Country club

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Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California

A country club is a privately owned club, often with a closed membership, that generally offers both a variety of recreational sports and facilities for dining and entertaining. Typical athletic offerings are golf, tennis, and swimming. A country club is most commonly located in city outskirts or suburbs,[1] and is distinguished from an urban athletic club by having substantial grounds for outdoor activities.

Country clubs originated in Scotland[2] and first appeared in the US in the early 1880s.[3] Country clubs had a profound effect on expanding suburbanization[4] and are considered to be the precursor to gated community development.[3]

By nation

United States

An aerial view of the Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Virginia

Country clubs can be exclusive organizations. In small towns, membership in the country club is often not as exclusive or expensive as in larger cities where there is competition for a limited number of memberships. In addition to the fees, some clubs have additional requirements to join. For example, membership can be limited to those who reside in a particular housing community.

Country clubs were founded by upper-class elites between 1880 and 1930.[5][6] By 1907, country clubs were claimed to be “the very essence of American upper-class.”[4] The number of country clubs increased exponentially with industrialization, the rise in incomes, and suburbanization in the 1920s.[4] During the 1920s, country clubs acted as community social centers.[4] However, the number of country clubs decreased drastically during the Great Depression for lack of membership funding.[4]

Between 2008 and 2013, the number of country clubs and golf courses in the United States changed very little. There were a total of 11,600 country clubs in 2011. The total size of the 2011 market was slightly over $21.5 billion. [7]

Historically, many country clubs refused to admit members of minority racial groups as well those of specific faiths, such as Jews and Catholics. This was known as being “restricted”.[8] Beginning in the 1960s civil rights lawsuits forced clubs to drop exclusionary policies, but de facto discrimination still occurs in cases until protest or legal remedies are brought to bear.

The Philadelphia Cricket Club is the oldest country club in the United States.[citation needed]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, most exclusive country clubs are simply golf clubs, and play a smaller role in their communities than American country clubs;[citation needed] gentlemen's clubs in Britain—many of which admit women while remaining socially exclusive—fill many roles of the United States' country clubs.[citation needed]


A beer garden at an Australian country club.

Country clubs exist in multiple forms, including athletic-based clubs and golf clubs. Examples are the Breakfast Point Country Club in Sydney,[9] the Castle Hill Country Club,[10] the Gold Coast Polo & Country Club, Elanora Country Club,[11] and the Sanctuary Cove's Country Club.[12]


In Japan, almost all golf clubs are called "Country Clubs" by their owners.[citation needed] See Japan Golf Tour.

See also


  1. AskOxford: country club
  2. Wray Vamplew, “Sharing Space: Inclusion, Exclusion and Accommodation at the British Golf Club before 1914” Journal of Sport and Social Issues 34, no. 359 (2010): 359, doi: 10.1177/0193723510377327.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Simon, Roger D. “Country Clubs.” In The Encyclopedia of American Urban History, edited by David R. Goldfield, 193-94. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2007. doi: 10.4135/9781412952620.n110.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Gordon, John Steele, “The Country Club”. American Heritage 41, no.6 (1990): 75
  5. Jennifer Jolly-Ryan, “Chipping Away at Discrimination at the Country Club,” Pepperdine Law Review 25, no. 495 (1998): 2
  6. Jennifer Jolly-Ryan, “Chipping Away at Discrimination at the Country Club,” Pepperdine Law Review 25, no. 495 (1998): 496,
  7. "Pell Research: Golf Courses & Country Clubs".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, “The Jews in America”, The Atlantic September 2007