Tennis vs Golf“I play more tennis than golf now.” – Greg Norman, who recently married Chris Evert

Like typical lesbians, Jeanine and I enjoy the game of golf. But with each round, I’m always conscious of the cost. After all, my money personality feels tested every time we shell out $75 to $150 to tee off at a nice public course in Orange County or Palm Desert.

Over the July 4th holiday, we used a gift certificate that Jeanine received for two rounds at a nearby course. We had never played there before so I asked the guy in the pro shop how much the round would have cost us: $178 a piece! We had a fantastic time, but not 356 dollars worth of fun… especially if I had to pay for it.

No matter how you slice it, golf is expensive. Jeanine would likely play more, but I’m the one holding us back from a money perspective. Whenever she suggests that we play, my typical first reaction is, “I don’t want to spend the money.”

She wins out about 5 or 6 times a year: usually because it gets tagged on as part of a weekend in Palm Springs. I’m an easy target when pool-lounging-in-the-desert is part of the package. I’m less likely to want to play when we can be doing other things that are free around Southern Cal… like riding our bikes, going for a hike or playing tennis.

Each time I pick up a club, I’m often reminded of the interview I did with Deb Price, a syndicated columnist writing about gay issues. I had read that she and her partner had paid off their mortgage and asked her how they cut back over the years to live below their means. She replied:

The “tennis lesson” is incredibly valuable. We’ve played tennis for 22 years, the length of our relationship, and now play on a gay doubles team in Washington, D.C., which throws in the priceless gift gay friends as well. We always travel with our tennis rackets, and we’ve played everywhere from the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris to the Old Cataract Hotel in Egypt that Agatha Christie fans will remember.

Tennis has brought us incredible joy, but at a teeny fraction of what golf would have cost. Our rackets are easily five years old at a combined cost of about $400, and we usually play on (free) public courts. All that saved money – added with taking lunch to work, buying gas on the cheaper side of town, abandoning “retail therapy” and rarely buying new clothes – is then freed up to have the splurge vacation, which is something we both really value.

It’s true. We can outfit ourselves and play tennis for a whole year for what it costs to play two rounds at the above mentioned golf club. Besides, Slate magazine thinks golf is horrible for America:

There are enough overweight out-of-shape people as it is, and you get guys spending five hours on the few days they have off away from their families playing golf, and then going out to eat and drink afterward. It’s horrible. There’s a Cain-and-Abel element at play here. Golf and tennis are essentially sibling rivals, both raised in white polo shirts, one wielding a 9-iron, the other a wooden racquet, who, during the leisure boom after World War II, left their stuffy country club to seek fame and fortune on a larger scale.

Health reasons aside, Hank Greenberg and Carl Icahn think golf is horrible for American business:

“I hate golf,” former AIG chairman Greenberg told the assembled crowd of investment bankers. “I play tennis. It doesn’t take long. Then I get back to work.”

After his talk we asked Greenberg about the popularity of golf among corporate executive.

“A lot of people like to get away from their work,” he said. “You have to wonder about whether they like what they’re doing.”

Icahn, the legendary corporate raider turned shareholder activist, was even more dismissive of golf. For him golf players symbolized the kind of clubby, chummy corporate executive he thinks is dragging down American business.

“These guys would rather play golf, slap each other on the back,” he said. “I want a guy running a company who sits in his tub at night thinking about the challenges he faces. The guy who can’t let it go. The focused guy.”

He has a point. Who has four hours to blow? Even on a weekend. Tennis provides a great form of entertainment at a fraction of the cost. What do you think? What are your sports costing you?

Photo credit: stock.xchng.