Pickleball vs. Golf: Why the Trendy Retirement Hobby Is Way More Economical

Take a swing at an affordable and active retirement.

pickleball is played outdoors
Updated July 18, 2024
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The beauty of retirement is that you can finally dedicate long summer afternoons to getting outside and working on your golf swing or meeting friends for a game of pickleball at the park.

But with your free days often comes a fixed income, and you may need ways to stretch your savings. You want to dive into your hobbies, but you need to do so on a budget.

That can make golf seem out of reach and pickleball more budget-friendly. Here’s the real information on how much these hobbies will cost you and may help you choose one for a fun retirement activity.

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Pickleball paddle

Jennifer/Adobe pickle ball paddle with ball

Just like any sport, you can spend a little or a lot when it comes to your pickleball gear. You can pay as little as $30 for a paddle, or you can go into the hundreds for a top-of-the-line paddle. 

If you want to stay in the middle of the road, expect to pay around $50.

Pickleball balls

Yistocking/Adobe pickleball racket and a ball

You can save on pickleball balls, especially since you’ll probably go through them quickly. It’s easy to find a set of four balls for under $10.

Pickleball shoes

Sergei/Adobe couple playing pickleball game

Basic tennis or court shoes will do the trick for pickleball. You can expect to pay between $50 and $100 for a pair of men’s or women’s court shoes.

Your running shoes are not recommended for pickleball, which involves quick, side-to-side movement. Running shoes are made for straight-line movement and don’t have the support needed to stabilize your feet.

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Pickleball clothing

pics721/Adobe pickleball players net action

Pickleball clothing doesn’t need to be fancy. Any athletic-wicking clothing will do, and you can typically find shorts and shirts for around $20 each. Of course, you can always spend more, but it’s not necessary.

Pickleball court costs

Ron Alvey/Adobe pickleball singles match

Generally, pickleball court fees won’t cost you an arm and a leg unless you join a racquet club. Most cities now have courts at public recreation areas, community centers, gyms, schools, and nearly anywhere else people gather for recreation.

You can also join a league. You can expect to spend anywhere from nothing at all to a small monthly fee or fee per game, which could run about $5 to $25.

Now let’s look at the cost of golf.

Golf clubs

Monkey Business/Adobe close up of clubs

You can spend a pretty penny on golf clubs — if you want to. But you don’t have to. You can easily find second-hand clubs everywhere, from Goodwill to yard sales.

There’s always somebody trying to offload the clubs they don’t use anymore, and that can mean a good deal for you, especially if you are just getting started.

Golf shoes

Tom Merton/KOTO/Adobe friends standing on golf course

If you want to go the most affordable route, you can simply wear your sneakers on the golf course. But, if you want official golf shoes, you expect to spend under $100 for one of the more budget-friendly pairs. 

Try clearance racks for the cheapest options or sales at online golf websites.

Golf bag

Cinematographer/Adobe golf sticks bag

A golf bag sneaks up on you. It’s not as obvious an expense as clubs or shoes, but you’ll need it to tote around all your gear. 

Depending on the type of golf bag and material, expect to spend around $150 for a basic bag. A leather golf bag can run you upward of $300. Here again, yard sales or Goodwill may be a source for an inexpensive bag.

Round of golf

Tawan/Adobe man wearing shorts playing golf

Even at a public golf course, a round of golf isn’t cheap. You should expect to pay, at a minimum, $50 per round of golf. You can save on your tee time by playing later in the day when some courses will discount a round.

Many county recreation departments offer golf passes that can be used at a variety of courses, and senior discounts may also be available. And websites such as GolfNow.com have deals at local courses that could save you big bucks.

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Golf cart rental

CandyRetriever/Adobe enjoy outdoor activity lifestyle

The convenience of riding in a golf cart will cost you. You could spend $20 to $50 for a day's rental, and that adds up if you want to play multiple days a week.

Renting a pushcart will cost much less — under $10 per round — and will guarantee you get your 10,000 steps in every day.

Golf balls

Oleksandr Delyk/Adobe golf balls scattered

You may go through a lot of golf balls while learning golf, and those add up quickly. Expect to pay at least $1 per golf ball at a minimum; chances are, you may lose most of those each time you play.

You can save money by purchasing refurbished golf balls or fishing them out of water hazards when you play.

Golf clothing

Clayton D/peopleimages.com competition match and planning

When you’re outside for several hours, you want to prioritize wicking, lightweight clothing. Golf shirts, on the low end, may cost about $20 each.

Bottom line

Bryan/Adobe people playing pickleball outdoors

Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that pickleball is the more affordable retirement hobby. Plus, pickleball provides a better cardio workout than golf.

However, pickleball also offers the opportunity for more injuries. From rotator cuff injuries to broken wrists to Achilles tendon tears, injuries are becoming more frequent as more people take up pickleball.

These injuries can be more difficult to heal as you age, which means that golf, despite its price tag, becomes more appealing for a stress-free retirement.

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Heather Bien

Heather Bien is a writer covering personal finance and budgeting and how those relate to life, travel, entertaining, and more. With bylines that include The Spruce, Apartment Therapy, and mindbodygreen, she's covered everything from tax tips for freelancers to budgeting hacks to how to get the highest ROI out of your home renovations.