Is golf an expensive and exclusive sport?

Golf player in the middle of his backswing hitting his driver on a links golf course

When I first started to play golf 3 years ago, all my friends in Singapore would tell me things like:

  • How dare you play such an old rich people sport?!
  • It’s boring and not a sport.
  • It’s an expensive hobby; why would you even get into it?
  • And so much more of those cliché…

In this article, I’d like to tackle one of them: THE PRICE! I’m going to talk about the different elements that traditionally make golf expensive, but with a bit of research, and with a couple tips, could immediately become more affordable.

Is golf an expensive sport?

We have a few components to take into account when playing golf on the cheap:

  1. The equipment (clubs, bag, clothes, shoes, balls, trolley…)
  2. The green fee (what you pay for a round of 9/18 holes on the golf course)
  3. The lessons (hourly rate that is charged by golf coaches)
  4. The membership (if you wish to become a member in a golf course where you play often).

Let’s address them one by one.

Golf equipment

Your equipment is the number one priority for any Golfer when it comes to playing. But when you first start playing, you DO NOT NEED to play with a brand new set of clubs. The industry is trying to trick you into using the latest technology. Still, several articles and videos will demonstrate that in the last 10 years, there has been no real improvement, and changing clubs every year is absolutely counterproductive. Buying used clubs is probably the best thing to do when in your first years of Golfing (see Peter Finch’s videoCheck used sets in Singapore, see below extract from James Robinson’s video showing the difference between a 20yo club vs. a brand new 3 Iron and results are pretty…SHOCKING!)

*(I’m a so-called: Covid Golfer/Pandemic Golfer)

I’ve done a little budget Golfer starter pack for you (in USD):

  • Used set of Mizuno MX200 SR (Graphite Flex Regular shaft), AKA the one I started with as well: $225
  • Driver Titleist 913 D2 (Flex standard shaft): $75
  • Kirkland golf glove (Premium leather): 4 for $29.99
  • Decathlon Distance 100 Golf balls (perfect for beginners): 12 for $11.99 or used balls are half this price and would suit new golfers or the ones like me who are losing 10+ balls per round…
  • Golf shoes: Can start as low as $50 for brand new ones, but it will depend on your taste

For less than $400, you can have a decent starting pack that will last at least a year or two (except for the balls, which will become your highest budget…)

The green fee

Things get more…tactical when finding a tee time that fits your needs and budget. Unfortunately, this also highly depends on your location. I live in Korea now and tee times are crazily expensive as well as very complicated to book (you need to be 4, have to play with a caddy, etc.. But I will write an article about Golfing in Korea soon so you get more understanding of it, especially about the indoor golfing culture in South Korea.

As a rule of thumb, you can play for as low as $40 for 18 holes in a beautiful place in Europe. In North America, plenty of public courses offer very affordable prices (remember that playing 18 holes generally takes about 4 hours if you are 4 people, so the cost per hour is quite reasonable).

You will, of course, be able to find insanely expensive places like Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore, South Cape in Korea, Valderrama in Spain, etc., that are in the region of $400 per round (IF you manage to get a tee time…)

Another good solution to play for cheap is to book a tee time outside of peak hour:

  • Early bird (usually before 8am)
  • Afternoon green fee
  • Twilight green fee (after 4pm usually)

Overall you will find a tee time that suits your budget in most of the world. But let’s take the example of one of my all-time favorite golf clubs: Torrequebrada in Costa Del Sol, Spain:

You can play in the low season for as little as $47 if you play Twilight (after 5pm) – you could play 12 to 14 holes at this time before dusk.

To enjoy the sport of golf, it’s not always necessary to go on a golf course. Just go to a driving range and hit some golf balls, or find the nearest indoor golf facility near you to play all year-round thanks to golf simulator technology.

If you enjoy being outside, but don’t want to spend a fortune, go check out Adrien’s articles (one of our writers, from Portugal) on street golf and disc golf.

The golf lessons

This, once again, will depend on where you take your classes, is it indoor, is it outdoor, is it a group class, or is it a personal lesson.

Regardless, you will find a budget for your need simply because there are many golf coaches out there.

But you can also start by going to the practice range and checking online golf coaches – One of my friends NEVER took a single golf lesson with a coach and, after 3 years, is now shooting around 85 consistently!

My favorite online golf coaches (in no particular order):

  1. Rick Shiels
  2. Peter Finch
  3. Arnaud Poupard (mainly in French but a few lessons in English)
  4. Wisdom in Golf (English) / Wisdom in Golf (French)

A Ballpark for a one-hour golf lesson usually costs between $40 to $100 for an hour.

The club membership

Aaaaaah… The ultimate golfer’s dream! Imagine having the opportunity to play whenever you want, at a highly discounted price, with your pals and then sipping an ice-cold beer at the country club with a mouthwatering sausage roll on the side?

All of this is possible when you subscribe to a membership. And guess what? It is possible at an affordable price. But just like for the lesson or your tee time, it depends on which Country Club you decide to be a member.

The advantage of the membership is to get prime access to the tee time (before it gets too full) at a discounted price but also to build a community and a network for yourself with people who share the same passion.

Now, members of golf clubs tend to have a reputation for being old and hanging out in a close community… But things are changing. More and more young people are turning into golfers, and you see them at the golf course.

By now, how much would a membership cost you? Well, let’s take a few examples around the world per country (where I lived)

  1. Sentosa Golf Club, Singapore. Before Covid, this would go for around $150k, but by the end of 2022, it went up to a disheartening $680k…

For Singapore pricing, please see here for all clubs. As a foreigner, you can find a membership as low as $10k

  1. In Europe, it can cost you, yearly, as little as $800 in your local neighborhood course
  2. In the USA, prices can go from $1000 to the sky. This article is very detailed if you want to know more about it.

So, can I play golf on a budget?

If you want to discover golf, or play regularly without ruining yourself, it is PERFECTLY DOABLE! There are plenty of alternatives, such as Top Golf, driving ranges and indoor golf.

Indoor golf is generally more affordable, more convenient and more inclusive than traditional outdoor golf. Hundreds of venues in the U.S have public simulator bays that you can rent for an average of 50$ an hour (divided by the number of people playing - 4 people maximum).

The problem is, what if you don't know where the nearest indoor golf club is? Here comes Screen golfers!


Search instantly among over 800 public golf simulators in 48 states and hundreds of cities in the USA. We regularly add more venues, locations and features, so stay tuned.