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Why Golf Is The Most Expensive Sport In The World

Most golfers spend a lot of money on the sport, no matter their handicap or income bracket. But golf is attempting to be a more inclusive sport, but the financial aspect needs to be addressed before this can be successful. So, why is golf so expensive?

Golf is expensive because of the high cost of the equipment, such as golf clubs, balls, shoes, and clothing. Other costs include club fees and lessons. The costs of upgrading to the latest game-improving technologies also add to the expense and are a yearly dilemma for the average amateur.

If you are contemplating taking up golf as a sport or hobby this year, make sure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into, as the costs can add up to thousands of dollars each year. So, if you want to know why golf is expensive, you’ve come to the right place.

Why Is Golf Expensive? Golf equipment.

Why Is Golf Expensive?

The equipment, training, and club fees needed to play golf are expensive and add up very quickly. Here is an analysis of the costs involved in playing golf:

  • Green fees. On average, it costs $80 to play 18 holes of golf at the weekend on a municipal course – and that’s just the fee for the tee time. If you want a drink or two and a snack after your game, that will cost at least another $20. And due to demand, it is more expensive to play on Friday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings.
  • Club membership fees. These can be pretty pricey, but if you are going to be playing golf regularly, it will be cheaper to purchase a membership package in the long run. Memberships can cost anything from a few hundred dollars up to a couple of thousand – it correlates to the location, facilities, and prestige.

    Members clubs require an upfront membership fee at the start of each season. Understandably, golf clubs charge you these fees as they have to pay back their large mortgage loan after buying a sizeable plot of land – big enough to play 18 holes of golf, a clubhouse, restaurant, and driving range.

    And then there’s the maintenance of all of this! I doubt you’ve ever seen a run-down private golf course. Almost every golf course requires daily upkeep, including regularly moving the holes to ensure that the club can uphold its prestigious title.
  • Golf clubs. While it is cheaper to buy a pre-used set of golf clubs, there can often be peer pressure and a mentality that you need to have a brand-new set that may cost between $1000 – $2000 or a driver that costs $500. Remember that clubs are an expensive upfront cost, but they will last for many years.
  • Golf balls. New golf balls cost $20 – $35 for good quality 3-piece balls – and that’s only for a box of 12, which can add up when you’re playing golf regularly. Can you imagine how much Pro-V1 balls cost that many professionals use? You can learn more here: Why Are Golf Balls So Expensive?
  • Range finder. A good range finder is approximately $200. It’s worth splurging on one of these if you are a strong golfer, as it can take your game up a level.  
  • Golf lessons. When looking at golf lessons, it is worth the splurge. Many public courses offer discounted rates for golf lessons to children and young players under 18, but after that, it becomes costly. If you want to know why golf lessons are worth it, check out this post, 7 Reasons Why Golf Lessons Are Worth It.
  • Golf clothing and sundries. Other costs that you need to consider are a golf kit (shirts, shorts, and shoes), tees, gloves, and a bucket of balls from the driving range. Read more: Do You Need Golf Shoes?
  • Custom-made clubs. Another cost that players often forget is getting their clubs fitted. If you are a social player, it is unnecessary, but it can make a massive difference to your swing for those playing competitively. To learn about the pros of non-standard irons (and how long they should be), check out my easy guide, How Long Should My Irons Be?
Golf Putter

Statistics Highlighting How Expensive Golf Is

The National Golf Foundation (NGF) states that golf was more expensive in 2021. Sixty million rounds of golf played from 2019 to 2020 increased at an even higher rate from 2020 to 2021.

The NGF also found that more than a third of golf courses increased their peak greens fees by an average of 11% (it costs even more to play a round at a privately owned facility than at a municipal course). This is the highest increase seen in many years.

But why?

It’s a simple case of supply vs. demand due to the pandemic and more people taking up golfing.

A recent survey found that golf is the most expensive sport globally. Almost a quarter of golfers surveyed said they lose track of how much they spend on the sport. In addition, 10% of golfers confessed to hiding how much they spend on golf from their partners.

This is a clear sign that golf is a costly sport and one of the prime reasons why the rich play golf.

There have been almost 1300 significant renovations to golf courses completed since 2006, indicating about $3.75 billion worth of investment into the sport. Golf is on the rise and is certainly not a dying sport.

Golf Trolley

Where To Save Money On Golf

Despite the common misconception that you need to have the most expensive and flashy golf clothes and equipment, here are a few ways to save some money:

  • There is no need to hire a golf cart – renting a golf cart can be costly. Why not save the money and walk around the course instead? This way, you can get your exercise in and enjoy your surroundings along the way.

    Many golfers enjoy walking rather than taking a golf cart as they can keep their muscles warm while on the course, especially in winter, and burn more calories.
  • Second hand/ex-demo clubs – I have purchased several clubs this way, especially wedges and putters. You may have to re-grip them, but you can find bargains if you research the market.
  • Choose a cheap golf bag – it is not necessary to splurge on an expensive brand of golf bag. Instead, buy a more reasonable, lightweight, and durable bag that will do the job just as well. 
  • Go for cheap hybrid clubs – most people either love or hate hybrid clubs. Don’t get tricked into buying expensive ones if you love them because it really won’t make a difference.
  • Cheap golf gloves all the way – it can be pretty overwhelming when looking at a large number of golf gloves on display at the shop. Don’t worry about spending big bucks on gloves because they’re all pretty identical (you are just paying for the brand). And remember, most golfers only wear one golf glove.
  • Buy cheap golf clothes – there isn’t a need to have expensive branded clothing because it won’t make you play any better at the end of the day. Most golf retailers have end-of-season sales, and it’s always a good idea to stock up then. I once was able to pick up 3 Lacoste polo shirts for $40 each.
  • Golf ball quality doesn’t matter for the average golfer – most average golfers can agree that the golf ball used isn’t that important (although I’m positive professionals would disagree). Your score will be relatively similar whether you use a Wilson or Pro-V1 ball.

    No matter what golf ball you use, if your swing mechanics are poor and your ball striking is erratic, spending a lot of money on premium balls doesn’t make sense. You can find out more about this topic here, Does Golf Ball Quality Matter?

Final Thoughts

You now know why golf is so expensive. And so, after reading this post, you’re either thinking, “wow, there’s no way I’m ever going to pick up golf, it’s so expensive,” or “ok, so there are quite a few ways I can save money on golf gear, let me give it a try.”

Hopefully, you have not been entirely put off because golf is fun, and if you want to become a pro golfer, it will be worth it in the end.

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