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The Real Cost of Golf



The USGA exists “for the good of the game” and the PGA has authored several initiatives in a concerted effort to “grow the game.” Noble aspirations, indeed. However, where the proverbial rubber meets the road is you.

The bottom line is this: The game needs more players, badly. If golf is to remain “the greatest game ever played,” then it needs to keep the players it has and perhaps more importantly, attract new players to the game. As stated in the PGA’s Golf 2.0 initiative, the goal is to go from 26.1 million golfers and $33 billion in consumer spending in 2011 to 32 million golfers and $35 billion in spending by 2016.

To give you a little perspective, in 2005 there were 30 million golfers. That means from 2005 to 2011, the game lost nearly 4 million players and this coupled with a downturn in the world economic climate has left people rethinking the realities of squeezed disposable income and the game in desperate need of fresh chum. So no matter who you are, you are valuable to the game on both a commercial and philosophical level.

The rest of the conversation is just how fat of a check are you going to write? For illustrative purposes, let’s look at three composite individuals and what it would cost them to take up the game and play for a year.

The Novice, aka Nancy Newbie and Beginner Bob


You are new to the game and other then generally knowing which end of the club to hold and which direction the course goes, you don’t know Freddie Couples from Freddie Mercury. It’s OK, you don’t have to. Yet.

What’s in the bag?

A nice used set of irons from five to eight years ago. Maybe some Titleist 735 CM irons, a couple Cleveland 588 wedges, a Ping Zing putter, a TaylorMade R580 driver and the V-Steel 3 and 5 woods. Thanks to your local garage sale, you got all of this in a old original Ping Hoofer for $200.

Balls/Gloves/Tees: You play the balls you find…in the garage…in the woods…in your buddies bag…Same goes for gloves and tees: $15

Course of Choice: You don’t play enough to justify an annual pass, but you may invest in a “discount card” or take advantage of coupons in the local “Gold-C” or similar offering. You’re lucky to play 8 to 10 times a year and at $25 per round, you get a lot of golf for $250 a year.

Apparel: Yeah, about that. You’re closet may not be full of golf specific clothing, but you have enough to get by. You may have accidentally bought a pair of khaki Dockers at Kohl’s on clearance, but you will need to get a decent pair of golf shoes. $75 should get it done.

Tourney/League: You’re not quite dedicated enough to commit to a weekly league, but you might jump into a scramble tournament every now and again. $125

Lessons/Practice: Your play is your practice. You haven’t taken any formal lessons yet, but you have a number of friends who are more than willing to give you free advice, and more often than not, it’s worth exactly what you pay for it. $0

Training Aids: Nope. $0

Total cost for one year of golf: About $665, but let’s just round it up to $700 and call it $50 to $75 per month. Not bad at all, and cheaper than what you probably drop on those double-mocha-machiato-latte-thing-a-ma-bobbers.

The Enthusiast, aka The guy who bombs a drive and says “Bang”

You’ve probably been bitten by the bug at some point. Maybe it was a charity scramble or a golf league you played in before you “found yourself,” then found a job and subsequently found yourself with a lot less time.ENT

Now, things are different. You have a bit more time, a bit more income and most importantly, a renewed desire to break 90 or 80 or a few less windows. Call it a golfing renaissance, if you will. You may not DVR the Shell Houston Open, but you remember Jack in ‘86 and you have the big ol’ MacGregor putter to prove it.

What’s in the bag?

You have a mix of old and new, but as part of your rededication to the game you submit to the reality that technology has passed your bag by and it’s time to upgrade. You’re not beyond looking at models from the last couple seasons, especially given how quickly clubs depreciate!

Irons: Inspired by Brian Gay (rocked a combo set of Mizuno MP-60 and MP-32 irons to win at the Humana Challenge earlier this year) and D.A. Points (gamed a set of Ping G5s to win at The Shell Houston Open), you nab a solid set of slightly used Ping G20s for $250. Of course, you really have your eye on some Mizuno JPX-825 Pros, but those will run you $900 at a minimum.

Woods: You get fitted for some new TaylorMade woods and want the option of adjustability so, you snag a R11 TP for $75 and get a matching 3 wood and hybrid for another $100 to $175 total. But, if you grab the Mizuno’s, you can’t have your woods looking old and used, so there is the option of dropping $600 for a new Stage 2 driver and a couple fairway woods to match.

Wedges: At $40 a piece, you can’t pass up the hardly used Vokey SM line. Sure, they don’t have conforming grooves, but you don’t care — 2024 might as well be 11 years away. $120 for a set of three, or you can go the new route and for $340 you can be the one to take the plastic off each one and get your kids’ initials stamped on.

