Golf’s reputation as an expensive sport is largely well-deserved. Money spent on clubs, clothes, balls, accessories and course fees can add up in a hurry.
But you don’t have to be rich to play the game. There are plenty of ways to save on items as big as golf clubs and bags, down to small necessities like tees and gloves.
Here are some tips to help you squeeze the most from your golf budget:
Buying brand-new, big-name golf clubs requires a sizeable investment. A new driver alone can cost $400 or more; a set of high-end irons might run you $800-plus; add a couple of wedges at $120 each, a fairway wood and a hybrid at $150 a pop and a $115 putter and you’re looking at nearly $2,000.
Ouch, right? The good news is, there’s no need to go that route. You can buy an entire set for a fraction of that cost, if you know where to look.
As a beginner, you’d be foolish to pay full retail for top-of-the-line equipment. You’re much better off buying used clubs on the Internet – there are dozens if not hundreds of sources – or at your local golf shop.
If you like the idea of new clubs but can’t stomach the expense, Thomas Golf brand is a solid alternative. The company sells its premium equipment strictly online at much lower prices than the “big boys,” plus you’ll receive a free, personalized fitting based on your height, weight and other factors.
Even if you plan to ride a cart for most of your rounds, bags designed for walking are your best bet. Smaller and lighter than cart bags, stand bags are cheaper, offer plenty of storage space and easily fit on golf carts, to boot. If you do decide to walk the course, you’ll be much happier with a stand bag.
The web is a great place to find used bags as well.
Before you go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, check your closet. There’s a good chance you’ve got at least one or two outfits suitable for the course.
Start with a pair of casual slacks or khakis, some shorts in a similar style, and collared, polo-type shirts. If they’re lightweight, breathable and made with moisture-wicking fabric, even better.
While some courses allow you to wear jeans, T-shirts and other super-casual clothing, it’s best to find out before showing up in gym shorts and a tank top.
Our primer on proper golf attire has need-to-know info for men and women.
It’s a common question among beginner golfers: Do I really need golf shoes?
The short answer is, no. While golf-specific shoes have certain built-in advantages, a comfy pair of sneakers will more than suffice in the short term. In fact, many long-time golfers wear regular athletic shoes. What’s more, a number of shoe companies now offer golf footwear that’s barely discernible from conventional athletic shoes.
For more on this topic, click here: How to Choose Golf Shoes
Golf Balls and Accessories
As with clubs, there’s no reason for a beginner to go with top-shelf golf balls. In fact, playing the same balls the pros use may hurt your game.
If you must have new balls, look at the lower end of the price range, where so-called “distance” balls typically run $15 - $20 per dozen (vs. $40 - $50 on the high side). A better bet, though, is to buy used balls over the Internet; many golf shops also sell pre-owned balls. Be sure to check the quality of any new balls you buy. Most companies publish a rating system ranging from “like-new” to “for practice only.”
One other thing to look for – certain companies sell brand-new balls printed with random logos. These are usually offered at steep discounts.
A couple more money-saving tips: It’s rarely necessary to buy golf tees. Keep an eye open for tees left behind on the course and driving range – it’s OK, no one will think less of you for scavenging.
If you wear a golf glove, it’s best to buy two at a time. That way you can switch between gloves during your rounds, reducing wear and tear. Also, remove your glove between shots to keep it from getting wet with sweat.
Most golf courses publish rates on their websites and in their pro shops, but offer cheaper fares through online tee time services. (Much like hotels.) While there’s typically a fee for booking through a third party, you’ll still pay less than full freight – sometimes much less.
Another money-saver is walking the course. True, some facilities require you to rent and ride a cart. And walking isn’t always practical based on the weather, your health and other factors. But if you can walk, do it. You’ll not only save money, you’ll enjoy some pretty major health benefits.
If you get hooked on the game – a definite possibility – look into membership plans at private and public courses. Naturally, private clubs cost more to join and often require an initiation fee. They also tend to attract experienced golfers. Public course memberships give you discounted rates on play and practice; many offer members a break on merchandise, too.