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Service Offers Private Club Access to Public Course Golfers

· golf,private,top 100

One of the things I've had to overcome in my first season of trying to play the great courses has been the fact that I really didn't have many connections at all at private clubs, let alone the kinds of top-ranked private clubs I hoped to visit and play. Fortunately, I was encouraged by fellow members in the golf community to believe that I could build the relationships that would help me get where I hoped to go through time. And, I'm blessed with an abundance of confidence about what's possible if you're nice, resourceful, genuine and maintain a positive attitude.

So, I set about connecting with people in the game to simply grow my network of friends in the community -- people with a passion for golf course architecture and history, people who play competitively and people who just like to knock it around with their buddies, people who might be able to help me make some connections and people for whom I might be able to make some connections eventually. I started letting some folks know about what I wanted to try to do, and before I knew it, I had invitations to play two top-100 golf clubs. I had a new friend in Kansas offering to help connect me with people he knows at top-100 clubs, which resulted in more invitations to play and -- importantly -- more new friends in the game.

I started doing research into charity events and other ways to gain access to hard-to-play golf clubs. Expensive ... but the important thing was that I was identifying avenues to potentially play the clubs on my list. And then I found a website called, which attempts to give private club access to public course golfers. 

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The basic premise of the site is that it offers two experiences -- the free experience and a premium experience for about $50.

The free experience allows users to request tee times from more than 1,000 private golf clubs that have agreed to basically allow Boxgroove to arrange unaccompanied rounds for its members during specific times. Within about an hour or so of my hometown, Pittsburgh, there are 16 or so Boxgrooe-affiliated clubs offering this service. And it's legit ... you put down a small deposit to request a tee time from one of these clubs (so the club knows they're getting a real golfer), Boxgroove submits the request, and within a day or so you get word back regarding whether or not the club can accommodate you at your requested time. If not, you can use your deposit to request a tee time at another club. It's a great way for folks who want to experience a private club somewhere to gain access, though it's worth noting that you are paying an unaccompanied guest rate, which may be significantly higher than the prices you'd pay as a guest of a member. It's also worth noting that there aren't many (any?) top-ranked golf clubs participating, but that's not the promise Boxgroove makes, and it would be unfair to judge the service by that criteria. .

Rather, that's where the premium membership gets to be intriguing. The premium membership offers you the opportunity to request to be hosted by individual members of private clubs who have signed up on Boxgroove and indicated a willingness to entertain such requests. You pay $50 or so, and now you can submit a request through the site that gets emailed to a member at Oak Hill or Merion or whichever course you're hoping to play. There is no guarantee that the member (or members if multiple members from the same club have signed up to potentially host) will respond or that they will accept your request to play their club, but these folks have at least signed up with a genuine willingness to share their clubs. And so you have the *potential* to connect with a willing member.

Now, your mileage may vary. I've seen some folks complain that they've submitted requests that were never accepted. And that can happen. Someone may have signed up from Oakmont at one time and changed their email address, so they might not even see the request. Or they might have been inundated with requests and decided it wasn't something they could keep up with. Or they might just be in a different season in life since they originally signed up, and they might not be in a position to host any longer. And that can be frustrating for users of the service. I get that. I've talked with the CEO of Boxgroove, and he gets that frustration, too. But it's just the nature of the beast when your service is attempting to connect people who may or may not still be interested in connecting with new people.

For my part, I've had what I'd call extraordinary success using the site. I sprung for the premium membership because I figured $50 was a relatively small investment given what I'll likely spend through time to play the courses I hope to play. If it worked out, great. If it didn't, at least I'd know I'd given it a shot. So, I signed up early in the summer, and I requested a round from a member at Scioto Country Club -- a top-100 course that I've long wanted to play. Lucky for me, the member responded. He couldn't host me at Scioto this year because the club closed down for renovations, but after we talked a bit, he offered to host me there next year and offered to help me get onto one of my other target courses where his dad happened to be a member. I recently wrote about that experience, playing The Golf Club in New Albany, Ohio, in another blog post.

Similarly, I submitted a request to a member at Baltimore Country Club to be hosted on the famed East Course at BCC. And a member there responded that he'd be happy to host me. It took a few months to get the round on the calendar because of our calendars, but I played there with him in late October, and we had a fantastic time, which I'll be writing about here on the blog soon.

At the same time, I requested to play at a number of other clubs that never got a response. I'm not frustrated at all because I feel like just making one of the connections I have made was worth far more than the $50 I paid. But, again, not everyone will have my experience, and every golfer has to decide for themselves where they want to invest their money in the hopes of making connections and expanding their own network within the game.

I don't have any vested interest in the success of Boxgroove beyond the $50 I paid for my premium membership. I don't make any money from the site, and I don't want this to be read as an advertisement. I just wanted to share my experience with the service because it has proven helpful to me in my journey, and I figure it's worthwhile to tell other golfers who want to play private clubs about any avenue I find that might help folks gain some of that access. But I can't guarantee that anyone's experience will be like mine, so please think about that before signing up for this (or any) paid service.

Whether you're looking to play the great courses ... or if you and a friend are maybe just interested in playing a local private club that you've never had the opportunity to play before ... check out the site and decide for yourself if the free or even the premium membership might be right for you. And best of luck in your golf journey, wherever it might lead!

Have you used the Boxgroove site? What have been your experiences? Or, got any great tips for other ways public golfers can find their way onto great private courses? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or send me an email at!