I've always found it funny how some wealthy members at country clubs (yes I know there are exceptions) aren't interested in improving their golf games, yet many golfers who play at different public courses would give an arm and a leg to shoot even par.
I'm not in the position to make an accurate assessment of causality, but I can relate to those of you who just don't have the funds to buy the best golf equipment, practice at the nicest practice facilities, and play at the nicest courses.
The bad news... I can't teach you how to make money.
The good news... I can teach you how to play better golf on a budget!
In this post, I will provide you with 26 actionable tips for improving your game without breaking the bank. Each strategy is something that I have used throughout my golf career, and that has:
- Made me a better golfer
- Saved me money (or was completely free)
Some of the strategies you will benefit from, and some will not apply, but I wanted to come up with as many as I could for your benefit!
1. Negotiate a Lower Membership Rate
This won't work for everyone, but there are several golf courses that are lenient with their memberships.
I have worked out several temporary membership deals (I'm often moving around and it doesn't make sense to become a member at any one golf course), and my best advice is to form relationships with the head pro(s). Play some golf at the course you would like to negotiate with, and pay full price for a while. Always stop in the pro shop for a quick chat.
Once you have developed some sort of relationship with the staff, you might ask if they would give you a discounted or temporary membership option.
If they like you, chances are you will get some sort of relaxed rate, or terms and conditions not specified in the standard membership option.
Remember, golf courses need to make a profit, so you can't just walk in and demand a discounted membership. It is a give and take scenario.
Also, most country clubs won't allow for leniency in the membership thanks to steep initiation fees. Despite this, you can often convince the head pro to let you chip and/or putt at their practice facility for a price.
2. Save Your Golf Grips/Learn How to Re-Grip Your Golf Clubs
I have spent WAY too much money replacing my golf grips, and I am here to prevent you from doing the same!
First, if you are prone to switching grips often, learn how to save them rather than cutting them off every time you want to change.
Also, learn how to re-grip your golf clubs in general. It will save you the $1 or $2 fee for re-gripping at the golf store, not to mention the gas price of driving to and from the store.
I have created an entirely separate site showing you how to re-grip clubs, as well as several other clubmaking and refinishing techniques. It comes at a small price, but will save you loads of money down the road. All of the tutorials can be found scattered across the internet and deep in golf forums, but I wanted to create a place where everything is in one spot. On my clubmaking tutorials site, I have done the legwork and compiled everything into step by step tutorials.
3. Build Your Own Set of Golf Clubs
Going off the last point, if you have the clubmaking skills to do so, I would recommend building your own set of golf clubs. By "building," I mean purchasing each of the components separately (grips, shafts, ferrules, tip weights, butt weights, clubheads, etc.) and then putting them together.
By purchasing separate components, you can save tons of money.
Personally, if I want to put a new driver in my bag, I will purchase the shaft that I use brand new (I generally avoid buying used shafts), and then I will purchase a discounted club head on Ebay, a grip on Ebay/Amazon, and finally the ferrule/adaptor that is necessary.
In the end, this costs much less than purchasing a driver at the golf store, taking it apart, reinstalling a new shaft, and getting it re-gripped.
Sometimes, you can find some unbelievable deals on Ebay.
I built my current 3-wood (already had a shaft from my other one) for $40, and it is a Rocketballz Stage 2! I even refinished it black as you see in the picture below:
4. Track your statistics for free
Over my years as a competitive golfer, tracking stats was a must. It helped me identify problem areas in my game and therefore dictated what I practiced. But I had a 3 main problems with the statistics tracking solutions on the market:
- They were expensive (monthly fee)
- They required you to have your phone out on the golf course (I keep my phone in my bag the entire round so I can focus!)
- They were difficult to use
In this light, my recommendation is using a good 'ole Google Sheet and tracking the basic stats for each round.
- Fairways hit
- GIR (greens in regulation)
- Up and down percentage
With these stats alone, you can get a long way. I have written a more detailed post on how to track your stats here.
5. Set up a Home Practice Area
One of the best ways to improve your golf game while saving money is by setting up a home practice area. Once set up, you will have a space for endless improvement that doesn't require any additional expenses, or gas money.
I have written an entire post about practicing during winter that takes you through all of the different components of an indoor practice area, and some useful exercises and drills you can do to improve your game.
6. Get a free, personalized practice plan
Every golfer is different, which is why I created a free, personalized practice plan just for you. I think you'll be surprised when you read what it has to say!
7. Download V1 Golf and Learn How to Analyze Your Own Swing
If you are truly looking to be a "DIY Golfer," then you need to understand the golf swing and learn how to analyze your own swing.
I have written a post with a supplementary video to guide you through the process. In this post/video, you will learn how to film your swing properly, how to download the V1 Golf app and use it, and finally what to look for when analyzing your own swing.
8. Make Your Range Practice More Realistic
If you are looking to save money and improve your golf game, quit buying the extra large buckets of balls at your local range! You really don't need that many golf balls to get better.
If you want to change your golf swing, practice the motions over and over in front of a mirror, and then take it to the range. If you try to make changes at the range without someone watching you, chances are, you will make yourself worse, and walk away with an entirely different looking swing than you thought you were practicing.
Instead of buying large quantities of golf balls, learn how to practice realistically. I talk a ton about this type of practice in my free ebook: "The Weekend Warrior's Practice Manual."
By engaging in realistic practice, you will get more out of less golf balls.
If you are like I was a few years back, you probably don't believe in what I'm saying here. But let me assure you, this type of practice is ESSENTIAL for getting your game to the course, and shooting lower scores.
9. Go to a Mini Tour Event
Something that 99.9% of golfers overlook is the opportunity to attend a Mini-Tour golf event. Watching professionals play is a great way to see what it takes to shoot a low score, but the majority of people think that attending a PGA Tour event is the only option.
The problem is, PGA Tour events cost hundreds of dollars to attend, and with the large galleries, it is often difficult to really see the action.
What if you could spend $10 and see guys who are on the verge of breaking through to the PGA Tour play? What if I told you that you would be able to follow any player you wanted for the entire round, and never have your view blocked by some 6'5" guy in front of you? What if I told you that you might even get to speak to one of the professionals?
Well, you can!
The Web.com tour sells tickets for roughly $10, and you can see some of the best golfers in the world play!
Here is the Web.com Tour schedule.
Also check out this Wikipedia page, which lists the different mini-tours that you could follow.
10. Take Advantage of YouTube
If you need some words of advice, there are tons of awesome instructional videos on YouTube to learn from. That said, it is extremely important to be weary of bad advice, because thanks to YouTube's low barrier to entry, just about anyone can create videos.
I personally enjoy watching PGA Tour clinics like so.
One of the most beneficial things that you can do for your golf game is spend a few minutes in a chair or in bed at night visualizing the golfer that you would like to be.
The problem is, next to NOBODY actually has the discipline to do it.
If you want to separate yourself from the crowd, spend 10 minutes every few days visualizing the outcomes, the shots, and the thoughts that you want on the golf course. For more on this, I recommend purchasing the book Your 15th Club by Bob Rotella, and flipping to the section titled "affirmations."
12. Write in a Golf Journal
Another great way to improve the game is to keep track of it in a golf journal.
By keeping a daily/weekly golf journal, you WILL start to notice trends in your game that you previously had a blind eye to. If you are unsure what to write, I have created an entire blog post showing you the best practices for golf journaling.
13. Read Golf Books
I know some of you might cringe at the thought of reading a book, but hey, it's one of the cheapest ways to learn golf! Whether you want to learn the golf swing, the mental game, or putting, you can do it through golf books. My personal favorite is Every Shot Must Have a Purpose, followed by Search for the Perfect Golf Swing.
14. Self Hypnosis
This is fairly similar to visualization as mentioned earlier, but a bit easier to do, as it is guided.
I personally use the Zone Golf Scripts, and will listen to a script the night before a tournament to put me in a good frame of mind.
To wrap up the mental exercises, meditation is always a great option for the busy mind. I spend 15 minutes each morning meditating (took me a while to get into the habit), and can honestly say that it is the best thing that I have ever done for my golf game!
On the golf course, it is extremely easy to let your thoughts get the best of you. Daily meditation allows you to treat your thoughts as separate entities from your mind, and allows you to separate emotionally from them when needed. This helps me handle my negative golf thoughts during a round much more effectively. If you want to get started with meditation, download the Headspace app. You get a free 10 day trial, and after that, it is only $7.99 a month if you buy a full year subscription. (If you do purchase it, I recommend the "acceptance" series)
Not only will this improve your golf game, but your life in general!
16. Go to the Golf Course after 5 p.m. and Play for Free
One way to get free golf is to show up at the course less than 2 hours from dark. Most head pros will give you a discounted rate or even let you play for free. I know it's not the best situation, but you won't be waiting on groups in front of you, and will most likely get more than 9 holes in anyways!
17. Buy the Right Golf Clubs
There is nothing more frustrating than purchasing a set of golf clubs, and then finding out a week later that you don't want them anymore.
Do your research!!!
Here is a post that walks you through many considerations you should make when purchasing different types of golf clubs.
18. Teach Someone You Know How to Golf
Take this one with a grain of salt. If you don't understand the golf game, please do not try to teach someone else.
Rather than teaching what you believe, read a golf book, or read several instructional guides online from credible instructors/sources.
Once you feel that you truly understand the concepts of whatever you are focusing on, teach it to whoever is willing to listen.
This is completely free, and is (in my opinion) the best way to make sure that you understand the game of golf. If you can't teach it in simple terms, you probably don't understand it well enough to apply to your own game.
19. Be Mindful of What Golf Advice you are Taking
Bad golf advice is costly.
So make sure that you've done your fair share of research before buying into a swing philosophy or teacher.
Early on in my golf career, I spent a lot of money on the wrong golf equipment thanks to recommendations that I shouldn't have trusted. I also spent a lot of money purchasing overpriced instructional DVDs and training aids.
Even now, I find myself tempted to purchase certain training aids or instructional programs, but I am much more disciplined in doing my research, reading reviews, and considering if the cost is worth the benefit.
20. Use Himalayan Salt rather than Gatorade/Powerade
How much does a Gatorade cost at the golf course? $2? $3?
How many summer rounds of golf do you play where you purchase a Gatorade or Powerade?
A great alternative (cheaper) to Gatorade/Powerade is to use Himalayan salt. Just drop a pinch in your water on the course, and enjoy the electrolytes without the high cost and damaging sugars!
21. Bring Food for your Golf Rounds
Unless you happen to play at a golf course that serves good food at an extremely low price, one of the best ways to save money is bringing your own food. No sense in gobbling down a hot dog with chips for $5 if you could eat something 10x healthier for less than $2
Whenever I play golf, I'll always have one or more of the following:
- PB&J (on whole wheat)
- Cliff Bar
- Trail Mix
- Beef Jerky
22. Clean Your Shoes with Oxi Clean
If you think your golf shoes are forever ruined, try cleaning them with Oxi Clean. This will delay the purchase of $150 golf shoes for another few months. Here is the process:
- Fill a wash basin with hot water
- Put 3-4 scoops of Oxi Clean (I believe there is a scoop in the container) in the water, and swirl around.
- Submerge the shoes. They will most likely want to float, so put something heavy on top of them to hold them down.
- Let sit for 4-8 hours
- Fan dry (you could put them outside in the sun, but they will stink so bad that they may not even be worth wearing!)
23. Use Plastic Tees
If you play a lot of golf, purchasing wooden tees can get a bit costly. I prefer the Zero Friction 3-pronged plastic golf tees. They rarely break on me, and also feel extremely smooth through impact.
My biggest problem with plastic tees is when they are so hard that you actually feel the club hit the tee at impact. The Zero Friction tees eliminate this problem while maintaining the durability the plastic tee is made for.
24. Workout at Home
I don't have the time or intentions to lay out a personalized workout plan for you, but there are several workout routines you could go through in the comfort of your home for free.
My favorite is a wrist strengthening drill where you fill a bucket up with rice, and then roll your wrists around in 2 minute intervals.
If you want more serious exercises, check out the Titleist Performance Institute. They post loads of awesome golf specific exercises that you can do to improve mobility and strength.
25. Book Your Tee Times Online and Well in Advance
The most expensive way to play a round of golf is by calling the day before, and booking a tee time over the phone.
Instead, visit Golf Now, or the course's website (if they run an online tee time service), and book your tee time at least a week in advance. Chances are, you will save $10 or more just by doing this.
26. Put Your Gloves in a Plastic Bag
For those of you who play lots of golf, you know how fast golf gloves wear out. Here are my rules for getting the most out of each glove:
- Wear your newest glove for golf rounds, and your oldest glove for hitting balls at the range.
- Store all gloves in plastic bags in your golf bag. Make sure to fold them nicely, and if they have any moisture in them, let them dry before putting them in the bag.
- If you notice that your gloves are wearing out extremely fast on the thumb, check your grip. Chances are, the club is actually sliding around a little bit during the swing.