What Is a 'Daily Fee' Golf Course?

A "daily fee golf course" (or just "daily fee course") is a golf course that is open to the general public but that is privately owned and operated. The term is used primarily in the United States, where daily fee courses and municipal golf courses are the two main types of public golf courses.

Daily fee golf courses tend to be more upscale than municipal golf courses courses and, therefore, more expensive (though that is a generality and not always the case).

Back in the early part of the 20th century, most golf courses in the U.S. were private clubs. Then some cities began operating golf courses in public parks or as public services. Private companies saw an opportunity to get in on the burgeoning golf scene, and began building and operating courses, too, that were open to the general public.

When private companies first started opening public courses, they often promised golfers that playing such a course was akin to "being a member for a day" in a fancy country club. But you don't have to pay a membership fee, the marketing went, just a daily fee. Hence, the term "daily fee golf course."

Many daily fee courses still today promise the "country club experience" for the price of your green fee. You might be greeted upon arrival by cart jockeys who attend to your golf bag and give you a lift from the parking lot to the clubhouse. You might find a fancier clubhouse than at a municipal course, a more upscale pro shop, perhaps a locker room and a nice restaurant and other food and drink options. And you might find, when you get onto the golf course, that it offers better playing conditions than some of the city-run golf courses you've played.

Because of these upgrades compared to many municipal golf courses, many daily fee courses also cost more to play than municipals. And golfers might also be expect to provide gratuities to some of the service personnel at a daily fee course (such as those cart jockeys or a starter or caddies) not normally encountered at a muny.

Of course, any privately owned and operated golf course can market itself as providing that "member for a day" experience, not matter how well it actually pulls it off, and no matter what kind of shape its golf course is in. If you are playing somewhere for the first time and are concerned about fees, visit the golf course website or app or call ahead and ask about fees, dress codes, gratuity policy, tee time policies, or anything else.

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