Why Do Rich People Play Golf?

The game of golf is unique in the world of sport. Unlike many other sports, golf can’t be played just anywhere. Unfortunately, we’re limited to either private or public courses. As a result, there’s, you guessed it, a cost to play. 

Knowing that there’s not only a pretty hefty greens fee each round, but a pretty significant time commitment too, the game has built a reputation of being for the rich. Or at least for those with a healthy disposable income, and time to spare.

So, why do rich people play golf?

Simply put, rich people are attracted to golf because they can afford to overcome it’s many expensive barriers to entry:

  • Equipment
  • Lessons/practice
  • Greens fees
  • Exclusivity
  • Business mentality

Read on as I try to uncover why golf might appeal to the wealthy, and how we can make it more inclusive to all who are interested in playing.

Table of Contents

Golf’s Barriers to Entry

Right out of the gate it seems as if golf might be out of reach for those of us who don’t have very deep pockets. 

Not only are you possibly dishing out thousands of dollars on the latest and greatest clubs, but there are also lessons, driving range fees, footwear, hats, gloves, bags, rain gear, training aids, and THEN you’re paying anywhere from about $50-$500 and up for one round of golf!

Not to mention the costs of being a member of a club, if you so choose. Oh, and if you’re anything like me (and hopefully you’re not), you’re spending LOTS of money on golf balls.

1. Equipment

A brand new set of irons will probably set you back in the range of $1000.00. Add to that a new driver for about $400.00, a putter for $200.00, wedges, and a bag, and the basic equipment alone is around $2,000.00. 

When you look at the cost of the basic equipment alone, it’s no wonder people think the game is financially out of reach. However, if you look in the right places, you can very likely find a good set of sticks for a decent price.

Craigslist, ebay, Global Golf, or any other online buying and selling platform will no doubt have someone who’s posted an old set of clubs that they’re looking to retire in order to make room for something shiny and new. 

Alternatively, you can do as I typically do, and go to your local golf shop and look at the previous season’s sets. 

If you’re someone who likes a good deal, check out these 18 tips for saving money on golf.

Equipment, however, isn’t the only major expense when it comes to playing this game.

2. Lessons/Practice

Golf, I’ve found out the hard way, isn’t exactly like riding a bike.

Lessons, or at the very least time at the range for practice is an ongoing expense. Sure, I can take some time off, but things just ain’t what they used to be after an extended absence from practice. 

Have you ever seen what NBA great Charles Barkley’s swing looks like? Yeah, after a few weeks of not swinging a club, it’s a pretty accurate comparison. If you haven’t seen it before, you need to check it out. If you have, you should probably watch it again:

A large bucket of balls at the range will be about $18.00, and the average hour-long lesson is about $55.00.

Going to the range at least a couple of times a week, in addition to a weekly lesson can be pretty costly on its own, but why spend time practicing unless you’re going to actually play a round, or more…many, many more.

3. Greens Fees

As I alluded to earlier, golf is very different from all other sports. You can’t just pick up your clubs and start whacking a golf ball anywhere.

Well, I suppose you can, but it won’t end well.

And unfortunately, there are no free courses that you can go to and play like you can on a tennis court. This too is certainly going to put some people off from ever playing the game.

With that said, however, there are a multitude of public courses that aren’t half bad, and more or less reasonably priced.

It would be nice, but the average golfer probably doesn’t need to play the most expensive courses that offer the best amenities.

Though you’ve probably heard the old adage you get what you pay for, if all you can afford is a $20.00 9-hole pitch n’ putt, go for it, just get out there and start swingin’!

On the other hand, there most definitely are some golfers who don’t just enjoy the top tier golf courses because of the condition or the challenge, but because they are accustomed to them.

4. Exclusivity

I’d like to take a minute to focus solely on Members’ Only Clubs, or Country Clubs.

These tend to be quite exclusionary institutions, where not only do you have to pay exorbitant member dues, and greens fees for each round, but for some, you need to be approved to join as well.

grounds of golf country club with palm trees

If you can afford to join, there are probably some wonderful benefits: well-manicured courses, and sand traps that are not like hitting into wet cement.

Think of the kid who spends his or her summers splashing around and playing Marco Polo in the country club pool. As they get a little older, they are introduced to golf and start playing in all of the club tournaments where the competition is fierce, and to win is a symbol of superiority.

Growing up in an environment such as this, it would be difficult for anyone to come to expect anything less, so it’s no wonder someone would wish to maintain this lifestyle.

Especially if as adults, the kids they grew up with are members of those very clubs, and this is now where their inner circle of friends spend their time.

With the price tag for membership dues being in the thousands of dollars, and additional fees charged per round for some, it’s pretty reasonable to assume, and believe, that golf is a game for the rich.

But there is one other factor that I’d like to touch on that also contributes to this mentality…

5. The Art of The Deal

When you conjure up the image of a big business deal being struck on the course, what do you see? 

In my mind’s eye, I see a few successful, and wealthy individuals, shaking hands on 18, each with about 1/8 of the remaining cigar hanging out of their respective mouths as they let out a deep belly laugh. 

They are each pulling out the keys to their Mercedes, or BMW, as they begin to walk back to load their fancy new clubs in their cars before finalizing the deal at the 19th.

All the while, I am watching as I load my 2011 TaylorMade Burner 2.0’s into the trunk of my 2014 Toyota Corolla.

It’s no secret that a lot of business deals tend to be made on the golf course. But why?

Some people think that an individual will show their true colors out on the links. With a cutthroat, winner takes all mentality, if someone is willing to lie, cheat, and steal on the course, why wouldn’t they do the same in other aspects of their lives?

The point I’m trying to make here is that golf, as in business, attracts not just those interested in the thrill of competition, but those looking to annihilate the competition.

I mean, who goes into business saying “I want to be the second-best fill in the blank”. The answer is nobody.

And when we visualize success in business, it is most often someone who has attained some sort of stature, some sort of wealth. 

I’m picturing that same guy from 18 with the cigar, only this time he’s in an expensive suit, feet up on a mid-century, hand-carved oak desk, laughing that deep belly laugh as he counts his wad of cash. Ergo, golf has the image of being for the rich.

The Takeaway – Why Do Rich people Play Golf?

It’s fairly common to hear that golf is a rich man’s, or woman’s game. And rightfully so. It’s not like playing tennis, or soccer, or even going fishing. 

Sure, as with golf you need to buy your gear, and if you’re involved in some sort of league, there are costs associated with joining. But those costs typically pale in comparison to playing golf as the equipment alone can be very costly, and the ongoing fees to play are not always easy on the pocketbook either.

With that said, however, the game of golf is within reach for many.

Sure, you might not have the latest clubs from Titleist or Callaway, and you might be playing recycled golf balls from Wal-Mart on your local par 3 course, but the attitude that golf is a rich man’s or woman’s game is, in my estimation, dated, and untrue.

That mentality alone might keep interested folks in participating, and who knows, maybe the next Tiger Woods (as if there will ever be one), hasn’t yet picked up a golf club because of this misconception that it is a game for the rich, and only for the rich.

We, as lovers of the game need to work to ensure that it is accessible to all, because in order to be the best, you have to beat the best, and the best can only play if they are included and know they are welcome.

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