Many may think of golf pros as the men and women they see on Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) tours and on television, but there are many more ways to be a golf pro. In addition to sponsored athletes, golf pros can be anything from the manager of a club or resort to certified coaches who train people of all ages to play golf. One common denominator between all golf professionals is a passion and aptitude for the sport.
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Golf pros fall into any of three main professions: touring professional, club professional and instructor. Each profession has its own requirements, responsibilities and degrees of technical skill. Generally, golfers who do not succeed at becoming touring professionals take on positions as club professionals or instructors. All professions call for daily involvement in the sport along with knowledge of correct techniques and the rules of the game.
Touring professionals are the golf pros seen on television, traveling internationally to compete in major golf tournaments. They compete for money and earn additional income from their sponsors. Often touring professionals become famous and can be seen in magazine and television commercials, supporting their sponsors. Only the very best and most talented golfers make it to this level after years of dedicating their lives to the sport of golf.
Club professionals are the golf pros who run golf courses. Whether they be country clubs, driving ranges, public courses or resorts, the golf pro is responsible for everything from daily management to course maintenance and giving advice to other golfers on what equipment to use. Club professionals are also responsible for many other managerial duties including accounting, staff supervision, advertising, press releases, keeping track of inventory and scheduling maintenance. In addition, these golf pros are businessmen who are the public face of their establishment. Especially in the case of resort owners, club professionals often host charity events and golf tournaments to raise funds for their communities.
Golf instructors work as either independent contractors or are employed with a club, hotel or resort. They are highly successful and technically skilled golfers who have an aptitude for conveying technique and gameplay through verbal instruction and physical demonstrations. They understand weaknesses in a student's game, and will instruct and guide the student in order to make improvements. Golf instructors working for a club or resort may also have additional responsibilities including managing assistant instructors, supervising caddies, managing the club's pro shop, and informing the groundskeepers about turf problems.
Requirements for becoming a golf pro vary with the type of position desired. For touring professionals, there is usually no certification required other than a PGA or Ladies Professional Golfers' Association (LPGA) membership. These golf pros make it to the elite ranks by successfully touring at an amateur level before moving on to progressively larger tournaments. Through talent, hard work and no small amount of luck, touring professionals may benefit from a long career as a golf professional.
For club professionals and instructors, however, requirements are strict. To be considered a professional, these golf pros must achieve PGA certification. With this distinction, they are considered experts in their field and are recognized by other professional golfers throughout the world. In order to obtain this certification, however, golf pro candidates must endure years of training and hard work. From teaching to managing tours, potential pros must exhibit a high degree of competency in every aspect of the industry. In addition, they must pass the Playing Aptitude Test to demonstrate their golfing ability.
Candidates must also enter the PGA Professional Golf Management Program (PGA PGM), which is an apprenticeship that uniquely prepares them for life as a professional golfer. Graduates of the program are knowledgable in state-of-the-art golfing practices as well as techniques to improve the value of their golf facility. Moreover, successful completion of the program equips golf pros with the skills needed to provide exceptional service to customers or clients and act as a public representative of the PGA.
Since golf is a game that must be played outside, most golf pros spend a significant amount of time outdoors. The amount of physical activity is higher than that incurred in the average occupation, but significantly lower than in most other sports. In addition to walking and climbing hills, golf pros must sometimes carry heavy bags of clubs and other equipment.
For golf pros working in colder climates, work is often not available or severely limited during winter months. Even club professionals who spend most of their time indoors must often close the club during the winter due to a lack of customers. Sometimes, if the facilities are adequate, club managers rent out rooms for banquets, parties and other events.
Golf is extremely popular worldwide with many millions of people playing daily and new courses sprouting up on a regular basis. The career outlook for potential golf professionals is therefore positive. Due to the varied nature and types of golf professions, salaries can range anywhere from $25,000 to more than $150,000 annually. Professionals whose names are known either locally, nationally or even internationally will earn a significantly higher amount. Hourly lesson rates for these individuals can reach upwards of $250.