Money game: How much does it cost to raise a top junior golfer?

Traveling on the junior golf circuit is not cheap.

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With the U.S. Junior Amateur underway this week at Bandon Dunes, a question arises that often comes to mind when elite young players meet in high-profile competitions: how did these dang kids get so good, so fast?

Talent? Training? Determination? Yep. For sure. No doubt about it. No one gets too far without them. But let’s not forget another factor. Golf is an investment. Raising a top junior golfer usually requires money.

How much, exactly? The answer ranges widely, depending on the types of tournaments you enter (staying local, of course, lowers travel costs) and the intensity of the schedule you keep, among other variables. But in the interest of roughing out a budget, we asked the father of a top junior player (he asked to remain anonymous) to give us a ballpark of the expenses.

Instruction

You can bring them into the world, and you can bring them into golf. But if they’re going to get serious about the game, there’s only so much mom or dad can teach. At some point, an ambitious junior will need an instructor. Most top-level junior teachers charge anywhere from $150 to $800 a lesson. “We usually get instruction twice a month,” the parent told us. “Sometimes more leading up to bigger tournaments.”

Annual estimate: $10,000

Equipment

junior golfer clubs
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Kids improve quickly. They also grow out of their clubs, which can get expensive, fast. Over the past year alone, the father told us, his son has gone through three sets of shafts to keep up with his growth and increased swing speed. The early teen years can be especially expensive for this reason. As the growth spurts slow, the costs go down, the father said. It also helps that a lot of top-level juniors get support from the major equipment makers. But a lot of good young players don’t have that kind of backing. US Kids makes clubs for kids 6-11 that run about $400. “But once they get older, you’ll want to get them fitted for a driver, fairway woods and irons,” the father said.

Cost of a full bag: $3,000, plus another few hundred dollars for custom fitting.

Accessories and Apparel

Balls, gloves, shirts, spikes. Without support from a manufacturer, these costs can get sneaky high. A rough annual breakdown looks like this:

Balls: $500
Gloves: $300-$400
Apparel: $1,000

Total: $1,800-$1,900

Training Aides

The sky’s the limit. But it doesn’t have to be. The father said his son gets by with little more than an Orange Whip to loosen up ($100). “But some kids have their own TrackMan,” he said, which will run you upwards of $20,000. Elaborate in-home simulators can fetch three times that much.

Cost: $100-$60,000

Travel

This depends on where you live and how often your kid competes. Over the past year, the father told us, the junior circuit has taken their family on eight trips outside the New York/New Jersey area, where they live. To minimize costs, they book rooms in extended-stay hotels with kitchenettes, so they can eat breakfast in the room and pack meals for the course. But there’s no such thing as an entirely free lunch. On average, the father said, the trips cost about $3,000.

Annual cost: $20,000, if your junior plays an aggressive schedule.

Tournament Entree Fees

You’ve gotta pay to play. Entry fees for multi-day tournaments range from $200-$500.

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josh sens

Josh Sens

Golf.com Contributor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.