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Interested in getting into golf? Here’s how to make your new hobby more affordable

Municipal courses are your best options for playing on a budget, says the Wisconsin State Golf Association's executive director

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Golf ball on tee
Tord Sollie (CC-BY-NC-ND)

More Americans are playing golf than ever before, and Wisconsin has plenty of rolling fairways and greens to challenge a golfer. In February, Golf Digest ranked Wisconsin first in the nation for public golf. 

That’s because Wisconsin’s public courses offer a mix of top-level play and inexpensive choices, said Rob Jansen, executive director of the Wisconsin State Golf Association. 

“(Wisconsin) has the best of the best in terms of high-end public golf, and we have great affordable public golf options spread out all throughout the state,” Jansen said recently on WPR’s “The Larry Meiller Show.” “So I’ll put up our golf against any state in the country, any day.”

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Larry Meiller sat down with Jansen to break down how to golf on a budget.

An aerial view of a golf course, showing some greens and surrounding trees
Crystal Lake Golf Course in the Northern Kettle Moraine. Photo courtesy of Tyler Luedtke

How to golf for less around the state

Start with the municipal golf courses in the area, Jansen said. City courses are typically some of the best, well-maintained and affordable options.

“Depending on what part of the state you live in, chances are if you look at the courses within 10 or 15 minutes of where you live, they’re all going to be pretty great, affordable options,” Jansen said. 

The Wisconsin State Golf Association has an interactive map of courses around the state. You can click on the pins on the map to learn more about each course. 

If you live in the Milwaukee area, Jansen recommends checking out the Milwaukee County Parks golf courses. They’re in good condition and are walkable if you want to save money on a cart. The cost ranges from $81 for 18 holes at Brown Deer Park’s tournament course to $8 for nine holes at a few par 3 courses. Sunset rates offer further discounts. 

Larry, who’s an avid golfer, said he recently checked out Madison’s newly-renovated The Glen Golf Park. Rates vary from $35 to $24 for nine holes, based on tee time and use of cart. Discounts are available for youth and college students. 

Larry frequents the rest of Madison’s municipal courses, too, including Monona’s nine-hole course you can play for $18 if you walk. He also mentioned the Yahara Hills and Odana courses are fun and reasonable. 

Most public facilities offer some type of membership or loyalty program, Jansen said. They will provide unlimited access to the course for a relatively low flat fee. Some memberships may include discounts at neighboring courses. 

“I never have a bad time on the golf course,” Jansen said. “It really doesn’t matter where I’m playing. If it’s a beautiful day with good company, I’m going to have a good time.”

Three girls hold small white score cards as they read their scores.
Youth golfers Jolie Guyette, Aliisa Helminen and Ava Bloch read their scores for an official after playing golf in a tournament Monday, June 14, 2021, at the Brown County Golf Course in Oneida, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Getting young golfers into the game 

There are a few organizations invested in getting children and teens into golf. First Tee is one of them, Jansen said. They offer programs and summer camps and have chapters around the state. Most provide financial assistance, too. 

“They’re not only teaching golf,” Jansen said, “they’re teaching great life skills that these kids are going to carry forward with them, hopefully for the rest of their lives.”

Where to find discounted equipment

Check your local big box retailer for a used club section, Jansen said. They’ll have sets that people traded in after upgrading their gear. 

Additionally, First Tee chapters accept club donations. They clean clubs and gather sets for resale. Jansen said it’s a great, affordable option for both children and adults looking to get started. 

If all else fails, Jansen said, you can check out the Internet or eBay for deals and discounts on used equipment.

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