Golf doesn’t have to be expensive

When most people entertain the idea of playing golf, the first thoughtin their mind is “This is going to be expensive”. Well, honestly it can if you want it to be by joining your local country club, taking private lessons, buying a new wardrobe and having the latest and greatest name brand club equipment that is available on the market. But for many, it really doesn’t have to be price restrictive to be able to enjoy this great game.

Where you play can make a world of difference on how much it can cost. First, let us look at all the options that are available to you, starting with the least expensive and working our way up. The least expensive is your local driving range. There are nearly as many driving ranges as there are golf courses (approximately 16,000) in the United States. Some golfers will hone their skills here rather than out on the course. In Japan, golf is a very popular sport. Many golfers go exclusively to hit balls at their driving ranges since space for golf courses are limited and golf club memberships are very expensive. Some of these ranges are so large that golfers are able to hit from two or more floors! Most driving ranges provide you with different size buckets of balls that vary in cost, can also have lights to extend hours of operation and may be indoors or even have heated stalls are installed to play year round in colder climates.

If you are just getting started and don’t want to be intimidated the first time(s) out, you might seek a shorter Par 3 or Executive Course. These are some of the least expensive and less timeconsuming options as the courses are much shorter than a traditional course. These are great for beginners, children, women and seniors. Note, not all areas will have these types of courses available to them.

The next type is called a Municipal Course or also to referred to as a “Muni”, where it may beowned and tax-supported by the city, county, school, park or other special tax district. These are open to the general public and may offer memberships or annual passes. There are different price levels depending upon the location and the quality of the course.

The most common type of course is the Daily Fee, which is privately owned but provides access to the general public. The Daily Fee course can run the gamut from inexpensive to very expensive (costing hundreds of dollar per round!). The latter is usually tied into a lodging complex, often called a Resort Course. According to the National Golf Foundation, the median price to play 18-holes a public golf course (including municipal) is $34

Lastly is your Private Course, which is limited to the members and their guests. Again, there are different price levels of private courses which may be very reasonable for an avid golfer (and their family) to those requiring a six-figure initiation fee and a ten year waiting list to get into. After an initiation fee to join, the private course members will pay monthly dues, regardless if they play golf at all.

For those that pay as they play, there are a number of ways to save money. Playing the course on the weekend is typically more expensive than weekdays as there is less demand for the number of tee times. Walking instead of renting a cart is another great way of saving you money, plus the health benefits that come with it. But be aware, not all courses will let you walk. Playing just a quick nine holes whether after work or in a league is another way to save on you wallet and still spending quality time outdoors with friends.

Look for coupons in the local paper. Many courses will run specials, especially in areas where there is lot of competition to get you to play their course. Some places may sell booklets that allow you to play several of the different golf courses in your area for a discounted rate. Now that we have talked about where to play, we need to address what we are going to play with – and that is the equipment (including shoes, tees, gloves, etc.) Probably the first thing you want to do is set up a budget and the second is to shop around.

If you set a budget, stick to it as you can easily start spending more money that you really wanted and that can cut down on the number of round you may play or in taking any lesson to improve. Speaking of lessons, you don’t have to have David Leadbetter or Butch Harmon to teach you (they are too busy teaching the big name pros anyway). There are a number of very qualified teachers at the local golf course and even driving ranges in your area. There are always group lessons available though civic or educational institutions that will teach the basics and is the most affordable.

One of the least expensive items that you will need is golf balls, which can be broken down into different categories. You have your premium market where a dozen golf balls will cost $50 and up and geared more toward the elite or hardcore golfer. There are a number of very good performance balls in the medium range category ($25 – $36 per dozen) that most golfers would have a hard time knowing the difference between the higher priced category. For the budget minded and starting golfer, almost any ball will do, including the so-called X-outs, which are brand name balls that are out of tolerance. If you are going to lose a lot of balls, why spend $50 (or even $30) a dozen when you can spend around $1 or less per ball for the 15 and 18 packs found at your local discount or off-course shop.

