Is Golf Expensive? What It Costs To Get Started On A Budget

There’s no doubt golf is an intimidating game.

Gripping a club tightly in front of a small crowd on the first tee only to duff it 20 metres in front of you, or even worse have an air swing, is about as nightmarish as sport can get for a beginner player.

But pure that same shot with a 250 metre draw right down the middle of the fairway, as your playing partners watch on, and there is no better feeling.

But for many people, the most imposing, intimidating factor of the sport turns them away before they even set foot on the golf course – and that’s price.

Golf is renowned for being an expensive game, one of the key reasons why higher end golf courses will boast average membership ages of over 60 years old. Because they can actually afford it.

For the majority of the population, it takes a lifetime to accrue the wealth required to fork over $5000 a year for a membership at the most elite golf course.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Below is a breakdown of what the average person can expect to pay if they are serious about getting started in the game of golf on a budget (and plan to play once a week in their first year):

Equipment$300-400 for a basic second-hand set of golf clubs. $500-750 for a basic brand-new set.
Attire$100 for a pair of golf shorts and some cheap polo shirts. Add another $100 if you wish to buy a new belt, cap and pullover.
Ongoing costs$30 for a dozen balls every month. $5 a month for tees. $1000 a year for green fees (if playing once a week) or for membership at a lower-tier course.
Total costAbout $2000 for your first year of golf ($600 up front for clubs and clothing, $1400 annually for ongoing costs, fees/memberships).

So, while golf is commonly considered an expensive game, it can be done reasonably cheaply.

Keep reading and I’ll elaborate on the table above to explain what equipment you need and what you don’t, and also ways you can make savings as a beginner golfer.

How much does golf equipment cost?

Brand-new, top of the range golf equipment isn’t cheap, but it also isn’t a necessary requirement to be good at the game or have fun, especially when you’re just a beginner.

Many people start out with an incomplete set of clubs or a few rusty irons gifted from their parents or grandparents who no longer have use for them.

If you are just getting into the game for the first time, it is vital you avoid the temptation of running off to the shops to buy a $3000 set of fitted, brand-new clubs.

Not only are you no guarantee of enjoying the game and persisting with it (however, once you hit that first pure shot I can guarantee you’ll be hooked), but you’ll probably look like a fool having air swings with your $300 2-iron.

Anyone who has hardly played golf but is looking to become a weekend warrior should consider spending a couple hundred bucks on a second hand set from Craig’s List or GumTree.

If money is super tight, consider getting an incomplete set, skipping every second iron.

If you aren’t even close to consistent ball striking, the large distance gaps between clubs probably won’t matter so much.

I also wouldn’t fuss over a driver either, as this club can often trump the cost of the rest of a second-hand set combined.

Driver technology from a decade ago is also pretty outdated, so delaying this purchase until you are certain you love the game is smart, and you should make a good quality (but still $300 or less) driver your first big splurge.

We’ve listed the 6 Best Drivers For Under $300 in an extensive article you can read here, with the TaylorMade M2 (which has been used by Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and other multiple major winners) available online in this price range.

Additionally, hybrids (otherwise known as ‘rescues’) are excellent, versatile clubs that can be played off the tee and the fairway, and are great out of the rough, with many new golfers finding them easier to hit than driver anyway.

If you’re certain you’ll stick things out and become a long-term golfer, you may be desperate to buy something brand new so you can remove that sweet vacuum sealed plastic.

I get it, there’s nothing more fun than buying new golf gear.

For new golfers or those looking to move to a decent set, buying a full boxed set of clubs that includes putter through to driver and a bag is likely the way to go.

These clubs range from cheaper, low quality gear to mid-priced, quite decent equipment, so shop around, read some reviews and, ideally, go and hit a few in store.

But having done some brief research online, here’s some good starter sets you might like.

Budget options for golf clubs

Callaway Men’s Strata Complete Golf Set

Callaway is an extremely reputable golf brand and is one of the leading company’s when it comes to packaged sets of beginner clubs.

This 12-piece set comes with Driver, 3 wood, 5 hybrid, 6 iron through to P wedge and a putter, everything you need to get around the course with distance and finesse.

Being two clubs below the bag limit of 14, it allows you to add a couple more, such as another hybrid or even a chipper (don’t worry, they’re perfectly legal), once you better understand your game and needs.

While these clubs are of a lower standard that pricier options, they carry the Callaway brand, so you can trust the quality will be there and they will likely last years.

All of this comes in a stylish black and blue bag that will be enough to get you onto the first tee without breaking the bank.

