22 Tips for Playing Golf on a Budget

Introduction

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Let’s face it golf can be pretty expensive at times. Green fees as much as $500 a pop, that latest driver $500, Hugo Boss polo shirt another $100. Titleist Pro V1’s $50 a dozen and you put three in the lake. Ouch!

If like most people you have to live within a budget then sometimes it can be difficult to afford everything you want to do.

Here are loads of ideas on how to get your golf fix without having to splash as much cash as you might think.

Equipment

When you first start playing, golf can seem like quite an expensive sport because you need to buy a fair few things to get going.

Here’s how you can reduce your costs.

How many clubs can I carry
Set of golf clubs

1. Clubs

Do you really think that a new driver from TaylorMade or Callaway is really going to make that much difference to your game? In all likelihood, it won’t.

Like a new car, a shiny new driver will lose a massive amount of money once you take it out of the pro shop.

Save yourself a bucketload of cash by looking at closeout deals for clubs from two or three years ago.

Save even more money by taking a look at sites dealing with used goods. eBay and Craigslist for example. If you really want Callaway clubs then look at their certified preowned site.

If you take time to look then you can find topline equipment in decent nick for a fraction of its price when it was new.

When buying used try to stick with clubs that got a good review from a trusted publication and also don’t forget to check out the reviews of the seller.

I’m still playing a set of irons made by MD Golf that I bought for just over half price because they’d been discontinued. They featured True Temper steel shafts and Golf Pride grips and had forged rather than cast heads. They had good reviews from all the UK golf magazines.

Admittedly this was a few years ago but that set of nine irons cost me £180. 

Walk into your local golf store and I think you struggle to find something similar for much less than £750 today. Probably £1000 for current sets from the big boys.

You might have relatives or friends with golf equipment they no longer use and they might let you have it for free or at least at a good price. If you don’t ask you don’t know.

2. Clothing

While dressing like your favorite tour pro might give your ego a little bit of a massage is it actually going to make you play like them? Again pretty unlikely.

As long as you’re following the dress code then there’s nothing stopping you from playing golf in a polo shirt you picked up in a sale. 

You could even try your local charity or thrift shops and sometimes you can get lucky with real bargains.

The same goes for pants. They don’t hit the shot so is it worth investing loads of money in them. I don’t think so!

If you insist on having the “names” then you can still do it on the cheap by looking for last year’s closeouts.

I still have Ashworth shirts that I paid as little as $10 for which would have cost around $50 new.

3. Shoes

This is one area where I would allocate some of your budget, if at all possible.

Your feet will thank you if you invest in the best possible golf shoes that you can afford.

Still no need to go overboard though. Product cycles of most manufacturers now mean that models from previous years are being sold off for as much as 50% to 60% of their original retail price.

Adidas in particular have loads of models that you can pick up for around $50-$60.

I have personally used this strategy over the last 10-15 years. Although prior to that I would tend to stick to any shoes that were “on sale”. 

When I first started playing golf I tended to buy Stylo shoes and their cheaper models at that. Hey, they were good enough for Sir Nick Faldo! As my budget increased I drifted towards Footjoy more often but only when I could find them at a discount.

Another good option is to use any pro shop vouchers you win to purchase equipment like shoes which you will always end up needing.

If you really don’t have the money then depending on the facilities you’ll be playing at you could try playing in sneakers. This should probably be okay when the weather is fine. Personally, I wouldn’t fancy playing in them when it’s wet though.

Bridgestone B Series Balls
Bridgestone B Series Balls

4. Balls

I’m sure every golfer loves to break open a sleeve of new golf balls and place that shiny new pebble on the tee.

The sad fact is depending on your ability and the hazards on the course you might only hit it a handful of times before it’s lost.

If you’re trying to play on a tight budget then Pro V1’s at $50 a dozen aren’t really an option.

One way to play with a premium ball without paying premium prices is to look for retailers that sell logo overruns.

By doing this I can usually pick up Srixon Z-stars for around £20-£25 a dozen ($30-$40).

