Golf is a game of tradition.
One of the best traditions in this great game are member-guest tournaments that happen at each country club. While country clubs have evolved over the years, these types of tournaments remain synonymous with golf.
A member-guest is much more than a few rounds of golf though. There’s gambling games, unique golf formats, pre-parties, after-parties, and some golf in between it all. If you get invited to one of these events, you want to say yes as fast as possible.
However, there’s a lot to know before attending one of these events. This article will help you show up prepared to play your best golf and have more fun than you thought possible.
Member Guest Tournament – Everything You Need to Know
So, what is a member guest golf tournament?
On the surface, a member guest sounds pretty simple. A member at a country club asks a guest who is not a member of the same club to join them for the annual golf tournament. These events are typically once per year but some clubs might do two.
They’re usually a big draw for the country club as they bring new golfers to the course. Guests can preview what it’s like to join the club and possibly join the membership in the future. Not to mention play the course, meet the members, and get immersed in the experience.
For members, it’s a time to show off their local course knowledge to guests, hopefully play good golf, and have a ton of fun. For guests, it’s a great opportunity to show up for a great event, hopefully shine on the big stage, and contribute to winning prize money.
While a member guest is different at each country club, it is typically one of the biggest tournaments of the year. It ranks right up there with the member-member tournament and club championship.
It’s not uncommon for big name professional golfers to join in on the fun too. Phil Mickelson even played as a member-guest at Del Mar Country in 2020. You just never know who is going to show up which makes it such an exciting weekend for guests and members alike.
Unlike other golf tournaments such as a scramble or shamble (which are typically four-person teams), a member-guest is a two-person team event. Here’s a typical format for the long weekend:
- Thursday: Practice rounds during the day, Calcutta at night.
- Friday: Round one, horse race, and after party
- Saturday: Round two, dinner, and after party
- Sunday: Round three and post-tournament celebration
The madness starts the day before the first official round. This tends to be a practice round, registration, and a Calcutta at night. If you don’t know, this is an auction where players can buy their team (or other teams) based on who they think will play well and possibly win.
A Calcutta is synonymous with this type of tournament and makes the stakes even higher to win. Sometimes the cash payouts are more than you will make at your job! Click here to learn more about Calcutta in golf.
The first round typically takes place on Friday or Saturday depending on the number of days for the event. Teams are grouped with other players based on handicaps and usually flights. Better players with lower handicaps will be in lower flights (A, B, etc.).
Most member guest events are match play tournaments.
You typically get paired against another team for 9 or 18 holes before moving on to the next match. While some tournaments are traditional stroke play events too. This happens each day and the fun happens at night too.
If you are lucky enough to make the playoffs, most of these are some form of alternate shot format and a few may even be the chapman variation of alternate shot.
Horse Race and Parties
A lot of tournaments will have a horse race as well. This is one of the most fun aspects to the event and sure to make a lot of golfers nervous.
A horse race is separate from the tournament and teams need to enter to compete. All teams play in one big group – this could mean 10 or 20 teams on one hole at a time. The best part is that you might have 50-100 people walking and watching your shots too – talk about pressure!
The race typically lasts 5-7 holes or until the winning team is decided. In each hole, several teams are eliminated and might do a putt or chip off if the hole is tied. There is a separate payout for this event too.
Finally, let’s not forget about the parties and dinners too. There are plenty of happy hours and after parties in these types of events.
Make sure to attend for food, drinks and entertainment. Just don’t drink so much that you are fighting a hangover for golf the next day.
Member Guest Tournament Suggestions
Now that you have a better idea of the format and what to expect, let’s get into how to prepare for these events. You want to show up prepared to give it your best game and hopefully get invited back for years to come.
1. Plan Ahead
These types of tournaments fill up quickly so make sure to get your entry fee submitted asap. Get your team confirmed so you have a date to look forward to and can start practicing. If your friend is a member they might have already paid for the tournament or you can choose to split the green fees cost.
2. Play Practice Rounds
Speaking of practicing, you need to play several practice rounds if possible. This is arguably the most important tip to prepare is to play and practice on the golf course ahead of time.
