While golf may be one of the most popular sports globally for participants, spectators, and sponsors, it is still primarily considered a “rich person’s sport” by many people. So why do the rich play golf?
Here are the main reasons why the rich play golf:
- Golf is expensive.
- Golf resorts cater to high income individuals.
- Golf improves social status.
- Golf is not physically demanding.
- Golf is relaxing.
- Golf is challenging.
- Golf fits into the schedules of high earners.
- Golf forms business connections.
- The elite perception of golf.
While golf is not a sport exclusively for high-income individuals, the hobby’s elements seem to appeal to the nature, status, environment, and social circles that wealthy people come from. Let’s explore some of them now to find out why the rich play golf.
1. Golf Is Expensive
The first and most notable difference between golf and other sports is the equipment needed to play a round of golf.
Although golf gear can be loaned or bought secondhand, many middle-class and wealthy people prefer to buy their equipment new, as its quality can significantly impact their performance and enjoyment of the sport.
For perspective, an average golfer will have the following equipment:
- Golf bag: $200 – $300
- Irons: $1,000 – $2,000
- Hybrids and woods: $500 – $700
- Driver: $300 – $700
- Wedges: $300 – $700
- Putter: $200 – $400
- Range finder: $300 – $600
- Gloves: $20
- Balls: $60 a box
- Tees and other assorted accessories: $40
Consequently, it costs on average between $2,900 and $5,500 to purchase the equipment necessary to play a round of golf. Bearing in mind that some high-end equipment, such as elite drivers, can go for over $1,500 each!
Before playing a round of golf, a person has to practice, as one would do with any sport. However, golfers require ample space, unlike other sports like soccer or basketball, where you can practice with just a ball and a public or small private space.
Consequently, if you want to practice golf, you have to:
- Have an extremely large property to practice your swing.
- Attend a driving range.
- Pay membership fees to a golf club to practice on an actual course.
Understanding different shots, the difference between clubs, etc., most people looking to get into golf will require a professional coach to tutor them.
Golf coaches are usually hired on a one-to-one individual schedule for extended periods, and these coaches require paying by the individual.
This is unlike other sports where a coach may be needed to refine inherent skills like passing a ball, organizing drills, game plans, and motivation are paid by the team as a whole.
2. Golf Resorts Cater To High-Income Individuals
In the same vein as the expenses associated with golf, the majority of golf resorts are targeted at high-income individuals. The success of this targeted marketing is pretty high up on the list of why the rich play golf.
As discussed above, while there may be some more affordable methods of playing golf, such as municipal courses or courses found in more moderate neighborhoods, most golf courses have high fees and memberships.
The reason is that not only are most golf courses found in high-income areas or popular tourist destinations, but they are also kept in immaculate condition with extremely high levels of service.
Consequently, the money needed to compete with other top golf courses means that golf clubs need to hire the best people possible to maintain consistent and efficient course maintenance using proper machinery while maintaining excellent service.
Further to the above, golf resorts understand that golfers seldom book into a club for just themselves and may often extend their stay over a few nights, meaning that golf cannot be the only selling point of the course.
Subsequently, it is common practice for top golf clubs to have quality hotel rooms, room service, excellent food, vibrant bars, other forms of entertainment, spas, gyms, saunas, and collection services, to name but a few.
Even other methods of practicing golf in smaller, less expensive spaces will still cost money. They will never quite match the authenticity of a real course (including technology such as VR simulation or cheaper forms of golf like disc golf).
Finally, the popularity of golf means that keen golfers will likely want to experience excellent courses globally. This requires the need for international travel and accommodation, which is often an activity solely reserved for wealthy people.
3. Golf Improves One’s Social Status
One of the appeals of golf for wealthy people is it’s a sport that tends to attract like-minded people from similar socio-economic backgrounds.
Consequently, it presents an opportunity for well-off individuals to network and display their hobbies, interests, wealth, and generally standing in society with those they may wish to improve their relationships with.
Inversely, this also applies to middle-income individuals or young professionals that may see golf as both a method of improving their social status among their own socio-economic spaces or as a way of “breaking into” high-income social circles.
You must bear in mind that this point is entirely contextual and not objective in nature.
Instead, it is a matter of different people’s perspectives of others and the value they place on expensive hobbies like sport in elevating one’s social standing.
This is especially true in areas where the act of playing golf or joining a golf club is not seen as a method of climbing social ladders. Especially if the club is affordable, but more as just a hobby to socialize, get some exercise, and have fun in nature.
4. Golf Is Not Physically Demanding
Although golf is not a physically demanding sport compared to other sports that require explosive power, such as basketball or football, this does not mean it’s not a challenging sport (see below).
Rather, the nature of the sport encourages patience, a cool head, skill, and consistency rather than requiring players to be exceptionally talented physically.
Consequently, despite being a sport that requires a large amount of financial and time investment to play, it paradoxically is one of the most accessible sports to people with differing levels of physical prowess.
