Golf is very different from most sports when it comes to the players' salaries and additional earnings.
This is because there isn't a base fee or any contract system that would safely ensure continuous payment. Similar to single-player, competitive sports like tennis, the amount they earn is predicted only on their performance and success rates alone.
With approximately 26 million golfers in the United States, earnings greatly depend on ability, placing highly in a tournament, and whether or not players can endorse products.
Ranked among some of the world's highest-paid athletes, there is no doubt that going pro has the potential to earn players lots of money, but if you aren't careful, you can actually lose money,
About -$30,000 at least.
The Nature of The Job
The topic of how lucrative golfing can be is often discussed between those who enjoy playing the sport.
Many golfers who pick up their clubs and scramble through a few rounds can't fathom the idea of ever reaching a skill level that would allow them to be paid as a professional.
At its heart, Professional golf is dependant on the ability to hit a ball into the hole.
Individuals who have natural skills combined with the willingness to spend countless hours honing their skills will stand a chance of making it big.
Even at the top level, a golf professional is never safe from new yearly competitors, an issue that causes their earnings to not necessarily be stable or long-lived.
What is a weekend luxury for some becomes a full-time job and obsession for professional golfers who look to deepen their understanding of strategy and the finer points of the game.
The average salary of a professional golfer is usually more than $2 million a year due to the number of competitions they can participate in after making it to the big leagues.
But it is often forgotten that income in the golf world does not only come from the players themselves.
Behind the scenes, usually away from the field, there are over 2.5 million people employed in golf. Accounting for $550 billion in wages annually, from the highly compensated executives all the way to down to minimum wage greenskeepers.
Below is a peek into the paychecks of people in golf:
USGA executive director: $854,803
USGA senior managing director: $664,426
Junior association director: $538,420
Course design architect: $500,000
Considering their multiple sources of income, there's no doubt that professional golfers resonate within the same social group of highly paid athletes. As reported in Sports Illustrated magazine, golfers such as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods were nominated as two of the top paid earning professionals on the publication's list in 2011.
Tiger woods earned over $60 million in gross total for a single year, while Mickelson earned around $52 million (with most of the income received by endorsements).
Besides endorsements, there is a lot of money to made by winning tournaments; below is the average prize amount for annual winners of major tournament events: 2021 Major Winner’s Cheque:
Masters - $2,070,000
PGA Championship - $2,160,000
The Open - $2,070,000
US Open -$2,250,000
Ways a Golfer Makes Money
Highly paid professionals in golf have several sources of income. While it is true that they must travel a long, tough road to qualify for the PGA circuit, the rewards of winning can be very generous.
Professional Tour Player
The average member of the PGA makes around $32,000 a year, according to ZipRecruiter statistics. Players who qualify for the Professional Golfers Association card may join any PGA sanctioned event worldwide and compete throughout the year.
Money earned on the PGA tour varies each season from player to player; paying down to the 60th place finisher finishing a tournament will likely result in a payday. The PGA gives many opportunities for players to earn cash prices.
Although it is not as prestigious as top-level professional tours, Penultimate tours offer their golfer the opportunity to accustom themselves to the rigors of traveling and the pressure of playing in the big leagues by making them play through consecutive weeks.
The competition held at the end of each season enables their top 100 finalists to earn additional income through a series of at least 36-hole matches for a chance to win payoffs of over 100,000+.
Club professionals have the chance to win some money in regional or local tournaments. In cases like this, players earn most of their cash from regular paychecks, often supplemented by lesson fees and endorsement revenue.
Assistant pros who are full PGA members can make up to a median of $40,000 annually.
If given a chance, most pros often endorse golf equipment and many other related playing items. An endorsement can range from tv ads or prints, company logos on their t-shirt, badges, hats, and even on their caddies! This is where superstar players can earn lots of money.
Women's golf has grown tremendously in the past decade. But with popularity becomes higher stakes to win grand prizes. According to the recent LPGA money list, the median income for female golfers is around $150,000, with the top players earning a median of a little over $1 million.
Salaries also vary with the number of tournaments available and the country it is being held in.
Based on the data shown, it's evident that there is a massive disparity in female golfers' earnings compared to men. Still, hopefully, over time, this indifference will be changed through woman endorsement figures to inspire the younger generation to take their shot and go professional.
Professional Golfers are often seen living the good life.
They reside in large homes, driving the latest-model vehicles, and some have their own private jets. These are the golfers who secured their living by winning tournaments and attracting large sponsorships.
However, as shown above, it can now be understood the hardship and dedication that is needed just to be invited to tournaments, let alone win them.
Their commitment to the sport is admirable, and for those who do reach the top, it is easy to say that they've earned it.