This means that I was raised in the world of private country clubs. Both your lower-rent, $10,000/year clubs and those pushing membership of $100,000 a year. While golf is by no means exclusively a rich man’s sport, it is true that a lot of rich people love the game and spend quite a bit of money to have the privilege of hanging out with other rich people.
My whole life, I’ve been allowed to participate in country club culture without actually being allowed to live the life. It’s like being a pro athlete’s personal assistant; you go to the fancy dinners and sit in the box seats at the games, but at the end of the day you’re just a guest. You gotta go home to your apartment, or in my case a perfectly comfortable house in a middle-class neighborhood. Not the mansions that line the fairways.
So here’s the inside dirt on what all those rich folks are up to behind those ivory gates:
Some are actually that rich, others are faking it
Even at the clubs with extremely low dues, I’m talking $7,500/year (the same your parents shell out for a typical college dorm room), there are some people who are working some kind of financial magic to be there. These are usually younger parents who thought they had dues money left over after mortgaging their starter house. They very often disappear for several years until those stock investments pay off, and then they return with a vengeance, this time driving BMWs and no longer waiting until employees are out of earshot to utter racial slurs.
Shitty, shitty tippers
These are the type of people who feel that you really have to earn that baseline 15% tip for any service, whether you’re a server in the dining room, a caddy or the valet. They didn’t get where they are by laziness, after all, and they're trying to pass that lesson on.
Some rich people are just cheap. They shell out money on quite a bit of luxury items, least of which this club that is charging them thousands of dollars just for the right to shit in the bathrooms. If you're considering employment at a country club, don’t count on making all that much money.
Some are as pretentious as you think, others are saints
There are some genuinely nice people who belong to country clubs. They haven’t let their money go their heads, and they firmly believe in paying their good fortune forward to those who are still working their way up in the world. That said, every single horrendous stereotype that exists in your head about rich people is absolutely true when it comes to at least 50% of members. Again, they're paying quite a bit of money to be there. They want the absolute best service their money can buy, and in a lot of ways, I can’t blame them.
Then again, some actually think that they’re the cream of the crop—that unless you make as much or more money than they do, you’ve somehow fucked up in life and are only fit to shine their golf clubs or serve them crawfish étouffée. I once saw a woman in the dining room of a country club tell a waitress that she was “completely unfit to serve me” because she incorrectly pronounced the brand of French wine that was being served. Bitch.
Politically conservative, but justifiably so
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being surrounded by rich people my entire life, it’s that they genuinely, truly feel threatened by tax hikes and fiscal reform. What’s important to remember here, though, is that not everyone who belongs to a country club is a member of the 1%. And those who have been smart with what money they scraped together and invested wisely—especially those who grew up poor—live every day thinking about their bottom line and hoping it all doesn’t suddenly go away. They’re delusional, but still.
Powerful people sprinkled among the average Joes
For every 20 doctors, engineers or semi-successful business owners who are just happy to be there, there is one member who is actually pretty up there. I’ve shaken hands with people who were taking home tens of millions of dollars or were otherwise pretty powerful. For instance, I once met one of Bill Clinton’s former bodyguards, a retired high-ranking Air Force general. I also had dinner one night at one guy’s mansion on top of a mountain. I noticed in between one of the $800 bottles of wine that he had a framed picture of his daughter shaking hands with George W. Bush sitting over one of his fireplaces. I also once heard my dad casually tell my mom that he “had to tell Matt Damon he couldn’t play at the club today because it was too short of notice.”
Even though I’ve talked a some shit on country clubs here, I would definitely become a member of one if my financial circumstances are ever right. Country clubs offer the kind privacy, leisure and camaraderie that people deserve if they can afford it. And we all know the value of being able to play golf well enough to impress potential clients, partners, or even your friends with gambling habits.
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[Golf cart image via Shutterstock]