If that’s still a bit too steep for your budget then you’re going to have to plump for either really cheap balls or dip into the used ball market.

Recycling golf balls is a massive concern. A quick look on any search engine will take you to loads of sites that will sell found golf balls.

Another possibility would be to check out eBay and other second-hand websites. You could also get lucky at your local charity store.

If you are stuck behind a slow group that won’t let you through then put that time to good use by having a quick look for some balls in the rough.

One of my pals has accumulated well over a thousand balls this way. He occasionally sells some on eBay or to other members of his club! Don’t mention it to the professional though!

Certainly, you may find local people will go hunting for balls on the course and then resell them to golfers on the cheap. I even managed to pick up some cheap balls this way while on vacation in Portugal!

The next suggestion would probably be considered sacrilege by better golfers but if you’re on a budget then needs must when the devil drives. Invest in a ball retriever. If you’re regularly hitting balls into water hazards or bushes then a ball retriever can fairly quickly pay for itself.

5. Gloves

If you’re really trying to be frugal then you could learn to play without a glove. Fred Couples managed to win the Masters that way after all.

Keep your eyes peeled at places like Walmart or Costco. They will often have deals where you can purchase multipacks of gloves for pretty keen prices.

I stocked up on some Callaway gloves from Costco while on vacation in Toronto. I think they worked out at around $3 per glove!

Give lesser-known brands a try on eBay. You may come across better quality than you think for a fraction of the price of a Titleist Players glove. 

6. Look for Discounts

Scan the Internet for different discounts. Sites such as Groupon and Vouchercodes can often have great deals available although not too many for golf. Look out for major sales events such as Black Friday or Christmas/New Year.

Ping Hoofer stand bag
Ping Hoofer stand bag

7. Bags

Buying the latest jazzy special edition bag to commemorate the Masters or Open Championship is a surefire way to the poor house. $500-$600 for a golf bag is just insane.

As with other golf equipment so it goes with bags. Take a look for closeout deals or pick up something in good nick used from eBay or Craigslist.

Think carefully before you buy a bag. Is it really worth spending a fortune on a tour-sized bag when you only have half a set to carry or if you play off 28?

8. Out of Season

By that I mean don’t buy stuff at the same time everybody else is going to be buying. For example, don’t buy waterproofs just as you are moving into autumn/winter. That’s when everyone else is thinking of upgrading or replacing their waterproof gear so you won’t see stores discounting stock.

9. Swap Common Items for Golf Equipment

I know a Titleist Players towel does look great because I have one. However, save yourself $30 or $40 by just using ordinary towels from your local Walmart or Costco.

Alignment sticks are one of the latest golf crazes. You could get some driveway markers that are pretty much identical for a fraction of the price. An old steel golf shaft could also do the trick or failing that a garden cane.

Use a coin as a ball marker rather than buying a logoed one from the pro shop for $5.

10. Look After Your Kit

Take care of your golf equipment. Clean the grooves on your clubs. Clean the grips regularly too. If you play in the rain make sure you dry your equipment out properly don’t leave it in the trunk of your car soaking wet.

Clean your shoes after every round and they will last a lot longer.

11. Store Your Kit Correctly.

Avoid leaving your clubs in your car particularly in hot weather as it might damage the resin that holds the shaft to the head. It probably won’t do the rubber in your grips much good either.

If your shoes got wet then try them out properly. Don’t stick them next to a radiator! The same goes for your gloves – try and rotate through several gloves if it’s hot to avoid them getting too sweaty.

Black widow grip butt end
Black Widow golf grips

12. Regrip your own Clubs

I’m not a particularly handy person but even I can manage to regrip my own clubs.

It usually works out quite a bit cheaper than taking them to your pro shop or golf store.

Pick up some grips off Amazon or eBay and you’ll probably save around 50% of the cost.

All you need is a utility knife, a vise, some lubricant and a bit of time.

Playing Golf

13. Join a Club

Depending on how much you want to play you will likely save money by becoming a member of a local club.

