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GolfWRX members debate the merits of a career in the golf industry

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Would you work in the golf industry? Perhaps you have? From caddying in high school to serving as a respected head pro at an esteemed club, to working as an equipment or apparel rep, the jobs in the service side of the golf business are numerous, and there are options wherever you’re at in life. If you add to the equation all jobs at golf-related companies and golf-relates manufacturing, the range of opportunities is even greater.

But this is no glossy brochure for “A Career in Golf!” Fears over industry contraction, the future of the game, the paltry salaries of assistant professionals, and other factors combine to cast a long shadow over employment related to this maddening game.

Still, the majority of hardcore golf nuts have likely considered working in golf at some point.  GolfWRX member JJHarrs2 is one such individual. He started a thread looking for advice about whether he, at 29, should explore a career in golf. He’s primarily interested in becoming a playing pro (who isn’t?), club pro, teaching pro, or working as an equipment rep.

He expresses not only uncertainty about taking the plunge, but concern for the future of the industry.

“The main thing I’m wondering is when I look out 20-30 years from now, I really don’t see golf being in a good place. I know that a ton of the money spent on golf is by people over 60, so when they die or get too old to play, what will take their place? Will people my age pick up the slack?”

Now, before we get to the responses from GolfWRX members, I’d like to offer a bit of perspective for Mr. JJHarrs2, as someone who worked at both public and private courses before transitioning to typing for a living. Regarding the future of the game, you can look at club closures in the past decade and get depressed, or you can look at the number of new golfers year-over-year and be encouraged, which is to say, basing your decision on macro data is always going to be difficult and is, in some sense, a distraction from the real question: do you want to do this/these jobs?

Having seen the lot of the equipment reps who pulled their wares from the back of packed trucks and vans to present to pros for perusal, and having seen the contraction in that job space, I would advise anyone who is drawn to the road warrior life of an equipment rep to be comfortable with the prospect of eventually working another traveling sales job. To be a successful rep, you have to love the job/lifestyle, not just golf.

Also: Read Ryan Barath’s “Confessions of Golf Equipment Tech Rep” for some perspective.

Regarding the club pro/teaching pro path. It’s important to mention that head pro jobs are few and far between and the life of the career assistant with little teaching income is a dreary one: think “folding shirts and answering phones for $30K per year.” Head pro jobs are rare, competitive, and often political; it’s best to instead think of yourself as a small business owner…not of the pro shop, but rather, of yourself. It’s vitally important to work at a club that will cover the cost of the PGM Program and (at least some of) the additional certifications you must pursue to gain a competitive advantage.

Don’t love teaching? You better start to! Not only is a steady stream of pupils vital to your pocketbook, but creating instructional content online is essential to building your student base and potentially setting yourself up for other revenue streams in the future. Twitter! Instagram! Facebook! YouTube! GolfWRX! You’ll want start the virtuous cycle of expanding your knowledge and showcasing that expansion early. For example: attend an AimPoint seminar, talk about it on social media, make a video explaining the fundamentals, or some such.

I also recommend reading Michael Breed’s “Advice to PGA Professionals.” 

Have you ever worked in customer service? Have you ever heard the expression “the customer is always right?” Well, if you work at a private club, get used to the expression “it’s literally impossible the member is wrong in any way.” Never forget they’re paying your bills, as difficult as this may be when you’re being asked to walk half a mile to the 10th hole to pick up two pullcarts a pair of golfers left out or wondering who the hell has the last cart out of the barn, darkness having long ago descended.

You’ve got to be a self-starter, in it for the long hall, and comfortable playing relatively little golf, honestly. If you’re not tied to one geographical location, all the better (heading to Florida to caddie for the winter should be considered). Maybe you’ll wind up as a head pro somewhere, but you have to hedge against the possibility that you won’t, constantly investing in yourself, expanding your knowledge base, and creating content. It’s definitely beneficial to get Class A PGA certification ASAP and to be involved with your PGA Section.

