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Exploring the world of affluent leisure: let’s delve into the realm of exclusive pastimes.
From polo matches to yachting regattas, these ‘rich people sports’ define opulence.
Unveiling the allure of single sport obsessions, let’s unravel the extravagant pursuits that captivate high society.
11 Top Rich People Sports
Known as one of the most expensive sports in the world, polo has long been associated with the world’s wealthiest people, royalty, and high society.
This rich people’s sport dates as far back as the 6th century BCE when it was played by royal troops in Persia before spreading to South and East Asia. British tea planters first played polo in Assam, India, establishing the first European polo club there in 1859.
Polo was introduced to the USA in 1876 and the Westchester Polo Club was formed. Soon after, the Westchester Cup trophy was introduced (created by prestigious jewelry brand, Tiffany & Co). This historic tournament sees the English team compete against the US team.
Polo features two teams of four players on horseback. Each player has a mallet and the aim of the game is to score a goal by hitting a wooden ball between the goalposts.
The basic kit that you need to start playing polo can cost upwards of several thousand dollars. And that doesn’t include the expensive polo pony plus the entry fees for games and tournaments.
Polo ponies can range from several thousand dollars up to more than a hundred thousand dollars, so, like most equestrian sports, it’s typically one of those pricey rich people sports that’s not very accessible to the masses.
The origins of croquet can be traced back to 1066 and the Norman Conquest, when William the Conqueror defeated King Harold in the Battle of Hastings. Croquet was used as a recreation of the battle and even appears on the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry.
It became a popular sport among royalty, nobility, and high society. Croquet also became very popular at Oxford University during the early 13th century, with the first varsity croquet match being held in 1231 against Cambridge.
From Oxford University, the game traveled to the University of Paris. The Black Death of the 14th century forced play to stop but it continued in France, causing many people to think it was invented in France.
It became popular in Victorian Britain as a game that could be played by both men and women, where there was an equal footing and a slower, more elegant pace. This meant it was suitable for upper-class dress-wearing women to play.
Croquet appeared in art and literature of the period, with depictions of elite society enjoying the game on the large lawns of grand mansion homes.
However, while this might be a stereotypical sport for rich people, it’s not generally an expensive sport. Basic croquet sets are affordable to most people.
Generally, six hoops and four balls are used and players (usually teams of two) have to hit a ball through each of the hoops or wickets in the correct order, using a mallet.
Automobile racing or motor racing began shortly after the invention of the automobile in the late 19th century.
The first speedway for auto racing was built in the UK in 1906, with the Indianapolis Speedway opening in 1909. The Grand Prix dates back to 1906 in Le Mans, and the first Indy 500 was in 1911.
Stock-car racing, production-car racing, drag racing, and rally car racing became popular in the US in the 1930s. But these types of car races don’t tend to be as associated with wealthy people as automobile racing in the single-seat race cars seen in Formula One.
From the 1950s, the Formula One Grand Prix went from being a European race to a global event. This is an expensive race with almost a billion-dollar prize pot. The cars alone cost around $15 million, making it one of the most expensive sports.
For the 2023 Formula One racing season, teams have a $135 million spending limit on materials and technology for developing their car’s performance. There’s also an entry fee for each team that costs over half a million dollars.
While it can be easy for anyone to watch Formula One car racing on TV, it can be an expensive spectator sport for anyone who wants to travel to the events.
The races are held around the world, usually in glamorous locations, including Monaco and Singapore. There are also grand prix in Saudi Arabia, France, the UK, USA, Italy, Australia, Japan, and others.
Apart from the travel costs, the tickets for races will set you back hundreds of dollars.
The origins of sailing can be traced back thousands of years, with the first recorded evidence of a sailing boat being from ancient Egypt, around 3500 BCE.
Sailing was originally a method of transportation for travel and trade rather than sport but eventually grew into a sport around the 17th century. It was officially recognized as a sport in the Olympics in 1896.
Sailing vessels were historically part of the royal navy fleets of many countries. Some were owned by very wealthy individuals and merchants.
Today, sailing is still a sport that’s dominated by rich people, as the cost of the sailing club fees, equipment, and maintenance of the boat can be out of budget for the average person. You also need to be able to travel to the coast (or a large body of water) or live near one.
The prestigious America’s Cup trophy is a race that takes place every four years. The entry fee per team is around two million dollars. The cost of building the boat and maintaining a team runs into tens of millions of dollars
Sailing yachts don’t come cheap. Reserved for the super-rich, these sailing superyachts cost millions of dollars. The most expensive sailing yacht in the world is the Sailing Yacht A with an estimated price tag of $600 million.
You don’t have to be rich to enjoy the freedom of being on the water. Kayaking can be a fun and budget-friendly alternative to sailing.
Find out more about learning to kayak.
Fencing traces its history back to medieval Europe when it was used as a training method for military combat. However, sword fighting dates back hundreds of years before this.
Fencing has a reputation for being a sport for rich people. This is mostly because it’s traditionally an upper-class sport that was played in royal courts. The court of Louis XIV of France is where the dress code of stockings and breeches originated.
The idea is to score points by using the point of your sword to touch your opponent. The winner is the first to score 15 points. But there are three categories of fencing, each with its own set of rules.
Today fencing clubs are generally found in private schools and universities, notably Ivy League universities. This can sometimes lead people to develop an interest in fencing so they can get into better schools.
Fencing competitions are often held internationally, which can add to the expense of participating, with trips often costing tens of thousands of dollars every year. The equipment can also set you back anywhere from several hundred dollars to over a thousand.
Snow skiing is a favored winter sport for rich people. Most ski resorts are marketed to wealthy people, with luxury hotels and expensive designer stores lining the upscale mountain streets. Apres-ski is as much of a draw as the sport of downhill skiing.
