Golfers on the PGA Tour don’t have to take club professional jobs and give lessons to duffers anymore to pay the bills, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for ways to merge golf and business.
Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are the gold standard for golfers parlaying their on-course success into off-course ventures. Palmer, who passed away last year, earned more than $40 million thanks to his portfolio of business interests in 2016. Jack Nicklaus took in an estimated $20 million from his far-reaching empire of products and course design, which includes everything from direct-to-consumer golf balls to ice cream, just in the past year.
While Tiger Woods has amassed a reported net worth in excess of $1 billion, he has only recently gotten into the world of business with his course design and restaurant ventures. Previously, he had dedicated his limited free time to developing the Tiger Woods Learning Center.
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This is in no way an exhaustive list. It’s limited to golfers who are currently playing at the highest level, and it doesn’t include endorsements or foundations as business ventures. For example, Jordan Spieth’s “Spieth One” golf shoe isn’t a business venture for Jordan Spieth, it’s simply his sponsor, Under Armour, utilizing him for their ends (not that Spieth minds, certainly).
Ultimately, this list is a look at some of the interesting ways pro golfers are profiting outside the ropes, with an emphasis on legitimate business concepts, not, you know, appearance fees.
Bubba Watson: Candy, Baseball
Bubba Watson’s business interests are some of the more...interesting. He opened “Bubba’s Sweet Spot” a candy and ice cream store in Pensacola, Florida, last year. The left-hander also has an ownership state in the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, a minor league baseball team.
(Photo source/Bubba's Sweet Spot)
Phil Mickelson: Course design
Mickelson hasn’t made massive inroads in the business world outside of golf (beyond, well, gambling), but he has designed a few venues, and will surely do more once he’s done competing. Whisper Rock in Arizona is his most notable design.
Ian Poulter: Clothing design
While the firm has now gone belly up, Ian Poulter was designing clothes for IJP Design for the better part of a decade. While the tartans apparently weren’t selling, Poulter’s level of involvement in a clothing company while playing is unprecedented for a golfer.
(Photo source/IJP Design)
Graeme McDowell: Restaurants
Graeme McDowell’s Orlando restaurant, Nona Blue, has “a tavern soul and a foodie heart” according to the company. The spot is popular among pros, and the good folks at Google Reviews describe it as an “urbane pub with a sprawling wood-topped bar serving American fare with modern twists & small plates.”
(Photo source/Nona Blue
Dustin Johnson: Golf schools
We include Dustin Johnson’s golf school at TPC Myrtle Beach because it’s interesting that a top player in the prime of his career would open an instructional academy. Also, it’s interesting that DJ, admittedly an extreme “feel” player is throwing his weight behind formal instruction.
(Photo source/Dustin Johnson Golf Schools)