Is It Time to Stop Playing Golf? Part 2

In part 1, I looked at one of the big reasons why golf is losing ground, the time it takes. This is certainly a big problem and hopefully there are a few solutions that can at least go some way towards easing that particular situation. In this part, I want to talk about money. Everyone knows that golf is a rich man’s game, right?

Money is certainly one reason why people don’t take up golf. It can also be a reason why golfers stop playing. So just what sort of expenses are we talking about? Here is a list of some of the things that golfers spend their money on.

  • Club membership
  • Green fees
  • Clothes
  • Clubs
  • Balls

So what sort of money do we mean? Things like club membership are hard to quantify. Between being a member at Augusta National and subs at your local muni, there is a difference! Maybe a better question to ask is-are membership fees excessive?

There is a pretty strong argument for this being the case. Golf enjoyed a boom period through the 80s and 90s and even the early years this century. Clubs were being built left, right and centre and there were plenty of people to take up those membership places. When demand exceeds supply, prices rise. Unfortunately, some clubs thought they could charge a fortune and this was going to last forever. When the economy takes a downturn, golf tends to be sacrificed and that club membership i the first thing to go.

Now, there are clubs that are still doing great. However, a lot of these clubs follow one of two models. Either they are the really high end clubs where the membership is exclusive and doesn’t depend on a huge number of people, but rather on a very small and very rich minority. The other sort of club that seems to be doing ok is one where they have given a bit of thought to changing their fee structure. Realising that it is impossible to lock the average golfer in to a traditional membership, they have thought up more imaginative ways to make things work, such as membership sharing, limited green fee memberships and the rest. This keeps things affordable.

So being a member of a club is (or at least can be) expensive. But is it really necessary. Many people will say that it saves money long term, and the more you play, the truer this may be. Be what about the guy that plays less than 20 rounds a year, This guy is probably close to your typical golfer. He isn’t playing enough to justify joining a club. He is going to pay to play. More and more places offer this sort of arrangement. Even clubs that were previously completely closed to Joe public.

Clubs have also made big strides in making these green fees more affordable. As  case in point, I recently played an excellent local course in France. The fairways were in great condition and the greens were fast and smooth. I payed 25 euros (perhaps 30 dollars at current rates) for 4-5 hours of leisurely matchplay with a friend. The course was pretty busy because they also have a no reserve policy. you turn up, you wait your turn, you play. We waited for ten minutes and a little on a couple of tees, bu nothing outrageous. Green fees in the off season are extremely reasonable.

Likewise, last year I played a lovely course nearby. I teed off after 4pm and got in 18 holes comfortably before it got dark (it was mid August and mid week). Once more, I paid about the cost of a cinema and popcorn for my wife and I.

This is where I think it is important to have a little context. If you are a semi-regular golfer, consider it as a leisure expensive like the cinema, bowling or whatever. when you start looking for the deals like evening tee times, two for one promotions and the like, it is really pretty comparable.

Of course, this still leaves us with clothes, clubs and balls. For clothes, i think of this as a bit of a non-issue. To be honest, the only item of clothing that is especially designed for golf are my shoes. I have a few pairs and I bought all of them on the net for less than the price of a pair of sneakers if I were a jogger. I wear normal polo shirts and trousers because I find they fit me better and are more comfortable, but I am somewhat over-sized, so that might explain things!

I know that some people are ball snobs. Time for a confession. From the elevated heights of my current 11 handicap, I don’t notice a lot of difference between high end balls like a pro v1 and the countless mid range options out there. If you buy in bulk, balls don’t really cost too much and if you are like me, you play what you find most of the time too!

The big expense is clearly equipment. When you look at the prices of some of this year’s stuff, the accusations of golf being a rich man’s game are easy to understand. The latest driver from any of the major OEMs will cost upwards of $400. A fairway or hybrid is going to be right around the $200 mark and a set of irons anything from $600-$1500. a couple of wedges at $150, a $200 dollar putter and a fe hundred on a trolley and bag and you are set to go. Or you could just buy a new car! I jest (but only just.)

Before anyone accuses me of being anti-equipment, I really am not. I love golf gear and will happily spend hours weighing up the pros and cons of different shafts, driver heads and putter lengths. But I strongly believe that the marketing in the golf club industry has gone wild. There is some fantastic new gear out every year. You just don’t need to buy all of it. That new driver isn’t necessarily going to get you another 17 yards (unless the last one was a really bad fit). Those cup faced irons are great, but I have a set of 30 year old ping eye 2s that are pretty darn good too.

I think trying and buying equipment is fun. I also believe that many golfers would be much better served by getting a beginner set off amazon and using it for a year or two. This might not be a popular view, but I am sure I’m not the only guy who has played great golf with a borrowed boxed set of clubs whilst on holiday!

Don’t be scared to get last year’s model. Really, new guy is fun and if you have the cash, go for it. But it is in no way at all a necessity either in terms of enjoyment or score.

Cost is certainly a brake on anyone’s golf. If money were no object (or indeed time), i would be having clubs delivered daily (and my wife would probably be filing for divorce). I would be paying for green fees as often as I desired. However, if you are smart, look around for good deals and on’t buy into all the marketing hype about the latest and greatest, it really is possible to play regularly, score well and most importantly have fun without breaking the bank.



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