I’ll draw the curtain on my advice and point to a couple of the more interesting responses from the forums.

golfandfishing says working for a top teaching pro is the way to go

“Here’s the best thing to do if you can play at all:  work for a teaching pro. ..Teach, hold clinics, pick the range, etc for your 50/60 hours a week and collect your $550 paycheck. Then play section events as often as you can. Monday Pro Ams, the State Open, your section championship, various events with mostly other club pros. Collect another $2k a month…Club pro? Hope you enjoy divorce.,,Manufacturers rep? Any of the handful of worthwhile positions are taken and then already in wait when the spot comes up. You’ll be repping plastic tees, ball washer towels and cigar holders. Do not be the teaching pro with his name on the door – work for that guy. Enjoy the lack of responsibility, collect meager pay and exploit the privileges.”

tatertot is a bearer of difficult truths

“Realistically …

– You’ve got .01 chance of being a touring pro at 29.

– Ask yourself “Why would someone come to me for lessons?” If you can think of a good reason, you might have a shot as a teaching pro.

– Ask yourself “Why would any club hire me to be a pro?” Lots of applicants from lots of guys who have gone to school for this sort of thing.
– Do you have a business/marketing degree? Because there are lots of guys applying for sales reps jobs that do.”
jmck strikes a similar dour note

“Hate to say it, but listen to the pessimists.

There are pretty much zero jobs in the golf industry that combine the following:

– Play a lot
– Work less than a 60 hour week
– Make more than $50k per year
– Keep your significant other happy

Frankly it’s a minor miracle if you can find a job in the golf industry that combines two of those, and if you need to even think about practicing to pass your PAT there’s zero chance you’re good enough to play on even a crappy regional mini tour…If you really love the game you’re better off as a banker, lawyer, real estate agent, drywaller, ditch digger, or beer truck driver.  It’s a brutal industry, has been for decades, and is only going to get worse.”

You’ll want to read the rest of the responses in the thread

What do you think, GolfWRX members? What advice would you give to

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  1. joro

    Apr 25, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    After having been in the business for over 50yrs as a Wood Maker, and designer, yes real wood, A player, a teacher, a Shop Pro and repairman and fitter, if you want to be a player, get a night job and play a lot of Gof and tournaments. If you want to be in the business, go to work at a Golf Course or a Club Manufacturer. And good luck.

  2. Carolina Golfer 2

    Apr 24, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    I realize I am the rare exception, but I meet all 4 items at the end of this piece, and I love my job. I literally can’t wait for the weekend to be over, so I can come to work on Monday.

    It took me my whole career and a little bit of luck on the timing, but I had been working toward this position or a very similar one for 15 years, and am so thankful it finally came to fruition.

    • dan webb

      Apr 25, 2018 at 10:29 am

      I too feel like I have the ultimate job in golf!! I play almost as much as I want and spend the rest of the time talking golf. There is a place for you, I’d be happy to discuss it with anyone interested.

  3. Tee-Bone

    Apr 23, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    My whole life, I’ve heard people give the following career advise; “Do what you love.” I have realized, over time, that far better advise is; “Do what you’re good at.”

  4. freowho

    Apr 23, 2018 at 7:31 am

    You can’t just enjoy golf you have to be able to sell it and sell yourself. There are plenty of bad coaches making a heap of money because they are charming, carry on like they are changing peoples lives and gather disciples. And there are retailers making a lot of money because they can convince people that an umbrella holder is the best thing since sliced bread.

    • ogo

      Apr 23, 2018 at 11:02 am

      Clowns cannot make a commitment to the game of golf because all they want is “fun” socializing with their equally decrepit golffing buddies. Clowns outnumber aspiring golfer by 99:1 …. so obvious.

  5. Chris Downing

    Apr 23, 2018 at 5:43 am

    I don’t think its so much about golf dieing – that’s bit dramatic – when actually is just resizing after being over-promoted for all sorts of money reasons. Generally I see jobs as being on a line between money and fun. So money is being a lawyer, accountant, CEO – fun is actor, dancer, musician. Because golf is seen as fun and loads of people want to do it the pay sinks to almost the minimum you can survive on. Read Cal Newport’s book – “So Good they Can’t Ignore You”. Society doesn’t really need golf to function as a society – its a bit of a luxury (like music and acting) so the pay is never going to be good. My suggestion , like Cal Newport, is to find something you are good at that society want to pay you well for and do that. ‘Following your dream’ can be mighty expensive – who cares what you want except you – so who’s going to pay you?

    • ogo

      Apr 23, 2018 at 10:59 am

      “fun” is for fools and clowns both of which are riding around on their buggies on golf courses looking for their balls going astray. Anybody who tells me golf is for “fun” is just spreading hopeless propaganda to save the game and their golffing carers. Sorry boys, the “resizing” is a funeral and that’s a blessing.

