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Is Golf a Rich Man’s Game?

Is golf a rich man's game? Did it go back to being niche sport for the well-off?  Is there hope for the so-called schlubs that don't find themselves in the ranks of the "elite"?  

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Is Golf a Rich Man's Game?

Let's tackle this question head-on.

For starters, no, it isn't.  It might have been in the past, but golf throughout its 500+ year history has been, more or less, for everyone.

I mean, the game was invented by shepherds in the fields of Scotland.

shepherds stick; is golf a rich man's game?

The original 1-wood.  And PW... and putter. (source)

So what do you do, if you're wondering if you can afford to golf?  Well...

  • Buy used gear, even balls
  • Don't spend money on training aids- DIY them
  • Play inexpensive courses, or join discount memberships
  • check
    Walk as much as possible

There are many ways to play golf without breaking the bank.  You just gotta find the deals!

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Buy Used Gear

Look, I offer a custom club fitting and building experience, and I don't believe I'm trying to gouge anyone with it, because I don't like to waste time (and money) on the BS.

I offer premium golf shafts (Penley) in my online golf store.

But above it all, I'm a realist.  That's why I spend so much time looking at, and telling you about, alternatives.  Things like: 

Stuff like that.  

If you ever ask me "is golf a rich man's sport?", my resounding answer would be "NO", and I'd find ways to help.  

It's what I do.

You see, when it comes to running a business, one of the lessons I've heard repeatedly is "you're not running a charity".  That may be true, but if I can't help you when you may be a little down on your luck, why would you come to me when you can?

I look at a business more like a relationship.  You're helping me when you buy from me, or tell me when I'm doing good.  I'm helping you play better golf, either with simple tips or fitting and building custom golf clubs for you.  How we get there isn't as important as getting you there.

So buying used gear is a completely viable option for those that don't want to spend a lot on golf clubs.  There are a few guidelines for it:

  • For drivers, anything around 5-6 years old is OK to play
  • For irons and wedges, you can go back farther, to 10 or so years old.
  • Look for wear on the grooves; if you can hear a "click" when you run your thumbnail up and down the face, the grooves are good to go.

There are deals abound, if you check Ebay, Craigslist, even a local Goodwill or garage sale!  Someone on Reddit found a Scotty Cameron putter; normally they go for at least $150 used.  He got his at a garage sale for $50!

DIY Your Training Aids

It's nice if you can spend $100 or more on a handful of lessons, but if you can't, you can still work on your game.

Harvey Penick, a role model of sorts for me, had his students swing clubs trying to take the heads off of dandelions.  Or, sticking a tee in the ground and just trying to clip it.

You can work on increasing your swing speed at home, whenever you feel like it.

The three most fundamental aspects of the swing can be worked on in your house, in the back yard, wherever you can find the time!

There's things you can do if you're stuck inside, too.

You can also save some dough by watching online lessons- just make sure you're getting the most out of them!

Play Inexpensive Courses

Local muni's (municipal courses) can offer inexpensive golf and a good time.  It's fun (for some) to fawn over the "high end" places like Pebble Beach or one of the TPC courses, but honestly, I don't think it's something to dwell on.

Just get the most out of what you currently play.  And hey, if you ever get the chance to play one of those "bucket list" courses, why not?

There are memberships you can join, so you can play multiple local courses at a discount.  It's not the same as a club membership, which can run into the thousands of dollars.  This is more like those coupon books school fundraisers sell.

You can also check out a site like the Golf 18 Network.  You can book tee times in any state, many for over 50% off!

Walk As Much As Possible

Walking is good exercise for golfers.  The extra cost of paying for the cart rental is taken out of the equation, obviously, which will save you around $15 when you get out, depending on the course.

You can get an inexpensive carry bag; just make sure it has the double-strap, to help you shoulder the load more evenly. 

If you want a pull cart, though, that might be something you could save for.  A basic pull cart can be had for about $50, though they can get to be much higher, into the $200+ range.

Is Golf On The Decline?

There's been a lot of talk about decline, which could push the game of golf back to being a "rich man's game".

Back in 2014, Time's Brad Tuttle claimed "golf numbers are down", and listed a lengthy article's worth of reasons why.  A quick recap:

  • People are too busy
  • It isn't "cool"
  • It's too difficult
  • It's elitist and too expensive

Well, we've covered a whole lot of territory finding ways of making golf affordable, but it's getting over the "elitist" image that can  be tough.  Perception is that golf is a rich man's sport, and it's been a hard sell to non-golfers that it isn't.

Look, you and I both know that not everyone we come across is a snooty, nose-in-the-air prig.  They're out there, for sure, but not every single one of  us.

But it's the image that it is that makes it hard to break.  Maybe millennials can help, but we can't pin the future of the game- the one many of us, not just the more well-off, enjoy- on just one group of people.

The Real Issue: Time

So we covered a long list of ways to make the game more affordable, but for people that aren't monetarily well-off, the real issue is time.

Time isn't friendly to people that aren't "rich".

Yes, money can still be an issue.  There's a list of priorities that need to be covered first:

  • The basics: food, shelter, clothing
  • Health (including healthcare), education, employment, family needs
  • mode of transportation, a house (vs. renting)
After that, then things like golf can come into play.  But if these are covered, then time becomes your #1 enemy.

People that aren't exactly well off tend to spend more time at work.  Ten hours, 12, some even pull doubles- 16 hours- or work a second job.  

On top of being a good parent and significant other, household chores... when does someone have the time to spend 3.5+ hours on the course?

Is Golf A Rich Man's Game or, Let's Redefine What "Rich" Means

So you only get to play once a week with used gear.  So, what?  In my opinion, that's a helluva lot better than not going out at all.  

Even if it's just a nine-hole league at work, you're getting out and enjoying the game.

You don't have to be "rich" in monetary terms to enjoy the game of golf.  Going back to Harvey Penick, he had a famous quote: 

And if you play golf, you're my friend.

Get out when you can, while you can.  Enjoy it when you can.  Don't focus on what you don't have- focus on what you do have.

How often do you get out?  Have you found any good Goodwill or Ebay deals?  Share 'em in the comments!

About the Author

Justin Blair is the founder of Green Lantern Golf. When he isn't bringing his 10+ years of excellent craftsmanship experience to golf club fitting, building, and repair, he's geeking out about Star Wars (he's watched them all about 8,437 times!) and things like the MCU and LOTR, he's drinking mead and craft brews. If you wanna know more, check out my About Page!

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