The Golf Clubhouse: Structure Origins and Word Etymology

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The "clubhouse" is the main building at a golf course where golfers first head when arriving at the course. The clubhouse contains the pro shop, where golfers check in and pay, and usually includes some kind of food and drink service (whether a full-scale dining area, snack bar or simply drinks in a fridge).

At larger golf clubs, the clubhouse might also contain a meeting room and a bar or lounge, or locker rooms for golfers.

Not every golf course has a clubhouse. And at those that do, how large or small, how luxurious or basic the clubhouse is varies widely. As a general rule, the fancier the golf course — another way of saying the more expensive (or exclusive) it is to play — the more likely it is to have a very nice clubhouse.

Also, the higher the green fees and the fancier and clubhouse, the more likely it is for a club to have rules about what golfers can and can't do in that clubhouse. A dress code, for example, or a rule about cellphone usage within the premises.

Origins of the Golf Clubhouse

The term "clubhouse" derives from the original application of the term at golf courses. In pre-20th century Britain, private, members-only golf clubs sprang up around already existing courses. Those clubs were not necessarily involved in running the golf course its members played, but they attracted golfers who sought membership for social reasons or as a way to gain better access to the course.

Eventually, those private clubs often purchased or built buildings adjacent to or nearby the courses they played at (for example, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews building adjacent to The Old Course at St. Andrews). And those buildings were called "clubhouses" because they, literally, housed the club.

So "clubhouse" — both the term and the physical structure the term describes — doesn't derive from golf clubs, as in equipment, but from golf clubs, as in associations.

And clubs and clubhouses go back a very long time in golf's history. The first golf club (membership association) was The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which was formed in 1744 by golfers who played the Leith links in Scotland.

In 1768, the Golf House at Leith, on those same Leith links in Scotland, was built and became the first golf clubhouse. The Leith links still exists, but as a public park, not a golf course. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers still exists, but today calls Muirfield, Scotland, home.