Nobody is going to say that golf is a cheap sport. In fact, at least in the eyes of the non-golfer, it is probably seen as being one of the most expensive sports you can play. If you say you play golf, people will generally assume you don’t have to count the cost of life. Historically, this has been the case for a fair percentage of the golfing population. Clubs didn’t necessarily need to go looking for members and making it expensive really wasn’t a problem. Fortunately life has moved on and golf can actually be far more accessible than you might think. If you want to know how to golf for cheap, this is what to do.
- Golf Equipment doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg
- Never pay full price for a green fee
- Club Membership isn’t a necessity
Don’t Buy the Latest Equipment
The first cost that comes to mind for most would-be golfers is the equipment itself. Taking 5 minutes to look through any of the reputable online golf stores will give you an idea of just how much it would cost to build a bag of this year’s new clubs. I don’t want to point the finger at any particular manufacturer, so here are some general prices that could apply to any major brand, from Callaway to Ping passing through Cobra and Taylormade. The prices are going to be roughly the same whether you are shopping in pounds/euros/dollars
iron set :1200
Of course, this isn’t an exact science. A new Scotty Cameron Putter will be a lot more than the current Wilson Staff line. Whether it is better or not is a whole other argument and one that isn’t something that really matters in the scope of this article. I will just say that I do currently have a Wilson Staff putter in the bag 😉
If we do a rough calculation, we are looking at somewhere in the region of 2500 for clubs. That is quite a bit of cash to fork out before we even hit the course. But wait, it isn’t over. You are going to need to spend another couple of hundred on a bag and possibly a trolley. So we might actually be closer to 3000 or more.
Personally, I would never put this amount into a set of clubs. I just don’t think it is worth it. So how can we cut the price?
Look at the Second Hand Market
The second hand golf market is a goldmine. It is very easy to find clubs that sell for far less than their new value and perform every bit as well as the latest and greatest. I love buying and selling clubs and finding a bargain. For example, my current iron set are a set of Mizuno mp 64 irons from 4 to pitching wedge. They are in specs (length/lie/flex) that fit me very well. These irons came out in 2012 and are the equivalent to some of the current forged offerings from Mizuno that will set you back over 1500 for a full set like this. I paid 150 euros for them. I got them from someone who was moving house and couldn’t take them with hi because they were his back up set.
Now you might say that this is good luck or something that not everyone can do and I would agree. However, if you ask around, you will be amazed just how many bargains you can find. There are also the usual online auctions and selling sites. EBay would be the best known, but there are plenty of other options depending on where you live in the world.
I have also found some absolute bargains at car boot sales and yard sales. Get there early and you will be amazed what you can find. Another option are thrift shops and charity shops. I have a set of Ben Hogan forged irons that cost me £1.50 a club a few years ago!
The point is, there are loads of clubs on the used market.
There are two points to bear in mind here. Firstly, it does help if you have an idea of what you are looking for. For example, you want a particular type of clubhead on a particular type of shaft. This doesn’t have to be exact. It is easy to find reviews and video review of most of the clubs from the last decade or more online. Generally too if you know a current version of a club works well for you, a version from a few generations ago will usually be good too. For example, I like Titleist cb irons. I haven’t tried all the iterations, but I know that if I get a set in more or less the right specs, chances are I will be fine.
The second thing is to be careful of fake clubs. Generally, this is more likely with either drivers or putters in my experience. If something looks dodgy or just too good to be true, let it go and wait for the next opportunity, it usually won’t take too long. I would say that it
You might think that clubs from a couple of years ago (or even, like my Mizunos) can’t possibly be as good as the latest offerings. This is a controversial point, but the difference is almost certainly not as big as you think. I played a lot of good golf a couple of years ago with a set of Ping Eye 2 irons from 40 years ago. When comparing them to a similar style of iron from today and comparing the same loft (which could mean comparing a seven iron to a five iron) performance differences were honestly negligible.
Build Your Own Clubs
If you have a minimum of DIY skills, building your own set of clubs from components can be fun and a real money-saver too. There are some great companies out there that offer quality components at prices that are far less than the main manufacturers. This doesn’t mean they are of a lower quality either. Generally, these companies won’t sponsor professional golfers and their marketing budgets are on a far smaller scale. However, if you pick the right company, you will get great service and a far lower price. Two companies that I have used often in the past are Value Golf and Hireko. I have no affiliation with either, but they have both been extremely helpful to me in the past. Both my Pinhawk Single Length iron sets came from Value Golf for example.
