Winged Foot is among the most elite clubs in the country, so the general public doesn’t get many glimpses of its hallowed grounds. This week will be a treat in that regard as the best players in the world are in Mamaroneck, N.Y. for the U.S. Open. But even with this rare peek at the club, there is still much about it that’s shrouded in mystery. That’s where we come in. Here are five things to know about the membership of Winged Foot.
1. It has some pretty famous members
While nearly every exclusive club in the country has some celebrity members (local or otherwise), Winged Foot might boast the most famous celebrity member — Donald Trump. Trump has been a Winged Foot member since 1969 and is the only club where he is a member that is not one of his properties.
Basketball coach Rick Pitino is also a member at the club, playing golf when he has time off from his busy schedule coaching nearby Iona. The club also has deep ties with NBC Sports, counting broadcaster Dan Hicks as a member in addition to NBC Sports president Pete Bevacqua. For them, this week will be a bit of a homecoming.
2. Membership is by invitation only
If you want to become a member at Winged Foot … good luck. Membership is strictly invitation only, so if you want to don the Winged Foot emblem as a proud member, you better get to shaking the right hands — and fast. The waiting list for membership is allegedly a decade long. This is somewhat standard for clubs in the upper echelon of the golf world as membership can be seen as a status symbol.
3. Getting a membership isn’t cheap
Congratulations! You’ve scored an invitation to become a Winged Foot member and slogged through the waiting list. Now all that’s left is opening up that checkbook and writing a check. A big one. According to a 2018 Forbes article, the initiation fee is $200,000, although the NY Post reports that the high-end of the initiation fee is $150,000. Either way, that’s a big stack of cash. And while the club’s annual dues aren’t public knowledge either, they are reportedly in the neighborhood of $15,000 depending on the type of membership. It ain’t cheap.
4. They’ve voted against hosting a U.S. Open before
While hosting a major championship is an honor, it can also be a huge hassle — especially for members. Because of this, members voted against hosting the U.S. Open again shortly following the 2006 iteration of the event.
According to a report from Mike Dougherty of The Journal News, “when the USGA presented a proposal to Winged Foot in 2008, some of the members were reportedly unimpressed with the financial terms of the deal, but most of the dissent came from those who simply were not ready to deal with the hassle of another U.S. Open in 2015.”
Luckily they eventually put those inconveniences behind them and got a deal done for 2020. But hey, when you have the kind of clout Winged Foot does, you can turn down anything that doesn’t suit your fancy. Even a major championship.
5. The members have some serious skill
Every club has its fair share of fine players, but Winged Foot takes it to another level. According to Golf Digest, they boast one of the highest percentages of single-digit handicappers in their membership and have 189 members with a handicap below 5. If you ever are lucky enough to get an invite to play out there, you better bring your A-game. You know the member in your group will.