Membership fees soaring at top clubs

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 July, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 July, 2000, 12:00am

Membership fees at prestige clubs have shot up in recent months as the economy recovers, club and sales managers say.

A corporate membership with the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling - currently the most expensive in the SAR - costs $6.3 million. The next dearest is Discovery Bay Golf Club at $1.28 million, followed by Clearwater Bay Golf Club at $1.25 million. The figures include a transfer fee and agency commission, which vary according to the price levels.

According to Garway Membership Services, which works as a middleman between club members and potential buyers, fees have jumped an average of 20 per cent and the number of clients has increased several times since business hit rock bottom in early 1999.

Garway manager Louis Tam Kai-man said the retreat of Japanese firms had freed many memberships, which were now being picked up as local businesses returned to profitability. 'At the beginning of last year we had just one or two clients a month. Now we have between eight and 10,' Mr Tam said.

'People usually sell their memberships either because they need the money or because they're bored with their clubs. I'd say the second reason is more common. Also, many expat business people have left Hong Kong since the handover, especially the Japanese, who used to own a lot of golf memberships.'

Prestigious clubs have only a limited number of members. Some, such as the Hong Kong Golf Club, have not released new memberships for more than a decade. The century-old club has 2,200 individual members and 300 corporate members. 'We don't encourage people selling their memberships,' a club official said, 'but we're sought after because many of our members are blue-chip company executives and we haven't issued any new memberships for a long time.'

Other noteworthy clubs include the American Club, where a corporate membership is worth $1 million. Shenzhen Golf Club costs $620,000 for two corporate members, and the Shenzhen Xili Golf Club fee is $570,000 for a single corporate member.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club is not listed because sale of memberships is prohibited.

SAR business people are increasingly taking up memberships in Shenzhen. 'They spend so much of their time doing business in Shenzhen they might as well join the clubs here - our facilities are just as good or even better,' said a manager at Shenzhen Golf Club.

Graphic: CLU24XGET