Putter: $70 for a close out model of an Odyssey White Hot with flow neck, ala your favorite middle-aged putter, Steve Stricker.

Balls/Gloves/Tees: Tees are cheap enough and you found this local big box store that allows you to buy a bag for $10 and you get free refills for the year. A couple two-packs ($35) of the FootJoy synthetic leather WeatherSof gloves should hold you over and in addition to keeping any of the decent balls you find on the course, you snag three dozen of the 2012 Bridgestone B330 RX balls for $75.

Course of Choice: You don’t know if you’re ready to take the leap into the private/country club scene, but a higher-end public/semi-private course is certainly within reach. You can play as much as you’d like and whether you run out for a quick 9 holes after work or play five holes before the rain comes in, it’s all covered. In addition, a quality public/semi-private course will have all of the requisite practice facilities so you can work on all parts of your game, rain or shine. Usually, those run around $2200/year. If that’s a little steep, you can go the daily fee route, but if you’re going to get in 20-plus rounds this season, the annual pass is a more economical decision.

Apparel: Your closet can’t escape your rediscovered passion. So, after consulting a couple episodes of “What not to wear” you go with a very solid combination of four shirts ($100), four shorts ($140), one pair of pants ($50), and a convertible wind/rain jacket ($85). Just for good measure you buy a new Titleist hat ($25) (hey, it’s the mark of a player, right?) and a pair of FootJoy Tour Saddle shoes ($150)

Tourney/League: Between the weekly men’s league ($10 green fees are covered in your membership, but the money game and skins aren’t) and men’s association tournaments ($250 for the year) you should have a variety of competitive outlets to offer your game every litmus test it needs.

Lessons/Practice: You can practice all you want, but if you really want to improve and get the most out of whatever natural ability you have, you’ll need a series of lessons. $400 for five sessions of an hour with video and a nine-hole playing round will certainly help.

Training Aids: You know most of them are gimmicks or can be replicated at your local Home Depot for $10 and a can of spray paint, but the Orange Whip has actually proven to help you work on flexibility, tempo and core strength. $75 well spent!

ETC: You’ve read “5 Lessons” so many times it kind of feels like 35 lessons, and while best practices in teaching/instruction haven’t gone out of style, your library needs some serious updating. $50 gets you a couple books from Dave Pelz, one from Stan Utley and some good stuff to think about from Dr. Gio Valiente.

Total: $4260 to $5555

The GolfWRX-er, aka Captain Staff Bag


You have a dog named Bogey, a den caddy for your TV remote, a putter at the office and you measure storage space in your car in number of bags it can hold.

You memorize shaft bend profile data and you know your kids’ birth years based on club release dates. This is why you refer to your middle son as “R7” and your neighbor as 588. Others claim that there is no one else like you in the world, but you know that’s not true. You’ve “never left yards on the table” and more importantly, you know why that’s funny!

What’s in the bag?

First, let’s be clear that we are referring to your “gamer” bag. Not the back-up bag, third bag or miscellaneous bag of clubs you have which
comprise several attempts at grinding your own wedges, painting club heads and/or something we’ll just politely refer to as “the lime green phase.”

Driver: Like other clubs in your bag, this one is new. You have the TM R1 TP, Titleist 913 D2/D3 or Ping Anser. Secretly, you don’t mind stock shafts, but that wouldn’t be very GolfWRX of you to admit that publicly. Plus, the Tour AD-DI, Mitsubishi Ahina and Fujikura Speeder Tour Spec look so much better, or at least that’s what you keep telling yourself. $600

3 wood: This is a tough one as so many companies have gotten into the “premium” distance 3 wood conversation lately. You really wanted to toss a Tour Edge Exotics XCG 6 in there, but you want the adjust-ability and excuse to have a couple extra shafts just to swap out on an “as-needed” basis. Enter Adams Speedline LS with matching Tour AD-DI 7. Just for good measure, you snag matching 19-degree hybrid with Tour AD DI hybrid shaft. $400 + $300


  • Bushnell Z6 Rangefinder: $400
  • Leather Scorecard holder: $35
  • Alignment sticks: $4
  • Commemorative divot tool: $15


  • Titleist Pro V1/V1x, and no less than eight dozen a year: $360
  • You’ll go through 12 to 15 FootJoy StaSof gloves during the year at $20 each
  • Tees are the one place where you actually don’t break the bank. A couple packages of Epoch Evolves will last you several presidential administrations: $15

Course of Choice: You have a range of options available, including several daily fee public courses which offer annual memberships. Plan on $2500 to $3000 a year to cover annual dues, practice facilities, a locker, cart/trail fee and range balls.

