Guide to golfing on the cheap

Written by Iain Mitchell

The rising popularity of golf (Thanks Tiger!) has pushed demand for clubs, clothes and tee times to an all-time high. And we all know what demand does to price. But take heart. There are still ways to get in 18 holes without cutting a big divot in your wallet. Use this guide to keep your expenses to a minimum. (Diving for lost balls is optional.)

How far under par?

Sample savings for smart shoppers


Castlemore Golf and Country Club, Brampton, Ont.
Full membership: $1,900
Weekday membership rate (tee-off after 11 a.m.): $1,500
Savings: $400

For a season:
New: 72 Titleist Tour Distance 90s: $257.70
Used: $130.74
Savings: $126.96 (not incl. tax & shipping)
Greens fees

Kingswood Park, Fredericton, N.B.
Peak season, prime time: $69
Twilight rate: $45
Savings over 12 rounds: $288

Private lessons: Six half-hour private lessons: $500
Five lessons supplied by local parks and recreation department: $50
Savings: $450

The gear recently advertised a graphite-shaft Callaway VFT Hawkeye driver for US$229, while sells the same club for US$329. Remember, exchange rates and shipping costs will impact the final tally.

Used clubs: Buying used can save you anywhere from 10% to 75% off the price of new. But finding a good set may take time. At used sporting-goods stores it’s hit and miss. The selection can be limited and a set might be incomplete or mismatched. Your best strategy is to visit your local store frequently.

Don’t overlook newspaper classifieds and notice boards at golf clubs.

If you’re willing to buy used clubs, sight unseen, try One recent offering saw a Vancouverite sell a set of brand new Titleist DCI 990s (irons only) for US$350. The retail price: US$600 to US$700.

Clothes and shoes: Buy your golf clothes at the end of the season. Even pro shops unload merchandise come September, and name-brand clothes are discounted by up to 40% off June prices. Warehouse stores such as the Nike Factory Outlet in Cookstown, Ont., and the Sport Chek Outlet in Calgary offer even deeper savings. In many cases everyday prices are less than sale prices at traditional retailers.

Most retailers that sell sporting goods stock golf shoes; wait for a sale and pick up a good pair for $60 or less. With shoes it really is about where you buy; a pair of $50 Footjoy Softjoys from Sport Chek may cost $100 at a pro shop. Look for the good savings — and selection — in early June. Prices may dip lower in September, but sizes 10, 11 and 12 will be hard to come by.

Balls: Go for used. A sleeve of three new Titleist Pro V1s costs $18; considering a ball’s lifespan is often one stroke, it makes sense to buy after someone else has paid the hefty showroom price. Source cheap used balls on the Internet. I found a dozen Titleist Tour Distance 90s, which would go for $42.95 new, for $21.79. Search “used golf balls canada” to find links — just make sure the site is based in Canada to avoid exchange rates and shipping charges.


What to watch for when buying used clubs

Bent shafts. Sight down each shaft for straightness or signs that it may have been bent and then restraightened.
Tattered or worn grips. There’s nothing quite so infuriating as having the club twist within the grip on impact.
Rusty blades on irons. Without clean grooves on the irons, it’s much harder to set up a draw, fade or spin.
Collapsed club face on woods (metals). A concave club face is worse than useless: there’s no telling where the ball will go.

Playing the game
Greens fees: For bottom line savings, golf at twilight. Most pay-as-you-play courses offer twilight rates that can cut fees almost in half. The Legends course at Mississauga, Ont.’s Lionhead Golf & Country Club, a public course that Golf Digest once ranked third-toughest in North America, charges a whopping $160 a round during weekday prime-time. After 5 p.m. the price drops to $75.

Greens fees vary across the country. Some money-saving options include:

  • Golf before Victoria Day or after Labour Day, when rates are lower at many courses.
  • Municipal courses offer good value at peak times. For instance, Don Valley Golf Course, considered the best public course in Toronto, charges adults $50 a round on weekdays and $55 on weekends. That’s compared to the $80-plus you can pay on other courses.
  • Some courses charge more on weekends, some less. Call and inquire.

Memberships: Public courses give the best bang for your buck. For further savings:

  • Opt for a limited membership and save up to 60% off the regular price. You can play as often as you like as long as you tee off after 3 p.m.
  • Avoid clubs that charge initiation fees.

Lessons: Check out your city’s parks and recreation department for group lessons. The cost: about $50 for five lessons. You’ll pay more at a local course or specialty shop, typically about $150 for five one-hour lessons. Still, the price of six private half-hour lessons will set you back $500.

Practice: A driving range day pass offers the best value. Typical cost: $30. Or hit a small bucket of balls for about $6.50. Also, sign up for a “frequent driver” card, which gives you a free bucket of balls for every 10 you buy.

© 2003 Iain Mitchell

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