The business of golf – The Club Professional

By Alan Prescott
March 16, 2021

Today’s article could be a discussion that continues for over 100 articles. For me, it’s a discussion of several touring golf professionals and one special club professional. As many of you, who have read my articles, both the business of golf and the game of golf have been a career that I have loved for over 65 years. Yet, I have yet to learn it all or enjoy it all. But, I experience something different almost everyday and I am very thankful for every moment. On May 28, 2021, I will cross 73 years old, and I will begin my 66th year since I first teed it up with my father at Twin Brooks Country Club in Watchung, New Jersey. As of tonight, March 14, 2021, I am still doing what I love. That is, I am giving back to the game that captivated me at the tender age of 7.

Every golf professional has his/her story about their golf career. Today’s article concerns the men who were or who are golf professionals. Even though many of the criteria and events that happen along the way in the golf business are similar in the lives of both sexes, women in golf have had a different impact that deserves a separate discussion at a separate article. Herein lies the discussion of several men and their golf careers. Let me begin.

Most golfers recognize 2 different groups of golf professionals. The first group are the club professionals. For the most part, club professionals are the professionals that run the golf shops at local golf courses where golfers play. As of today, the PGA (Professional Golf Association of America) has nearly 29,000 members. There are around 15,500 golf courses in the United States (as reported on 7/23/2019). On 3/11/2015, the total was 15,372, which was down from a peak of 16,052 courses, according to the article in 2015.

For the past several years, especially in light of the 2020 pandemic, the numbers have waivered up and down. In addition, land prices have increased significantly, allowing for the sale of some golf courses to developers, especially those who are at the end of their careers as golf course owners or due to the shift in population demographics. When looking at the statistics above, one can see that there are an excess of PGA Golf Professionals relative to the number of golf courses today. And, to make matters worse, many active golf courses do NOT have a PGA Golf Professional on staff. Some of the PGA golf professionals are employed at golf driving ranges and in off-course golf shops.

It’s nice to relax and watch a golf tournament on television. But, while the tour players do, to some extent, promote the game of golf, those who really support and promote golf are the PGA Club Professionals. Club professionals are often erroneously compared to Tour players. The PGA Tour members are members of a separate group of golf professionals. They play a separate role in professional golf (to be discussed later in this article). Within the evolution of the PGA, club professionals worked in the shadows of their golf courses. They were relegated to the backrooms of their golf shops and, in the opinion of many, were not given the respect that they deserved. As time went on, club professionals earned more respect and the Tour, in its earliest stages, promoted golf and its members displayed their playing skills.

You might ask, “What is the true place of the club professional in the game of golf”? Club Professionals are the backbone of golf. They run all aspects of golf at their golf course. This includes teaching, pro shop, bag room, tournaments and scoring, merchandising, golf carts, and much more. Many of them are also club managers and golf course superintendents. During their apprenticeship, they attend rules school, marketing and merchandising schools, and classes on the golf swing and golf club repair, just to mention a few aspects of their training. The one thing that starts their training is the PAT or Player Ability Test. Offered at several times during the year, the PAT is a stroke competition. It’s a 2-round, 36-hole test and, before you compete that day, you are told what the qualifying score for the day is. Those who score that number or less pass their PAT.

Much of the apprentice professional’s training is on-the-job training. As an apprentice professional, you are trained in the golf shop, on the driving range, handling golf carts, merchandising, tournament administration, and you are taught by the head golf professional, that you work for, in between your section training. The one thing, that most people use as a standard of professionalism, is a club professional ability to play the game of golf. But, that’s only an incomplete standard. Try shooting a par or under par score after you stand on your feet for 10-12 hours. In addition to all of these tasks in the shop for the professional staff, and definitely part of the club professional’s job is teaching. Some professionals teach 10 lessons in one day. Can you imagine looking at 10 swings or more on an average day and trying to shoot a great score after a full day? And, how about collect greens and cart fees?

Despite all of this, whereas the PGA Tour Professionals showcase their games, the club professional bears the burden of developing and supporting the game. He or she deserves your respect at all times. From teaching your children to play golf to running all aspects of your golf course, PGA Golf Professionals are charged with maintaining, growing, and supporting the game of golf that you enjoy.

In my next article, I will discuss the PGA Tour. It’s the most visible part of the sport of golf. But, what part does the Tour really play in the overall picture? You’ll be surprised!! As always, I am Alan Prescott and I am here for you. I can be reached at [email protected].

Be safe.

Editor’s Note: Alan Prescott reached out to us after reading a recent article on the Fernandina Beach Golf Course. His articles are being well received by golfers and non-golfers.  We thank Alan for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.

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Dave Lott
Dave Lott(@dave-l)
2 years ago

Informative article Alan. So it begs the question for the FB course. To restore the quality of the overall golf experience, what is the more important position – that of the course superintendent overseeing the playability of the course or a strong administrative individual running the golf shop, promoting the course and the facility for events and tournaments and overseeing the F&B service? A decision to sub-contract out teaching lessons – wise or not?

As the City goes out with an RFP where should the emphasis be placed on the staffing qualifications?