Weekends…The arch nemesis of the budget golfer.
You may have thought it was the yips or an incurable slice, but you have been misled. It is rather the packed courses on weekends and holidays; and the jacked up prices, delayed twilight hours, and required carts that come with them.
While weekends often turn into an insurmountable obstacle, I have — at the risk of sounding boastful — mastered the art of budget golfing. Far more than I have achieved the same mastery in…you know…golfing.
Golfing on the limited income of a young family is a challenge, but there are indeed ways…
This website/app is fantastic. It allows you to book (often discounted) tee times for weeks in advance. Set up email alerts for their “hot deals” and you’re in business. Last month I played for $9 with a cart. The people I played with were forced to pay the standard $35 dollar walking rate.
The only catch is that the courses give Golf Now a few of these discounted tee times every day, and they place them randomly through the day scattered among the full-price tee times. The cheapest ones are often at awkward times. There is a way around this however…
I find the cheapest possible tee time, book it, then call the course. I explain that I booked a tee time on golfnow.com for late in the afternoon but would like to play sooner, and ask if they would be able to fit me in if I came over right away. I have never been turned down.
Often, the result of this strategy is golf at a gimmick-ly low price during prime hours.
If you are willing to golf at off times the course will often give you a great deal themselves. It’s amazing to me how many courses charge $60-70 a round at noon — prices I would never pay — yet if you go at 3 or 4 in the afternoon the price is $15-20 to play for as long as daylight allows.
Don’t underestimate playing in the “off season” either. If you combine twilight hours with early spring or fall rates you can sometimes golf for almost nothing.
Looking at the basics and finding nothing new? You may be ready to graduate to advanced budget golfing.
Never Pay for Golf Balls
Ever. No, seriously. Don’t ever pay for golf balls.
If you know how to do it, you can find enough golf balls to last you for years.
I only hit super premium golf balls. Is it because I’m a golf ball snob? No…okay yes. But this irrational, unfunded snobbery is only possible because I never fork out my own cash to support my snooty taste in balls. This allows me to indulge the pretension that if I line up a Pinnacle instead of a ProV1 — I will die a little inside.
You need to identify the spots on each course you play where wealthy 25 handicappers are spraying their $50 a dozen golf balls. Long grass or trees that are close to the right edge of a fairway, or at the bend on a short dogleg are prime options. Go at an off time when you won’t hold anyone up and play slow. Real slow.
Hit each of your identified spots and spend 10 minutes scouring the area. Hit your ball in there intentionally if you feel you need an excuse. You’ll generally find more $4 bills than you can carry. It’s as simple as picking them up.
Learn to play quickly
You don’t have to be a great player to be a fast player. The vast majority of players should never get near the championship tees, and you better have a really good reason if you are reading your putt from three different angles.
What does this have to do with budget golfing? If the course isn’t busy I have never had someone take issue with playing extra holes, or “bonus golf” as I’ve heard it jokingly referred to. It’s often openly accepted, certainly at twilight times. Being both a budget golfer and an adult with responsibilities, it is essential that you take full advantage of the times you are able to get out.
On an empty course, I can fairly routinely play 36 holes in 5 hours. The ability to play 27 or 36 holes for one price and in one time out is a huge step to getting the essential practice needed to get better.
Expert Budget Golfing
We’re are getting to the serious stuff. This is not for the faint of heart, people! Don’t try this at home!
Play all the Best Private Courses in the Area for Free
“Okay, Adam,” I can hear you asking. “What does that mean?”
You may notice a trend in the times that I golf each week as the blog continues, and it won’t be the times you would expect. I will almost always golf on Mondays. Why?
Many people don’t realize that virtually every super-elite course in the country closes one day a week for maintenance. For the overwhelming majority of these courses that day is Monday. This is the day when caddies and other employees are allowed to play the course.
In most cases if you were to go in the late afternoon the course would be abandoned and you could play without anyone asking a question. However, there are ways to do this legitimately without having to sneak on.
I have played a large number of the nicest courses in the greater Philadelphia area, including courses that have hosted PGA Tour events and majors just by doing a few simple things. You can’t, however, be shy or afraid of brief rejection.
Most courses will allow their employees a guest on these days. I will go sit in the parking lot and wait for someone who is about to play. I never have to wait long. I approach them, ask if they work at the course and then I’m just honest. I say I’d like to play the course and ask if they would be willing to allow me to be their guest. Most of the time this is all it takes. People generally respond very warmly to the request.
If this isn’t working? “You have not because you ask not.” I will walk towards the club house till I see someone who looks even mildly official. I hope to find someone near the bag room, but even a groundskeeper will do. Again, honesty…
Describe that you live in the area and you’re a lover of golf. Throw in some compliments about the course and how beautiful it is and what an honor it would be to play such a well respected course. Say that you know that employees are allowed to play today and ask if there would be any way that they would allow you to play as well.
I have been turned down doing this…but not often.
Too simple you say? I have gone out in search of a place to play the majority of the Mondays over the last few months and never failed to find a place to play, except for this past Monday, when I forgot that it was Labor Day. None of the courses were closed.
It’s not only free golf, but its free golf on the best courses in the area. It’s far simpler than you’d think.
Hit Great Clubs but Don’t Pay for Them
Think this is getting stupid? Maybe so, but it’s what I am doing. For the first time in my life I have the exact clubs that I want right and I haven’t paid for any of them. In fact I haven’t paid for clubs since I bought a knock-off set of bladed irons 6-7 years ago for $100. Not only have I not paid for them, but I’ve hit nicer and nicer clubs and actually turned a profit.
This takes a lot of patience. If you want to buy the exact clubs your heart desires off the rack on a whim, this isn’t the method for you.
I run an online business where I buy and sell online. I have mastered Craigslist and eBay and know how to get top dollar for virtually anything.
I knew the clubs I wanted and I started slowly trading up to them.
My irons for instance…
My first big break was finding a dramatically underpriced set of Titleist 681 irons on Craigslist. I bought them for $75. I then turned and sold the knock-offs I had purchased for $100 for $125 after using them for three years. I had my heart set on Titleist CB irons, so I started researching them and their market value used, all the while closely monitoring the market on the 681’s I had in my possession. I targeted the 2 year old model, and waited for an opportunity where the clubs I wanted fell enough below their normal market value that I could swap them with my current irons.
The irons which normally go for $400-500 used fell to $290 in an auction that ended at 3am, so there were very few people looking at eBay at the time. I snatched them up and immediately listed my older irons. Within a couple days I had sold them for $385.
What did I do with the extra $95? I found a guy on Craigslist who had beautiful set of Vokey wedges. These wedges, even used, were going for over $100 a club. He was asking for $200 for all three. I gave him a call, and within an hour had negotiated him down to $100 for all three if I was willing to pick them up.
I have done this with my entire set, including the bag, and now have a set that I could sell for $600-700 overnight.
I didn’t steal them…But I certainly didn’t pay for them
How do I golf on a budget? I don’t pay for balls, I don’t pay for clubs, I rarely pay a greens fee, and it’s all 100% legal.
Who says golf is expensive?