock as a wonderful place to play golf with people I love to play golf with. I thought: that’s the kind of course I want to join.”

Saint Andrew

I moved to St. Andrews for the summer. this is why


Sean Zack

That Portmarnock is 15 minutes from Dublin airport didn’t hurt. After joining, “a legitimate club process, not just a simple registration,” Reese began getting a red eye more than three times a year, hailing a cab to the club, playing 18 holes, showering, and then “having a phenomenal lunch and back on a plane” to mainland Europe for business.

He found the overseas membership arrangement so satisfying that he soon joined Royal Dornoch and, a few years ago, Sunningdale. The party spirit in the UK and Ireland inspired Reese to write a book about it: One for memory banks.

Course evaluator Jack Bonner, an overseas member of neighboring Gullane, Luffness and Muirfield, thinks similarly, often timing his visits with club competitions.

“Whether it’s dinner parties or club games, you just learn to compete in them,” says Bonner, who, in turn, has hosted many international games at his local club, The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle. Beach, South Carolina. However, the first and most important thing is companionship.

“The camaraderie you get at all three locations is phenomenal,” he says. “These are 40-year friendships that I have made. They welcome you with open arms.”

generic profile picture

A former executive editor of golf magazineRothman is now a remote contract freelancer. His main role is focused on custom publishing, which involves writing, editing, and getting client approval on travel advertorial sections. Since 2016, he has also written, under a pseudonym, the popular monthly column “Rules Guy” and often writes the recurring “How It Works” page. Rothman’s freelance work for GOLF and runs the gamut from equipment, instruction, travel and feature writing, to editing major championship previews and service packages.