The sport of golf has experienced a rapid expansion of courses and golf-centric communities in the past decade, but the actual number of golfers in the U.S. has remained stagnant. Now, with the housing debacle slowing sales, the already turgid market for golf club memberships and homes built adjacent to courses has tumbled dramatically, according to Smart Money magazine.
A negative thinker (i.e., a golfer), would say don't buy in a down market, even though club memberships in some areas are being offered for as little as a quarter of the usual fee, and houses at a fraction of their original value. I think differently.
Looking at the nation demographically, the boomer generation (yeah, I'm tired of talking about them too, but they won't go away) is looking at retirement in the next ten years. Golf is a perfect game for retirees, because it provides three great benefits. It provides exercise, socialization, and gives the non-golfing spouse some time apart to regain his/her composure after a full day of partnership.
Because of this, I believe that the courses will be busier than ever in ten years. Since private clubs typically demand a one-time upfront fee to join as well as an ongoing membership fee, buying into a private club now could save your thousands of dollars, provided you are in the position to begin enjoying your membership now. If not, the annual fee will quickly eat up your initiation savings.
Even if you aren't, this would be a great time to call around to see if the clubs are amenable to allowing you to try a round on their courses, so you can begin to scout out the perfect course for your golden years.