A couple of years ago, Golfweek magazine printed an article on the state of the golf business, and specifically highlighted the concerns of the PGA of America. It seems the PGA was concerned because more and more golf courses were not hiring PGA professionals to run their operations. And just who were these golf courses hiring instead? Business professionals. In response, the PGA went on a marketing campaign to make the golf courses aware that PGA professionals, at least in that organization’s eyes, were the most qualified to run a golf course. What has been the response of the golf industry to that campaign? Well, if Crosswinds Golf Club in Savannah, Georgia, is any indication, the campaign didn’t do much, if anything, to help PGA professionals. Crosswinds, an upscale 18-hole facility, like so many other golf courses throughout the country, has gone without a PGA professional for many years, and have no plans to bring one in. In fact, the general manager at the course is making a point to only hire proven businesspeople in the position of director of golf. Today, the majority of all golf facilities in America, which include full-length, executive, and par-3 courses, along with driving ranges, do not have a PGA member on staff. Speaking of 18-hole facilities exclusively, approximately one in four do not employ PGA members. In other words, the PGA does not have a monopoly on the golf business – far from it. When it comes to teaching, the Golfweek article also highlighted the concerns of PGA professionals who did work as directors of golf or head professionals. They were no longer getting to teach the game, because their duties required them to stay in the office or pro shop, and their general managers frowned upon them heading to the lesson tee. So they didn’t – and still don’t. This directly from the United States Golf Managers Association website (www.GolfManagersAssociation.com): “Similar to 1989, when the USGTF asked themselves why must one attend a 4–6 year program simply to teach the game – it made no sense – we now ask ourselves the same question regarding golf club management….We knew that old school education was not keeping pace with technology. These practices were outmoded and the consumer deserved better.” The golf courses themselves also believed they deserved better, and were thus shying away from traditional golf professionals and hiring business professionals, instead. This trend continues to this day, as we see with Crosswinds Golf Club. Where does the US Golf Managers Association and the US Golf Teachers Federation fit into all of this? It fits very well, as many of their members are finding out. Almost all US Golf Managers Association and US Golf Teachers Federation members come from other business backgrounds prior to golf. In contrast, almost all traditional golf professionals only know one business, and they’ve been in that business since they graduated from high school at age 18 or college at age 22. On the surface, you would think that would be an asset, but as we’ve seen, more and more golf courses are considering it a liability. Why? Because many of these traditional golf pros are seen as golfers first and businesspeople second. US Golf Managers Association and US Golf Teachers Federation members have an advantage in that they are seen as businesspeople first and golfers second. This is not to say that prior business experience is absolutely necessary to getting your foot in the door as a golf club manager or teacher, but of course it helps. One of the things that both US Golf Managers Association and the US Golf Teachers Federation members have going for themselves is training and certification through these organizations. The US Golf Managers Association course allows anyone the opportunity to earn certification, not just golfers. The US Golf Managers Association’s emphasis on business is recognized by golf courses that wish to hire people for their business skills. The result is that US Golf Managers Association graduates have a definite advantage in the job marketplace. Now, what about those golf pros serving as directors of golf or head professionals who are lamenting the fact that they are no longer able to teach because of administrative duties? This is where the USGTF comes in. For many years, the golf business has become more and more specialized. As we’ve seen, no longer do many golf courses want their personnel to be a jack-of-all-trades, even if by chance they are capable of doing it. The USGTF recognized this long ago, and many members since 1989 have taken advantage of the fact that golf courses want someone to manage the overall operations, someone else to manage the golf shop, and still someone else to handle the teaching duties. USGTF members have been quite successful in an array of teaching scenarios, such as head coaches at high schools and colleges, directors of instruction, and golf teaching professionals. Old school methods and jacks-of-all-trades may have been appropriate in a bygone era, but today’s golf courses are full-fledged businesses concerned with the bottom line. They recognize that specialized personnel mean a more efficient and profitable operation. The US Golf Managers Association and US Golf Teachers Federation allow its members to take advantage of this now-established paradigm, which undoubtedly will continue into the future. Photo by Rennett Stowe
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