Country Club - Exclusion Based On Class

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Exclusion Based On Class

The country club was originally designed in the 1880’s as a social meeting place, albeit one of an exclusive nature. The clubhouse in particular was a place for men of a homogenous background and of similar socioeconomic class to meet in a social setting. This essentially drew people together from a similar sociological niche under the pretenses of sport. The country club continues to reinforce exclusive identities and maintain a homogenous culture through membership fees and limited invitations for potential members.

Membership is exclusive and limited to individuals belonging to a high or middle-class culture and was once described as being “solely composed of landowners and business owners.” Indirectly, country clubs restrict membership to social elites by increasing the cost of entrance and annual fees. Essentially, membership requires a disposable income, thereby making it inaccessible to the working class. If the cost of membership is not enough to deter blue-collar workers, the exorbitant cost of belonging and fitting in with country club culture certainly is. Country club’s are a form of social capital; they advance members’ social status, resulting in economic benefits through the value of social networks. Therefore, individuals require pre-existing social capital to become members. Country clubs create avenues for conspicuous consumption in order to demonstrate social status and differentiation. In other words, they enable individuals to showcase personal wealth and status through consumption, and therefore promote consumption. Country clubs pressure individuals to spend on travel, equipment, drinks, and uniforms, all in the hopes of portraying a high-class identity and lifestyle. This exclusionary technique has been fundamental to the country club since its origins and is still practiced today. The Brookstone Country Club demands a $15,000 initiation fee from all new members while the Indian Creek Country Club in Florida demands a $60,000 initiation fee in addition to an $8,000 annual rate.

Originally, country clubs had the power to directly exclude individuals by controlling who was allowed to apply for membership and who gained acceptance. The majority of golf clubs in the USA predating 1914 instilled a system in which existing club members had to nominate a potential applicant before they could undergo an election by the committee. The committee would then determine if the applicant was suitable for membership. Therefore, invitations were limited to those who had pre-existing social ties with club members; preventing diversity. This application process resulted not only in class exclusion, but also in racial, ethnic and gender segregation.

Today, the application process to become a member is unique and individualistic to the club, although social capital is still a prerequisite. However, exclusion still exists and judgments’ of applicants are encouraged. Segregation by class and income is the most common form of exclusion based on the financial requirements for membership, however insuring that new members “fit in” can result in racial and gender discrimination.

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