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9 expert tips on how to improve your game without breaking the bank

October 17, 2018

A slew of certified financial planners weigh in on how to improve your golf game without breaking the bank. Keep their advice in mind and it will pay off in more ways than one.

Get Into a Routine

At the root of any good budget is a set process to help you keep track of where your money goes. That can be an app like Mint, a desktop or cloud-based tool like Quicken, or a spiral notebook. The key is to pick what works best for you and commit to using that approach. Finding the dollars to support a golf habit is just like any savings goal. You have to know your cash flow and where you can change habits to generate the needed funds for your golf goal.

— Claudia E. Mott, Principal, Epona Financial Solutions, LLC, Basking Ridge, N.J.

Set Goals

Golfers should set their golf budget before the start of the season—which should entail more than simply total cost estimating. It’s helpful to consider what your goals are and what aspects of golf you get the most value and enjoyment from. If your goal is to become a scratch player, you may want to allocate more funds to lessons over teeing it up at the area’s most expensive courses. If you’re more about enjoying getting out every week and socializing with friends, it’s probably better to focus spending on tee times over top-tier equipment and training aids. Take it from a “golf widow” like me—you can only spend a golf dollar once!

— Kristin McFarland, Wealth Advisor, Darrow Wealth Management, Boston, Mass.

Sweat the Small Stuff

When comprehensively tracking and examining your monthly expenses, you’re very likely to find low-hanging fruit that you can reduce or eliminate. Are you taking full advantage of that gym membership from your New Year’s resolution? Do you watch all the premium cable channels you’re subscribed to? Examining your current expenses enables you to see where you’re spending money and whether those dollars could be better applied elsewhere—like a GOLF magazine sub and lessons with a PGA professional.

— Matthew Gaffey, Senior Wealth Manager, Corbett Road Wealth Management, McLean, Va.

Minimize Spent Dollars

Be a miser on daily expenses and a spendthrift only occasionally. Pack a lunch often. Carry a good insulated water bottle and fill it up at fountains and water coolers. Find the cheapest gas and combine it with that company’s gas rewards card. Shun shiny and new objects and favor old standbys. When it comes to putters, take it from this 13-handicap with more clubs stacked in my garage than I care to admit: Invest your time before your money—test out many before you buy one. Divorce and putter changes should be about the same.

— Thomas H. Yorke, Managing Director, Oceanic Capital Management LLC, Red Bank, N.J.

Collection of golf putters.
Want a new putter? Go ahead and buy it, but please test it out first.

Remain Flexible

I still have my time as a caddie on my résumé and discuss golf budgeting quite a bit with clients entering retirement. Typically, the planning conversations revolve around the concept of minimizing fixed costs when trying to create a budget that accommodates competing goals. Joining a private club, for example, is something many people want to do—and seek to justify the cost—but it also gives them less flexibility to play other courses, travel, go fishing or cut back expenses should emergencies arise or markets change.

— Jonathan H. Swanburg, Financial Planner and Investment Advisor Representative, Tri-Star Advisors, Houston, Texas

Find the Middle Ground

I’m not an avid golfer, but I’m married to one. We live in Iowa and have a golf simulator in our basement so that my husband can practice year-round. Budgeting comes down to priorities. When a couple is discussing a budget, I always stress the 3 C’s: Communicate, Cooperate and Compromise. This means saying what you want, being willing to help the other person get what they want, and then finding the middle ground, since most couples don’t have the resources for each person to get everything he or she wants.

— Linda Jacob, Accredited Financial Counselor, Consumer Credit of America, Pleasant Hill, Iowa


Maximize Dollars Spent

As an avid golfer, I budget throughout the entire year for the golf months, which in Illinois is April-October. I’ve opened an additional, golf-dedicated savings account that automatically deducts $20 per week from my paycheck. Once April hits, I look for discounted greens-fee deals on the Internet. This past season, I decided I wanted to take lessons but was surprised by the cost. So I first researched the golf swing in-depth and went on eBay, where I bought a Zepp Golf Swing Analyzer for $50. Only after I had about 1,000 swings’ worth of data did I schedule an hour with a pro.

— Alex Offerman, Senior Financial Planner, Model Wealth, Inc., Downers Grove, Ill.

Play It Safe

Golf’s expenses become part of your lifestyle. They’re recurring, annual expenses, not a one-off, since you’ll play the game throughout your lifetime. So whether or not you set up a separate account for golf expenses, you need to fund them month-to-month or paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s the best way to set $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 aside. Whatever you do, don’t go into credit-card debt or take out a loan to pay for that blowout trip or flashy new set of clubs—I’ve seen too many people get into deep rough financially by biting off more than they can chew.

— John F. McAvoy, Financial Planner, Centinel Financial Group, Needham Heights, Mass.

A Whole New Ball Game

My father is a client of mine. He’s 72 years old, retired for six years now, and my mother is 59, just about to retire. When updating their financial plan, my father mentioned that he wanted to play more golf. The plan called for a move to Mexico, where my mother is from. We budgeted for many things, with an annual golf budget becoming a special category for my father. It includes membership fees to his new golf club in Mexico, an annual U.S. golf trip and, at my suggestion, a $650 budget line for a dozen Titleist Pro V1s per month. I told him that if he goes overbudget on balls, he’s got swing problems on top of financial ones! The game is one of my parents’ bonds, and by creating a golf-specific budget, I’ve solidified their bond within the financial plan.

— Ashley Foster, Founder, Nxt:Gen Financial Planning, Houston, Texas