Golf is Not Too Expensive to Play – It Is Just Too Expensive to Start

golf equipment and course

Have you ever asked yourself how expensive is it to get started playing golf?  The short answer is that it is very expensive. I started examining the costs of playing golf because I realized that good golfers, as compared to mediocre players and beginners, have VERY different theories about why the number of golfers is decreasing in the United States and around the world.  Obviously, the reasons are multifactorial, but a large reason is that golf can be cost prohibitive just to get started.

It is not like basketball where you simply have to find a court and a ball; or tennis where a racket and a ball are the costs of entry; or even baseball where you can learn with a ball, a bat, and a glove.  When you combine the starting price with the cost of getting enough practice to be able to enjoy the game, the price to play golf becomes nearly astronomical.

Here are my calculations:

I have to buy clubs — $500 minimum

I have to buy a driver — $200 and up

I have to take lessons — $50-100 a lesson x 10 lessons 

I have to hit the range — $10-20 a bucket

Average public golf course – $40 to play 18 holes 

Nice public golf course- $100 to play 18 holes

So my cost of entry to get into the game (my investment into the sport) is at least $2,000.  And the way I think about it, this is the amount of money I have to spend just to be able to enjoy the game…and this doesn’t even include my golf attire.    

Now if you extrapolate this entry cost to a family of 4, the price to play golf can be simply unaffordable for the average family.

I don’t think most people in the golf industry think of the personal economics of golf in this way.  Most people in the golf industry are already golfers.  They have either already learned the game as juniors where someone else has picked up the tab, or started playing for business networking and the company reimburses the expenses, or started closer to retirement where disposable income might be higher.  I would be interested in knowing how many 30-50 year olds pick up golf from scratch just for something to do. 

I often hear the argument that golf is too expensive and that is why the number of golfers is declining.  I think, for the most part, I disagree with this argument.  I think that once you get through the hurdle of making your initial investment and become good at the game, the cost of golf is actually pretty reasonable.  At that point, you don’t have to buy new equipment every year and you don’t have to invest in frequent lessons. I don’t believe that playing a round for $50-$100 is unreasonable (considering the cost of land and golf course maintenance (unless you are at a course owned by Trump).  

What do you think?