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How Pro Golfers Get Paid (Is It All About The Cut?)

So you want to become a professional golfer but are curious about your salary, or while watching golf on TV, you wonder how pro golfers get paid?

Pro golfers that make the tournament cut take home a percentage of the winner’s purse regardless of where they finish. They also get paid from endorsements, corporate events, instructional videos, and books they may write to generate multiple income streams.

This article will examine the various types of revenue and the different kinds of pro golfers – as playing on tour is not the only career option for PGA qualified professionals. We’ll also look at pro golfers’ expenses and the reality of playing golf for a living.

So, if you want to know exactly how pro golfers get paid, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s tee off!

Justin Rose. How Do Pro Golfers Get Paid?
Instagram: @justinprose99

The Different Types Of Careers For Pro Golfers

When one thinks of pro golfers, we think only of the players we see on TV competing in the PGA, European Tour, LPGA, and LET events. This constitutes the elite of pro golfers. It certainly isn’t the only way most pro golfers make a living from the sport.

There is no aspiration to win majors or play on tour for many who qualify as PGA professionals. This can be a very tough career choice, and often their qualifying scores are not high enough to get them an opportunity to play on tour, even if they are far superior to the average amateur.

So they opt for a more stable and less glamorous life  – that of a club or teaching pro.

The Teaching Professional And Club Professional

Playing competitive golf for a living may seem like the ultimate dream for any PGA pro, but this is not the case as the reality of life on tour is not always champagne and celebration.

This is only a tiny part of the tour, and we as golf fans don’t often see the other side of it – which we will look at later in this article. While many young players enroll to become the next McIlroy or Woods, the reality is far removed.

Playing on the tour from an income perspective is unstable and unpredictable. When you need to ensure you have a steady income to live, pay bills, and eat, more stable forms of employment in the professional golf industry are more attractive than playing on the tour.

This is why many pro golfers opt for teaching and coaching positions at golf clubs in their area, using their training and expertise to help other players improve their game, and for this, they can earn a pretty good living.

Running pro-shops combined with lessons and online coaching offers pro golfers the opportunity to generate stable and risk-free income streams. Over time, that income can become pretty lucrative.

While not at the level of endorsements and winner’s checks from the top-ranked players globally, a good club or teaching pro can earn between $30,000 and $200,000 per year, especially if they own the pro-shop.

Tommy Fleetwood
Instagram: @officialtommyfleetwood

How Coaching Professionals Get Paid

You often hear commentators talking about the pro golfers working with coaches in terms of swing, putting, driving, or other aspects of the game, and here is another way pro golfers get paid.

Working with tour pros and helping them succeed in major events can yield significant paydays as a percentage of the winner’s check is paid to the coach. Regardless of whether their player wins or not, pro golfers that are coaches get paid.

Coaching golf pros would get paid per contract at an agreed amount per month and possibly an additional option to receive a portion of winnings should their player do well in the tour events.

When working with big names in the game and having a good reputation based on consistent results, a pro golfer working as a coach can earn a very comfortable living.

Many coaches often get exposure to other players and fans through TV coverage or by being seen with leading players resulting in more people or players looking to engage their services.

A golf coach could earn around $50,000 per year, but if they end up working with tour pros, they may be entitled to a more significant chunk of income should their player finish in the money!

This would mean anything from a few thousand to possibly a few hundred thousand in extra income should the player finish in the top five or top ten of a major event.

Coaching, teaching, and club golf pros earn a stable living, and while it’s not the most star-studded existence, it is sustainable, consistent, and ideal for many pro golfers who graduate and don’t have tour aspirations.

But, the real money lies with the tour pros, so let’s get into the numbers and details of how pro golfers on tour get paid.

Golf Course

How Do Pro Golfers Get Paid On The PGA Tour?

The reality of life as a golf pro on the PGA Tour is not the fairy tale many fans and average players believe it to be. There is immense pressure and competition within the playing groups to make tournament cuts, and many players often find themselves barely breaking even with their expenses.

Every golf tournament has a prize purse, and to get a piece of that action, players need to focus only on making the cut for the weekend. Not making the cut will see you packing up early and heading to the next event with zero cash in your pocket.

So, the first goal of any pro golfer wishing to get paid is to play well in the first two rounds and make the cut. Once that is achieved, they can relax and know that regardless of their finish, they will be paid.

Related: Why Are Golf Players Paid So Much?

The Tournament Cut – Where The Money Is

Every event on the PGA Tour has a prize purse, and every player that makes the cut will get a percentage of that depending on where they finish. The higher up the leaderboard you are as a player, the greater the winning percentage.

The PGA has a standard format that determines how much each finishing position gets as a percentage of the total prize money.

