The Friars Golf Club: A different kind of fraternity

How best would one describe the Friars Golf Club? 

“It’s a golf fraternity,” executive director Don Bostic says. “It’s a concept that’s pretty popular in the United Kingdom, but it’s kind of a niche market here in the United States.” 

Maybe so, but Bostic is being a little modest. With a background in sales for Pinehurst Resort, and also logging valuable time over the years at The Greenbrier and TPC Sawgrass resorts, Bostic has used his extensive contacts to grow the golf society concept from a membership of less than 400 to close to 800 in 2024. 

“I guess I’ll take some of the credit but it was pretty simple,” says Bostic of doubling of the membership. “I had a lot of connections in the resort industry and there was more pent up demand than the amount of trips we were giving our membership. So it was just finding new venues, new destinations and running more events, which kind of just spawn more members, meaning there’s more participation.

“And our members would go home and post on Facebook or talk to their friends about this great trip they just went on, or this really unique dinner or cool experience or great golf course they played. And the referrals just kind of started coming in. The more trips, the more touch points we had with our members.” 

Brian Luton of Clarion, Pennsylvania, is one of those new members. After three years, the semi-retired 69-year-old who runs an HVAC company has already taken an estimated 30 trips with The Friars Golf Club.

Luton was approached about joining by his son Brian, 40, as a way the two could spend more quality time together and away from the family business. 

“I was kind of skeptical at first, but the more I looked into it I said to myself, ‘Well, the price is right and what’s to lose if I don’t like it, you’re not out a lot of money?’” the elder Luton says. “The guys are all good and they all love golf. But that’s not everything. The fellowship, the time afterwards, is hard to beat. I affectionately call us a bunch of degenerates.”  

The Friars Golf Club is the oldest such traveling golf society in the United States, having been founded in 1994. The initial fee is just $1,500 with yearly dues of $150 to covering operating expenses. 

Cabot Cape Breton, Cabot Cliffs, Inverness, Nova Scotia. :: Photo: Jacob Sjoman

Bostic says one of the drawing cards of the organization is its relaxed atmosphere. 

“We’re big on acceptance because golf has a lot of stigma and lots of different barriers for entry into the sport,” he says. “There usually are so many rules at private clubs, so we want to facilitate a fun, kind, open and welcoming environment. And that’s really what our culture’s all about.”

But there is one rule: “No a–holes allowed,” which is posted in the club’s website

“It’s a bit crude, but it’s also funny,” Bostic says. “What it’s about is that everybody can be a part of our club and we all love golf, but we love it for different reasons and we want all our members to be respectful of one another because on any given trip there could be more than a handful of first timers or strangers. So if we have somebody that is misbehaving or putting themselves above the group, that could be a turnoff. And that’s the last thing we want to facilitate.”

There are now Friars Golf Club members from 40 states and 10 countries. A few main drawing cards for members is golfing variety, access to venues or private clubs that are hard to land a tee time on, and an overall turnkey experience. 

“Anybody that’s ever run a golf trip or a buddy trip knows how much of a headache that is,” Bostic says. “So as a Friars member you’re cutting through all that. You just have to pick the dates that work for you and if the destination looks good put down your deposit and show up. That’s pretty much it.”

“They make it so easy and have such a large selection,” Luton adds.

The Friars Golf Club also provides its members with special off-course touches that make them feel special with connections either Bostic has or other members of the club.  

“We were in Orlando a couple of years ago for the PGA Show and we got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Golf Channel studios, which was really cool. And we did an event in upstate New York near Cooperstown and one of our member’s college roommate is the curator of the Baseball Hall of Fame, so we got a special tour there, too. On a lot of our domestic resort trips we kind of have some special experiences, whether it is a tour or a wine tasting or just a food and beverage event.”

Bostic says the fastest growing segment of The Friars Golf Club trips are one-day private club experiences. 

“We usually have members at those clubs who make the introduction for us with the director of golf or someone at that private club,” Bostic says. “It’s a one-time fee, and it’s a place that you can’t walk up and put your credit card down to play golf. So that’s pretty cool to be able to offer those types of member-for-a-day experiences.’’

The Friars Golf Club outing at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas. :: Photo: The Friars Golf Club

The Friars Golf Club calendar now has more than 40 events a year, including 2024 trips to such locations at Cabot Cape Breton in Inverness, Nova Scotia, a seven-night trip to Scotland in July and a September venture to France. The early 2025 slate includes a trip to New Zealand.    

“Yes, it is becoming ultra popular and I would tell you that I think internally our goals are probably somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 members,” Bostic says. “If that happens within the next five to 10 years that’s great. Then would the events fill up too fast and nobody would be able to get on the courses they want? Well, we would just run more events.” 

Bostic points to 2017 when the club executed just seven events, while the number in 2024 will be close to 48.    

“A large majority of the people who are joining are already golf fanatics,” Bostic says. “They’ve played a lot of courses. They have a lot of friends and they may be members at multiple courses, so I think it’s just a natural extension for them. “And it is the opportunities that we can put in front of you that most golfers aren’t going to have the opportunity to do. And from an economic standpoint, most people join a club where they live and where they work, and play 100 rounds at one course. Do you want to build your network that way or would you prefer to spend one-third of that money and go on trips all around the country or the world and your network will be exponentially better?”