If you want to have a comfortable retirement, become a professional golfer. In a phenomenon which I think is unique to professional golf, three of the sport's top earners are retired, barely earned any money on the course, yet still raked in staggering amounts in endorsements and other income, off the course.
Here's a look at the top five professional golfers who made the most money in 2011, both on and off the course:
1. Tiger WoodsI think Tiger is just starting to get his form back after a few years of injuries and scandals. His income took a drastic hit, believed to be down 50% from his peak in 2009. In 2011, Tiger earned $2,067,059 on the course and $62,000,000 off the course, for a total of $64,067,059. I think that off-course number is shocking, especially since he's only won one tournament since 2009.
2. Phil MickelsonI like Phil Mickelson, he's one of my favorite players and has been for a while. Other people obviously like him too and sponsors know this, making him a valuable commodity in the endorsement world. In 2011, Mickelson earned a respectable $3,991,564 actually playing golf, and another $38,000,000 in endorsements and other income, simply because he plays golf. He earned a total of $41,991,564.
3. Arnold PalmerI think golf legend and icon Arnold Palmer has it pretty good. He earned $0 on the course, but it didn't matter as his name and reputation brought him $36,000,000 in 2011, not bad for an 82-year-old guy.
4. Jack NicklausI think the Golden Bear is truly the greatest golfer of the modern age and Jack Nicklaus' name is synonymous with golf. He makes a huge sum of money from his golf businesses, especially designing courses. In 2011, Nicklaus earned only $155,000 on the course and $28,800,000 off the course, for a total of $28,955,000.
5. Greg NormanRetired pro Greg Norman runs numerous golf businesses and also is a successful vintner. His clothing line, with its shark logo, is extremely successful. While only earning $75,118 on the course, Norman pulled in $22,750,000 off the course, making 2011 a very good year with a total income of $22,825,118.
Honorable mention - Luke DonaldLuke Donald may have earned less than Greg Norman overall, but more than half of his earnings came from playing great golf. He earned $13,183,497 on the course and $8,500,000 off the course, for a total of $21,683,497. His great play and showing on both the PGA and European Tour money list made him more attractive to sponsors.
Freddy Sherman is true sports fan, especially the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Raiders. He plays golf, loves Formula 1 racing and can be followed on twitter: @thefredsherman
More from this contributor: