If you spend a lot of your time watching the very best golfers in the world, there will be many occasions when they make things look easy. Anyone who’s tried to emulate their favorite golfer’s greatest moments on the local course will know that reaching that level is far from easy.
Whether you’re watching on TV, as a spectator on course or you’re looking for hints and tips on who to bet on in the next major, it’s always a good idea to remind yourself occasionally of just what goes into achieving success as a professional golfer. The life of a Tour Pro isn’t all trophies and photo ops. Here’s what you need to know about the grueling life of a top golfer.
The costs of being a pro
For a select few, money ceases to be an issue at some point in their professional career. For most, however, the costs of simply maintaining your position as a regular on your Tour can be enormous and they usually come on top of the huge investment you’ve had to make to get there.
To begin with, there’s the money you need to spend on coaching. Professional golfers have to practice constantly and some of that practicing involves working with a coach — which costs money. You might be paying around $250 an hour to work with a top coach, so even if you do the absolute minimum of one hour of coaching per week, that adds up to $12,000 every year.
You might get a sponsor to take care of your equipment, though this will depend on your level of success, but then there will be the entry fees. Even for minor tour events, entry fees can be as high as $2,000 and if you’re planning on entering a dozen or more events during the season, those fees will add up. Then there’s the living expenses, the cost of travel and the cost of a caddy; it all adds up. To maintain a place on one of the main professional tours, it could cost upwards of $100,000 per year.
You may like to play a round every week, maybe you’re really keen and get to the driving range a couple of times during the week. But could you handle doing that all day, every day, for decades?
Pro golfers spend more time practicing than playing in tournaments, and they practice hard. We’re talking about dedicating all your time to your game, as if it were the only thing that matters. The typical tour pro devotes three to four hours per day to the full swing and an equivalent amount of time to the short game.
This practice is also intense. It’s not just a matter of slamming balls or rolling putts blindly. They use props, including shafts, yardsticks and other gadgets, to assess their alignment, ball position, swing plane and putting route during practice. It’s sometimes with their instructor, but most of the time it’s with their caddy, so they have a second pair of eyes on them. This is their job, and it is grueling.
Besides the technical work, there will be a certain amount of physical training, whether time in the gym or working with a fitness instructor. A golfer may have commitments with sponsors, clubs and other groups, and if they aren’t able to afford someone to take care of the administration, they have to handle it themselves, acting as their own agent, secretary and accountant.
Sports fans and pundits talk a lot about pressure, but it is easy to forget what this means in human terms. Think back to a time when you were under pressure. Maybe you had to speak in public for the first time or coach your local football team. Now imagine that your income, your livelihood, your reputation and even your mental wellbeing were at stake while under that pressure.
Golf is an intensely psychological game, and one of the loneliest sports there is. Could you keep your swing straight and your focus on the technicalities of the game while thousands of people scrutinized your every move, knowing that one tiny slip could cost you thousands, even tens of thousands, afraid that you will be letting people down if you fail? And could you do that every week for years on end?
The best players will always make golf look easy, but it is important to remember, while you’re watching your favorite competing for glory, that the demands on the professional are huge and that getting to the top in the world of golf is about more than just good technique.