If you decide to go the private route, you might be able to find some equity memberships in the $5000-$10,000 range. In fact, according to a study done by Longitudes Group for Golf Digest, 30 percent of clubs surveyed stated initiation fees of $7,500 or less. The same survey showed average annual dues at $6245 ($520/month). This figure does not include any “assessment” fees or additional costs for food/beverage minimums, bag storage fees, range passes and other ala carte items.

Apparel: Your wardrobe is varied and while you might not be able to pull of the Ricky Fowler “orange construction zone cone” look, you’re not going to run out of options, no matter the season.

This list is rather long so try and stick with me: 12 to 15 shirts in a variety of solids, stripes and you had to toss in a couple neon beauties which would make Olivia Newton John proud! ($450)

You have just as many shorts in just as many styles ($500), but you only need four pairs of pants with v-cut hems no doubt. ($300)

You have four pairs of shoes: one pair of spikeless Ecco’s ($140), one pair of practice shoes — Adidas 360 ATV  ($100) — and two pairs of your “tourney” shoes, Ecco Biom Hydromax ($235/pair).

Add that all up and it’s $1960, but at least now you have casual Friday’s covered!

Tourney/League: You may not be out on any official tour, but your friends probably wouldn’t know the difference given the fact you play in the weekly men’s league/money game, all of your club tournaments and an assortment of state amateur events. Moreover, you have the images saved from GoogleEarth and course yardage books to prove it. $1250


You’re committed to hitting balls a couple days a week, so the season-long range pass pays off handsomely. ($350)

A series of 12 lessons throughout the year will keep your swing sharp, even when the weather doesn’t cooperate. ($1000)

Total that up for a cost around $1350.

Training Aids:

You have the Orange Whip ($75) and EyeLine Edge putting mirror ($60), so that’s $135.

Golf Magazines:

Golf Digest, Golfweek and Golf Magazine have you and your bathroom covered. Admittedly, you always flip to the “WITB” section and require that your neighbors refer to you as “the man out front.” $75

Yearly Total: $13,444

Admittedly, there is quite a jump from the beginning golfer to the enthusiast (nearly $3500) and in all reality, most golfers will be a mix of the listed descriptions. That being said, when you hold these composite figures against a backdrop of recent economic data, we begin to gain a better understanding as to the issues faced by the organizations whose stated dedication is to attract new players.

Golf faces myriad challenges moving forward and while the issue of pace of play has been discussed ad naseum, basic realities of economics hold true. What is more expensive is often less consumed and in a game where volume is what the ruling bodies are after, this is a problem. Consider that the average American household earns $63,091 (before taxes) and has $58,275 in expenses, of which only 1.4 percent is allocated as “entertainment.” This leaves $4816 for all disposable income purchases for the entire household. You don’t need to be Pythagoras or Euclid to figure out why the game is in a bit of a pickle.

The average consumer simply does not have the means to play the game at anything more than a very basic level. As such, the individual is highly unlikely to ever become an “enthusiast” and most certainly not one of “Captain Staff Bags’” playing partners.

Averages certainly don’t reflect specific individual experiences, and one of the greatest intellectual difficulties is resolving the reality of the masses when your individual situation is at odds with the truth shared by most others. The image of golf is still one painted by brush strokes of elitism and exclusion.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that wealth affords many increased access and opportunity in our market-driven world. It’s a shame that golf, in this regard, is no different. Perhaps we should heed the advice of Franklin D. Roosevelt and agree that “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” I guess it really depends on how much we actually want “to grow the game.”

To that end, here are five ways in which we can make the game more accessible to all:

  1. Give every kid a free pass to the local city courses in 5th and 6th grade. Kids won’t go by themselves and that means in addition to getting kids hooked, there will be a paying adult. While you’re at it, give adults a 50 percent discount if they play with their 5th or 6th grade student! The ski industry does this all the time and the golf industry could certainly learn a thing or two!
  2. Offer annual junior passes (ages 12-18) for $99 – Same theory as No 1, but you could add discounts on merchandise/equipment to sink that hook in just a bit deeper.
  3. Team up with the local school district and offer incentives to golfers who achieve academically. Better GPA = Lower cost for rounds and equipment!
  4. Hold free/inexpensive teaching seminars. Take a page from Home Depot and give people something of value without asking for anything in return.
  5.  Why only 9 or 18? Why not offer golfers a chance to play 6 holes? Or 12?
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I didn't grow up playing golf. I wasn't that lucky. But somehow the game found me and I've been smitten ever since. Like many of you, I'm a bit enthusiastic for all things golf and have a spouse which finds this "enthusiasm" borderline ridiculous. I've been told golf requires someone who strives for perfection, but realizes the futility of this approach. You have to love the journey more than the result and relish in frustration and imperfection. As a teacher and coach, I spend my days working with amazing middle school and high school student athletes teaching them to think, dream and hope. And just when they start to feel really good about themselves, I hand them a golf club!