LAZRUS Premium Golf Irons Set

This basic set comes with 4-iron through to 9-iron, enough club to have you playing long into the green or nestling bump-and-runs close to the pin.

LAZRUS might not be a big brand name, but at $377 for self-claimed ‘premium’ golf irons they’re not a bad place to start.

Considering pairing these with a 22 degree Pinemeadow Excel EGI Hybrid and a Wilson Staff Harmonized Putter and you have yourself a course ready set of clubs for around $500.

Budget golf ball/tees options

In addition to a basic set of clubs and a bag, you will need some balls and tees to get your golfing journey underway.

If you are gaming a driver, you will need at least a few longer plastic tees to cater to the larger club face.

We recommend forking out $2-3 for ‘reusable’ plastic tees, rather than wooden ones that will most likely break after a shot or two.

If you play regularly, the cost of replacing wooden tees soon adds up if you break one on every tee block.

For anything other than driver (3-wood and hybrid included) you’ll need some shorter tees, either plastic or wooden.

If you are environmentally friendly, perhaps consider wooden tees, which will degrade far, far quicker than their plastic counterpart.

Balls are another expense which will quickly accumulate cost, so it’s important to know what you are paying for and what is actually worth it for your ability level.

We’ve written an in-depth analysis of the differences between high-quality and low-quality golf balls, and whether they make a difference to average or beginner players that I definitely recommend you read.

The top level balls such as Callaway Chrome Soft and Titleist Pro V1 can cost as much as $70 a dozen, so it’s good to know their benefits (which are explained in that article) before lashing out on a purchase.

We suggest buying lake balls from on-course pro shops or in bulk online to try and get a feel for what you do and don’t like.

If you really want something fresh out the box, consider some mid-range quality options that won’t break the bank, including:

  • Callaway Super Soft
  • Srixon Soft Feel
  • TaylorMade Distance Plus
  • Wilson Ultra 500

Optional Accessories

There are a range of other accessories that make up part of a fully-stocked golf set, but many players go a lifetime without buying any of these, so think carefully whether it’s worth forking out for such items when you’re only new to the game.

Rangefinder

These are a relatively expensive apparatus’ that will give you a distance reading from your standing location to the pin, which is essential for high-skilled players who hit their clubs a consistent length.

Nearly all courses will have distance markers you can use to estimate how far out you are from the middle of the green, so start off by using these and leave the rangefinder for another day.

If you are keen to splash out on a rangefinder, I’ve been using the Sureshot PINLOC 5000ip Laser Rangefinder for a while now, and highly recommend it – as I’ve explained in my detailed review of this great value piece of technology.

The Sureshot PINLOC 5000ip Laser Rangefinder.

GPS watch

Similar to a rangefinder (gives you distance to the pin) and equally as unnecessary if you are only a beginner and don’t strike the ball consistently yet.

Golf towel

This is a pretty helpful item to clean mud out of the grooves of your clubs in wetter months, but don’t be sucked into a brand-name purchase.

A cheap dish drying towel can do the job if you’re on a budget.

Push cart/buggy

Not at all necessary if you are happy carrying your clubs, but this could be money well spent, especially if you get tired of lugging your bag around an undulating track.

Some courses will rent these for as little as $5, so if you play infrequently then it might be worth leaving this purchase for a later day.

If you are keen to grab yourself a push cart, you can’t go past the Bag Boy Compact 3 which one of my playing partners has been using for years and absolutely loves – he explains why in a highly-detailed product review that I recommend you read.

The Bag Boy Compact 3 push cart.

Umbrella and umbrella holder

If you are super committed and are likely to play in the rain, a good umbrella is worth forking out the money for.

Pair this with a holder on your push cart (if you decided to buy one) for ultra-convenience.

Scorecard holder

Don’t bother. You don’t need one.

Cleaning kit

Your clubs and grooves will get grubby, but a stiff brush and the end of a tee will keep these clean without a dedicated purchase.

That said, cleaning kits are very cheap to buy online and won’t be blowing your budget if you wish to buy one.

Club head covers

Most drivers, hybrids and woods will come with one included, but if not, it may be worth considering.

Irons and putter can go without if not included with purchase.

However, if you’re keen to give your irons some added protection, or add a bit of personality and character to your bag, we’ve detailed the benefits of iron covers in another article as well as recommend some great, cost-friendly options.

Iron covers can protect your clubs and add some personality to your bag.

Sand dispenser

No. Use the buckets provided by clubs.

Pitch mark repairer

Necessary to repair the indentation in the green left by your ball, however, a tee can be used to do a similar job.

