Monday, July 31, 2006

The Future of Golf Needs Help:

This morning the future of golf paraded by my house and I liked what I saw.  I am just concerned that I might have seen the last parade for the future of golf.

I am fortunate to have several members of the PGA 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 the golf professional 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 carts for a golf outing or to giving golf lessons.  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.  With an annual salary of less than $50K a year.   Close, but no cigar.

So, you ask, where is the money in this profession?  Well, I am not sure.  I am with you in saying the pay out on the Playing Tour seems to be good, but like the rest of the opportunities available to these golf profession, there are only a few hundred openings on the player’s tour.


 What about the thousands of others who are just as well trained, if not better, on the rest of the golf profession?  Well, they are all vying for the few hundred positions at golf facilities where the value of a PGA members training is truly appreciated.  

What takes place at most golf facilities is they are managed and operated by a golf management group that runs the golf as if it was a retail outlet.  These golf course management groups look at what the PGA members’ training provide as no more than what a clerical employees cold provide at minimum wage.

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 game of golf.  These firms see their need covered by hiring someone to 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.

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 leave me and you?  Or more importantly where does that leave the golf industry?  Well, simply put, 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 put on a golf event, of how to explain how the golf swing affects a golfer from hitting a golf club correctly.  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. 

Yes, that will be what we can expect if these smiling young people who paraded by my house this morning are not able 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 be out of reach for most golfers.  This would have he same affect on he golf industry if there is not done.

The rebuttal to that is to provide 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.

In the private sector let the golf professional use their customer service training to substantiate the increase in any costs.  Let them 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.

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.


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


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