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  6. Ken

    Sep 25, 2013 at 5:28 am

    Living in the Nashville area, we have quite a few options for nice courses in the $30 range. Around 2008, we certainly experienced a ‘market correction’ in the cost of putting a peg in the ground. A local course offers a great week day deal for about $30 … 18 holes, cart, range balls, and lunch. And the course is definitely decent.

  7. Miguel Dabu

    Sep 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    I have taken down the cost of golfing this season for me, from green fees to new equipment and clothes. I am now at a total of 1700 Canadian Dollars and I started playing again this season last May. That’s 5 months of golf cost and I still have some three weeks to go before it gets cold again.

    So far I have played 30 rounds this year. Last year I started playing golf again after a long time of stopping. I got Taylormade Burner 2.0 irons and Superfast driver and woods, Odyssey putter and Cleveland wedge, then add the golf shoes. More I less I have spent 1500 dollars on equipment alone. Add the green fees and I am looking at another 800 dollars maybe.

    So far in two years I have spent 4000 dollars in golf. And that’s just 5 months of golf per year.

  8. Jordan

    May 19, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Great post as always. I like how you broke it down into 3 sections of the different golfers. I find my self spending more each year I guess I have passed out of the middle tier. Love the WRX!

  9. Dan

    May 15, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Golf might grow if disposable income grew as well. The problem might not be golf at all – it just may be feeling the effects of something bigger.

  10. Bill

    May 11, 2013 at 12:19 am

    Good piece and some good thoughts. I think of how my father got all of us kids into golf. Started at the local driving range, where he showed us the basics and let us learn along the way. We graduated to a very inexpensive college course (Family seasonal rate was something like $400 for the whole family). Only about 5200 yards, which was perfect for kids learning the game and short enough for mom to join in. We were taught the etiquette and to be respectful of the employees of the course. As time went by mom would drop us off early in the day and came back at a designated time that allowed us to play a round and then invent putting games until she came to pick us up. The course got regular play and all was good. We got better and had the good fortune of having a father that loved the game and enjoyed playing the game with his kids as much as with his buddies. This lead to a number of trips to Pinehurst over the years and made all of us lifelong fans. The key isn’t necessarily pointing a finger at the courses or club makers. The father taking time to share his passion for the game in a fun way gave us the encouragement to work hard to get better and save our money for golf. Still, the point in the story about disposable income for median income folks hits home. Every year I hit a point in the summer when available time meets limited entertainment funds.
    Some courses run specials to try to keep their doors open but many would be better served by making weekday golf very inexpensive ($20-$30 with cart) and keeping it real with weekend rates ($30-$45) all the time. Make juniors rates $10-$15 after school a couple days a week. Leagues can be done in mornings and a couple evenings a week.
    I drive around and see empty courses all week long. The ones that stay busy are the ones seeing the realities of modern life. The end of corporate tax write offs for golf has virtually killed private clubs. Not judging the action, but at one time golf flourished partly because so much business was done at the course over 18 holes. Women were learning the game and fighting to get into male dominated clubs for a piece of the action. The media still promotes that story but its long gone. I see a few wives out there but I bet a big part of the drop off in play is among the women. The decline of “Tiger mania” is a factor but the IRS has played a role also. Its a different game commercially than even 10-15 years ago.

  11. CPOMustang

    May 10, 2013 at 8:29 am

    I see the USGA’s newest idea to “grow” the game is a bigger emphasis on 9 holes. While it sounds good in theory it will NEVER take off unless and until courses stop gouging 9 holers for 80% of the 18 hole rate. One local course has an 18 hole rate with cart for $40. 9 holes…$32 with cart!! Really?? No one is going to play 9 at that price point, so a guy who only has time for 9 doesn’t play at all and a potential customer goes out the door. Then semi’s and muni’s wonder why their rounds/year are on the decline?

  12. Richie

    May 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Great fun article. It was a good read.

    Richie’s World of Golf

  13. Rich

    May 9, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Well it’s interesting, I talk with parents and they say it’s the cost of equipment , the time to set aside in taking them to the course and staying with them, the cost of traveling to the course ,the cost of a round of golf, and the parent not knowing anything or very little about the game. Now why not donate used equipment to these kids .Then maybe have instruction areas for the beginners closer to their homes.How about giving gas cards to those that bring their kids to the course for instruction maybe 10.00$? Surely there is some method that could fund giving these things . The adults say it’s to costly to play. Equipment is must to expensive. And by the way the PGA trade-in guide is not even close as to what the equipment is worth base on what was paid when new. I can’t find a name brand driver for 30 to 40 bucks on Ebay . I don’t see as many tournaments for stroke play ,just scrambles where it’s cheat cheat. Heck who knows, lower the price and see what happens.

