The core activity of most clubs is playing matches, and many members are only seen at the club if they have a match that night. It can easily happen that someone turning up at a club will find a match in progress with no other non-participants present. Given that a match game can last for upto 3 hours you can see that you might have a long wait before anyone is available to talk to you, by which time there may be pressure to vacate the premises or simply to go home for a good nights sleep. This is not deliberate unfriendliness.
Clubs vary in the opportunities they provide for discussion and casual chess. Some clubs are 'matches only' clubs which do not meet out of season and in season only meet for the playing of matches. Others meet throughout the year and have keen members who always attend even if they are not playing. Premises also vary - a single small room does not lend itself to chat and friendlies taking place alongside a match.
At Newcastle we separate the activities by using Wednesday as a match night and Fridays as the club night on which there is no pressure to remain silent so as to avoid distracting players involved in a match. Unfortunately we cannot guarantee that there will always be a presence on club nights.
In non-urban areas picking a club may be a simple matter of geography. If you do find yourself with a choice then try more than one to see which seems to have your type of people in it, or is most likely to provide you with the chess that you want.
For the potential new member a good approach is to contact the club secretary first if possible so that they can make sure that there is someone to talk to you on your first visit. (Our contact details are on the links page.)
'Am I good enough to join a club?' is a question that concerns many potential members. Do not worry about this. Few clubs consist entirely of strong players, and even fewer require members to meet a minimum standard. As with any competitive activity it is likely that most current members will be noticeably stronger than someone joining a club for the first time, but playing against and discussing games with experienced players enables most people to improve rapidly.
If you join a club mid-season they may not be able to provide you immediately with the opportunity to play in matches, though you may find that you are given an occasional chance when one of the other members are unavailable. The following season however you should expect to be attached to a team, assuming that you so wish. Again your standard should not be a factor - the club exists at least partly to give its members a chance to play competitive chess, so if you are a member ...
Some members however may get discounted when teams for a new season are being considered. These are those who in the past who have proved to be unreliable. They have sold themselves as keen and been allocated a place in a team. However they prove to be rarely available and their poor captain spends most of the season twisting arms to get substitutes out. Not surprisingly in future years they are not counted when the club is deciding how many teams to field. So be honest about your likely commitment. But if you are keen and readily available say so, else you may find yourself with fewer matches than you would wish.
Most clubs are a predominantly adult environment so juniors will need either to be willing to fit into this or else find a club that specifically caters for juniors. In particular note that while some members may be willing to spend some time training new players few are willing to do this to the exclusion of other activity. Those who crave contiuous attention are unlikely to be accepted into the club.