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A country club is a private club, often with a closed membership, that typically offers a variety of recreational sports facilities and is located in city outskirts or rural areas. Activities may include, for example, any of golf, tennis, swimming or polo. An athletic club is similar but is usually located within an urban setting, which may exclude certain activities such as golf or polo. On the other hand, rock climbing practice or a martial art may be available. A country club will usually provide hospitality to members and guests such as a restaurant and bar, and may also provide suitable accommodations for host-catered events, such as weddings. Country clubs originated in Scotland and first appeared in the US in the early 1880s. Often located on the fringe of urban areas, country clubs had a profound effect on expanding suburbanization and are considered to be the precursor to gated community development.
A golf club is a private club organized to play golf. A golf club usually has its own golf course. The most exclusive golf clubs have extensive facilities, such as a restaurant, bar, and swimming pool for their members. Membership is usually by annual subscription. Sometimes the club expects its members to buy stock and has monthly food and beverage purchase minimums.
A tennis club is a private club organized to play tennis. Tennis instruction is normally included, along with tournaments, and the club has its own tennis courts. Tennis clubs often have tennis pros who teach the members. Some tennis clubs have on-site tennis retail and repair facilities, where members can purchase balls, rackets, and clothes, and have rackets restrung.
Country clubs can be exclusive organizations. In small towns, membership in the country club is often not as exclusive or expensive as in larger cities where there is competition for a limited number of memberships. In addition to the fees, some clubs have additional requirements to join. For example, membership can be limited to those who reside in a particular housing community.
Country clubs were founded by upper-class elites between 1880 and 1930. Therefore, country clubs were generally created and financed by wealthy white Protestant men in a time when economic, racial and cultural issues segregated the United States. By 1907, country clubs were claimed to be “the very essence of American upper-class.” The number of country clubs increased exponentially with industrialization, the rise in incomes, and suburbanization in the 1920s. During the 1920s, country clubs acted as community social centers. However, the number of country clubs decreased drastically during the Great Depression for lack of membership funding.
Between 2008 and 2013, the number of country clubs and golf courses in the United States changed very little. There were a total of 11,600 country clubs in 2011. The total size of the 2011 market was slightly over $21.5 billion. 
Historically, many country clubs refused to admit members of minority racial groups, such as Black people, Asian Americans, and non-white Hispanic Americans, as well as members with specific faiths, such as Jewish or Catholic individuals. In many jurisdictions, such discriminatory requirements are now prohibited, but in others, such policies are still legal or are subject to specific circumstances. In some cases, lawsuits have forced clubs to drop discriminatory policies.
In one example, in 1990 professional golfer Tom Watson resigned from the Kansas City Country Club in Mission Hills, Kansas, in protest after local businessman and civic leader Henry Bloch was denied membership. Watson believed the club denied Bloch because he was Jewish. Although Watson is not Jewish, his then-wife and children are. After Watson's nationally publicized protest, Bloch was offered a membership, which he accepted. Watson rejoined the club in 1995. Since that time The Kansas City Country Club has accepted several minority and Jewish members. In September 2008 Katon Dawson left Forest Lake Club after a twelve-year membership because it still has a whites-only restriction. The Philadelphia Cricket Club is the oldest country club in the United States.
In the United Kingdom, most exclusive country clubs are simply golf clubs, and play a smaller role in their communities than American country clubs; gentlemen's clubs in Britain—many of which admit women while remaining socially exclusive—fill many roles of the United States' country clubs. The issue of male-only clubs does, however, sometimes arouses controversy.
Country clubs exist in multiple forms, including athletic-based clubs and golf clubs. Notable examples are the Breakfast Point Country Club in Sydney, the Castle Hill Country Club, the Gold Coast Polo & Country Club, and the Sanctuary Cove's Country Club.
In India, there was a private company named Country Club India, but it was renamed into Country Club Hospitality & Holidays. It is arguably a multi-million dollar international entity, listed on BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange) and also recognized by the Limca Book of Records as ‘India’s Biggest Chain of Family Clubs’ . While it allegedly runs restaurants, "family clubs", fitness centers, business centers, etc., whether or not it has anything to do with country clubs in the sense generally used in English language, is currently unknown. Also, it is unclear if there are any actual country clubs in India.
In Japan, almost all golf clubs are called "Country Clubs" by their owners. See Japan Golf Tour.
In UAE, country club has owned health & fitness centers specifically in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and in Oman.
