One of the benefits of living on a golf course is that you do get to watch a lot of golf…good and bad, and some that is really bad. But this morning was different.
Because this morning the future of golf paraded by my house and I liked what I saw. I am hoping I have not seen the last parade of the future of golf.
I am fortunate to have several members of the PGA & LPGA as personal friends. These relationships have provided me with a different look at the profession of golf. And I have developed a heightened respect for what these young men and women are going through to become a member of the PGA.
What was taking place on the golf course I live on was the periodic PAT (Players Ability Test) the PGA produces to test the new candidates for membership into the PGA apprentice program. Like in most memberships there are minimum requirements that have to be met and in the PGA there is are minimum playing skills each candidate has to have to become a member.
And from what I saw of the dozens of players I watched taking their test of 36 holes of golf, they take it pretty seriously. There were men and women from all walks of life all decked out in their favorite and stylish golf apparel playing every shot like it was their very last shot. And I am sure in some cases it could actually be their last shot. The intensity was there and so where the smiles.
But I am worried that these kids are not truly aware that the profession they are testing for is somewhat of a bitter sweet career. Yes, they are going after their dream of being a member of the PGA. Their heads are full of thoughts of getting to playing golf all day for a living. When in fact playing golf is probably what they will do the least.
These men and women will go through what could take three years of working in every aspect of golf professional’s duties. Everything from learning how to re-gripping clubs to folding every shirt on display in the Pro-Shop a thousand times.. Or, getting the repeated opportunity of jockeying golf carts all in a line for a golf outing or to giving golf lessons. And they do this Six days a week, up to 10 hours each day…non-stop. If they are lucky, they may get to play golf on their day off. And they do all of this for an annual salary that would equal the price of a Hyundai car. I would say that is not a real good investment in the future of the game of golf.
Yes, if they continue to work their way through the program, finish their apprenticeship and pass their test they will then become a Class ‘A’ professional making them eligible for a Head Professional position. Which in most cases has an annual starting salary of less than $50K a year. Kind of astonishing isn’t it..
So, you ask, where is the money in the golf profession?
As most of us see, the pay out on the Playing Tour seems to be pretty good, so we can see that there is some money in that portion of the profession, but there are only a few hundred openings on the player’s tour.
So, what about the thousands of other members of the PGA who are just as well trained, if not better, on working in the rest of the golf profession? Well, they are all vying for the few thousand positions at golf facilities where the value of a PGA members training is truly appreciated.
These are the people you and I deal with and without them , well, I don’t want to think what playing golf would be like with out these people who are trained in every need anyone playing golf will have.
Why are there not more opportunities for these kids to live their dream of being a member of the PGA and provide golfers with professionally trained services?
Well, the managing of golf at many facilities has changed. No longer are many of he golf facilities in this country are managed by PGA professionals. What has taken place at most golf facilities is they are owned, managed and operated by a golf management group that runs the golf as if it was a retail outlet store. These golf course management groups provide for the very basics and feel they have no need for the overall training the PGA members have been provide and replace that expertise with someone who is more or less a clerical employee..
Now I can’t say for sure since I have not worked for one of these firms, but from all indications it looks to me that these golf management companies see little importance in using the training of the PGA members to oversee the golf that is played at these facilities. These firms see their need covered by hiring someone to just run the cash register and make sure the tee times are scheduled. Anything outside of that, like customer service or technical golf support is deemed not profitable so it really doesn’t matter and is not provided.
So, what is in store for the future of golf? Well, if there is not a way for these kids who sweated out their PAT this afternoon to make a descent living from being a professional golfer then we can kiss the game of golf as we know it good bye.
These men and women are the future of golf and will be the next generation of professionals, club managers and golf instructors. If they can’t make enough money to provide for a family from being a club professional then they are going to have to find something else that will.
Where does that leave me and you? Or more importantly where does that leave the golf industry? Well, simply put, first we will not have anyone who knows how to teach the game of golf. So eventually there will be no new golfers to enter the game to keep it going for the next generation and feed the golf equipment industry. With no golfer buying equipment the manufacturers of golf equipment will pull back. And as a result, golfers will lose interest in the game and leave the game forever.
The golf industry will be without anyone who knows how to organize a golf event, of how to explain how the golf swing affects a golfer ability to correctly hitting a golf ball with a golf club. There will be nobody to help sale the ever changing golf equipment.
In the private club sector, the Golfers will lose any respect they had from the clubs who use golf management groups to run the golf portion of the club. The members will tire quickly of coming in to the pro-shop and seeing the golf shop staff playing video games or horsing around like they worked at the pizza joint. So, they quit their country club membership and interrupting the economy of the club, forcing it to make even more budget cuts which ultimately effect the service to the members and the club dies a slow death.
Yes, that will be what we can expect if these smiling young people who paraded by my house this morning are not able to afford to make their dream come true.
What is the solution? It is not clear. Skeptics say that if the salaries of the PGA professionals apprentices where brought up to their true scale of what they are providing the industry it would force an increase in the cost of golf that will push playing golf of reach for most golfers. But would it? Well, I would have to look at the books of a facility that feels they need to do that in order to believe it would. It may call for a small increase, And if that was a fact, I know that one of smartly trained PGA professional could find a way to over come the impact of the increase has on the golfers of a facility.
The rebuttal to an increase of cost driving people away form golf could be made by allowing PGA members to use their training and find solutions that off set the need for cost increase or justifies the increase. Simple things like providing more no-cost services to substantiate the increase. In the public section of the golf industry let the golf professional use their entrepreneurial training to add more value to playing golf at the facility. I know they can do it.
In the private sector let the golf professional use their customer service training to substantiate the increase in any costs. One solution I can offer is to let the PGA member be available to play golf with the members. How valuable is that. Each person gets an on course lesson and each professional gets to do what they like to do…play golf. Of course that is just one solution. I am sure there are many. And I could see me paying more to get that honored opportunity…
So for me, I would like to see the parade of new golf professionals continue outside my backdoor and I want to see golf grow prosperous for the members of the PGA.
And most of all, I want to help.
So, there you have it. It will take all of the people who play golf to make the change that is needed to keep golf going for the future generations of golfers and it will take the PGA and LPGA members to manage it effectively. Until a solution can be found I ask you take the time to thank each of the members of the PGA and LPGA who help you enjoy the game of golf and for taking the time to keeping the game of golf around and thank them again for remaining in the industry so they can help all of us.
Scot Duke, President of Innovative Business Golf Solutions, provides over 31 years of corporate management experience to helping small businesses improve their marketing strategies. As author of: How To Play Business Golf, Mr. Duke outlines the steps to sucessfully using golf as a business tool. To learn more about Mr. Duke, IBGS or to purchase How To Play Business Golf visit www.innovativebusinessgolf.com