Most folks call golf a rich person’s sport. But there are ways to indulge yourself without spending a king’s ransom. Play golf for cheap and save, so you can still meet your other financial goals. Here are 19 ways to save.
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19 Ways to Play Golf for Cheap
Some people take up golf early in life. Others partake later in life… often to spend time with friends. Either way, it’s possible to play it for cheap so you can meet your other financial goals.
One of the reasons it may not be your go-to in your post-college years is time. The other is cost. Both are legit, but can be overcome. When you retire (whether at 45 or 65) and suddenly have a lot more time, you might even want to play more, especially if your friends golf.
The question is – regardless of age – how to play golf for cheap, so you can enjoy it more often. Knowing these tips will help you save money for retirement during your working years. And preserve your assets after you’re retired.
With that, here are 19 ways to play golf on the cheap. Pick the best ones for you.
1. Negotiate cheaper golf membership fees.
Most clubs offer various rate tiers based on various factors – time of day, day of week, age, etc., but what if you want to play and don’t fit neatly into their tiers? You might be able to work out your own membership deal if you play your cards right. A great way to play golf for cheaper. Here’s how…
Play golf at the course you’d like to negotiate with, paying full price initially. Stop in at the pro shop every time and chat up the head pro(s). Once you have a decent relationship with the staff, ask if they’d be able to offer you a discounted or temporary membership option. Obviously if they like you, your chances are better than if you’re rude or obnoxious. So treat them how you want to be treated. It could get you a relaxed rate (or terms and conditions) that aren’t part of their regular membership options.
Just remember… Golf courses are in business to make a profit, so don’t do this in a demanding or condescending way. Understand that most country clubs have no leniency in their memberships because of steep initiation fees.
But you might be able to get the head pro to let you chip and/or putt at their practice facility for a low day fee. Getting a relaxed membership rate might be especially important if you’re geographically mobile and don’t live long-term in one place.
2. Join when golf memberships are on sale.
Many golf clubs run “sales” from time to time. Sometimes they knock initiation fees down to almost zero. This is a great way to play golf for cheap. Just watch out for the fine print. They’ll likely require a certain monthly commitment – maybe a year, maybe longer.
It’s probably a good idea to check out current sales of all clubs in your area online before you visit any. Make a spreadsheet with pricing, distance from home, time restrictions, amenities, and any other relevant details they spell out online. Armed with that knowledge, you can visit the clubs, ask your questions, and decide if one of them is right for you.
3. Golf at public golf courses.
Want to avoid an expensive golf membership altogether? Or at least get what’s likely the cheapest golf membership in town? Then find out what public courses are available in your area. Their rates can vary wildly compared to private clubs. Giving you another way to play golf for cheap.
They also may have tiers depending on age, days of play (weekdays vs. weekends), and hours of play (pre-sunset). So depending on competition in your area, playing golf at public courses can save you a boatload of moolah.
4. Learn how to re-grip your own golf clubs.
If you switch grips very often, learning to re-grip your golf clubs can save you money over time. Plus the gas money and time it takes to drive to and from the pro shop or store.
5. Build your own golf clubs.
If you’re handy, you can even build your own set of golf clubs. This means buying all the components separately (grips, shafts, ferrules, tip weights, butt weights, club heads, etc.) and crafting them into your own clubs. This can save you a lot of money. And who knows? Maybe it could even become a lucrative side hustle.
If you decide this isn’t for you, check out #15 below.
6. Sell unwanted golf clubs on E-bay or Facebook Marketplace.
This is a terrific way to regain some of the money from golf clubs you no longer use. And it sure beats the dreadful trade-in offers you get at golf stores.
7. Set up a home golf practice area.
This is one of the best ways to boost your golf game and play golf for cheap. Once set up, you’ll have a place for endless improvement opportunities. That doesn’t require ongoing cash outlays or gas money. If you live where winter is a golf limiting factor, consider an indoor practice area.
8. Take online golf lessons.
Even if you have to pay for online lessons, they’re no doubt more affordable than private golf lessons. If you love in-person lessons, consider alternating between in-person and online lessons.
9. Stop ineffective golf practice at the driving range.
To save money and improve your game, don’t buy the extra-large bucket of balls and swing, swing, swing! You don’t need to do that – and it’s often counter-productive. Instead, practice your golf swing motion repeatedly in front of a mirror. Then go to the golf range.
If you try to change your swing at the range without a golf pro (or someone who really knows their stuff) watching you, you’ll just make yourself worse – having repeatedly practiced your golf stroke incorrectly. By practicing in front of a mirror first, you’ll get more mileage from fewer balls.
10. Attend smaller golf tour events instead of the major PGA tour events.
Yes, you can learn from the masters by watching them play golf. But let’s tweak that idea just a tad. Most people lock their brain onto PGA Tour events. They shouldn’t. There are cheaper options that are just as good.
PGA Tour events can cost hundreds of dollars to attend. And half the time you can’t even get a good view of the action. Why not instead spend $10 or $20 to watch the guys and gals who are about to break into the pros? You can probably even follow them for the entire round, without having to stand on tiptoe trying to see over some 6’5” dude in front of you. In this setting, you might even get to speak with one or more of the pros in person.
This Wikipedia page shows you some of the smaller tours you can follow.