  14. Bob Weiss

    May 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    I love this thread
    brilliant how the American PGA and others have not grasped the concept that golf should be for EVERYONE
    With that in mind Scotland has or is trying to as well to some extent the UK in general make golf available to all and sundrie with many many different schemes to encourage golf at primary school and secondary school

    Our regional golf unions throughout the UK do massive amounts to highlight and promote golf to all

    In Scotland green fees are as low as £10. 00 pr mid week and in Kent where I live you can get a game for £15 mid week or £20 wk and in general most courses throughout the uk are good to play albeit higher than 12 handicapper
    The elite golfers would want to play better courses but for a knockabout 90% of the courses here are ok to good

    Anyway rant over
    Enjoy the time you play golf it’s the best feeling in the world smashing that drive into the blue sky and holing that birdie putt

  15. Adam

    May 8, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I have three kids who play (oldest is 18), and I can tell you that paying for the entire foursome yourself gives you an entirely new perspective on the cost of golf.

    Since golf in my area STARTS at $40 a round for MIDWEEK play, you can bet that I look high and low for specials and coupons.

    However, I have found the Holy Grail for dads like me: a course with reasonable rates ($49-65 rack rate) that has a $10 Junior rate (including cart)! Oh, and that rate is good anytime, 7 days/week! The only trouble is that it is an hour away…. It’s a fun course, and I have brought my buddies there, too—not just the kids—so it is a win, win. And guess which course my kids love the most? You bet, it is this one because it’s the one they have PLAYED the most with Dad.

    Ironically, the munis here are the worst offenders when it comes to Junior rates. (Very little discount, have to be a resident of the right county, have to purchase a multi-round pass, etc.) As you can guess, I rarely play the munis—and never with the kids.

    We keep pace of play by having the kids play from the correct tees—even if that means teeing off for the par 4s from only 100 yds away (on the fairway).

  16. lcompy

    May 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    People like Nicklaus and Norman want to grow the game, but then they go out and build courses that cost $200 or more to play. How is that going to grow the game ?

  17. JBro

    May 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    This is a great piece of research in that it addresses this prohibitive portion of the game. I do wish someone would write an article about how golf treats it’s young people: LIKE TRASH. The powers that be always want young people to play and give them opportunities. However golf is ridiculously tough on people under the age of 18. Everyone from teaching pros, to course staff, to salespeople treat junior golfers horribly. I think anyone who took up the game at a young age remembers an old man or woman giving you a hard time for SOMETHING, they always assumed you were up to something wrong or doing something bad. Give kids a break, be nice to them and show them the way, that is how you are going to grow the game.

    • KCCO

      May 6, 2013 at 3:53 pm

      Agreed, why I give a good friend, one of our members who is president of LA chapter of First Tee program mucho props….but do feel bad for other juniors doing it on their own. If your school is fortunate enough to have golf programs, take advantage as it does help, but not offered everywhere. Anytime I come across junior or equipment I won’t be using, I have no problem donating to programs, driving range, etc….I won’t mention any names, but there are major oem’s making major contributions to these programs at end of season with leftover tour gear.

  18. Simo

    May 5, 2013 at 4:55 am

    Interesting article! I’m from Australia and golf memberships range from as little as $300 for annual public access courses up into the high thousands for the top of the range courses. Move down under! Problem solved 🙂

  19. Twoody

    May 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I don’t care about your clubs, ball, tees, clothing, car, house or companions… all I want is for you to KEEP PACE WITH GROUP IN FRONT OF YOU!!!

  20. yo!

    May 4, 2013 at 11:25 am

    frankly, most golfers could care less that more people play the game. that would mean more crowded courses, 5 hour rounds, higher green fees, and those like me retreating back to our private courses
    of course i understand the golf industry would make more money if there were more golfers but it won’t benefit the recreational golfer and the game of golf is not ever going to die

  21. Austin

    May 4, 2013 at 7:34 am

    Good article and without reading all of the comments I am assuming there is a lot of sentiments supporting your advice. I love golf as it is my time to decompress from work and life in general. Picked the game up after I retired from playing other competitive sports. Wish I picked it up sooner but unless you were a member of a private club you probably didn’t pick up a golf club. I would like to see more support for those who love golf and want to get their own kids involved. It’s hard paying a fee for my 3 yr old when I want to go play 9 holes and bring him along. Love to see more courses to provide additional incentives as it would allow me to bring my kids much more often.

  22. paul

    May 3, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    My wife said i had to quit if i couldn’t make golf affordable. so im buying a punch card and playing at 5:30 am so it doesn’t affect my work schedule.

