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How to Search for Golf Memberships

Wed, November 30, 2016 1:48 PM | Laura Parshall

We all know that finding a prospect's connections is one of the biggest ways we can add value, as researchers, for our front-line fundraisers. In this article, Bill Gotfredson of Boston Children's Hospital shows us a technique that many of us have probably never thought of: finding connections through golf.

How to Search for Golf Memberships

By Bill Gotfredson


One of the most common requests we receive as researchers is, “who does s/he know?”  We spend mountains of time building maps, charts and family trees to help officers glance into a donor’s social network and find a warm introduction to their call.  Well, the good news is that I’ve discovered another free online resource to help you build your maps, charts and trees. The four letters you need to remember are, G-H-I-N.


The Golf Handicap Information Network or GHIN is an online database golfers use to monitor their golf handicaps in order to level the playing field while participating in tournaments and competitions. 


According to the ghin.com website, “Developed in 1981 at the request of state and regional golf associations, the USGA’s GHIN service is the largest handicap computation provider in the world, serving more than 2.3 million golfers from 84 golf associations, federations and unions that collectively represent more than 14,000 golf clubs in 47 U.S. states, as well as the Bahamas, Bermuda, China, the Dominican Republic, Guam, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico and Sri Lanka.”


Before searching, let’s walk through a few quick pointers about how golf and country club memberships are designed and how that applies to the GHIN database:

1. In general, private clubs do not ever disclose their full membership roster. You can search a club’s 990 for the directors but that is a small percentage of the members

2. Most golf club’s “full voting membership” level includes a golf membership for the member. Spouses and children can be extra for golf and they do not always receive a golf membership.

3. Full voting members are individuals who are wealthy enough to pay the $25K-$250K+ initiation fees, the $5K-$50K+ annual dues, and likely live and socialize in the same local communities.

4. Most private golf clubs limit their membership to 300-500 full voting members.  

5. Most golf clubs assign a GHIN number to their full voting members.


The search for golf members with GHIN numbers is simple. It is only on the individual level; you cannot search by club. The results will only be identified with first name/last name and the associated club so you will have to winnow down results using geography, spouses, and children to triangulate results. The simple steps are:

1. Go to GHIN.com

2. Click on “Handicap Lookup”

3. Click on “Name and State”

4. Enter your donor’s name and state

5. Click on individuals in the results list


One marvelous bonus feature for this search is that the results on the individual level provide you with all of the clubs a GHIN number is associated with at a golf member level, regardless of which state you originate the search.


Now go have some fun identifying relationships and picture yourself playing golf with Mayor Bloomberg at one of the eleven clubs in two states and Bermuda where he is a golfing member.


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