Green Fees or Membership?
The next big cost is what you need to actually play the game. Most people assume that all golfers are members of a club. This isn’t the case at all. For example, this year I don’t have a club membership. I am not against membership at all, simply it might not make financial sense depending on how much you play.
If you do want to join a club, it is worth shopping around too. Gone are the days when many (most?) clubs had a waiting list and ridiculous joining fees allied to minimum bar spend and so on. Of course these clubs still exist but if you are reading this, you probably aren’t looking to join Wentworth or similar! Many clubs now offer a range of deals. You might join as part of a group or as a weekday member. Depending on age, the rates can be vastly different too.
Personally, I found that it didn’t make sense for me to pay a membership fee this year. I have less time to play currently and I would have to pay something like twenty green fees before it reached the same cost as my annual membership fee. In reality, I could probably get more than twenty green fees because this is another area where it rarely makes sense to pay full price.
When you look online at a website for a golf club, it can be quite off-putting to see how much it would cost to play the course by paying a green fee. However, you generally can pay far less than the advertised fee. How?
There are a few methods. Start by calling the club itself. Ask about special offers, or reduced price group bookings. As an example, every year I have a golf day with a few friends. We generally play in the morning, eat in the club restaurant and then play again after lunch. The green fee at this course is a fairly reasonable 65 euros. So two green fees would be 130. The restaurant would cost us something like 30 euros per person for pleasant three courses with coffee. So 160 euros and then a drink or two on top of that. Because we go on a quiet day for the club, they are happy to see 10 people paying for a day’s golf and last year, I think we paid 90 euros for two rounds of golf, lunch and wine.
Is this cheap? Well, it isn’t something I do every week but it is certainly good value in y opinion. You would be surprised just how many golf clubs are happy to discuss this sort of deal.
Even if you are just playing a round of golf, you can pay far less for it. In the Summer months, clubs are generally in high season and prices will go up accordingly, especially at weekends. However, many clubs will offer a cheaper green fee for anyone who tees off after say 4PM during the week. In the Summer, fitting 18 holes in starting then is not a problem at a all.
Finally, think about investing in a reduction card like Golfy. Yes, you do have to pay for it, but depending on which one you get, it will give you upwards of 25% reduction which pays for itself over a few rounds.
One other thing that a lot of people don’t realise is that there are some amazing courses that are actually public. Many people consider municipal golf course to be cheap because they are badly maintained, but this isn’t’t necessarily true at all. Some of the most famous courses in the world are open to the public and this means that won’t cost an arm and a leg to play.
Do you Need Expensive Golf Balls?
One other expense that can quickly add up is golf balls. If you are an average golfer, you should really be careful before paying a few dollars/pounds/euros for a ball that is going to finish in the lake after a few holes. This doesn’t mean playing with the cheapest thing you can find, but there are now some inexpensive golf balls that offer very good performance. One example would be the inesis balls from decathlon. The top of the range 900 balls are excellent and considerably cheaper than the big guns of the premium ball market. However, their mid-range balls and even the cheapest options are actually very solid.
Another way to save money is to actually look for balls when you play. This might seem obvious, but instead of walking up the fairway, stroll along the rough. I have a friend who does this and it is a rare day when he doesn’t finish the round with more balls than he started.
If you do have a particular favourite ball, look for multi-buy options. Many shops, both online and off, will do deals on balls, perhaps offering three dozen for the price of two or whatever. You can also find refurbished golf balls which are much cheaper. I know some people don’t like these, and are especially wary of lake balls, but I haven’t seen any big problems with them in my experience.
What About 9 Holes?
18 holes of golf takes a long time as well as costing more. It is almost always possible to pay for a nine hole green fee. This certainly makes things cheaper and can be easier to fit into a busy lifestyle. If you are smart and pick times when the course isn’t busy, you can easily hit two balls off the tee and get 18 holes worth of golf into nine holes too.
Another money saver is to practise at home rather than paying to use the practice area if you aren’t a member. you can build a hitting net for the garden, or work on your putting on the living room carpet. You only pay to play when you are actually hitting the course, not the driving range.
How to Golf for Cheap
As I write this, I realise that I am actually barely scratching the surface of how to golf for cheap. There are savings to be made in every area of the game, from equipment to membership. I think that the world of golf is changing and it is becoming more and more accessible to those of us who don’t drive a Porsche or dress solely in designer labels. With a little bit of planning and common sense, golf can truly be a sport for the rest of us.