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Death of the Country Club (city-journal.org)
22 points by RickJWagner 3 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 38 comments

Another (now dead) comment here called country clubs the domain of rich racists. So I thought I might share my story.

When my family immigrated to the US in the 1980s, my parents had limited English fluency and familiarity with the culture, so they couldn’t find any work. My father managed to work as a day laborer at country club one day. He had a conversation with one of the club members, expressed a desire to work in his broken English, was referred to another member, and then was connected with a permanent (menial) job at a local hotel. It made a big difference in our lives.

I don’t have any other experience with such clubs, but I’m thankful that at least one of them recognized and helped a hard worker get ahead.

The author of this story failed at research. The Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club is a public institution operating on land owned by the City of Santa Clara. It's the exact opposite of a ritzy, expensive club. It's closing because of developer greed, meanwhile other public golf courses in the area (San Jose Muni, Sunnyvale Muni, Shoreline, etc) are doing just fine. None of those courses would ever be mistaken for a Country Club though.

The chairman of my wife’s old company invited us to a dinner at a fancy country club. He had to spend $20k a year in entertaining.

Nobody has the time to do that anymore. That’s too rich for most political people and too time consuming for most business people.

Yeah, I don't think $20K in 'required spending'. More like $20K/year in dues, and $2K in 'required spending'.

Even then, that's a lot.

Maralago for example only has $14K in annual dues.

I’m a little skeptical of that number, while I don’t doubt the annual dues might have been $20k/year even clubs with mid six figure initiations are unlikely to have a $20k/year food and beverage minimum

It may have been dues with some sort of credit. They basically ate out and did all family functions there if I recall.

Who has time to play golf? Even though we can afford it, we are constantly in back-to-back "sprints" during the day and tied to our computers so we can respond to pages for "devops" at night.

In the rare downtime we get these days, the pace of modern highly paid professions leaves us too exhausted for lengthy sports like golf.

Leisure is dead and will stay dead until life takes precedence in work-life-balance again.

This is a reflection of your own personal experience and is not reflective of all or probably even most peoples life. I would say the majority of people have plenty of time in their weekend for a game of golf. They may have filled their weekends up with other activies but if they wanted to play golf they could.

The golf industry disagrees. Lack of leisure time is one of the key factors driving the steep decline in the golf market.


The article didn't even say that. It just said that the game cost too much and other sports were winning out over it. The closest that it said was people wanted shorter games. That doesn't mean they don't have time for a long game but likely that they just don't want to spend 3 hours on one game.

The average person now has more free time than ever before, they just pack it full of stuff. Almost everyone could find much more free time if they dropped other activities like watching tv shows or social media.

People don't lack leisure time at all. They just spend it fiddling with their phones.

I don't like golf, but I do like the idea of playing a relaxing yet challenging game outdoors which takes 4 hours to complete. Beats the shit out of fiddling with your phone.

I saw the stats on how long per day the average instagram user spends on the service and its mind blowing. Pretty much everyone has lots of free time but its just crammed full of social media.

Disagree. As a senior software engineer, I get in about 50 full rounds of golf a year. Young and older people choose their hobbies accordingly, and I choose outdoor activities while everyone else is out power drinking at the bar.

I'm happy for you. I take it you don't work for a FAANG. They dump money on us, but they make sure they get their money's worth out of us :-/

The way I saw it, people simply had no backbone to decline work. I don't know why. Maybe they had an (irrational) fear of being fired or not promoted on a timely basis, but that never was an option for management really.

Not only I could work as much as I want in Amazon and Microsoft, but at any time you could get an extra vacation.

Well, then go get a job with work/life balance that pays less.

The average that real knowledge workers work per day is probably closer to 6, including meetings. I did a simple poll of HN a while back. Here is the result: https://imgur.com/qdSltlM

It's a normal distribution around 4-8 hours. There's no correlation with hours worked to seniority.

Poll language here: https://strawpoll.com/47x15cf1

I specifically included meetings, etc, in the time counted.

If you took anecdotes from office workers IRL you'd think everyone was in the top quintile. You can argue that its an unrepresentative sample (people browsing HN) but I'd postulate that people not on HN are using downtime elsewhere.

My folks belonged to a club, we were not wealthy, but my parents enjoy golf and it's a super important place for them to engage with their peers. It was an important community to them.

We also belonged to a Ski club (again, not super expensive), and it was essentially our community. I think most of our family friends were part of that club or neighbouring one's.

Most of them were a little well off (think Dentist), but most were definitely not rich, though sure there were some.

Though clubs have been seen as the domain of the rich, they are really a great thing, I wish there were more of them.

The only real negative attribute I see is that they can be seen as a strong sign of class: people will be judged on what club they belong to, and the fees will determine status. It doesn't have to be that way however.

Depends on your locale. I’m in Orange County, south of LA where country clubs and yacht clubs are alive and well.

Younger generations are joining both.

This reminds me of casinos, whose decline is also oft-reported nowadays. The financial difficulties of millennials notwithstanding, I expect that casinos just aren't as culturally appealing to today's youth as they were to their parents, and I wonder if something similar could be said of country clubs.

Vegas is doing very well on the whole.

Not due to gambling, though. Kids these days go for the clubbing.

Frankly I’m skeptical - is the article talking about high end private clubs owned by their memberships, or the corporately owned “country clubs” or clubs associated with a real estate development or planned community? They are two totally different things...

There's something awfully tone-deaf about a conservative magazine using John Updike, Sinclair Lewis and Philip Roth to bemoan the decline of country clubs. These men's works (American Pastoral, Rabbit, Run) excoriate the culture of the 50s and 60s rat-race-to-the-country-club.

The fact that the literature of the period employs the country club is not evidence of the country club's positive aspects -- it's frequently evidence of the exact opposite.

Nice post that you shared! I think with the trend of more urbanization, upper-middle class millennials have substituted some of the aspects of country clubs (social community mixed with athletics/sports) with expensive boutique group sports and fitness experiences like CrossFit, SoulCycle, and perhaps Equinox. Some of the true upper class friends I have still do things like pay dues for expensive social athletic clubs.

Bowling went through a similar decline.

Societal forces, worth of underlying real estate, etc.

We need something similar, else we risk further erosion of social fabric.

If country clubs ever contributed positively to social fabric they have hidden this phenomenon very well.

> Leisure for today’s younger adults more often involves streaming TV shows in a high-rent city bedroom, not playing 18 holes on a suburban green.

Not sure that's better.

It sure as hell ain't worse.

Anyway, the "high rent" bit makes me reject it wholesale. This was targeted at yuppies, not the people excluded from country clubs. Who gives a shit about yuppies (including us all): they can buy whatever they need.

The worst thing about them is all the C-types talk to each other and compare and then come back and say, why aren’t we using solution X? So and so is using it at their co and they’re doing well!

Literally the worst

They brought us "CaddyShack".


Spend less time worrying about what people think about you.

...unless you're a racist.

It's not what they think about me, it's what I think about them. Even in the last few years there's been news story after news story about some country club being a hotbed of racism. It's an industry I refuse to support and I'm happy to see it die.

Queue the ‘whatever i dont like is racist’ meme. I get paired with black golfers all the time. I personally witness more bigotry and racism from cities than I do golfing or visiting rural areas.

>I personally witness more bigotry and racism from cities

No argument on that bit.

This is basically good.

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