Overall, a basic set of clubs and a bag should cost you in the vicinity of $600 for new, low-to-mid quality sets.

If buying second hand, avoid spending more than around $300 unless you are sure you are getting good quality gear.

How much does golf attire cost?

A lot is made out about stuffy dress codes and tucked in shirts on golf courses.

Despite this, many public and municipal courses will happily let golfers on straight from the construction site with high vis and work boots.

The standard of clothing you require to play is hugely dependent on the course, so if you don’t like to dress up, play a course without a dress code!

Most courses will require some basic standards though, so a pair of sneakers, sports shorts and a t-shirt are a must.

They need not be anything special, just neat, tidy and free of obscene gestures or logos.

The t-shirt may need to be replaced by a collared polo on courses that are a tier up on the reputation or exclusiveness scale.

Mid-tier courses with dedicated member bases and regular competitive play will likely have a slightly stricter dress code, leading to a few necessary purchases when it comes to golf attire.

However, there are ways to cut corners and ensure you aren’t left too heavily out of pocket to look the part out on the fairways.

Many courses will require tailored pants or shorts to play, so the elastic draw string sports shorts need to be done away with.

If you want to get past this on the cheap, a casual pair of chino-style shorts or pants will be sufficient, but not exactly comfortable.

It is probably worth owning one good pair of golf shorts and, if living in a cooler climate, a pair of golf pants as well.

Golf joggers are also an increasingly popular new style of pant, perfect for people who like to make a statement or strive for ultimate comfort.

Golf joggers are becoming more and more popular.

Similarly, golf hoodies are also becoming more accepted at golf clubs ever since Tyrrell Hatton won the 2020 BMW Championship while wearing won.

We’ve done complete lists on the best golf joggers and best golf hoodies you can buy online today.

That aside, here’s some budget options available online that can have you looking like a golfer and meeting course dress codes in no time, without breaking the bank.

Golf shorts options

Under Armour Men’s Tech Golf Shorts ($37)

With smooth, stretchy woven fabric these shorts are both light and durable.

With four pockets to hold all your tees and valuables, these shorts are fast drying and suitable for all conditions.

Ben Hogan Men’s Performance Flat Front Active Flex Waistband Golf Short ($22-65)

Offering a peacoat plaid look for some extra flair, these shorts offer excellent flexibility and four convenient pockets.

With PowerBlock technology, you’ll be extra protected from harmful UV rays.

Golf pants options

Under Armour Men’s Pant ($45)

Coming in two unique colours – baseball grey and white – these pants are sure to fit into any golfing outfit.

Being the brand gamed by PGA star Jordan Spieth, you know these will be a quality item.

FootJoy Performance Pant ($51)

A range of colors and sizes means this lightweight and flexible pant will be suitable for almost all golfers.

While golf shorts and pants are a unique, and ultimately necessary, form of attire, needing to be both tailored and flexible, what you wear up top is less crucial.

Golf shirt options

While there are a range of golfing shirts and winterwear on the market, any comfortable polo top will look the part on course.

Some of my most tried and tested golfing shirts have been lightweight, breathable polos bought for $5 from Target.

Pair these with a plain jumper or sweater and you’ll be ready to go in cooler conditions.

If playing in extra cold weather, it might be necessary to purchase a core or underlayer, such as the Under Armour Men’s HeatGear Layer.

If the course requires you to tuck your shirt in you will need a belt – another item you can go cheap on from Target or Kmart.

Pair this with a cap or hat and you are good to go.

Golf shoes

The last piece of attire worth mentioning is shoes (that is unless you’re someone who likes practicing barefoot – the benefits of which we’ve explained in another article).

Generally, even on nicer courses, sneakers will be sufficient footwear, but when wearing pants on course, sneakers can start to look a little silly with the undesirable ‘sneans’ effect.

If you are a pant wearer or find yourself slipping around a bit on course, consider splashing out for some golf shoes.

Adidas Mens Adicross Bounce $117

These shoes are as stylish as the come, with a range of options that will fit the part as casual wear, not just on the course.

Some of the features include:

  • Full-Length bounce foam midsole engineered specifically for golf & features dramatic grooves for enhanced cushioning, comfort and stability for maximum golf performance
  • External TPU heel clip for added stability and support
  • Non-Marking adiwear rubber spikeless outsole with pure motion flexibility features 181 strategically-placed lugs for optimal grip, green-friendliness, and wear anywhere versatility
  • Uppers feature a new forging technique that reinforces the shoe and provides increased lateral support and stability in golf specific areas
  • Cloud foam insole provides everlasting cushioning, support and comfort

Callaway Golf Shoe

The more classic style, shiny black leather finish includes a range of features:

  • Waterproof opti-repel microfiber leather upper
  • 7 spike dura-rubber outsole
  • Opti-soft EVA midsole
  • 5mm EVA sock liner
  • Champ Slim-lok cleats

In summary, when it comes to what you need in terms of golf clothing, the only thing I would absolutely recommend is buying a decent pair of golf shorts, at the cost of about $50.