  23. JE

    May 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Very compelling article. I would agree with most of the analysis except for the costs of rounds. Particularly in the “Novice” analysis. I have lived in many states throughout the U.S. and haven’t found $25/round in anything other than a goat track that is borderline unplayable.

    In my opinion, the fundamental problem with growing the game is competition from other activities that don’t require the investment in time and money.

    I would also add that the trend is your friend. It’s going to take a lot more than the PGA to turn this tide.

    • Xreb

      May 5, 2013 at 3:35 am

      I have to disagree with this, a municipal course here in southern Tennessee offers a round for about 30 with a cart and it is no goat track ! It is on par with the Jack Nicklaus designed Bear Trace that I also play….

  24. Puddin

    May 3, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Great article. Here’s how get players into the world of golf. I tell beginners that have the bug to volunteer at their local club as a starter, ranger or “transportation manager”. Most clubs will let you play for free for your time. I also tell them if they are serious to take lessons FIRST! Banging balls on the range does not make Johnny a better player. I did this when I was between wives and lives phase. Too broke to play so I volunteered at my course. Then I was reciprocated at other courses. I dont think I paid for a round of golf for about 5 years. There are a lot of perks that come along when you volunteer.

  25. evanm

    May 3, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Simply put, munis in larger areas need to drop their rates and in general do everything better. Living in Seattle it drives me crazy with how bad of an experience you get for on average $40 a round. Munis generally have good deals for juniors and their parents but they need to promote it more.

    I think in school would be a good idea. I had a random PE class in junior high that focused on different stuff like archery and we did golf for a while, more of this would be good. What about golf field trips? If courses hosted this for free it would grow the game a ton. You can’t tell me there isn’t time for this in school, more often than not there is a lot of wasted time in school. I think most kids would love golf but for many it’s a foreign subject since so many other sports are accessible but probably not for much longer considering how competitive everything has to be now. Kids are no different from adults on how easy they can get hooked on the game, it’s just that adults have more exposure due to financial reasons.

  26. Chuck

    May 3, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    I like where the author is going with this, but prices for the beginner were too low. My knowledge of the market has 50-100% higher values for a lot of stuff, and even the PGA Value Guide shows a good set of Ping G20’s at $436.89 He also left out some of the golf geek purchases, like irons). A bigger problem is that he didn’t discuss time. That’s the real killer, in terms of changes in the amount of time available for golf (and the size of each block of time available), the time required to play, the demands on adults with children at home, and probably most importantly, the amount and type of time available for kids to learn about the game. They can’t sneak off to the golf course because people live in suburbs, free time is scarce or intentionally filled with lots of lessons and whatnot, and kids can’t go out on their own (for more than one reason). In other words, the society built by the baby boomers, and inherited by the rest of us, quite frankly sucks, especially (but not only) in terms of freedom to play golf.

  27. Doug

    May 3, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Why does no one ever point out that Tiger created artificial unsustainable growth to the game? Its just now coming back to where it should be. When I played as a high schooler courses had just the right amount of traffic. After Tiger you had all these idiots taking divots in full Nike outfits. Rounds went from 4 hrs to 6 hrs at the muni. Personally I hated the growth and I’m glad to see the game lose some interest from the Tiger followers. Golf isn’t going anywhere and I’m not worried about growing the game.

  28. Bryan Wood

    May 3, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Chris – Great Article! After reading this it is official – I am Captain Staff Bag! You forgot to add the cost to have your name embroidered on your golf bag – which is about bout $80 LOL! Keep the good reads coming our way!

    From the peanut gallery….
    I play a lot of recreational golf – meaning I am not a member of a club, but I should be. I am a 5 handicap and play at least 125 rounds a year – weather promoting. My wife plays as well but she is not quite at the Captain Staff Bag level yet, however, we both play on an amateur golf tour and enjoy tournament golf.

    To focus on the cost of golf, I would like to turn the table on the decline in the game… and put that on the public courses and here is why…

    I have noticed a significant increase in the cost of greens fees in the Austin TX area, over the past few years (now you know where I am from). I also travel to many golf destination vacation areas and have paid over $400 in greens fee before. For my recreational golf (public play), I will mainly use the one of the ‘discounted tee time – distributor providers’ (not named here, but I am sure you know who they are). There prices has also increased over time as well.

    Sometimes, I will just call on a Saturday morning to one of the local tracks around here and see what the first available tee time is – and the rate. Sometime they will say we have an 8:30 open, and the rate is $79 a player – on a course that I think is worth $35-$40 based on the condition it is in. I always start bartering immediately, saying I will offer $45 a player and I will bring a foursome. The person on the phone in the pro shop usually says no. So, now, two things happen 1. the course loses revenue, and; 2. does not fill the tee sheet up. Who wins? – no one.

