The topic of how lucrative golf can be is often discussed between golfers. The rapid growth in the astronomical amounts that golfers earn for winning a tournament often sounds too good to be true. With a large contingency of the top professional golfers sitting out much of the wrap-around program, it enables lesser-known golfers to enter the winner’s circle and earn multi-year exemption thus securing their living.
We have heard the exciting reports of the likes of Tiger Woods having a net worth of $900 Million in 2021. Impressive to say the least. Arnold Palmer is not that far behind with a net worth of roughly $700 Million.
The question of how do golfers get paid can be somewhat complex.
Earnings vary depending on the rating of the tournament and the number of top professional golfers that enter the tournament. Major tournaments such as the PGA, Masters, US Open, and the Open attracts most top players due to the prestige associated with these tournaments.
All golfers that make the cut after the second day will receive a portion of the winning purse hence the more players that play over the weekend, the smaller the purse becomes for those who end on the bottom end of the list.
The PGA dictates the percentage of the winning purse to be allocated to each of the positions. The current allocation provides for a winner of a tournament to receive eighteen percent of the purse while the lowest placed golfers, or tied, earn 0.2 percent of the purse.
2020 Major Winner’s Cheque
- Masters – $2,070,000
- PGA Championship – $1,980,000
- US Open – $2,250,000
- The Open – $1,935,000
The governing bodies have made the investment of earning compulsory and deduct a percentage of the earning into a retirement scheme for later in your career.
Although the US PGA Tour is the most lucrative, it is not the only major tour for professional golfers.
The European Tour is a global tour covering most of Europe and offers co-sanctioned tournaments in Africa, Australia, several Middle East countries, and China.
All major tournaments count to the prize money on the PGA Tour as well as the European Tour.
The Asian Tour has been a great feeder system for golfers to the major tours.
Victories on any of the mini professional golf tours offer invitations to the majors as incentives.
Tournaments generally offer qualifying events on the Monday prior to the start of the tournament to enable some fringe golfers to play in more tournaments. Other than qualifying events, sponsor exemption allows for tournaments to include some of their ambassadors to play in high-profile tournaments.
To qualify for a place on a professional tour the governing bodies hold annual qualifying school tournaments allowing the top players of the series to join the professional tour while some of the current years’ players lose their playing privileges forcing them to play on minor tours and go through qualifying school again.
Although not as prestigious as the top-level professional tours, these tours offer golfers the opportunity to become accustomed to the rigors of traveling and the pressure of playing several tournaments on consecutive weeks.
The Nationwide Tour is best known as it provides golfers an opportunity to play professional golf in the US and North America while earning a comfortable living.
Similar tours allow aspiring golfers to prepare themselves to join the big league.
Women’s golf and senior golf have grown tremendously and offer similar opportunities in the US, Europe, and other tours. The LPA and LET are the major professional tours for women golfers.
The year-end competition enables the top 125 golfers to earn additional income through a series of tournaments with the overall winners earning massive paydays. To qualify for these playoff tournaments golfers have to earn points during the season. Points can be based on the number of points allocate per tournament based on its profile and the quality of field entered.
Another form of qualification can be based on the amount that the golfer earns during the year with the highest earner taking the top spot before the playoffs commence.
The FedEx Cup is best known with the overall winner taking home a cheque of $10,000,000 in addition to any prize money they earn. On the European Tour, the Road to Dubai is the equivalent of the FedEx Cup.
To qualify as a club professional, a golfer has to register and go through a qualifying process with the governing bodies to exhibit their knowledge and capabilities to operate a golf club and provide instruction. Theoretical knowledge alone will not enable you to qualify as a club professional as you have to demonstrate your ability to play the game.
Club pros earn income through managing a golf clubs’ operations on behalf of the owners, providing golf lessons, and golf clinics. Compensation earned is linked to the grading of the club pro varying from $30,000 to as much as $100,000 per annum excluding coaching and clinics.
Endorsements play a significant role in how much a golfer can earn. You can earn multiples of the prize money in endorsements. The most marketable golfers earn huge fees in endorsements from golf equipment and apparel brands. This ensured that Tiger Woods became one of the top-earning sports personalities of all time, earning well above $1 billion.
Featuring in advertisements and golf games enable golfers to earn top dollar away from the course.
Television exposure has enabled golfers to earn out-of-competition money playing in special events designed to attract a huge viewer base. Skins tournaments and limited entry events have been extremely successful in attracting viewers. Generally, golfers are paid appearance money to compete in addition to any prize money on offer.
To enhance their brand, many sponsors and other companies offer corporate events making the golfers available to meet with some of their top clients. These events provide the opportunity to earn somewhere between $25,000 to $250,000 depending on the golfer’s popularity and the profile of the corporate.
When Do Golfers Get Paid After a Tournament?
Earnings from a tournament are generally transferred in the week following the completion of the tournament. This comes in the form of electronic fund transfers and no cheques or cash is issued.
The early payment makes it possible for struggling professionals to move onto the next tournament in their quest for a future securing payday.
Professional golfers are often seen living the high life. They are living in large houses, driving the latest-model vehicles, and some even have their own planes. These are the golfers that have secured their living by winning tournaments and majors thereby attracting major sponsorships.
However, here is a large contingency of golfers trying to make it in the world of professional golf and having to start as a club pro, working their way through the mini-tours until they eventually can earn a living out of playing full time on the tours.
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Nick is the founder of GolfSpan and an avid golfer. He's not quite a pro but has over 15 years of experience playing and coaching golfers worldwide. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience when it comes to choosing the right golf gear and finding the right setup for your game.