It’s no secret that the world’s best golfers earn a lot of money. However, the earnings of only the top players are usually discussed.
Golfers further down the rankings don’t necessarily earn good money. In reality, the players that are at the bottom are often struggling to make enough money to cover their expenses.
The fact is that most pro golfers have to pay their own expenses. Unlike a football player that is basically employed and paid a sallary, a pro golfer is effectively self-employed.
Golfers must pay for their travel expenses, their hotel, living costs, and even pay for their caddy. Whilst it’s true that many golfers have sponsorships, these typically don’t cover all expenses. Sponsorships may cover certain expenses and there could be discounts on others.
However, only the top golfers get the best sponsorships, and they’re the ones that are earning the most prize money anyway. So you could argue that those players don’t actually need the sponsorship as much as the lower ranked players.
At the top of the game, most pro golfers don’t have to pay entry fees. When they qualify for a tournament they can enter for free. In some cases, players can get paid an “appearance fee”. In other words, they get paid just to turn up!
But this is very rare, and generally only applies to the highest profile golfers, such as Tiger Woods.
There are smaller tournaments on smaller tours (other than the PGA tour and European Tour). These smaller tours are often known as sattelite tours. Golfers play for much less money, with the majority of them aiming to work their way up to one of the main tours. In these sattelite tours, golfers often have to pay entry fees.
Playing on these tours can be a real financial challenge for many golfers. Not only do they have to cover all their other expenses, they also have to ensure they have enough funds for the entry fees. It is also much more difficult for these pros to get sponsorship deals.
Hopefully you can start to appreciate that there’s a huge difference between the very top pros and the majority of pros further down the rankings.
The main way that most pros make money is from tournament winnings. Quite simply, the more tournaments they win and the higher profile they are, the more money they make.
However, the very best players in the world have another large source of income in the form of sponsorships. In fact, many of the elite golfers, such as Tiger Woods, have actually made money from sponsorships than tournament winnings!
According to the PGA Tour official money list, the tour average earnings was $1,485,055. This may seem like a lot, but remember that this just an average. Players at the top of the tour earn much more but the players at the bottom earn much less.
The top PGA Tour player, number 1, won $7,705,933 and the last player, number 250, won just $6,090. As we can see, the story is much different for the players lower down. The player at the bottom of the list is still arguably the 250th best golfer in the world but they likely didn’t earn enough money to cover their expenses.
It’s clear to see that there is a huge amount of prize money to be won, but not for every golfer. For the pro golfers at the top of the game, they are some of the highest paid athletes in the world. Bear in mind that these figures do not involve sponsorships, which are a huge part of a top player’s income.
The reason why the top pros make so much money is due to the advertising and sponsors that they attract. Golf is a very popular sport, attracting huge TV audiences. And it is undoubtably this that has brought huge amounts of money into the game.
It’s no secret that golf is a sponsorship friendly sport, typically introducing adverts wherever it can. In golf, sponsors are everywhere including:
Of course, the top pro golfers make by far the most money. High profile names such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson attract some of the very best sponsorship deals. Companies will pay a lot of money to see elite golfers endorsing their brands.
One of the biggest challenges for many pro golfers is missing the cut, or trying not to. When a golfer misses the cut, they are effectively disqualified from the final 2 rounds of the tournament. What’s worse, is that in the vast majority of tournaments they don’t earn any money either.
There are a few tournaments that pay some money to players who have missed cuts but these are by far the exception. The vast majority of tournaments do not pay any prize money to players that have missed the cut.
Many golfers will have paid all their expenses, only to miss the cut and leave with no reward. In other words, many unfortunate golf pros leave the tournament worse off than when they teed off.
For those players lucky enough to have well paid sponsorships, it’s possible to miss the cut but still end up in profit. But again, this generally only applies to the highest ranked players in the world.
It is true that the very best golfers get paid a lot of money which comes in the form of tournament winnings and sponsorship deals. They are some of the highest paid sports people on the planet.
However, it’s a different story for golfers lower down in the rankings. Pro golfers that are not making many cuts and those playing on smaller tours, are earning considerably less money. In many cases, they are actually struggling financially. A golf pros expenses can be huge when travel costs, hotels, caddies, and entry fees are all taken into account.
For any young golfers that are thinking of turning pro, my advice would be to become the best golfer you know, and get sponsorship! Good sponsors help to give many young players a shot at becomming a successful golfer, without the added financial pressure.
Hopefully now you understand a bit more about the way earnings work in professional golf. There is a lot of money in golf, but it’s not easy money. Golf is an incredibly competitive, dog-eat-dog sport, where only the most talented and hardest working succeed. A bit of luck goes a long way too, and sometimes young golfers are in the right place at the right time, getting excellent sponsorship and coaching.
I’m Tom Rothwell and I’m a 3 handicaper that's obsessed with golf. You can often find me hitting balls on a driving range somewhere!
I'm on a journey to learn as much as possible about the great game. I've made Clean Strike Golf to share everything I discover along the way.