Is Golf Expensive?

Introduction

Golf can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. You can spend thousands of dollars on equipment, lessons and green fees. It is also quite possible to play golf on a budget. Green fees can start as low as $15-20. Used clubs can be found on eBay or in garage sales. YouTube has loads of “free” golf instruction.

No doubt an overwhelming majority of the public would consider golf to be an expensive sport. While it is quite easy to spend a lot of money on golf, it is also possible to play golf without breaking the bank.

Let’s look at the extremes of how expensive or inexpensive golf can be.

Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.

Winston Churchill

Equipment

People see the latest driver from Callaway or TaylorMade being advertised for $500 and assume that golf is just too expensive for them.

Golf is just like any other market, not everyone can afford to purchase premium products.

Many people can’t afford a new car, they have to buy a used one. You might be able to afford a small compact car brand-new but that BMW SUV is just too expensive for you etc. etc. 

So while you may not be able to justify spending $500 on a new driver there might be a model in a lower price segment of the market that you could afford. It will probably perform just as well for you. There is also any number of discontinued or used products that may suit your game just as well as the latest premium offerings.

Now you need fairway woods, hybrids, irons and a putter! The same applies. You could pick up a used Ping Anser putter for $30 or $40. This club has been in the bags of multiple major champions. It should be good enough for you too!

Complete sets are available for about $200.

I need a bag, an electric trolley, gloves, balls, tees, GPS and sunglasses you cry! Yes, you do need some equipment besides clubs.

You don’t need a $500 tour bag, a SkyCaddie GPS or the latest Oakley glasses though!

Golf balls can be had (used) for as little as $5-10 a dozen. All-weather gloves that can last many rounds might be another $5-10.

Alternatively, if you have more money than Warren Buffett then you could turn up at the course with this lot:

ManufacturerModelPrice ($)
HonmaBeres 5 Star Driver4500
HonmaBeres 5 Star Irons 5-SW40500
HonmaBeres 5 Star Fairways (2)9000
Scotty CameronTiger Woods Masters 97 Replica20000
Treccani MilanoBag43000
FootJoy FJ 1857 Premium Leather Glove75
XXIOPremium ‘11’ golf balls138
Jucad Phantom Titan eX 2.0 Electric Trolley5925
Total123138

Of course, if you don’t fancy walking you could swap that Jucad electric trolley for a ride-on buggy from Garia for a mere $73,000.

Clothing

If you only ever want to play at the local municipal course then you can probably get away with a T-shirt, jeans and some trainers. Your new golf habit wouldn’t add anything to your wardrobe bill!

However, if you’re looking to play more upscale courses whether in the US, Europe or Australasia then you’re going to need to wear recognized golf attire. Now that doesn’t mean you need to be wearing the latest Hugo Boss polo shirt and Ralph Lauren pants.

A pair of slacks and a polo shirt from somewhere like Walmart shouldn’t set you back more than about $30. You can also pick up some golf shoes from there for as little as about $40. If you are prepared to go for a bigger brand name then you should be able to find Adidas shoes discounted down to $50 or $60 in most golf outlets or on eBay.

If you just received your annual bonus from a Wall Street bank and you could go to town with the following:

BrandModelPrice ($)
ZilliDiamond Polo Shirt1950
BurberryWool Check Trousers2750
Alan James RaddonCustom Golf Shoes1000
Total5700

To be honest, one thing you should avoid skimping on is shoes, try to spend a bit more of your budget there. Your feet will thank you for it! $1000 for a pair is going to be out of the reach of the vast majority of golfers though.

Green Fees and Membership

Green Fees

As with most things in life you tend to get what you pay for.

Unfortunately, you’re not going to get onto an Open Championship venue for $10. However, if you’re prepared to play twilight golf or look for deals (e.g. GolfNow) then you could play quite a few quite nice courses for as little as $15-$20 in the UK. A lot of courses have also started to offer lower rates in the winter. If you’re playing on a well-drained course then this could prove to be a bargain as well.

On the flip side, you can quite easily pay green fees into the hundreds of dollars. Muirfield’s 2021 green fee is $400, the Ailsa at Trump Turnberry is $545!.

Something we take for granted in the UK is the ability to play pretty well every course in the country. You might need very deep pockets for some of them but you can still play all the Open Championship venues for example.

In the US $500 seems to be a popular green fee at upscale courses like Trump Doral (Blue Monster). Shadow Creek probably holds the title as the most expensive though with a $600 fee on top of the cost of staying in one of the MGM hotels in Las Vegas.

In Australia, Royal Melbourne is thought to be the most expensive green fee at $500.

Memberships

Membership in the UK is probably cheaper than a lot of other developed golf markets. You could be looking at as little as $700 per year for your subscription at some rural or links courses. $1200-$1800 would likely get you membership of your typical members club in/near the big cities. Although the South East would tend to be more expensive with even quite modest clubs wanting $2000-$2500 and clubs with more cachet asking a lot more. One of the most expensive in the UK is The Wisley which will set you back $55,000 to join plus an annual fee of $9000.

