For many golfers, their first introduction to the game is through a golf society – when enthusiasts gather at a pre-booked venue to take advantage of special rates. It’s also an opportunity for fellow golfers to win a few prizes and establish ‘unofficial handicaps’ if they’re not already members of a golf club.
If you're just starting out and you're slightly unaware of the key must-knows when playing for the first time, then visit our article on starting playing golf for a better understanding.
Though selfish members at some clubs frown on societies taking up tee times, it raises valuable commercial revenue and helps keep their own subscriptions down.
At the last count there were 15,000 golf societies in the UK and Ireland – some just a handful of passionate golfers but others boasting over 100 participants. At my own local club, almost every weekday during the summer months attracts a society to either of its two 18-hole courses and though it may prove an inconvenience to those members who turn up speculatively for a game, the income is reflected in keeping members’ annual fees under control.
An increasing number of companies, associations, pubs and merely groups of golf-minded enthusiasts are forming societies to take advantage of reduced green fees are certain courses. Most receive a hefty discount if 12 or more players gather under one society banner. Reductions are usually also available if meals are required during or after the event.
Golfmagic recommends that new societies are registered with the English Golf Union Society Scheme which encourages groups of golfers to form a society in the correct manner. It gives credibility to a society and creates easier access to EGU affiliated golf courses.
Societies are listed in the EGU Yearbook and EGU website with a unique membership number
They are widely accepted at EGU-affiliated golf courses
They also receive a copy of the EGU Yearbook
New societies are invoiced each November for the following year. The annual registration fee is £41.13 (annual fee including VAT). There is no extra cost per member, though societies will no doubt want to charge a membership fee to cover administration.
The handicapping scheme within golf is the essence of competitive play and makes the game unique. The nature of the game, the different types of courses and playing conditions outline the importance of allocating and controlling of handicaps.
It’s at the discretion of the Society as to how it approves handicaps for its members. However, whatever handicap is allocated for society events is unofficial and can only be used for the purpose of society gatherings.
How to form a society
1. After assessing interest in forming the Society, draw up regulations and rules under a range of headings:
Name of Society, Objectives, Membership limitations (how to join or resign), Fees required, Committee structure, Handicap procedures, Dates of competitions (type of event), List of competitions conditions (dress required, rule-breaking sanctions etc.)
2. Call meetings of prospective members well in advance of the season and approve draft rules by which the Society will operate. Appoint a Secretary (who will book events and provide club with list of players a week in advance), captain, vice-captain and other officials (including handicap secretary).
3. Collect funds, open bank account and appoint an auditor.
4. Agree that the Society and its members undertake to run events which conform to the Rules of Golf and Rules of Amateur Status as laid down by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. Any breach of the Rules of Amateur Status (offering prizes in excess of £300) may result in immediate cancellation of EGU registration.
In addition, full details of any financial sponsorship of an event must be reported to the EGU not less than 56 days before the date of the proposed event.
To join the EGU scheme, Societies must have a minimum of 20 playing members and at least 10% of its total membership must be members of EGU-affiliated golf clubs. Each Society must have a Constitution and Rules, and keep records of all members’ details.
It all sounds complicated and not a little pompous, but it’s as well to agree to these conditions in order to have the full EGU backing and gain access to some high quality courses both in the UK and abroad.
You can, of course, set up a society which doesn’t necessarily conform to EGU rules but you’ll find your opportunities to play good course with good facilities seriously limited.
Golf societies are the lifeblood of the game for new golfers, who perhaps would never enjoy the camaraderie of a lads (or lassies) day out. It’s also a chance to improve your knowledge of the game and its unique etiquette.
Thousands of golfers have gone on to join clubs having experienced a society day. And long may it continue.
Originally published October 2003, updated May 2013.