Debt Built Golf

There was a time, and it wasn’t that long ago, that debt was a bad thing. Until mid 19th century the practice of debtors prison still existed. In less sophisticated places, debt was often paid with your life. I know you are thinking, how does it relate to golf?

The argument has been made by academics that possibly the single greatest reason for the formation of country clubs was the 180 degree pivot on debt. It’s kind of ironic that a father could be thrown into a cell or forced to be an indentured servant until a debt was paid. Fast forward only a few years later… a large club allowed you to be a member on the promise that you would eventually pay your dues. Seriously? Boy, that changed in a hurry.

hallway with window
Photo by Jimmy Chan on

We all know the names of many old clubs that have been around for 100+ years. The only reason we know the names of these clubs is that they most likely had far less debt than the ones who went extinct from insurmountable debt in the Depression / War Years.

Which brings me to a philosophical golf argument. Should clubs stockpile cash, to one day be in a position to make improvements? Or, should they make improvements now, take on debt, dazzle their members, and hopefully get new ones that will pay for all these upgrades?

No one would ever accuse me of being dazzling. Part of being exciting is living on the edge. Just doesn’t interest me, and it’s not good for the people who are close to me. I like the idea of debtors prison. I was born at the wrong time.


  1. Almost Debt Free July 4, 2023
  2. steve G September 1, 2023

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