If you’re spending $50 per round and play once a week then that’s $2600 a year! If you play mostly one course then check out whether they offer a membership deal or a discount for buying a pack of rounds.

If you only play once or twice a month then start looking for online deals with tee booking services like GolfNow. 

If you are able, try to play late on a weekday as a twilight green fee will be a lot lower than early on a Saturday or Sunday.

14. Play Competitive Golf

This may apply more to the UK than elsewhere but I’ve always found entry fees for open competitions are often cheaper than paying a green fee. Plus you play from the back tees which a lot of clubs won’t allow green fee players to do.

Many golf clubs across the UK including a lot of prestigious ones have open competitions during the summer. It is without a doubt one of the cheapest ways to play a wide variety of different courses.

15. Plan Vacations Carefully

I’m not sure that golf vacations could ever be considered as cheap! However, you can keep costs down by planning your trip carefully.

Look for destinations where you can pick up green fees at several courses at a discount. You could also look for tournaments or festival weeks.

For example Scarborough Golf Festival. You can play four rounds on four different courses for £85. There are separate prizes for each day and also prizes for the 72 hole competition!

Rather than staying at four or five-star accommodation use a bed-and-breakfast or motel and save that money for more golf!

Try to find accommodation that offers a free shuttle service to local courses and you could avoid car hire costs.

16. Join Local Discount Schemes

Your local area might offer a discount scheme for certain courses. In the UK we have the county card scheme which allows you to play a long list of courses at a reduced rate – usually the member guest rate. This is now free to join if you are a member of a club that is part of the scheme.

17. Free Golf!

If you have some spare time try to find a local course with a part-time job that gives you some playing or practice privileges.

Ok, this is not practical unless you have plenty of spare time but depending on the quality of the course, a few hours per week working there might be worth it!

In the UK a few clubs still have artisan sections. By donating a few hours a month working on the course you receive a reduced subscription.

chipping net and practice balls
Chipping Net and indoor balls

18. Practicing Golf

You can try practicing golf at home. Buy some foam balls, a basic chipping net and a small square of astroturf and you’ve got yourself an indoor chipping station.

Hang a couple of blankets over your washing line and buy a large piece of astroturf and you have a practice net.

Instruction

19. Use YouTube for Lessons

If you’re looking to improve your game and don’t have the budget for lessons then check out the golf instruction on YouTube for free.

Some of the best instructors on the planet are giving away free tips on how to improve your game.

20. Group Lessons

Try to arrange group lessons with your buddies if you want to have an in-person lesson. Take a look at Groupon as discounts may appear. Check with the pro as they sometimes offer discounts if you buy a pack of lessons.

Other Ways to Save

21. Avoid the Pro Shop

The sad truth is if you’re on a budget then the pro shop isn’t the best place to be buying anything!

Usually, a pro shop will only have limited stock so there’s a chance they won’t have what you need anyway. In this Internet age, the chances of them being competitive on price are also pretty low although they may price match. Since you are not supposed to be buying new equipment anyway that’s not so much of a problem.

One thing you might be tempted to pick up in a pro shop is a drink or a snack. Resist that temptation. Get yourself a refillable bottle and bring water from home to the course. If you think you might get hungry then bring a banana or some other snack with you. Pick something with a low glycaemic index as that’s the healthiest option. Avoid anything with too much sugar and that includes energy drinks.

22. Bets and Beer

If funds are tight then you really shouldn’t be betting. While it’s great to win it’s not so good if you lose.

As Trevino said real pressure is playing for $10 when you only have $5 in your pocket.

You’ll also make massive savings if you avoid buying drinks from the cart. This is mostly a North American phenomenon I think. Certainly, in the UK you wouldn’t be drinking beer on the course. (Ok some people might be!)

The markup is huge. If saving money is your goal then you need to give the drinks cart a wide berth.

22 Tips for Playing Golf on a Budget: Conclusion

So there you have it, 22 tips for the budget-conscious golfer. Some might not save you that much but some others might.

The sad truth is that if you are really strapped for cash then you won’t find it too easy. Particularly if you have champagne tastes!

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