How do pro golfers travel you might ask? Back in 2018, I was in a pickle. I had somehow found myself alongside a Mission Impossible crew, crammed in the back of an Escalade that was careening down Sunrise Highway. At the helm was a seasoned FedEx driver who had intel on the local routes. Our assignment? We needed to be at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club at precisely 6:15am for the third round of the U.S. Open. Sitting passenger’s side was a local chiropractor who was running the physical therapy tents treating players and caddies onsite, and there was not a moment to spare.
We weaved in and out of traffic seamlessly. But then, cresting a hill, we saw a nightmare slowdown ahead. The minutes on the GPS crept higher and higher as we approached the back of the bottleneck. There are only so many roads out to eastern Long Island, after all – unless you know the backroads. “Hang on,” our getaway driver cautioned. Before we could reach the standstill, he veered onto the exit ramp. The traffic lights weren’t cutting it, so we swerved down a suburban street in Hampton Bays. With a thud, we were off-roading it down a dirt path. Don’t ask me how we came out of the woods on the other side. Don’t ask me how we made it to the course with time to spare. All I know is, the pros had a much easier commute in.
Don’t get me wrong – there are still players who grind it out every week. Take Viktor Hovland, for instance, who drove up and down the Eastern Seaboard fueled by Redbull and rock music. After a historic weekend debuting as the first Japanese Masters champion, Hidekyi Matsuyama was spotted in Atlanta airport with his green jacket…and a commercial ticket.
However, with a 2021-2022 Tour schedule of 48 events and majors to boot (check out this spectator’s guide!), the travel fatigue from such trite transport can tap into energy reserves otherwise needed for competition. Athletes who can afford to are opting for more lavish modes of getting around (Tiger has a $20 million yacht appropriately named “Privacy,” after all). From planes to luxury rental cars, here’s everything you need to know about how the pros travel in style.
How do pro golfers travel in the sky?
Sky’s the Limit
Private jets are preferred by many on the PGA Tour due to their convenience and privacy. Around twenty former and current PGA Tour members, including Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman, own private jets. If a multimillion-dollar purchase (plus regular fuel, crew and maintenance costs) isn’t in budget, there are several programs incentivizing players to fly high.
Back in 2020, the PGA Tour unveiled a charter jet plan to encourage pros and caddies to take advantage of its fleet for inter-tournament travel – an enterprise meant to combat the challenges of COVID-19. Weekly flights were scheduled to leave following the conclusion of each PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Korn Ferry Tour event. A “first-come, first-serve” policy allowed individuals to reserve seats, with planes capping out at 114 people in accordance with safety protocols. The seats came with a price tag, of course: $600 for PGA and Champions Tour pros, and a discounted $300 for caddies and Korn Ferry Tour pros (not bad for an easy getaway every Monday). While it’s unclear if the Tour has continued this ferrying since, the option did prove more reasonable than shelling out for one’s own personal Boeing.
Private charter jet companies are growing increasingly intertwined with the Tour. “Every time a PGA TOUR Ambassador boards one of our jets, we strive to offer the most efficient and relaxing way to travel—to the course and home again” says Patrick Gallagher, Netjets’ President of Sales, Service and Marketing. Netjets’ website is adorned with side-by-sides of Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka (placed cheekily, perhaps) as it details its commitment to professional athletes. Gallagher states, “people are now coming to the realization that the ultimate luxury is peace of mind. What seemed like an extravagance is now becoming more of a necessity.”
The company offers both buy-in share options (where you can own a portion of their assets) as well as a lease program (where you can purchase flight time in 25-hour increments). Pros using the latter can expect air mile costs to begin around $6,500 per hour for a light jet; for larger jets, the price can skyrocket to as much as $16,000 per hour. While some pros may reserve their own planes to fly family, team, and friends, it’s not uncommon for guys on Tour to share a ride and split the bill. Talk about an expensive carpool!
There are other jet companies on the market. Louis Oosthuizen and Ricky Fowler use Wheels Up, whose initiation fee of $2,995 includes a $1,000 flight credit but requires yearly dues on top of flight hours billed. Packages at Flight Options are comparable to Netjets’ with fractional ownership, leases, and flight cards. Mobile apps exist for many of these businesses to make travel seamless with reservations and payment.
How do pro golfers travel on the ground?
Ground transport is just as flashy. Players are provided with courtesy cars every week, which are free, decked-out rentals provided by the likes of Lexus, Cadillac, and BMW. Players can choose which model they’d like to take for a spin each week, from SUVs to speed machines. At the BMW Championship in 2016, Justin Rose sported the $140,000 BMW i8. And back in 2014, Ernie Els loved his courtesy Escalade so much that he wound up buying it at the end of the week.
Some players even strike up sponsorship deals after winning prestigious tournaments. Cadillac brought on Collin Morikawa as a sponsored athlete last year after his monumental success, and an Escalade now sits in Morikawa’s garage. Free lifts every week? A free set of wheels? Yes, please.
Safe and Sound
Privacy is often the price paid once players reach a certain level of achievement and fame in their careers. The cost to regain said privacy will leave players paying a hefty price tag. For those who can afford it, exclusive travel methods are a luxury indeed. But the most important thing is making the trip safe and sound.