So I got my annual letter from the United States Golf Association in the mail the other day, begging me to renew my membership. Funny thing is, I’ve never had a USGA membership – in fact, I’m quite positive I’ve never paid them a dime. Nevertheless, I received the renewal letter, along with my complimentary 15-page (I counted them) notepad and my sweet USGA bumper sticker.
You know, I see those bumper stickers on many cars around town, but I wonder how many of those people have actually paid for a membership? I’m not innocent either – while I have a thing against putting bumper stickers on cars, I use the notepad every year. I’m not sure how they got my name, but it’s probably from a magazine subscription list (seeing as I subscribe to a few golf-related publications).
This year though, I’m actually thinking about forking over the $10 to become a member. So I decided to read the “annual member benefits” listed on my “renewal” form to see what my membership would include:
1) Advance priority to apply for U.S. Open 7-day ticket packages. Let’s see, I live in New England and the tournament is in California. That sounded like a good deal until I realized it would cost me well-over a grand to just get there and have a place to stay. Oh, and I don’t get a discount on tickets, I just get the chance to buy them before other people do.
2) 2010-2011 edition of The Rules of Golf. Not bad, except I already downloaded the app for $3.99 so I no longer had to carry the hardcopy around in my golf bag.
3) Official copy of the U.S. Open Program publication. This would be a nice keepsake…if I actually was going to be attending the U.S. Open (see #1 above).
4) Special USGA Member only discount on the 2010 TROON Golf Card. Not bad if you live in Arizona, California and Florida (the states with more than three Troon courses featured). The closest course for me would be Lake of Isles and even with the discount, I’d have to pay over $100 per round!
5) Special Member discounts on USGA catalog merchandise and USGA Photo Store. Which really amounts to U.S. Open and USGA gear. But I really can’t see myself forgoing a $9.99 Champion polo at Target for a $39.99 Cutter & Buck polo on there.
8) The USGA Insider monthly e-newsletter. Why don’t they just say “more inbox clutter” instead?
9) 2010 U.S. Open Hat. See photo of 2009’s version. Enough said.
OK, so now that I came up will all these reasons not to spend $10 to become a USGA member, I’m going to reverse course on you. You see, I’m really missing the point in all this. The membership is not about the member benefits at all, it’s about the benefits to golf itself. If you notice, I skipped number 6. Number 6 was the opportunity to participate in USGA Member Education Series events.
This is what the USGA does best – beside managing the rules, maintaining the handicap system and funding research for environmentally-friendly turf – the USGA “assists organizations that introduce the game to people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to play.” Over the last 12 years, the USGA has dedicated more than $63 million to golf-related charities – mostly through its “For the Good of the Game” grants initiative. And getting more people to play golf will only help golf in the long run. So this year, rather than placing my “renewal” letter in the circular file, I think I’ll pay my $10 membership fee and start earning those 15-page notepads.