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Leisure Spending

Duffers Score Deals at the Club

Don’t be shy about asking for discounts and other perks.

Alex Bloodworth had his eye on Windermere golf club, in Cumming, Ga., for a while. When the club, which normally charges a $2,000 initiation fee, ran a no-initiation-fee special last November, Bloodworth, 27, pounced. “I played this course as a teen but couldn’t afford to join. When I saw the special, I immediately signed up,” he says.

Golfers are finding great deals all over. Memberships at private golf clubs are down by 13% on average from peak years, and by more than twice that much at private clubs that are struggling financially, according to the National Golf Foundation. So private clubs are offering membership discounts and financing deals, as well as beefing up fitness and other programs to lure spouses and families.

When new owners took over Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, Cal., last summer, they chopped the initiation fee from $45,000 to $2,500 and cut monthly dues from $1,200 to $550. The Alta Vista Country Club, in Placentia, Cal., gives members five years to come up with the $25,000 initiation fee. Another new twist is the recallable membership -- you pay just $5,000 of a $25,000 membership, for example, but a club can recall it within three years, giving you the option of getting a refund or paying the full freight.

You can also find deals at semiprivate and public clubs. At some of the 114 clubs run by Billy Casper Golf, as little as $29 a month gives you unlimited time on the driving range and access to courses at twilight, with reduced greens and cart fees.