Explaining Reciprocals, or 'Reciprocal Agreements,' Between Golf Clubs

Golf course fairway with a water hazard
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"Reciprocals" refers to an agreement between private, members-only country clubs to allow their members to play one another's golf courses on an arranged basis.

Not every private golf club has reciprocals with other private golf clubs. But many do. And at those that do, the reciprocal agreements are a bonus for members, a value-added perk. Clubs that have reciprocals often tout them to new members or potential recruits for membership.

How Reciprocals Work Between Clubs

Let's say that Club A and Club B allow reciprocals (meaning they have a "reciprocal agreement" or "reciprocal play arrangement" in effect). You belong to Club A, but you'd like to play Club B.

So you go to the Club A golf pro and ask him to arrange a tee time for you at Club B. The Club A pro contacts the Club B pro and asks if the Club A member can come play Club B's golf course. The Club B Pro says sure, and sets up the tee time.

That's a reciprocal agreement. Reciprocals are always arranged by the respective clubs' golf staff, typically the head professional or director of golf.

Why is this process referred to as "reciprocals"? Because at some point a member of Club B is going to want to play Club A. So Club B's pro will call the Club A pro and say, "Hey, remember when we let your member play here? Now I have a member who wants to play your course, so I need to you to reciprocate."

So reciprocals between private golf clubs boil down to "you let my members play your course, and I'll let your members play my course."

Reciprocal Requests Go Through the Club Staff

So if you know that your club and Fancy Club X across town have a reciprocal agreement, can you just call up Fancy Club X and request a tee time?

No. Not all private clubs engage in reciprocal agreements, and at those that do the members should always place their request with their own club pro, who will contact the other club.

Some private clubs now list on their websites the other clubs with which they have reciprocal agreements. There are even some third-party clearinghouses now that allow member clubs to submit reciprocal requests online.

If you are a member of a private golf club and aren't sure whether your club has reciprocals, talk to the golf staff and ask.