  6. ogo

    Apr 22, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    Golf is dying along with the aging Baby Boomers. Even the OEMs have come to that conclusion and only catering to the filthy rich with their overpriced, overglitzed, overuseles fantastic new super game improvement clubs filled with feeeeel. The game is being dredged for the last dollar from the rich and gearheads. Sooo obvious… 😮

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19th Hole

Ricky Barnes DQd at the Byron Nelson

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Ricky Barnes took a trip to Dairy Queen at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Barnes was disqualified following his second round 1-over 72. He signed for a three at the par-4 sixth hole, when in fact he had made a par.

Ultimately, he won’t rue his impromptu trip to get a Blizzard: Barnes was 3 over and was in no danger of making the cut.

Because this is the world we live in, Barnes apparently found out about the DQ via LuckyTrout Golf Pool on Twitter.

Of course, no scorecard error will ever top “What a stupid I am,” Roberto De Vicenzo signing for 66 when he shot 65, handing the green jacket to Bob Goalby at the 1968 Masters. Such an unfortunate legacy for a man who won hundreds of tournaments around the world.

Also unfortunate: Ricky Barnes is on the way for being remembered as a man who never lived up to the promise he showed at that same tournament, The Masters, as an amateur.

Let’s hope that changes.

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WATCH/LOOK AWAY: Jordan Spieth misses a 15-inch putt

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Aren’t you glad there isn’t video of all the 15-inch putts you’ve missed? I certainly am.

Unfortunately for Jordan Spieth, his failed attempt from little more than a foot at the Byron Nelson was captured on video, and it will exist on the internet for all eternity.

Spieth, who has struggled with the flatstick lately, stood over a short par putt at the par-4 15th hole, and well…

Spieth is currently 183rd on the PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: putting, losing .412 strokes per round to the field on the greens.

But at least he hit the hole, right?

Here’s the offending weapon: Spieth’s trusty Scotty Cameron 009.

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19th Hole

GolfWRX members debate: What should the World Golf Hall of Fame criteria be?

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There have been a couple of controversial inclusions on the World Golf Hall of Fame. This isn’t to rehash, say, Fred Couples earning a spot, but rather, take a look at entry criteria.

More specifically, GolfWRX member playar32 writes

“I know the actual criteria is 15 tour wins, or 2 majors/Players championship. But what’s YOUR minimum?…For example, if a player won a “B” tournament every year (the one opposite a WGC event), every year in a row for 15 years, but missed the cut in every other event, would you still considered them HOF?”

It’s an interesting point. Specifically, the World Golf Hall of Fame criteria for an active male golfer is as follows.

“A player must have a cumulative total of 15 or more official victories on any of the original members of the International Federation of PGA Tours (PGA TOUR, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Sunshine Tour, Asian Tour and PGA of Australasia) OR at least two victories among the following events: The Masters, THE PLAYERS Championship, the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship.”

Further, a player must be at least 50 or five years removed from competition.

Here are some other WRX members’ takes.

Bladehunter says

“15 tour wins and 2 majors for me. Otherwise almost every 1 major winner out there is in.”

McCann1 says

“If we won’t remember your name without the HOF in 50 years I think you shouldn’t be in.”

Fowlerscousin says

“If any of these three criteria are met: 3 or more majors. Minimum 5 Ryder cup appearances. 15 tour victories.”

Hawkeye77 says

“Whatever the criteria are, don’t ever think about it unless someone whose speech I want to hear gets in.’

Golfer929 has more stringent standards

“20 Wins. 3 Majors. 2 Ryder Cup/President Cup appearances. 100 total weeks inside Top 50 OWGR.”

Golfgirlrobin says

“I’d like to see them go to some sort of point system like the LPGA uses. Factor in everything that’s important and let the chips fall where they may.”

You’ll want to check out the rest of what GolfWRX members have to say in the thread.

There are a ton off questions to consider when thinking about which current/recent players should make the HoF.

A few…

1. Should the standards be on par with other sports? If so, what does that look like?
2. If the WGHOF should be more/less stringent, why?
3. How important are major victories? Why two and not three?
4. Why 15 wins and not 10? Or 20?

All important questions, and ones which the golf fans of the world should be able to weigh in on, rather than merely a selection committee of 16 people.

Let us know what you think, GolfWRX members!

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