Golf shoes are a specialty item that features cleats or spikes to reduce the risk of slipping in the grass. A golf glove (you usually only wear one) is used provide traction to the golf club and protect your hands from blisters. Neither of these two items is required to play golf, but the type of shoe you wear (non-golf) could prevent you playing a particular course. Technology doesn’t change with shoes and gloves like it does clubs. What is really the difference between last year’s model of shoe and this year’s if you are just starting out? You can usually pick up some very decent shoes and gloves at your local discount store. Also look at the end of the calendar year as you will find the best deals as models will change. Make sure you find a size that is comfortable as most places allow you to try on different models to find the right fit.

The biggest initial cost will be the clubs. New equipment can purchased at these locations:

  • Local Pro Shop
  • Off-course Retailer
  • Discount Outlets
  • On-line Retailers
  • Local Independent Clubmaker / Fitting & Repair Shop

For brand name clubs (like Callaway, Titelist, Taylor Made, etc.), there may not be much difference in price if you shop around as many manufacturers have minimum advertised prices. So many consumers will shop by convenience or expertise. Consider the average cost of a name brand set of clubs with their stock shafts and grips.

    Graphite-shafted driver – $299
    Graphite-shafted fairway woods (2) – $358
    Graphite-shafted hybrids (2) – $298
    Steel-shafted irons, wedges (8) – $899
    Putter – $200
    Golf Bag – $165Total $2219

For avid golfers, they may change equipment every 3 to 5 years. Even occasional golfers will pick a new driver, putter, or specialty club on a yearly basis. There are alternative places to find new non-brand equipment, but does offer the same quality materials and technologies. Consider the cost of an assembled set of clubs (with upgrades) at Hireko:

    Graphite-shafted driver – $129
    Graphite-shafted fairway woods (2) – $178
    Graphite-shafted hybrids (2) – $118
    Steel-shafted irons, wedges (8) – $240
    Putter – $43
    Golf Bag – $49Total $757

This is approximately a 1/3 of the price for comparable equipment. How? Without sounding like an infomercial, two key reasons are that our equipment is truly foundry-direct plus we do not have the added cost of marketing in golf magazines and national TV or multi-million dollar endorsement deals for Tour players. These last two items can make up nearly two-thirds of the retail price of the clubs.

You may be surprised to see that there are other options to buy our fine products. One is from an independent club maker in your area that can custom fit the clubs to you based on your height, strength and ability. Expect to pay a little bit more money as the fitting process can take as little as 30 minutes or more and you may have the option of hitting numerous demo clubs or being measured by sophisticated computerized equipment. Local clubmakers charge various amounts depending upon their area and the amount of services they offer.

You can also buy the components (heads, shafts and grips) and assemble them yourself if you have the skills, equipment and know-how. We offer a clubmaking book if this is something that you think you would be interested in. Buying the parts and assembling yourself can save you the most amount of money.

If you are just getting started and don’t want to invest a whole lot not knowing if you take up the game, you can purchase a whole brand new assembled set of clubs including bag for under $200. These may be referred to as “Boxed Sets” and may be assembled with commercial grade shafts and grips and with die-cast aluminum and zinc heads to keep the cost low.

We understand that Hireko may not be the only place to buy merchandise, especially for beginners looking for a low-cost alternative to the more expensive brand-name clubs. You also have options of obtaining hand-me-downs or buying used sets found in the classified ads, on-line auction sites, garage sales and flea markets, which can be later re-sized, re-shafted and/or re-gripped to fit your particular needs. If you are mechanically inclined or have good hands-on skills, you potentially could do this yourself and save quite a bit of money. Hireko has a large selection of shafts and grips from which to choose from.

As you can see, there are many different price levels from which to play and from which to buy equipment. Depending upon you skill level or dedication to the game you can spend as little or as much as you like.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director