Many people dream of becoming professional golfers either on the, for men, PGA and LPGA Tour for women. Although that is a dream of many, playing golf for a career only becomes a reality for a few lucky individuals.
But what are the chances of making it? The odds of becoming a professional golfer?
There are a lot of factors that occur behind the scenes to launch a golfer from amateur status to professional golf. Of course, you must be one of the best golfers, which requires a large time commitment.
Unfortunately, golf is an expensive sport after all, and this causes a lot of issues for aspiring professional golfers. This financial burden is not only a stress on the bank account but also additional mental stress as each and every shot comes with a price when trying to golf pro.
In the end, millions play golf across America, but less than two hundred compete in a pro tour event in any given week. Do not let this number discourage you, and continue reading to see how hard is it to become a pro golfer and if you have what it takes!
The Odds of Becoming a Professional Golfer
Of course, it is hard to put a figure on it, but I would say if you love golf and are willing to spend all the time you have improving your golf game and the mental side of it, this is what you’re looking at:
- PGA Tour player: 1 in 16486 or 0.006%
- Lower tour level and mini-tour players: 1 in 6100 or 0.02%
- Someone making a living out of golf, for example, a club pro: 1 in 226 or 0.4%
So what does it take to beat those odds? Well keep reading and we’ll break it down, but first let’s see how I arrived at those numbers.
Chances of Becoming a Pro Golfer – Working it Out
While there were 34.2 million people playing golf in 2019, just 24.3 of these were on an actual golf course. Now, these people would have been all ages and skill levels, some may never pick up a club again.
So let’s narrow that down a bit further.
Now I’m not saying that if you are 35 or over, you’re over the hill, but your chances definitely go down.
There were 6.1 million young adults between the age of 18 – 34 on playing on a golf course in 2019 and 2.5 million juniors.
For these odds, I will stick with the first number as that is a more realistic age to think of turning pro.
So the first one was easy, there are an average of around 150 PGA Tour golfers in any given year and around 220 active LPGA Tour members making a living out of professional golf.
If you are not quite on the top tour, then you can certainly make a living out of mini tours and the Nationwide Tour which is, what you could call, Minor League Golf. Many of the top players play through this level before turning pro.
It’s really hard to find a correct figure for the number of players on the various mini and developmental tours, but researching shows a number close to 1000 players are taking part in lower-level competitions. However, this figure is definitely worth taking with a pinch of salt as the competition is tough, there are entry fees and much of the travel costs will be undertaken at a personal level. So while there are 1000 or so players, not all of them will be making a living off these tours.
Finally, you could argue that a pro golfer is anyone making a living out of golf, so that includes PGA members who are club pros. There are 27,000 golf pros, according to the PGA website.
So there you have my justification, let’s take a closer look at how you can take the challenge on and beat those odds to live the dream.
How do I Earn a PGA Tour Card?
Although this is the question on everyone’s mind, there is no single answer. A majority of professional golfers begin as amateurs either early in their childhood or high school days. From competing at a young age they then transition to college golf to further enhance their skills and compete on an intercollegiate level before they turn pro.
Along this journey, to become a pro golfer, they are also competing for years in amateur championships, racking up a golf resume of sorts to establish their dominance on the course. The golfer that best fits this model is the well known Tiger Woods. Competing at a young age, racking up national amateur championships, and attending Stanford University prior to transitioning onto the pro tour.
Now this is the most common path, however, it is certainly not the only path.
For starters, you must go through the intensive Q School or Qualifying School, applications are available on the PGA website. The process contains four rounds, each costing you between $2,700 and $4,500, and you will play between 54 and 108 holes.
Can you do it? Well the average score for round two, a 72 hole tournament, was between 15 and 18 under par.
Passing this and making it to the Korn Ferry Tour there are three ways to earn a PGA Tour Card. This is from either being in the Top 25 on the season or finals money list, and if you get three wins on the Korn Ferry Tour in one season.
There are other professional golf leagues in different countries, however, the PGA Tour is certainly the most prestigious, hardest to enter, and the most lucrative. Whether you are from America, have played in high school and college, or are a local golf club legend trying to make it big all players must go through this process above.
What Scores do I Need to Play Professional Golf?
Week in and week out, professional golfers on the pro tour shoot scores consistently under par on some of the toughest golf courses in the United States. The tour average for the 2020 season was 1 under par per round, however, the lowest scoring average shot by Webb Simpson was a cool three under par over fifty-two rounds).
Speaking that most golfers never shoot a round of three-under-par in their lifetime, this is an extremely difficult feat. As mentioned earlier the Q School scores were between fifteen and eighteen under par for a four-round tournament.
This type of golf takes extreme dedication, time, and hard work which is not for the faint of heart. It takes hundreds of hours to perfect your swing, hitting golf ball after golf ball on the driving range, and, of course, as a golf professional, you have to nail that putt every time!
But it’s not just the golf course you have to be good enough on, there is also the mental side of the game. Any player on the professional tours will tell the famous saying that talks about golf being 90% mental and 10% mental is pretty much spot on.
It’s not about the equipment you have. Many are good enough at fundamental skills in the game of golf, but it is what you are carrying around in your mind that separates the pro golfers from those that spend years on the mini tours.
In summary, you need to practise your butt off and have incredible mental strength to shoot under par in order to play golf professionally consistently.
What is the Handicap of a Pro Golfer?
So here’s the funny thing. While you’re out there trying to get your handicap down as low as possible, these guys don’t really bother having one. Once you get to this level of the game and become a tour pro, a golf handicap is no longer useful.
But, say we were to work it out? What would it be? Luckily someone else has done the work for us. Basically, with your handicap, you get to take those shots off to adjust your round, well, the pros have to add them, and the average handicap of a pro player is +5.4.
How Much will it Cost to Become a Professional Golfer?
This question is also difficult to answer because aside from the cost of playing in junior tournaments and Q School it is really up to you on how much you are willing to pay for the most part.
For example, it depends on travel costs, if partaking in a nationwide tour, a golf club membership, lessons, clothing, etc. A majority of these items are dependent on how much you are willing to invest in your development.
However, when attempting to play pro golf it is necessary to have a PGA or bust mentality due to the time commitment, and overall cost. In golf you only make your money back by winning tournaments, so being a mediocre golfer results in a mediocre payout.
In the end, it is up to you to consider the ultimate price you are willing to pay to become a professional golfer.
Final Thoughts on the Odds Becoming a Professional Golfer?
As you can see, the odds of becoming a professional golfer are pretty low, but it is certainly not impossible.
It will take a lot of hard work, many years, and a lot of money to become a professional golfer however the dividends are huge! One win as a golf professional could certainly secure you hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not a million dollars.
It is certainly a difficult journey and not for everyone. You have to really, really like golf.
Even if you go to a qualifying event or mini tournaments and do not make it, do not be discouraged as you could play in amateur tournaments as well.
I hope this article was helpful to you, and good luck on your journey to becoming a professional golfer. But whether you make it onto the professional level or not golf is still an awesome lifelong sport.