Team sports, what’s not to like about them? As a viewer, you get to join a packed crowd, root for your favourite players, and feel the excitement as a roster of athletes battle for victory. As a player, you get to train as a team, create plenty of plays and combinations, and enjoy the sport with many others. Most people can say that they have played a team sport at some point in their lives and will continue to do so.

But what about the sports that emphasize individualism, like golf? As a viewer, these are no different than team sports. Golf tournaments receive millions of streams, you can still have a favourite athlete, and if you like to binge-watch Netflix shows instead of doing your homework, you will know that documentaries such as Full Swing bring excitement to the realm of individual sports. When it comes to playing, there is a noticeable difference. In the West, team sports such as volleyball, soccer, and basketball appeal to many people, whereas golf, as an individual sport, often earns less player interest. Why is this the case? 

Truthfully, most of it comes down to money and accessibility. Playing a sport like soccer or basketball can be as simple as bringing a group of friends together to kick a ball around at the park or shoot hoops at a public court. Even tennis courts are often open to the public. But for a sport like golf, the cost of a membership, equipment, and apparel create a participation barrier between many individuals and their desire to play.

In Kelowna, we have many golf courses, and regardless of which course you choose, you are likely to find a golf ball-sized dent in your bank account after paying for a membership. At The Okanagan Golf Club, which neighbours the UBCO campus, intermediate and graduate memberships for the season will set you back more than $3,000. Even a junior membership, which exists to help kids as young as 12 years old “grow through golf,” costs more than $600. And there is more. A season’s cart pass is $950, and the club’s locker and storage fees rack up an additional $400.

Now you have the membership, but before you can play, you need the right gear. Kelowna’s Golf Town offers equipment at a range of prices, but even the wallet-friendly items are quite pricey. Many golf bags are at least $200, and while you can get away with cheaper gloves, balls, and shoes, a set of clubs can cost upwards of $1,000.

Now, you can probably understand why many people opt for a game of beach volleyball on the weekends instead of a round of golf. Unless you have the financial means to cover all of the costs, playing golf is unrealistic for many people. Few sports are completely cost-free, but the fact that you have to spend thousands of dollars before stepping foot on the green sets golf apart from many team sports. This financial barrier affects participation rates, limits opportunities, and, for many people, makes golf nothing more than something exciting to watch behind a screen.

Coming to university and representing your institution as a student-athlete is one way to navigate the expenses. You have the opportunity to receive scholarships and free gear, and travel and entry fees are covered for you. Of course, you will have already spent a fortune to get to that point, and the UBCO golf team’s roster is made up of 17 athletes, so the acceptance rate is much lower than that of a soccer team. 

By now, your dreams to get into golf may be crushed, but that is not the intention of this article. When it comes to some sports, specifically the aesthetic, individual sports, you should not feel discouraged if you cannot participate. In competitive golf, by the time you are 12 years old, you are required to sacrifice thousands of dollars each season to ensure that you can access training facilities and become the best, and that is not attainable for the majority of people. 

All sports require a great amount of hard work, skill, and dedication, but you must recognize how certain sports place many people at a financial disadvantage before they even have the chance to test their skills. 

Despite these barriers, there are still many ways that you can make the most out of your golfing experience while spending as little money as possible. Consider getting a part-time job on one of the courses and enjoy golf at a partial or fully discounted price. If you need equipment or apparel, you could borrow from a friend or buy your items lightly used. Also, while country clubs’ membership prices are rigid, you can lower the costs by swapping out the season’s pass for a day pass, playing at non-peak times, splitting the fees with a group of friends, and always looking out for discounts. 

Golf is an expensive and exclusive sport, but everyone deserves to participate. As the golf season approaches, take these tips into consideration and enjoy the lovely courses that Kelowna has to offer.