Golf’s average greens fee? Why $37 gets you further than you’d think

What does the average round of golf cost?

The average cost of a round of golf? It might be less than you'd think.

Getty Images

Have you gotten accustomed to battling bots for weekend tee times? Tried to book your dream golf resort only to find it’s sold out for the next year-plus? Googled the price for a course you’re watching on TV only to find it’s $900, like the peak fee at TPC Sawgrass?

You’re not alone. And all of that is real, because more people are playing more golf.

In 2023, Americans played 531 million rounds of golf, according to the National Golf Foundation, the highest single-year total on record. For the fourth consecutive year there were more than three million golfers who tried the game for the first time. These four years since the advent of the Covid pandemic have been a banner period for participation, with demand spiking in 2020 and remaining elevated ever since. There also hasn’t been meaningful change in supply in that time; it takes a while to build a golf course, after all, and golf courses had been closing faster than opening for more than a decade before this latest surge in interest.

This is exciting for the health of the game and the health of your local public course and the health of your golf buddies group chat. But it can be dispiriting, too. It can feel like every decent public course is either too crowded, too expensive or both. Nobody wants to pay $200/player for a six-hour round on a mediocre golf course. I get it.

But I bring good news. The data suggests that nationwide, the average fee hasn’t gone up as much as you (or I) might think. In 2020, ahead of the golf boom, the average fee for public 18-hole golf courses (not including resorts) was $32. That was a relatively suppressed number, the NGF suggested at the time; fees hadn’t kept up with inflation given golf’s flat-to-down trajectory at the time.

(Sidenote: That last parenthetical “not including resorts” seems like a big deal here. Pre-2020, consumer behavior had already shown increased interest in destination-style resort trips — think Bandon Dunes, Pebble Beach, Cabot Links, Streamsong and everywhere in between. And Bandon, just to use one example, recently hiked its peak prices from $295 to $450 and could certainly charge more; they’re mostly booked more than a year out. But let’s set that destination golf model aside for a different day, because it has its own fascinating story to tell.)

Now? Those same daily-fee courses have risen to an average of just over $37. The NGF’s report shows that the rise in peak green fees — roughly 16% over that stretch — is consistent with inflation after years of lagging behind. That’s still a significant increase, and you may live in an expensive golf city where those numbers seem fantastical, but it’s a reminder that they do exist, those $37 rounds. They’re average.

Where does that five-dollar increase come from? The NGF report cites demand as a major factor. By the end of 2021, after all, more than two-thirds of course operators told the NGF they’d made some change to fee structures over the past year. But the report mentions other factors, too, including rising costs of “labor, supplies and maintenance.” And roughly half of public facilities have undergone “significant” course or clubhouse capital investments in the past year, which is an encouraging sign for their golfing futures — and yours.

I suspect there’s another dynamic at play here, too, where word has gotten out about not just the flashiest courses but the hidden gems, too. The coolest, trendiest courses in your area may have gotten notable bumps in price or demand from popping up on Instagram posts, “best-of” lists or YouTube golf features. In my half-dozen years at this company the prices of our Top 100 Courses, for instance, have notably increased, which has changed the dynamic of how we write about “best value,” which once upon a time featured the best courses under $50 but now has a cap of $150. The pricey have gotten pricier.

But it seems the others — those everyday public courses that make up the golfing fabric of America but might not make it onto your Instagram grid — have had more modest increases. That’s what I find interesting about $37. While golf is expensive and can be insanely expensive, not every version is as expensive as people think. Not every round is a $1,250 trip to Shadow Creek or a $2,500 stay-and-play deal at Pebble Beach. That $37 number puts golf well south of other experience-based pastimes like buying a lift ticket to go skiing ($142 and climbing, per one study) or going to an NFL game (over $300 on the secondary market). Tickets to concerts have skyrocketed in price post-Covid, too, and if Taylor Swift takes up golf we might really be in trouble. But for now it’s a good reminder that a sport famous for its expensiveness and exclusivity can still be relatively accessible. It just might require a drive.

And an eager buddy to book the tee time.

You can read more from the NGF’s report here.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.