    The other thing that also drives me crazy is the way courses handle their twilight rates. You will see players sitting in the parking lot at one public courses around here, knowing the twilight rate starts a 2:00pm which is usually $10-$15 cheaper than the 1:50pm tee time. The 1:50PM tee time is always open by the way… and it is first come first serve for twilight. Again, a prime example of lost revenue on open tee times before 2:00pm in this example. Now the mad rush begins and the course is packed and play is slow after 2:00pm.

    (Slow play is a whole other issue not to be addressed here but basically, people need to learn how to drive golf carts to their ball, instead of sitting in the cart, waiting on your partner to ball, so they can drive you to your ball after they hit… I will stop there on slow play…)

    The Golf 2.0 mission released by the PGA really needs to get it together and have talks with their professionals at the public facilities. You grow the game at the recreational level – not limiting it by the examples I presented above.

  29. Speedster

    May 3, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Love the game, always have and always will. problem with golf is the pace of play is killing the game and killing the courses. first off most courses hire marshals that don’t know anything about pace of play. they are there to socialize and not work. i don’t mean to be sexists or stereotypical, but most causal and lady golfers can’t grasp the concept of keeping up with the group ahead of them. they think that if they pay a green fee they are entitled to do whatever they want. once again this a social issue that plagues western society. Even when i step onto my home course i feel priviledge/fortunate to play and have never felt the course owed me anything.

    Logistically and economically speaking courses are in a tough spot in today’s market. To gain revenue, they can only do 1 of 2 things, raise green fees or increase green fees sold. (either of them is not viable since they typically have an inverse relationship). there are no more options, F&B, clubhouse, golf shop, clinics, lessons are all limited in terms of gaining revenue. Course owners sooner or later will come to a reality that golf is a hobby and hobbies are meant to be enjoyed and not meant to make money.

  30. MACS

    May 3, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Great article, I just wish I didn’t have so many things in common with “The GolfWRX-er, aka Captain Staff Bag”. Fellow WRX-er’s fibbing about their club head speed, launch angle, smash factor, etc…? Doesn’t everyone hit a 3-wood 300 yards?

  31. Dan

    May 3, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Great article. I agree so much with the suggestion above about teeing it forward. I play in a weekly league with a bunch of great older guys, but they hit it 210 off the tee when they catch it, and insist on playing the 6500 yard tees. End result, everyone shooting their age for 9 holes at a pace of almost 3 hours. There are about 10 of us younger guys with families to go home to, and we’ll have to quit if things don’t change.

  32. David

    May 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

    You forgot to mention the annual/bi-annual Vegas/Myrtle Beach/Orlando golf trip that can easily double the enthusiast’s tab, depending on the preferred swing lubricant.

    Excellent article and really demonstrates how much I appreciate treating myself to lovely day outside. I worked hard to afford this stuff, so to piggyback off your theme to engage:
    Show how the discipline to play can be weaved into the discipline to do well enough to afford the WRX’er lifestyle.

  33. Mike

    May 3, 2013 at 10:15 am

    I hate to say it but this article is true. In my heart I knew of the total cost but was in denial. This pretty much validates my feeling towards the sport. Sometimes the mind over powers the heart and it is something one should listen when growing up especially when things become priority eg. school, post undergrad school, marriage and the death of all; having kid(s).

  34. CS

    May 3, 2013 at 8:17 am

    2024 is 11 years away.

  35. TD

    May 3, 2013 at 7:09 am

    You think golf is bad try having a kid play hockey!

  36. Willie

    May 3, 2013 at 3:04 am

    Great article, and I hope it catches on. I agree that we need more incentives to start at the jr. level.

    I’ve said this before in the forums, but if you look at starting golf, by comparison, it’s outrageous. A child (or even a starting adult or college player) could play in a baseball, soccer, basketball, and casual tennis league all for less then the annual first year of golf. Price to pick up all those sports, less then $20 and a couple of people (who could split the cost). OR golf, where you can hardly go to the range for 30-45 minutes at $6-12 / bucket / person.

    For people say that golf isn’t the most expensive hobby, you’re right, it’s not. But expensive hobbies don’t grow, and golf wants to grow.

    • Chris

      May 3, 2013 at 10:35 am

      When looking at starting a kid in Golf a parent needs to explore their local First Tee program. Most of the time they won’t need clubs and the expense is typically the same or LESS (then other organized sports. Here are our local First Tee actual costs:

      Individual – $50.00 per session, $30.00 Second session. (yearly max $80.00 Financial assistance is available, just inquire.

      Family -(2 or more children) $ 80.00 per session, (yearly max of $100.00 per family).

