iain carter

Is there too much prize money in golf?

Speaking on The NCG Golf Podcast, ahead of the release of his new book, BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter asks whether the cash being shelled out in the game is sustainable


Golf has “serious questions to answer” on whether ever increasing prize money levels in the professional game are sustainable. Speaking on The NCG Golf Podcast, Iain Carter said the money being taken home by players at the top level was “not commensurate with the impact they’re having on the wider sporting public”.

The long-time BBC Golf Correspondent was discussing his new book: Golf Wars: LIV and Golf’s Bitter Battle for Power and Identity.

Available on April 11, it chronicles the conflict between the establishment PGA Tour and the upstart Saudi Arabian-backed venture.

A key battleground throughout the dispute has been prize money, with regular LIV Golf events boasting a $25 million prize fund. The PGA Tour have responded in kind, with $4 million handed out to the winners of Signature Events and $25 million up for grabs at The Players.

There have been rapid rises in the prize pots at majors too, leading R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers to warn, during last year’s Open at Royal Liverpool, the game had to take a “strategic approach that is financially sustainable over the longer term rather than just finding short term solutions”.

Asked on the podcast whether the rapid growth in remuneration for players could continue at its current rate, Carter said: “You wouldn’t have thought so. What they’re taking home is not commensurate with the impact they’re having on the wider sporting public. I think you can say that.

“This hyper-inflation has come about because golf is being seen as strategically important to the future of Saudi Arabia.

iain carter

Iain Carter: ‘It is unsustainable at this level’

“That’s why, suddenly, you’ve got $25 million for the Players Championship and $20 million Signature Events on the PGA Tour, and guaranteed money, and all of that.

“But for most golfers – the only reason you’d know they are golfers is because they’ve got a white forehead. You’d need to be into the game to know if they were walking down the street.”

With falling TV audience figures bringing this into sharper focus, Carter recalled a chapter in his book where he talked with the Wall Street Journal’s Josh Carpenter about the contrast with NASCAR.

“He made the point that NASCAR drivers don’t get anywhere near the money the top golfers are getting. Yet, on a Sunday afternoon, NASCAR will get a bigger audience on American television than golf will,” he explained.

“Well, that’s unsustainable, isn’t it? There is a whole industry around golf, as we all know, and the recreational game is booming post Covid.

“But what about the professional game? And, as I said before, the viewing figures are falling in America.

“It is, I think, unsustainable at this level. Notwithstanding, obviously, the Strategic Sports Group investment – and $1.5 billion has gone in there. But it’s investment. It’s money that ultimately has to see a return otherwise it will be taken away.

“So golf has some serious questions to answer in that respect and I think Martin Slumbers was quite right to highlight the question mark over sustainability at these levels of prize money going forward. Because, as we know, economic bubbles burst.”

  • Golf Wars: LIV and Golf’s Bitter Battle for Power and Identity, by Iain Carter, is priced at £20. You can buy a copy here.

Now listen to The NCG Golf Podcast

Iain Carter joins us to talk about his new book, Golf Wars: LIV and Golf’s Bitter Battle for Power and Identity. Check out the episode.

Now have your say

What do you think of Iain Carter’s thoughts? Is prize money in the game out of control? Let us know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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