I admit to deeply enjoying a good round of golf, even though I rarely find time to play as much as I would like. The biggest drawback with the hobby, though, is expense – something that’s troubled me often. Here’s how I minimize the expense of playing golf.
I only bought an inexpensive starter set of clubs I didn’t feel the need to go out and buy an expensive set of clubs right off the bat, so I instead purchased a very low-end starter set. This works functionally for me (though the clubs are a bit short for my height) and allows me to enjoy a round of golf with my friends quite easily.
I ask for club upgrades as gifts. I’m slowly upgrading the set, however, a club at a time. A new club is a great gift for me; about once a year, my wife goes to the golf shop with me where I try out a bunch of clubs and settle on one replacement for my inexpensive set. This provides a series of gifts for me for a long, long time.
I also ask for golf balls as gifts. This is a favorite gift from my mother and father-in-law, who often buy me several boxes of balls for Christmas. I can usually make that box last the whole summer.
I carry a golf ball retriever. I used to regularly lose balls in the deep rough or in the water, but since I started carrying a golf ball retriever, I’ve probably fished back twenty balls that I would have never been able to reach. This has saved money on ball purchases.
I carry my own clubs. No golf cart for me; I toss the bag on my back and carry it. It can sometimes be a workout, but if you’re out there in the outdoors playing a sport, shouldn’t you be getting in a bit of shape at least?
I practice at the driving range. It’s pretty easy to find cheap jumbo buckets of balls at a local driving range (often for free) and I can easily spend an hour hitting a big bucket of these balls using various clubs. The best place to look is in the sports pages of local newspapers – you can quite often find coupons for reduced prices. Also, many ranges around here have punch cards which can result in a free bucket after a while. I can easily burn two hours at a driving range on two jumbo buckets and only spend a total of $6 or so.
I practice my short game in the back yard. This is where I practice short chipping and such. I just replace any divots I make (usually I don’t make any) and I can usually burn an hour in the backyard doing this. I’ve actually reached a point where my short game is good – get me within 50 yards of the hole and I’m pretty confident I can be in the hole in two strokes (unless there’s something really tricky). I generally don’t practice my putting there; I’ll do this on cement if I do it at all.
I appreciate inexpensive local public courses. There are a few public courses near here that are very inexpensive. Some of the people I know who golf frown on them, but I have just as much fun there as I do elsewhere – often more fun, because the environment is much more laid back (I’m not being hounded by a self-centered busy professional yelling at me to hurry up or anything). This trims a ton of fat from my budget.
I play with friends. Golfing is actually one of the less expensive activities I can do with friends, provided that we go to a local public course. We can usually burn three hours there, far cheaper than most other activities we might do as a group that take three hours (and far less likely to make my wife roll her eyes, too). My wife plays as well and we used to regularly play as a twosome before our son (i.e., my future caddy) was born.
I don’t get competitive. This is the biggest thing. Many of the other golfers I know try really hard to out-compete each other with expensive clubs and balls and shoes and such. I am pretty content to compliment the clubs, maybe try one out, and shrug my shoulders at most of it. I have no need for a $3,000 set of golf clubs and I’m completely comfortable with that.