While it’s not to say athletic people do not have an advantage over unfit people, particularly concerning hand-eye coordination and the benefits of height off a tee shot, golf does promote methods of play to cater to all people.
Further to the nature of the sport itself not being one that requires athletic prowess to play the sport, it is also structured so that a round can be reduced and increased as needed as to the players’ time restraints.
Although golf does require a lot of walking with a heavy bag, this too can be mitigated via the use of regular stops, the hiring of a caddy to carry your bag, and/or the use of a golf cart to get around a course.
The appeal for rich people is that typically speaking, most people only accumulate large amounts of wealth later in life due to long-standing investments or through years of work experience and promotions.
In fact, most people can only commit themselves financially and time-wise to golf once they retire! Fortunately, both the nature of the sport and equipment means that it can remain accessible for older people.
Finally, the use of handicaps also means that it remains a competitive sport, even if a player may not be as fit, trained, or naturally as talented as a more athletic opponent.
5. Golf Is Relaxing
While golf can sometimes be a very frustrating sport, the easy-going nature of the sport, compared to the high intensity, competitive nature of other sports, makes it a very popular hobby for people looking to unwind and relax.
This is further improved by golf being an outdoor sport, which encourages long walks or drives on manicured, scenic grounds, many of which encourage the habitation of animals to add to the scenery.
Golf is also unique in that it can be a relaxing sport relative to the individual’s personal preferences for what they might consider relaxing.
For example, some people may find playing golf with friends relaxing, while others may wish to play a round of golf by themselves to have some alone time and escape people for a while.
This point of preference also speaks to the various attributes individual clubs and courses may offer a person, such as coastal courses vs. forested courses, as per an individual’s preference.
While this is an attractive reason for anybody to begin playing golf, it would appear to attract rich people to the sport, as rich people typically make money through high-stress, high-intensity jobs, meaning they seek ways to relax and unwind.
6. Golf Is Challenging
While golf can be relaxing and laid-back, it is always a challenging sport as you are constantly competing against yourself and your personal stroke play.
Subsequently, golf requires large amounts of patience, practice, knowledge of terrains and courses to be successful, and of course, luck. I’m often asked, is golf a game of chance or skill? Check out this article, Is Golf Luck or Skill? to find the answer.
Although challenging oneself when engaging in a hobby may not be to everybody’s liking, this type of hobby generally attracts “A-type” personalities looking for competition and challenge during their downtime.
Understandably, although not all rich people are “A-type” personalities, there is enough evidence, data, and studies that many highly successful people in high-paying environments tend to exhibit a hunger and drive to succeed.
Therefore, while not inherent to rich people or excluded from lower-income individuals, the challenge of golf would appear to be a key factor in taking up the hobby for wealthy “A-type” people.
7. Golf Fits Into the Schedules Of High Earners
Another reason why the rich play golf is because it fits into the agendas of high earners. Golf requires time commitments that most lower-income and middle-income households find challenging to find.
This is due to people from these socio-economic backgrounds usually being subject to mandated working hours while lacking the resources needed to free up time for tasks that wealthy people can delegate to others (such as childcare).
Consequently, because wealthy individuals that play golf are retired or in positions where they can delegate tasks to other people, they tend to have more flexibility and control over their schedules, allowing the time commitment needed to play golf.
8. Golf Forms Business Connections
Further to social status, golf has adopted this mythos of being an activity and hobby where it is not taboo to talk about work or business; instead, it encourages people to foster personal and professional relationships while playing.
This is in direct contrast to most other recreational activities where people actively try to avoid conversations about work, business, and politics.
It is either due to the nature of other activities where the light-hearted activity does not encourage this (such as bowling) or due to time constraints and the need for hyperfocus (such as a quick game of 5-a-side soccer).
Consequently, the nature of golf, the ample breaks between shots, and the length of time golfers spend together on a course all encourage using golf as a platform to facilitate business connections.
9. Golf Is Perceived As An Elite Sport
Finally, the history and image of golf all speak to a sport that actively prides itself on being a sport for elite people (although there are numerous school programs, community engagement programs, and NGOs looking to change this).
Golf is a sport where one’s integrity and accepting and calling penalties on oneself is seen almost as important as being a good player.
The rules themselves are sometimes confusing, and you could say that a reasonable amount of education is needed to understand some of the more obscure ones!
Despite the strides being made to make golf more accessible to people of different demographics and socio-economic backgrounds, golf’s depiction in the media and its method of broadcasting via the use of “high class” sponsors feeds this perception.
While golf is a far cry from its 15th-century origins, which designed the sport exclusively for nobility, there is still some work to be done before it is embraced as an everyman’s sport in the same way as baseball, basketball, or football.
Although strides have been taken to diversify the class and demographics of golf by making it more financially and socially available, it still caters to mainly wealthy individuals.
To answer the question, why do the rich play golf, outside of the pure enjoyment of the sport, the reasons are multifaceted and overlap with status, business, and finances.