First place is 18%, so if the tournament prize money were $10 million, that would be a paycheck of $1.8 million – not bad for four days’ work! But, of course, it is not just the four days’ work; it’s the result of thousands of hours of training and preparation.

Second place is allocated 10.9%, equating to a $1.09 million paycheck. Third place is 6.9%, fourth place is 4.9%, and fifth place is 4.1%. As you get out of the top 5 places, the percentages drop, and the tenth place is allocated 2.725%, which is still $272,500 as a purse.

To earn 1% of the winnings, you would need to finish in 23rd place or better, and if you finish last in 65th place, you will get 0.215% of the purse or $21,500.

Brooks Koepka
Instagram: @bkoepka

Now, while this may seem better than not getting paid at all, tour players that aren’t the major stars have expenses to pay, and if they don’t have a sponsor, their caddie fees, accommodation, food, and travel expenses all have to be paid and covered by their winnings.

After paying all of that out, players may only be left with a few thousand dollars, which has to go to the next event’s expenses. It happens pretty quickly when the money gets paid out, with most players receiving their winnings within a week of the event.

Do you want to know exactly how much the top golf players make? Check out this article, How Much Golf Players Make.

Endorsements – Where The Real Money In Pro Golf Is

While winning a major tournament like the Masters or PGA Championship does deliver a lucrative payday, the real money in professional golf is not from the tournament paychecks but external revenue like endorsements, commercials, or appearances in special events.

Suppose you consider that Tiger Woods earned well over $1 billion. In that case, most of that comes from the massive sponsorship deals with his brands like Nike, TaylorMade, Rolex, Hero Motor Corp, Monster Energy, and Bridgestone. This revenue would dwarf earnings from winning significant events.

Endorsements for star players can yield more than ten times more revenue than winning tournaments in a calendar year; the more you win, the more companies want to sponsor you.

This removes a lot of the expenses (other than tax, of course), so a lot more money flows to the player’s bank account, which adds up to a well-oiled money-making machine. This is why so many players dedicate their efforts to either winning or placing in the top 5 or top 10 places in significant events.

The prize money is one reason, but the main reason is to pick up sponsors, and this is why when younger players win significant events, it’s a life-changing achievement. Look at what Hideki Matsuyama’s win at the Masters did for his career and golf in Japan.

He walked away with just over $2 million for that win, but the value of endorsements that would follow was estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars! Even if that number was only $100 million, that is still 50 times the value of the winning check!

No matter what happens in his career, he will always be acknowledged as a Master’s Champion and recognized worldwide, which gets corporate sponsors interested in making him a brand ambassador.

Sponsorships are so lucrative for players and sponsors alike because the everyday golfer rushes to go and buy the clubs, balls, clothing, and accessories that the big golf stars use, and therein lies the real money in professional golf.

Hideki Matsuyama
Instagram: @hidekimatsuyama1

The Average Side Of Pro Golf Earnings

While we have focussed on the very lucrative aspect of the professional game, there is also a dark downside, and this is where playing golf for a living looks more like a regular 9-5 job than a superstar career.

Many players can struggle to meet weekly financial commitments if they don’t make the tournament cuts, and this is why so many quit the tour when it becomes too difficult to sustain and look for more stable options of income.

Nonetheless, while many players will never win a major or finish in the top ten, several players consistently make tournament cuts and make a pretty decent living out of it.

Studies show that a player shooting par for most of the season and only making 41% of cuts in a season could net about $430,000 a year, while increasing that to 75% of reductions made would result in around $550,000 per year in earnings.

This is where a lot of players look to make their living. By ensuring they qualify for a certain percentage of event cuts, they can pretty much guarantee a solid and stable lifestyle, and they also get to do what they love.

Earning between $35,000 and $50,000 a month playing golf is not a bad living. Once you have paid your caddies (usually around 10%-15% with bonuses for finishing top 20/10/5), a pro golfer at this level would have a reasonably comfortable existence.

Of course, the goal is to have a top 10 major finish and boost those earnings, but finishing consistently in the top 20 or top 30 in PGA Tour events will earn a player a better than average living, and they get to play golf all over the world – not the worst job in the world!

And have you ever wondered where the pros stay during tournaments? Check out this article to find out, Where Do Pro Golfers Stay During Tournaments?

Final Thoughts

When contemplating how pro golfers get paid, you now know that the top stars in golf get paid very well, as do the stars in most professional sports.

Yet, while we see only the glitz and limelight, there is another side to pro golf: the hard-working pro that sometimes struggles to make ends meet before their big break.

While some pro golfers will never get that big break, playing consistently to achieve a place in the weekend rounds in 40%-60% of the events they enter will give them a stable income and the opportunity to pick up more minor sponsors.

Most of all, they get to play the game they love and make money from it.

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