Why is Golf the Sport of The Rich? Why is Golf So Expensive?

People practising golf, scoring the ball with putter into the hole on the playing course, close-up view with no face

Golf, often touted as the “sport of the rich,” carries with it an aura of exclusivity and expense. Images of manicured courses, pristine attire, and exclusive clubs have long contributed to this perception. But is golf truly an elitist sport, confined to the affluent?

In this article, we will explore the intriguing intersection of two questions: Why is golf associated with wealth, and why is golf so expensive? Get ready and follow us

The Elitist Perception of Golf: Is It Truly the Sport of the Rich?

The Historical Perspective

Golf’s association with wealth can be traced back to 15th-century Scotland. Early golf courses were indeed exclusive and limited to the nobility and the privileged class. This exclusivity persisted for centuries, reinforced by high membership fees and strict dress codes, reinforcing the sport’s image as a pastime for the wealthy elite.

The High Costs

One of the primary reasons golf is often considered elitist is the cost involved. Golf clubs, balls, and equipment can be expensive. The fees to join private golf clubs can reach astronomical levels, and even public courses can demand substantial green fees. Then there are the additional expenses such as golf attire, caddie fees, and golf carts.

However, it’s essential to recognise that golf has become more affordable in recent years. The market offers a wide range of equipment at different price points, making it accessible to a broader audience. Additionally, many courses offer discounted rates during off-peak hours, encouraging those on a budget to enjoy the sport.

Access to Facilities

Another factor contributing to golf’s elitist image is the limited access to quality golf courses. Historically, many golf courses were built in affluent neighbourhoods or resort areas, making them less accessible to lower-income communities. This lack of access to facilities played a significant role in perpetuating the notion that golf was reserved for the rich.

Efforts to Promote Inclusivity

In recent years, the golf industry has made concerted efforts to shed its elitist image and become more inclusive. Initiatives such as “First Tee” and “Get Golf Ready” aim to introduce golf to underserved communities and provide affordable access to the sport. Public courses are also being built or refurbished in urban areas, making golf more accessible to a broader range of individuals.

Golf’s Global Reach

While golf may still be considered an elitist sport in some regions, it’s important to note that this perception varies globally. In countries like Scotland, where golf has roots, the sport is more accessible and integrated into the culture. In contrast, in emerging golfing nations like South Korea and China, a rising middle class is driving golf’s popularity, making it less exclusive.

The Changing Face of Golf

The professional golfing world is also undergoing changes that challenge the elitist stereotype. Golfers like Tiger Woods, who emerged from a diverse background, have broken down barriers and inspired a new generation of players from all walks of life. This diversity in the professional ranks is helping change the perception of golf as a sport exclusively for the wealthy.

Close up view of golf ball on tee on golf course

Why is Golf So Expensive?

While golf is taking strides towards becoming more inclusive, there’s no denying that it can still be an expensive sport. Let’s break down some of the reasons why golf carries a hefty price tag.

  1. Equipment Costs: Golf clubs, balls, tees, gloves, and shoes can add up to a substantial investment. While it’s possible to find budget-friendly options, avid golfers often opt for high-quality equipment that can range from AUD 500 to AUD 2,000 or more. The latest innovations in club technology, such as adjustable drivers and custom-fitted irons, can further drive up costs.
  2. Green Fees: The cost of playing a round of golf varies widely depending on where you play. Private golf clubs with meticulously maintained courses typically charge higher green fees and membership dues, which can be in the range of AUD 100 to AUD 300 or more per round. However, public courses can also be expensive, especially if they’re in high-demand areas or have recently undergone renovations, with green fees ranging from AUD 50 to AUD 150.
  3. Maintenance Expenses: Maintaining a golf course is an expensive endeavour. Mowing, watering, fertilising, and maintaining greens, fairways, and bunkers requires dedicated staff and specialised equipment. These maintenance costs are often passed on to golfers in the form of higher fees.
  4. Time Commitment: Golf is known for being a time-consuming sport. A round of 18 holes can take several hours to complete. This extended duration can limit how frequently people can play, especially those with busy schedules, further increasing the perceived cost per game.
  5. Caddie and Cart Fees: Many golfers opt for caddies or golf carts to enhance their experience. While these services can be convenient and enjoyable, they come with additional costs that can add up over time, typically ranging from AUD 50 to AUD 150.
  6. Membership Fees: Joining a private golf club, while offering access to exclusive amenities and courses, often requires significant upfront initiation fees, which can be several thousand AUD, and ongoing membership dues, ranging from AUD 200 to AUD 500 or more per month.
  7. Golf Attire: Golf has a tradition of dress codes, which may require players to wear collared shirts, slacks, and golf shoes. While these clothing items are not exorbitantly expensive, they contribute to the overall cost of playing the sport.
  8. Golf Lessons: Golfers looking to improve their skills often invest in lessons from professional instructors, which can range from AUD 50 to AUD 150 per lesson.
  9. Travel Expenses: For those who enjoy golf as a vacation activity, travel costs can be substantial. Visiting renowned golf destinations or attending major golf tournaments can easily amount to thousands of AUD.
  10. Food and Beverage: Many golfers enjoy a meal or drinks at the clubhouse after their round. While this is optional, it can add to the overall cost of a day on the golf course.
selective focus of woman with golf club playing golf and friends resting at golf cart on green lawn

In light of these expenses, it’s evident why golf has acquired a reputation for being an expensive sport. However, it’s essential to recognise that there are ways to make golf more affordable. Public courses, group discounts, second-hand equipment, and off-peak tee times are all strategies to enjoy golf without breaking the bank.

Furthermore, the golf industry’s commitment to inclusivity and affordability is growing stronger. Initiatives like “GolfBoards” (electric golf scooters), shorter and more accessible courses (e.g., 9-hole layouts), and flexible memberships are emerging to cater to a broader Australian audience. These efforts aim to ensure that golf remains a sport for all to enjoy, regardless of their financial means.


In unravelling the connection between golf, wealth, and expense, it becomes evident that golf’s reputation as an elitist sport has deep historical roots. Its early exclusivity and the ongoing high costs associated with golf clubs, greens fees, and maintenance have contributed to this perception. However, as we’ve delved into the factors making golf expensive, we’ve also seen how the sport is evolving.

Efforts to make golf more inclusive and affordable, such as accessible public courses and budget-friendly equipment options, are making a difference. While golf may still have a way to go before fully shedding its elitist image, the sport is becoming increasingly accessible to a broader range of enthusiasts.

Ultimately, golf’s allure lies not just in its history or costs but in the passion it ignites among players of all backgrounds. It is a sport where camaraderie, personal challenge, and love for the game transcend socioeconomic boundaries. As golf continues to evolve, it may indeed shed its elitist tag and become the sport that truly welcomes everyone, regardless of their financial means. So, while golf may have been perceived as the sport of the rich, it is on a path to becoming the sport for all.

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