Over in the US and Canada, the majority of the best courses are private and only available to members and their guests.

The most famous and exclusive clubs don’t tend to advertise their initiation fees or annual subscriptions. There are some clubs thought to have joining fees of $1,000,000 (The Bridge in Bridgehampton, NY). Some have annual subscriptions running to as much as $29,000 (Liberty National Golf course in Jersey City, NJ). No doubt there are some even higher than that!

Some courses such as Pine Valley, just divide up the annual running costs between the members. So you don’t even know what your membership will cost in advance! I suppose if you’re rich enough to afford that sort of club then the amount probably isn’t that significant.

While there can be quite a disparity between membership prices at clubs in the UK it pales into insignificance compared with the US. You are dealing with such a massively diverse area.

For example, a country club membership in Arkansas could be yours for as little as $240 per month which seems quite cheap for the US. A course in Florida is advertising memberships for $2200 a year which is roughly on a par with what you pay in the UK.

Another area of golf in North America that can prove quite costly is a food and beverage minimum spend. In the UK you might be asked to deposit $100-$150 to be spent on food and beverage throughout the year. In North America, this might be considered a monthly minimum.

Just over the border in Canada, a course that I’ve been pleased to play on a few occasions offers pretty good value even for a cost-conscious Brit. Savannah Golf Links just outside Cambridge, Ontario offers a seven-day membership for around $1500 + HST. A nearby country club, Galt, will cost you $4000 + HST per year and the initiation fee is currently being waived.

Fine dining
almost as tasty as the golf

Apres Golf

I’ve never been one for fine dining, I would much prefer fish and chips! Top-tier golf clubs will undoubtedly be expensive when it comes to food and drink. I visited one famous club in the south-east of England nearly 20 years ago and at that time they were charging members £500 ($688) a year, food and drink levy. That’s probably 10 times what the majority of clubs would have charged their members back then. As I recall it also wouldn’t have gone very far with a bacon sandwich costing £5 ($6.88)!

Unless you join a club with mandatory food and beverage charges no one has to spend money in the clubhouse. If you don’t think you’re getting value for money then you don’t use the facility.

Like any hobby, you have to set the parameters of what you can afford to spend. If you like to indulge yourself a few times a year with an expensive green fee, you might as well go the whole hog and have a nice dinner in the clubhouse as well!

Conversely, if you’re on a budget then you can always pop into McDonald’s on the way home.

Competitions

I’m not sure if this is more a quirk of the UK golf market. A large percentage of clubs will throw open their doors several times a year for a variety of competitions open to both members and visitors. The majority of the competitions will have entry fees significantly less than a normal visitor green fee. Plus if you play well you might manage to win a prize.

I always viewed this as an excellent way to play new courses on the cheap.

If the clubs in your countries do the same then I would heartily recommend this as a way of expanding your golfing experience.

Is golf expensive
golf can take you to some beautiful places

Vacations/Holidays

The majority of holiday destinations will tend to be expensive whatever activity you want to undertake. It is the law of supply and demand. Businesses realize that people on holiday are prepared to spend more money than they might otherwise. So whether you’re looking for a coffee, a three-course meal or a round of golf there is likely to be a premium to pay.

If you’re traveling to a country with a golf market outside of the tourist areas then you will find better value for money by going where the tourists aren’t. On the flip side, if the country you’re visiting only has golf courses that cater to tourists then you have to bite the bullet. If you want to play then pay that expensive green fee.

I’ve managed to do cheap golf trips in the UK by playing competitive events which tend to have lower green fees than the normal visitor rates. For example, a couple of years ago I played in the Scarborough Golf Festival. It featured four rounds on four different golf courses for a grand total of £60 ($82).

While in the area I managed to play 4 other courses utilizing twilight rates and other discounts for around the same price. I then topped off my week by playing 36 holes at Ganton G.C. which cost me almost as much as the other eight rounds combined! However, that was 10 rounds of golf on nine different courses, five of them in competition for around £225 ($310). I would consider that pretty good value.

Over three visits to Canada, I managed to play some decent courses such as Glen Abbey without breaking the bank. I did this by looking for the best deals rather than blindly booking at premium times.

With a little bit of planning and care, it is possible to get value for money even on a golf vacation.

Is Golf Expensive: Conclusion

Golf can be as expensive as you want it to be. Only you can decide what you want to spend on golf, don’t let outside influences dictate your choice of equipment or where to play.

If you are on a tight budget then you won’t have the latest clubs and you won’t be playing Muirfield and Winged Foot every week. Just because you can’t afford a Porsche it doesn’t mean you can’t drive!

I would add that you are here for a good time, not a long time!

Related:

Bucket List Golf Trips

Similar Posts