How Do Golfers Get Paid?
Golf is arguably one of the most lucrative sports, with pro golfers earning millions each year.
But how do these professional golfers get paid?
With any endeavor, the better the player, the more options they’re afforded.
All players in a tournament receive an equal shot at taking home the big check. Household names like Tiger and Phil are plastered across endorsements, allowing them to earn a fortune. However, there are many ways golfers can make money.
In this guide, we unveil the different ways golfers get paid on and off the course.
Do Professional Golfers Earn Salary?
Professional golfers don’t earn a salary in the traditional sense. In most professional sports leagues, athletes are paid primarily through a salary and a signing bonus, making them employees of the team.
However, PGA golfers make their living a little differently. Golfers make their income primarily through tournament winnings and endorsements.
Think of them as independent contractors since they receive a 1099 form during tax season. The downside of being an independent contractor is that professional golfers are responsible for their costs – including airfare, lodging, tournament entry, meals, and even their caddie.
This can pressure golfers to make cuts and finish as high as possible on the leaderboards.
However, the advantage is that professional golfers earn money purely through performance. The better they play and the higher they finish, the more their tournament winnings will be.
How Do Pro Golfers Earn Money?
Now that we know how pro golfers can earn money, let's go more in-depth.
Golf tournaments can potentially yield lucrative payouts for winners, offering the largest chunk of revenue for most golfers.
Winners of the tournament usually receive about 18% of the entire purse, while finishing in the top 10 or 20 still garners a substantial payout.
For perspective, here are the top five highest-paying tournaments based on their awarded purse:
- The Players Championship: In 2023, a total of $25 million was awarded to winners, with the first place receiving $4.5 million.
- The U.S. Open: This is the second of the four majors and is hosted in the United States. The 2023 event has a prize pool of $10 million.
- Genesis Invitational: The latest Genesis Invitational had a payout of $20 million, with $3.6 million going to the winner.
- PGA Championship: The golf season ends with this championship, boasting a jackpot of $25 million, with the winner receiving $4.5 million.
- FedEx Cup: In 2022, the FedEx Cup offers $75 million up for grabs, with $18 million going to Rory Mcllroy, the winner.
While golfers make the lion’s share of their income through tournament winnings, endorsement deals can skyrocket their earnings.
Brands offer golfers endorsement contracts to use their names to promote their products or services.
Players can receive additional compensation based on the product's success, such as bonuses for reaching milestones or a percentage of sales.
Event appearances ensure that golfers are paid just by attending a tournament (outside their regular schedule).
Sometimes, players are obligated to attend a certain number of events during the year.
However, players not signed to big deals can still earn event fees. Tournament organizers would contact the player’s agent and arrange for them to attend the events, including amateur tournaments, company outings, or black-tie dinners.
Playing competitive golf for a living may sound like a dream, but the reality of making the cut and creating a name for yourself can be challenging.
Not everyone can be the next Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, or Rory McIlroy.
Relying solely on tour money can be unpredictable and unstable. Thus, golfers who aren’t skilled enough to make the cut may look to other avenues to ensure they receive a steady income.
That’s why many professional golfers choose to take on coaching positions at golf clubs within their area. They use their expertise and experience to help other players level up their game.
In-person and online golf coaching allows golfers to receive risk-free and stable income streams - at least until their professional careers take off.
While they certainly wouldn’t receive tournament or endorsement level money, a coaching gig can earn golfers between $30,000 to $200,000 annually, especially if they start their own pro shop.
Player Impact Program (PIP)
The Player Impact Program is a new bonus program launched by the PGA Tour in 2021 to reward golfers who have positively impacted the sport through their engagement and popularity with the sponsors, media, and fans.
The program has a $40 million bonus pool distributed among the top 10 players who “positively move the needle” in terms of influence on the sport.
Tiger Woodsreceived $8 million in the inaugural PIP award, and the remaining nine players earned decreasing amounts.
As of now, the award gears toward household names who have a strong impact on the popularity of the sport.
How Much of Their Winnings Do Golfers Keep?
Earnings vary on several factors – caddy fees, transfer fees, and state tax.
Upon receiving the winnings, the golfer transfers a fee to the caddy, which is generally at least 5%.
Also, the PGA Tour subtracts state tax, and the bank will dock transfer fees deposited to their account.
Other expenses before the event should also be factored in, such as accommodation, flights, and food for their stay.
After that, whatever remains is what golfers get to keep.
Overall, you can expect that golfers will lose about 10% to 12% of the tournament purse that they’ve earned due to the above.
So if you’ve ever wondered how much money PGA players make and keep after all expenses, now you know.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Golfers Get Paid if They Don’t Make the Cut?
In most cases, golfers don’t get paid for simply showing up to a tournament. If they don’t make the cut, they aren’t paid. Prize money is awarded based on their finishing position. There are exceptions where players receive money just for making it to the tournament, such as the Masters.
For the 119 million fans, casuals, and amateurs who follow or play golf, they are privy to making a living playing the sport.
However, the elite golfers who turn professional get compensated primarily through tournament winnings and endorsements. The select few who rise to the top can amass fortunes, creating a household name for themselves and earning more than most athletes across all sports.