Pair this with your pre-existing sneakers, a baseball cap, a belt and a couple of cheap polo shirts and your golfing wardrobe should only set you back around $100.

How much do golf green fees cost?

If you don’t have a membership or like to sample a range of courses, green fees will be your biggest ongoing expense once equipment and attire has been purchased.

Green fees vary wildly depending on the quality and exclusiveness of the course, something that must be considered alongside your budget.

Nine holes at a public or municipal course can be as little as $10, with summer months usually offering twilight rates for late arvo tee offs.

Any course allowing you to play 18 holes for $20-25 would be considered ‘cheap’.

Mid-range courses will usually be a little nicer, have more stringent rules about dress, and cost more to play.

Green fees of between $40 and $60 for 18 holes would be considered mid-range.

Top-tier courses will be highly manicured with strict dress codes and excellent facilities, but cost upwards of $75 for a round of 18.

Royal Adelaide, for example, is one of Australia’s premier courses, setting visitors back $200 for a game.

Bucket-list courses like Pebble Beach in the USA will set patrons back up to $575 just to grace the hallowed turf!

If you are going to play once a week at a mid-tier course, weigh this up against the price of membership.

For example, 50 rounds a year at $40 each will set you back $2000 – a price that may be made cheaper by signing up to your regular course as a member.

How much does a golf membership cost?

If you are happy playing ‘here and there’ and forking over green fees each time then a membership isn’t necessary.

However, if you golf pretty regularly at a particular course, it’s worth considering signing up for an annual membership.

This will give you rights to unlimited golf either 5, 6 or 7 days a week, depending on the price bracket you go for.

I’ve written a detailed article explaining the pros and cons of a golf membership that I’d recommend you read to help inform your decision-making.

For most courses, if you play once a week, it’s probably cheaper to get a membership, and most clubs will allow you to debit this straight from your bank account monthly.

If you live rurally, you’re in luck, with many country courses charging as little as $500 a year for 7-day, unlimited golf.

In the city, mid-tier course memberships will set you back up to $2000 annually for 7-day playing rights, although some clubs do offer cheaper membership for under 30s in an effort to attract more younger golfers to their course.

If you only want the best, a top-tier, fully-exclusive golf course could set you back in excess of $4000 a year.

All of these figures come with additional extras such as competition fees and locker hire, but many courses will have reciprocal agreements with several clubs, allowing you to play around a bit for no additional cost.

A club membership also allows you to hold a handicap, the ultimate sign you are truly a fully-fledged golf addict.

How much do golf lessons cost?

While clubs and some sort of golf attire are a must, and a choice must be made between paying green fees or a membership, golf lessons are purely optional.

Some people may never have had a golf lesson in their life (Bubba Watson, for example) while many scour YouTube daily for that one vid that ‘cracks the golf swing’ once and for all.

Despite this, the vast majority of golfers out there that I’ve seen play to a good standard have had help from a coach at some point in their lives.

If you are brand new to the game, I’d recommend booking a set of three 30 minute lessons with a PGA pro (this will cost about $150).

This will ensure you have some of the fundamentals down including grip and set-up.

One of my regular playing partners slashed six shots from his handicap in the space of a few months after finding the right golf instructor and committing to regular golf lessons, so they are certainly worthwhile if you’re looking to improve.

If you are happy with your swing and purely play for fun, then there’s no obligation to ever have a lesson in your life.

If lessons do sound like your thing and you are forever striving for greatness, consider package deals or longer, one hour lessons that will usually come with a 10-20% discount.

We’ve written a full account of what you can expect from golf lessons, including what to bring to your first session, how much they cost, and how they can improve your game here.

Golf lessons can help improve your game at a reasonable cost.

Final message

Golf is renowned for being an expensive game and while, yes, there can be some significant costs involved with purchasing equipment and playing regularly, it is by no means outside the realm of possibility for the Average Joe if you know how to save in some key areas.

Using this article as a guide, hopefully you’ll be able to get into the great game of golf at an affordable guide and take your first step to becoming a bonafide golf addict like the rest of us!

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