11. Watch YouTube golf videos (with a caveat).
There are hundreds of awesome videos on YouTube on every topic – including golf. But YouTube’s barrier to entry is low. Meaning that you can get some bad advice if you’re not careful.
In golf, as in all other topical areas, please vet who’s making the videos you watch and decide if they have the authority to be your guide. If you do that, this contributes to your play golf for cheap repertoire.
12. Read golf books.
Hey, don’t cringe… One of the cheapest ways to learn golf is to read books on golf. Through reading, you can learn much about your golf swing, the mental game, putting, and more. All for a very low cost.
You really can’t go wrong with this Ben Hogan classic with a million copies in print… Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.
Right up there are two other classics: Jack Nicklaus’ Golf My Way: The Instructional Classic, Revised and Updated and Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf by none other than Harvey Penick. Both these classics are two of the most popular golf books of all time.
Here’s something hardly anyone does… in any sport. Because it takes discipline. Yet it’s one of the most beneficial things you can do for your game. We did this with tennis for many years. If you want to stand out from the crowd of other players, spend 20 minutes a week (in two or more sessions) visualizing the outcomes, shots, and the mental discipline you want and need on the golf course.
You’ll find the book Your 15th Club, by pre-eminent golf psychologist Bob Rotella, perfect for this. It’s also great for when your time at the range looks superb, only to be followed by crappy shot after crappy shot when you’re on the course.
Another success book treasured by athletes, entrepreneurs, and others is The New Psycho-Cybernetics, co-written by Maxwell Maltz and my friend, Dan Kennedy. It’s helped millions achieve dramatic life success – income increases, losing weight and sport success. The New Psycho-Cybernetics is an update of Maltz’s original book, with current anecdotes and personalities.
14. Play golf for cheap by playing at the cheapest times.
Many courses will let you play for free or for a deep discount if you show up about two hours before dusk. It’s not the most ideal situation, being that dusk will set in. But you’ll most likely still have time for nine holes. And you’ll save a bundle.
Some courses offer discounts during weekday daytime hours. If you have a flexible work schedule, ask when it’s cheapest to play where you want to play. Be sure to also ask about junior rates, student rates, senior rates, and military discounts if these apply to you.
15. Do your research before buying golf clubs.
Don’t be one of those who rashly buys golf clubs only to realize a week later you made a mistake. Sure, you can turn around and sell them on Ebay. But you still just lost hundreds of dollars.
Do your research before plunking down your hard-earned money. Ask friends if they’ve used the clubs you’re considering. Or ask a pro. Read reviews. Find out if they have a return policy. Et cetera, et cetera.
Here are popular men’s golf clubs made by Calloway that allow returns (albeit in new, unused condition) so you can at least check for quality, size, fit… before making a final commitment. Even better, it allows you to make that call from the comfort of home. And these are the ladies’ clubs I bought for myself.
16. Skip sports drinks on the golf course; make your own instead.
Spending $2 or $3 or $5 for Gatorade or Powerade every time you hit the golf course on a hot summer day? A cheaper, healthier alternative is to use Himalayan salt with water to replenish your electrolytes. You’ll skip all that unhealthy sugar and save a bunch over time.
17. Bring your own snacks.
Unless you play golf where they offer decent food at an extreme bargain, a great way to save moolah is to bring your own food. What sense does it make to gulp down a $5 or $7 hot dog full of cancer-producing chemicals when you can bring food that’s 10x healthier at half the price or less?
Think in terms of an apple or banana, a sandwich, trail mix, protein bar, and your own beverage.
I own this lunch bag set and use it all the time. The small one fits nicely in a golf bag. The larger one might too, and is perfect to take salads or sandwiches to the soccer field, for a day trip, or anywhere else you want to eat healthier and save money. Don’t forget the ice to keep your perishables cool.
18. Book tee times online, well in advance.
Make use of automation and cut your costs. Most golf clubs have online reservation systems where you can book your tee time a week or more in advance. Depending on local practices in your area, you could save $10 each time by doing this, making it another way to play golf for cheap.
If there’s a slow time, you might be able to get a real steal on that time if your schedule is flexible. For example, a course near me offered a tee time for more than 50% off their regular fee, for one single tee time in the middle of others.
19. Take good care of your golf gloves.
Don’t just toss your sweaty damp golf gloves into your golf bag if you want to get the most mileage from each pair. Dry them out before putting them away. Then fold them nicely, and store in a plastic bag inside your golf bag. Also rotate them. Wear your newest glove for rounds of golf, your oldest on for hitting at the range.
If they show excessive wear on the thumb, check your grip. Your club may be sliding around too much as you swing.
Buy a 2-pack to save money outright, plus you can have an extra in your bag… so you’re not forced to pay top dollar for one at the pro shop – which is no doubt the most expensive place to buy them.
Bonus golf for cheap tip: See if any clubs near you offer unlimited golf packages
Some clubs and golf communities offer packages for unlimited golf. They may even give you top preference on tee times. They may limit your hours of access. But if you have a flexible work schedule and want to play constantly, this can be a good way to get the most bang for your buck.
Just don’t sign up for this package if you’re new to golf – on the assumption that you’ll surely love the sport. Make sure you actually do love it and have the time to devote to it before buying this kind of package.
These 19+ tips could save you a huge amount of money over the course of a year, if you’re a golf lover who wants to indulge their habit, but do so frugally.
Do you have other ways to play golf for cheap to add to this list? Please share them.