Practice rounds are a great time to learn the course, figure out your tee box strategy, and get comfortable with the greens. These events usually have one practice round included with the rate and is held the day before the tournament starts.
But if possible, see if you and your partner can get out at least once more if you haven’t played the course often. There’s nothing worse than feeling doubt and indecision from not seeing the course ahead of time.
If you want to be an overachiever buy a yardage book (we suggest PuttView) or a golf GPS device to help navigate the course.
3. Arrive Early
On the day of the event, make sure to arrive plenty early to grab breakfast, check in at the pro shop (you typically get a welcome gift too), and hang out with your partner. The last thing you want to do is be rushed before your first match which can lead to some lackluster golf.
Aside from grabbing food and drinks, make sure to warm up and hit enough range balls to loosen up. Don’t forget to hit the putting green and get the speed of the greens dialed before heading to the first tee.
If you are very nervous and get the first tee jitters, read this article now.
4. Master Match Play
Most of these tournaments have a four ball match play format for at least a portion of the event. What’s great about match play is the psychological component which is just as important as your golf shots.
Click here to learn more about match play strategies.
Also, make sure you find out ahead of time if there is anything unique about the tournament such as a stableford scoring system.
5. Have Fun
Finally, make sure to have fun and enjoy the tournament. This is a great time to meet new people at golf or the parties and play a golf course you don’t normally play.
Try to meet new people, introduce yourself, and mingle to help your chances of getting invited back. Playing good golf never hurts either.
FAQs About a Member Guest Tournament
Do you have more questions about playing in these types of tournaments? If so, keep reading to learn more and show up prepared.
What is a guest member?
Some private country clubs offer guest memberships or trial memberships for a month or quarter of the year. This gives a golfer a chance to test the course/membership before committing to a large upfront fee to join the club.
Guest members tend to have some of the perks (golf, practice facilities, pool, gym, etc.) but can’t vote, join the board, or play in certain events until they’re a full equity member. If you’re thinking of joining a club, I highly recommend inquiring about this option to test it out.
If they don’t offer a full trial membership, they will usually allow you and a few friends to play the golf course or get a daily pass. While some private clubs might only allow you to play if you know a current member (it’s not uncommon to need member referrals to join as well).
Click here to learn more about what to think when joining a country club.
How are member guest tournaments scored?
Member guest tournaments can vary in terms of format and scoring. Most have gross and net divisions but the number of rounds/matches changes.
It’s not uncommon to have these events Friday-Sunday or a typical weekend of golf. Some tournaments will have 27 holes in a round as well (especially if the course has multiple nine holes).
How does a member-member golf tournament work?
A member-member tournament is typically the same format but requires both players to be members of the club. Winning this gets you tons of bragging rights at the club for the next year!
How do you prepare for a guest golf tournament?
If you get the golden ticket to play in a member-guest golf tournament, start practicing asap. You don’t want to show up with your B game and not contribute to the team. Not only is it frustrating but you might not get invited back either.
When preparing for this type of event make sure to get out to the course at least once, if not more. Practicing on the range or other courses is helpful but it’s much more helpful to play/practice on the course you’re playing. Plus you can get to know your partners golf game, build comradery, and maybe get to know other members.
Aside from practice rounds, make sure to work on your tee shots, chipping, and putting. Working with your driver, LW or SW, and putter will make sure your game is sharp heading into the event. Also try to clear your schedule and get plenty of rest to make the most of this fun weekend.
How do you pick a guest partner?
If you’re a member reading this article, picking your guest partner is a big decision. Not only will you want them to be a good golfer that contributes to the team but someone you can spend 2-3 days with too.
Ideally, it’s best to find a partner that is somewhat close to you in terms of handicap. Picking a partner with a huge handicap gap can cause some issues depending on the type of format. For example, if it’s an alternate shot for 9 or 18 holes, this is hard to do with someone who has a very different game.
Final Thoughts on Member Guest Tournament
A member guest tradition has been around for decades so if a member asks you to join, just say yes! It’s a good time to play golf with your buddy, enjoy dinner after the round, and hopefully win some prize money.
Once you accept the invite, it’s time to start working on your golf game asap so you show up prepared. Even if you have to catch a flight and leave the wife for a weekend, it’s well worth the effort.