At Big Canoe, a la carte membership works to everyone’s advantage

         Savvy diners know that when you order off the a la carte menu in a restaurant, you spend more and the restaurant makes more, generally speaking.  The complete meal, or prix fixe, is a better deal –- if you like what’s on that menu.

         The standard in most high-end golf communities we visit is to offer resident and non-resident club memberships, each with the payment of an initiation fee. (Some offer just the resident memberships, whether you are a non-resident property owner waiting to build your home or not; and some make some form of membership, often just a social plan, mandatory.) Non-resident dues can run to a few hundred dollars per month; for a couple not ready to use the facilities for a few years, this can be off-putting enough to look elsewhere for a golf community home.


 Photo courtesy of Big Canoe

Most golf community clubs would do well to take a page from a restaurant menu and offer an a la carte option to those members who don’t play enough golf to justify paying dues for a full-golf plan.  The break even point on such full golf plans can be as much as three or four days of play per week, 52 weeks per year.  Even serious golfers don’t play those 150 to 200 rounds a year, and if they chance it, some could very well be headed for divorce court, which would only add to the expense.

         At Big Canoe, a sprawling golf community in northern Georgia, only slightly closer to Atlanta than to Chattanooga, TN, the “break even” point is about three rounds per month, thanks to reasonable dues levels and no golf initiation fees for any property owners.  And to ensure that lot owners who are a few years away from building their home stay connected to the Big Canoe Golf Club, they can pay on a daily basis for using the golf club and other amenities whenever they visit.  But that option of daily use does not mean the club is public or semi-private; you still have to be a property owner to qualify.

         I have not visited Big Canoe yet, but plan to do so later this year to tour the community, meet with officials and play the late Joe Lee designed 27 holes.  Lee, primarily a Florida designer, did some nice work in mountain venues, including Kenmure in Flat Rock, NC.  His two golf courses at Disney World are among

Big Canoe is a private club, but charges no initiation fee to property owners who choose to pay as they play.

the most famous of his 250 layouts, but his entire oeuvre is well regarded by golf architecture followers. You can play most of Lee’s designs well into your 70s because they are unfussy and don’t use too many tricks the way more modern designers do.  By the scorecard, however, Big Canoe is no pushover; its slope rating from the middle tees of about 6,000 yards in length, depending on which nines you combine, is a substantial 133.

         All amenities at Big Canoe are a la carte if you want –- golf, tennis, swimming, fitness center, even fishing.  If you were to choose them all, the annual dues rolls up to about $500 per month, less than most amenities packages in other golf communities.  Daily fees for golf range from about $50 to $75, depending on time of year and day of week; and guest fees are equally reasonable.  For 2014, a golfing couple will pay $210 per month, or $2,520 for the year, for full access to the golf course, with no additional green fees.

         Big Canoe’s real estate office has been extremely responsive and forthcoming to my requests for information.  Why not?  They know they have an attractive amenities program that virtually sells itself.  The community spans a half dozen mountains and there are already 2,600 homes in place, with offerings that range from condos in the $100s to million dollar McMansions, with plenty of choices in between.  The community will work equally well for second-home owners and full-time residents. 

If you would like more information about Big Canoe or a referral to one of their sales executives, please contact me.