Looking To Tee It Up As A Hobby?
Synovus celebrates National Golf Day by introducing the necessities and costs to take up the game
By Ken Klavon, Synovus
May 10 is National Golf Day, which encourages more people to take up the sport, famously described (though not necessarily by Mark Twain) as “a good walk spoiled.”
According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF), the number of those picking up the game over the past 25 years has mushroomed from 1.3 million in 1986 to 3.3 million a year ago, or a 154% increase . The NGA defined a new golfer as age 6 and older who has played on a course for the first time.
As many avid golfers will attest, the scenery and exercise, combined with the chase of hitting the perfect shot, contributes to its allure.
Yet where to start, what equipment is needed and how much does it cost?
Looking at cost, the game involves a modest investment. Some experienced players and professionals, like Synovus brand ambassadors Russell Henley and Larry Mize, tend to use top-of-line equipment, but that’s not necessary when starting out.
The basic checklist below identifies items a new golfer may need to get started. Estimated costs follow.
- Rule book
- Clubs and bag
- Tees, ball markers and divot tool
- Shoes and apparel
- Sunscreen, water, energy snacks
- A place to play
Unlike most sports, golf has no umpires or referees. So, one of the most important things a beginning golfer should do is have a basic understanding of the Rules of Golf. There are many (24 with subsets) jointly written by the U.S. Golf Association and the R&A (short for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews), golf’s governing bodies. Knowing etiquette and the difference between a birdie and bogey will go a long way in continued enjoyment.
Cost: $10 retail or $8 for USGA members
Clubs and bag
Beginners can find a decent set of clubs for about $300-350. Tack on another $50-100 for a serviceable bag.
Factory-made sets for beginners can be found in popular sporting goods and department stores. If you’re on a budget, used clubs and bags are another option. And even though the rules state a player can carry up to 14 clubs in a bag, it might be simpler to start with a driver, fairway wood, mid-iron, sand wedge and putter until you can tell the difference between them
Youth sets range from $75 for generic factory-made sets to higher end clubs for about $275. Note to parents: You can trade in the clubs for larger ones as your children grow.
Cost: Roughly $450 for a set and bag, or less than $200 for several clubs
For now, no need to invite eye glaze while sifting through the latest and greatest ball technology. It’ll be like reading “War and Peace” — in reverse. You’ll hear veteran golfers talk about ball quality. That’s fine, but you can expect to lose a fair number of balls when you’re starting out, so no need to splurge. Even as your game improves, it’s common to lose balls to deep, gnarly rough and out-of-bounds areas, so stock up with a couple sleeves (three balls per sleeve) before playing 18 holes.
Cost: $50 for two dozen low-cost brand, or about $10 per sleeve
Tees, Ball Marker and Divot Tool
These three inexpensive items all tie into golf etiquette. Think of them like tools in a tool belt.
It’s courteous to pick up a tee after hitting a drive, to replace a divot when a ball’s downward trajectory disrupts grass, and to mark a ball once on the green, especially if it’s in the line of another player.
Tees come in different lengths (and will sometimes be available from the course). Ball markers and divot tools can also be packaged with balls. You might want to spend a little more to get them personalized with your name or company logo, but the basics are good enough.
Cost: Tees ($7 for a bag of 100), ball marker ($2) and divot tool ($5)
Shoes and Apparel
It’s not advisable to use street shoes or sneakers when playing. This is often where first-timers go wrong, eschewing adequate tread.
Golf shoes provide traction and weight balance, particularly important during a swing. The soles have spikes or rubber-based technology that can grip slippery terrain. More than safety, good shoes can make the difference between whiffing on a shot – repeatedly – and hitting the sweet spot on the first try.
In terms of threads, most courses require trousers and collared shirts (aka the golf shirt) for men, or skirts, slacks or leggings for ladies. Public course rules can be more relaxed, allowing shorts. Caps or hats and sunglasses are recommended for sun protection, but not mandatory.
Cost: $35 to $200 for shoes and $60 to $150 for clothing
Sunscreen, Water, Energy Snacks
An 18-hole round normally takes about five hours. That’s a long time before you’re back in the clubhouse, and with a relentless sun pounding down for that long, protection and hydration are vital.
The American Cancer Society estimates more than one in five Americans will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer in their lifetimes. It doesn’t discriminate, and even several professional golfers have gone through treatment to remediate issues. Don’t skimp on the quality of sunscreen and be sure to slather it on.
Cost: $20-$30 for all three
Golf can be a humbling experience to say the least, and it’s not uncommon for the first few swings to feel unnatural. So, it wouldn’t hurt to get a lesson or two before hitting the course. Lessons can go a long way in building proper technique, which will increase your enjoyment of the game (and your friends’ enjoyment of playing with you). Remember, bad habits fester and then snowball, making them harder to break.
Lessons should be given by a professional or certified instructor. Average private lesson can start as low as $25 for 30 minutes. Group lessons, often sold as a number of sessions, have a fixed rate. As part of its “Get Golf Ready” program, the PGA of America offers five group lessons for $120.
Cost: $25 - $120 or higher
Place to Play
The passion has germinated long enough. Now, let’s grow it. But where to go? There are nearly 16,000 public courses and 14,000 facilities in the U.S., according to the NGF.
The cost of playing an 18-hole course averaged $38 in 2022, or $21 for a nine-hole round, not including a fee to rent a motorized cart. (For walkers, the investment in a push cart can be as low as $30).
Adding everything up, for a golfer starting from scratch, the expense could fall anywhere between an estimated $550-700. If it’s too pricey, just remember some things can be cut or wait. Maybe an advanced lesson isn’t needed right away, or your hand-me-down clubs will do just fine. You can proceed at your own pace.
As Hall of Fame golfer Nancy Lopez reportedly once advised a young fan, “Just remember it’s a game,” she said, introduced to golf herself at age 8. “Do your best, take it one shot at a time and then keep moving forward.”