      Wee Level -$25.00

      As a parent of five kids, all under the age of 12, golf for them doesn’t cost as much as their other sports. They play basketball, baseball and soccer each of these after league and camps fees and gear run about $175.00 to $250.00 per sport per kid.

      My kids usually like to tag along with me at our public city owned course and hit just a few shots. They have the most fun when we play in Parent Child alternate shot tournaments where parents tee off on all odd numbered holes and kids “tee it forward” on evens.

      • Willie

        May 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm

        That’s great info to have, and defiantly helps to explain why the First tee is so loved!

  37. Mat

    May 3, 2013 at 12:28 am

    We need to stop making golf hard. Everyone without a handicap should be playing from a forward tee. Until your handicap is below 20, go forward. Emphasize that difference. PGA and tournaments are long, but most experiences should not be longer than 5,000 yds. Until this happens, you have people playing from the tips frustrating everyone.

    If courses are able to emphasize the correct difficulties / tees, everyone will enjoy more.

    • CPOMustang

      May 3, 2013 at 8:14 am

      In the last 6 months I moved up to the “senior” tees. I had always played the standard men’s tees (never the Tips). I decided I am too old to let my ego get in the way and never cared what other people thought anyway so I moved up. Best decision I made. I still stink up the joint now and again but its a lot more fun hitting a long iron on my second shot vs. a fairway (which I still cant hit for s#*)

  38. fairway fitter

    May 3, 2013 at 12:19 am

    I grew up in NYC in the 70’s and used to cut thru a hole in the fence at the local public course. The hole was located in the middle of the fourteenth hole. I could wait for a group to play thru, jump in and play as many holes as possible before dark. The key to my success was that I was respectful of the course and the other players. I never made waves or held anyone up. I was a kid with a love of golf and respect for other people, so nobody ever complained that I hadn’t paid.
    If I had to fork over the kind of coin I pay now (even super twilight rates) as an 11 year old I’d probably be a half way decent tennis player instead.

  39. dakota jones

    May 2, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Really great article, as a freshman in college our local course in high school did not even acknowledge us as juniors we had to pay the adult rate to play and because of this (I paid for everything golf related my parents want nothing to do with the game) we could not get kids to come out for the team because they didn’t have the money to pay for it I was lucky as I mowed yards throughout high school to fund golf, but rebuilding golf ABSOLUTELY has to start at the junior level.

  40. george

    May 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    golf is expensive but not as expensive as many of my other habits

    • free

      May 4, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      it can be…Youch, I just realized my annual club budget is about what the super expensive option is…better not to think about the cost…

      • Edward Kennedy

        May 5, 2013 at 4:10 am

        Are you in a “Private” or a public course? Here in Ireland there is very dew publics, and their terrible!

    • Edward Kennedy

      May 5, 2013 at 4:09 am

      What’s the Handicap George? I could definetly see myself spending a couple of grand over a couple of seasons. Golf is expensive, but I can’t see how anything else you do could cost more. And if it does, its probably killing you!

    • KCCO

      May 5, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      Whether I like it or not, it’s my obsession…. My wife spends on her habits, (which are very close to a private course and witb (meaning clothes bags etc over a year), but I also don’t spend at the local bar, gamble, or have any other habits….I did cut smoking out of my unnecessary spending as an agreement with myself to get a private course membership. But with that being said, golf is cheap compared to boat hobbies (cleaning, storing, maintenance) and race cars which lots of my friends have tens of thousands every few months dumped into a 1350 foot sprint down the track that could cost them astronomical figures pending outcome. To each is own on how you want to spend your money. I feel like I work hard for my hobby, but have no regrets, it’s what I love. I do like having latest greatest gear, when its feasible, I buy… But you get to a point where you know when you have enough, or have made enough connects by spending time at the course to find equipment through friends who are reps, guys who constantly buy/sell etc, u can keep up with whats latest on shelves or off the van;) Regardless of price, and an 8 index, I do what I have to to continue to play the game I love. That extra day of work each week pays off when I come home at 3:30, and can play 9 every weekday, or hit the range, and have my weekend crew of guys that all do the same to make it happen playing 18 holes of my favorite thing to do. To each is own, do what makes you happy, and you will figure out a way to make it happen. When the bill comes you will figure it out if you love it that much.

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Opinion & Analysis

Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal



In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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TG2: What’s the most annoying breach of golf etiquette?



What’s the one breach of golf etiquette that gets under your skin more than anything else? Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what drives them crazy. Also, Knudson talks about his first round with new irons and a new shaft in his driver.

Follow @tg2wrx on Instagram to enter the Bettinardi inovai 5.0 center-shaft putter giveaway.

Listen to the full podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods



What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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19th Hole