In Pakistan most of the country clubs are called just 'clubs'. Pakistan has state owned as well as private clubs. The country club tradition is deeply entrenched owing to the British Raj and dozens of clubs exist throughout the country.
Country clubs are founded upon the concept of private membership and exclusion of the general public. Country clubs aim to bring people with similar socioeconomic backgrounds together and were never intended to be agencies of social integration. Country clubs continue to socially segregate class based on income through exorbitant membership costs. The history of the country club is strongly laden with racial, ethnic, and gender exclusion, which has been documented since the country club’s origins. However, discrimination has gradually decreased over time and country clubs have become more ethnically and racially diverse.
The country club was originally designed in the 1880s 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 social 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 clubs 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 requires a $15,000 initiation fee from all new members while the Indian Creek Country Club in Florida requires 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.
Country clubs in western society are notorious for preserving the white, Anglo-Saxon image of the high-income family. Country clubs promote sameness to ensure the comfort level of pre-existing members. This became hotly contested with the development of human rights and the civil-rights movement. Diversity began to arise slowly within the American country club.
Country clubs originally catered towards those with a disposable income, and therefore, largely catered to whites. However, Anglo-Saxons were not the only wealthy Americans during the early 1900s, yet they were the only ethnicity eligible for country club membership. Many Jewish individuals were equivalently wealthy and financially capable of affording a membership during this era, however were denied entrance based on ethnicity. Country clubs aimed to retain ethnic characteristics and intended to distinguish “those who are in from those who are out.” Although diversity is becoming more apparent within the gates of country clubs, it has been a slow process. Clubs constantly denied admission to Jews, regardless of background or wealth. In 1962 the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith inspected 803 country clubs and found only 224 clubs to be nondiscriminatory. The majority of the clubs inspected excluded Jews while others had quotas, which prevented Jewish sub-culture from forming within a country club. However, this resulted in the formation of exclusively Jewish country clubs, further perpetuating the problem of segregation.
Exclusion based on race and ethnicity continues to be an issue in today’s society. Indian Creek Country Club has roughly 300 members, many of whom are permanent residents on the island. However, none of the island’s wealthy Jewish residents (with the exception of one) are members. Since the club is under 400 members, Florida law states that the club has the ability to exclude whomever it desires. The Indian Creek Country Club has only had a handful of Jewish members and no African American has ever held a membership.
Country clubs exclude by othering based on culture. Although it is illegal to discriminate based on race or ethnicity, country clubs continue to promote WASP culture [clarification needed] and form distinctions based on new money vs. old money. Othering of certain ethnic groups is reflected in the size of ethnic populations within a country club, which is almost always a minority. Insuring minorities of sub-cultures preserves a WASP majority and results in “WASPs in this area feeling less threatened.”
However, there have been great improvements and certain clubs have gone on record boasting about diversity. Although racial and ethnic assimilation has occurred in many country clubs, there is little variation of culture and socioeconomic class.
|This section is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay that states the Wikipedia editor's particular feelings about a topic, rather than the opinions of experts. (April 2013)|
Golf, like the majority of sports, was once male dominated. Therefore, keeping with the confines of social class, women were generally excluded from the course and clubhouse.
There is a very apparent gender aspect to social capital. This is promoted by country clubs and puts women at a disadvantage. The exclusion of women prevents them from attaining the high-class social identity created by country club membership, nor do they have access to make business connections that so often present themselves on the green. This prevents the success of women in the social and business world and further perpetuates the phenomenon of the glass ceiling.
Women were considered to be slower and weaker and the direct cause of athletic delays. Men often claimed that sport was far too demanding for women and that they should have their own institutions. Competitive females contested this segregation and despite earning acceptance on the course from their ability and talent, they continued to be exiled from the masculine sanctum of the clubhouse. Women, like racial-minorities, were limited to specified and restricted times in which the facility was made available to them. This often resulted in females being unable to play during the weekends. Furthermore women did not have a voice pertaining to club affairs. Therefore, although “ladies golf” developed, it was never wholly independent from men. Although the number of independent female members (not associated with a family membership or their husband’s membership) began to increase over time, it was always regulated, preventing the deterioration of male middle-class dominance. Increased fees, such as the $250 tournament entrance fee for women entering the Charlottetown Charity Golf Tourney, regulated female population. Furthermore, reducing women’s playing time regulated the presence of women and insured a male-dominated environment.
Although exclusion based on gender is becoming less common, the women who are gaining access are predominantly white and middle-class. Therefore, although gender equality is now a social norm, it is among women within a certain socioeconomic class, further perpetuating class exclusion.
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