Citing public access issues, Park Authority raises Laurel Hill golf membership fees

The Laurel Hill Golf Club has seen a surge in popularity during the pandemic, making it difficult for non-members to get more highly sought-after tee times.

In response, the Fairfax County Park Authority Board agreed during a March 9 meeting to raise the rates for full memberships to the public facility from $5,000 to $6,000 annually. Weekday memberships were increased from $3,000 to $4,500 annually.

Members get priority in booking tee times. During the pandemic, that means tee times from the 9 a.m. opening to 1 p.m. have been typically booked by members.

“The public doesn’t really get onto the course until noon and later at Laurel Hill currently,” FCPA Business Office Manager Josh Colman said at a budget committee meeting on Feb. 23.

Membership play is up 83% from 2017, while public play is up 8%, according to the park authority.

“That lack of public tee time availability is the most consistent complaint we get at Laurel Hill,” he said. “The public…can’t access this course, particularly during those prime hours.”

Full membership fees were last raised in 2017, and weekday memberships have never been adjusted since 2009, according to the park authority.

Meanwhile, public rates have increased twice since 2019.

“This is a private golf club, basically, that we’re running,” FCPA Board Chair Bill Bouie said at the committee meeting.

Memberships still bring significant discounts

For members, the average rate per round has decreased from around $43 in 2019 to about $31 in recent years. During the same time frame, the average rate for the public increased from $60 to $67 before dropping to under $64 in 2021.

With the rate change, the average round for members will become closer to $40, according to a staff presentation on the issue.

“While member rates have changed only slightly over the years, public rates have increased on multiple occasions, leading to a widening divide in per round rates between the public and members,” a March 10 letter to members said. “We recognize a member per round rate will be lower, but the divide has significantly increased beyond what is equitable to the public.”

One golfer who played at the course earlier this week said he won’t renew his long-time membership, but he cited changes in his travel schedule as the determining factor. He still called the $1,000 increase significant.

Ron Kendall, who represents Mason District on the park authority board, argued at the committee meeting that the membership fee increase is necessary.

“I see this as being the place where we need to rip the Band-Aid off on the equity side, and say, ‘Listen, this is a public course. We have to give access to the public at rates that are acceptable to the general golf community,'” he said.

Other factors contributed to staff’s recommendation of a price increase, including a high demand for memberships and upcoming salary increases.

The course has been the site of U.S. Golf Association amateur events, including sectional qualifiers for men and women’s competitions. It will host the U.S. Disabled Open Golf Championship from June 6-9.