Snow skiing dates back over 10,000 years, with various evidence of skiing being found in Russia, the Nordic countries, and China. During these ancient times, skiing was more of a way to get around rather than a sport.
Skiing as a sport is thought to date from 1840s Norway. Modern downhill snow skiing with recognizable skis is said to have begun in Norway in the 1850s with the first skiing competition being held there in 1868.
Ski resorts started to pop up in the 1920s and 1930s in the French Alps and the Rocky Mountains in the US.
Now, there are thousands of ski resorts around the world, offering snow skiing as well as snowboarding and other winter sports.
As well as the ski equipment costing a pretty penny, the travel and accommodation prices can be through the roof. Once you’re at the resort, the lift passes can cost around $300 per person for a one-day ticket, making it very much a rich person’s sport.
Rowing or crew is often associated with private schools and elite universities. This is a team sport that has developed from an ancient method of transportation thousands of years ago to a modern competitive sport that has been included in the Olympics since 1896.
The first rowing regatta was held in Venice in the late 13th century.
There are now various types of rowing competitions, including offshore races and coastal inshore races.
In the UK, the annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race takes place on the Thames. In the USA, the Harvard-Yale boat race takes place annually, also on the Thames, but in New London, Connecticut.
Rowing sculls can cost tens of thousands of dollars, with a single skull often costing around $10,000 or more, depending on the materials.
Fees for rowing club membership can also be eye-watering, running from a few hundred to over $1000 a year.
A less expensive alternative to rowing is kayaking, which is very similar but recreational kayaking is in a wider boat with a different style of paddling. If you’re interested in paddle sports and want to enjoy the relaxation that comes with being on the water and in nature, find out how to paddle a kayak.
Golf as we know it today can be traced back around 600 years to Scotland. The Old Course at St. Andrews claims to be the oldest golf course in the world and the “home of golf”.
People have been playing golf, known as the gentleman’s sport, on the links course at St. Andrews since at least the early 15th century.
In many parts of the world, golf is considered a fun sport for rich people. This may be due to the club membership fees and the expense of some of the equipment.
However, in other places, particularly places with a lot of golf courses (like Scotland), it can be a pretty accessible sport and you don’t necessarily need to be rich to play golf, though many rich people do play. It can also be played by people of any age.
Entering tournaments and traveling the world to participate can be pricey, which can be more affordable to rich people than the average person. But the prizes for winning can see players’ net worth increase dramatically.
The first golf tournament in the world was the Open Championship, generally known now as the British Open. This was first played in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club.
There are now numerous golf tournaments held around the world with multi-million dollar prize pots. Notable and high-earning names in golf include Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, and Rory McIlroy.
Lacrosse is thought to date back to around the 12th century when Indigenous tribes in North America are believed to have used the game as a way of settling disputes.
Lacrosse is thought to be the oldest team sport in North America and it was made the national sport of Canada in 1859 (it shares this accolade with ice hockey).
Despite its humble beginnings, Lacrosse has since developed a reputation for being a sport for rich people. It’s played by private schools, mainly on the East Coast of the US, and is one of the country club sports that is favored by many Ivy League universities.
Another reason it has become less accessible than sports like American football is the fees for joining private Lacrosse clubs. Some membership fees can be more than $10,000, which doesn’t include tournament fees, travel, or the expensive kit.
Unlike some of the other sports that can generate a high net worth from earnings, such as soccer, basketball, and American football, professional Lacrosse players are not typically high earners and most of them earn less than the average US salary.
Horse racing dates back thousands of years to ancient civilizations. It existed in the ancient Olympic Games around 700 BCE in Greece. It’s believed that horse racing began in ancient China, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Horse racing for a monetary prize first occurred in Richard the Lionheart’s 12th-century England. The riders were knights and the fastest was the winner.
From then on, subsequent kings and queens held studs and during the 17th century, Newmarket was proclaimed the headquarters of horse racing in England by the royal patronage of Charles II.
Today, racehorses can cost millions of dollars, with the cheaper ones still setting you back tens of thousands. And it can cost over a hundred thousand dollars a year to look after a racehorse. This is often why racehorses are co-owned.
Despite losing popularity in recent years, horse racing as a sport is still popular with royal families around the world, many of whom own racehorses. The British Royals frequently attend race meets and own several racehorses.
You don’t have to be rich to watch. Horse racing attracts spectators from all walks of life because of the gambling aspect. Sports betting is a major part of racing horses. However, it’s usually only wealthy people who can participate in owning and training the horses.
Tennis is one of the most accessible sports on the list despite being played by many rich people. Tennis courts can be found in many exclusive country clubs around the world.
However, the benefit of tennis, particularly in the USA, is that you’re probably not far from a tennis court, so almost anyone can enjoy this fun sport, as long as you have a keen interest and a tennis racket.
The origins of tennis are not particularly clear. Early concepts of the game may date from ancient Egypt while later adaptations can be traced back to 12th century France and the game of jeu de paume. From the 14th century, it was popular with royalty and nobility in Europe.
The first Wimbledon tournament was held in 1877. As well as grass, tennis is now played on a variety of surfaces, including clay and hard surfaces, such as concrete and acrylic.
Successful professional tennis players earn millions of dollars in prize money and sponsorship deals. For example, retired former world number one, Roger Federer, has an estimated net worth of over $500 million, with the top ten richest players all said to each have a net worth of over $100 million.
If you want to watch the current sports stars in action, tickets to a Grand Slam match are not cheap.
Tickets to Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open are all notoriously expensive, with the best seats in the biggest courts often being affordable only to the wealthiest people. It’s common to see the British royal family at Wimbledon, along with the Hollywood elite.