15 Budget-Friendly Ways To Start Playing Golf

If Happy Gilmore was famously able to learn the game on a budget, so can you.

golfer practicing in a driving range
Updated July 18, 2024
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Many folks think of golf as a sport for the rich, thanks to how pricey time out on the course can be. But golf can be surprisingly affordable if you want to avoid wasting your money on a potentially expensive weekend pastime.

With a bit of smart shopping and, yes, a few compromises, you can enjoy this venerable sport without spending too much.

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Look for budget-friendly courses

Palych/Adobe young girls playing golf

Not all golf courses are created equal when it comes to pricing. Do some research to find cheaper options in your area, even if it means the course may be less posh or a bit crowded.

Municipal and public courses, in particular, tend to cost less than private or resort courses. Also, use Golfnow.com to find discounted green fees at hundreds of courses around the country.

Play during off-peak times

Satit _Srihin/Adobe silhouette golfer

Golf courses usually have lower rates during off-peak hours, such as afternoon or evening. That's because most folks play in the morning when it's cooler and the light is prime.

Some courses have twilight rates, which can be a lot cheaper.

Practice at driving ranges and putting greens

Jacob Lund/Adobe senior golfers high five

Instead of playing 18 holes on a full-sized course all the time, spend more time practicing your swing at driving ranges and putting greens.

These types of facilities are usually cheaper than playing 18 holes and can help you sharpen your skills — a bonus.

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Get creative with how you practice

Impact Photography/Adobe senior people playing mini golf

You don't need to be on a course to practice, so use your backyard or even a park to work on your game.

There are plenty of affordable tools out there, too, such as foam balls and chipping nets, that can make your yard, garage, or basement a great place to practice.

Learn from free resources

jcg_oida/Adobe zapping tv during golf

There are oodles of free resources available to help you improve your game. YouTube is filled with videos from golf aficionados covering everything from swing techniques to putting strategies. Forums dedicated to golf also have smart tips.

Golf apps can help you level up your game as well.

Start with a beginner set

CandyRetriever/Adobe golfer picking golf ball

Instead of spending a ton on an expensive set of high-end clubs, start with a beginner set. They have all of the essentials: a driver, a couple of irons, a wedge, and a putter.

Notably, brands like Inesis and Strata sell cheapish starter sets that are great for newbies.

Buy used gear

Pavel Kašák/Adobe  golf player taking out one of clubs

Buying used golf gear is one of the best ways to save money on your golf game. Websites like GolbalGolf, eBay, and even Facebook Marketplace can have good deals on second-hand equipment. Just be sure to vet the seller.

You can also check out local golf stores that sell pre-owned clubs.

Buy balls in bulk

Oleksandr Delyk/Adobe pile of golf balls

The money you spend on golf balls can add up quickly, especially if you're prone to losing them (no judgment) in the woods or water. Save money by buying a bunch at a time from Costco.

Or you can buy recycled balls from websites like LostGolfBalls.com, which sell gently used balls for less.

Collect abandoned golf balls

Krakenimages.com/Adobe man holding golf club

Not everyone out on the course is going to be frugal. They may not think twice about leaving a ball (or two or 10) behind. Once it’s been abandoned, it’s fair game for you to recover.

If you’re super ambitious, you can strike golf ball gold at the bottom of ponds on the course.

If you’re over 50, take advantage of massive discounts and financial resources

Over 50? Join AARP today — because if you’re not a member you could be missing out on huge perks. When you start your membership today, you can get discounts on things like travel, meal deliveries, eyeglasses, prescriptions that aren’t covered by insurance and more.

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Walk or use a push cart

alexsokolov/Adobe happy family playing golf

Walk the course rather than renting a golf cart. You'll save money and get some great exercise. You might come across more lost balls to stash away while you’re at it.

If you prefer not to carry your bag, use a push cart. They're a one-time investment and aren't super pricey. Renting a pushcart at your local muni is less expensive than renting a golf cart.

Bring your own snacks

MiguelAngel/Adobe pistachios and walnuts

While you can buy a hot dog and a beer on the course, you’re going to pay more than you would for food off the course.

Instead, bring your own snacks and drinks from home or the grocery store. Over time, this can help you save a lot of cash.

Don't spend on fancy golf apparel

auremar/Adobe selecting a golf cap

Golf-specific clothing can be very pricey, especially the luxe stuff. Instead, wear comfortable, athletic clothes that you already own. As long as your outfit fits the dress code — usually a collared shirt and shorts or slacks — you’re good to go.

You can also buy golf clothing second-hand or on sale in winter at golf shops.

Take group lessons

Yeongsik Im/Adobe golfers putting practice

Group lessons are usually cheaper than private lessons and arguably can be just as good for true beginners. Check with your local golf course to see what options they offer.

Playing with a group is also a great way to meet other newbies and learn to play in a supportive environment.

Get a part-time job at a golf course

auremar/Adobe  young golfer

If you have spare time and want to play golf for free, taking a part-time job at a golf course can be the perfect fit.

Many courses will allow you to play gratis when you’re off the clock, a worthwhile perk.

Look for discounts online

littlewolf1989/Adobe senior man playing golf

If you want to snag those tee times for less, check out websites like Groupon to see what discounts local courses are offering.

Follow the social media accounts of your favorite courses as they may advertise promotions. Some golf apps will help you find deals, too.

Bottom line

JacobLund/Adobe pro golfer playing on course

Despite its reputation, golf doesn't have to be an expensive sport. As long as you're willing to do some legwork and make a few compromises, you can enjoy it just as much as the pros do.

For retirees, especially those who retire early to have more leisure time, golf is a great way to meet new people, stay active, and fill the time you used to spend at work.

Once you become a regular, you may want to look into membership at a local golf course. If you play a lot, it can totally be worth the money.

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Cat Lafuente

Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.