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19th Hole

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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9 Comments

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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

Hungover Eddie Pepperell is the real winner of The Open

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Eddie Pepperell is never dull. The Englishman’s candor, articulateness, and skill with a pen make him a great follow on Twitter and beyond.

But even given standard Peperellian forthrightness, it was surprising to hear this: Pepperell was hungover during the final round at Carnoustie…a round in which he fired a 4-under 67.

Pepperell finished tied for sixth at 5-under, three strokes behind Francesco Molinari, and he offered this admission in his final-round press conference.

“I was a little hungover…I had too much to drink last night. And I was so frustrated yesterday, that today was really, I wouldn’t say a write-off, but I didn’t feel I was in the golf tournament. Whether I shot 69 or 73 today, it wouldn’t have been heartbreaking. But as it happens, I shot 67. So, you know, it’s a funny game.”

Hitting the course before the winds kicked up, Pepperell birdied the third, fifth, sixth, and 14th holes before rolling in another at the 17th.

He clarified that he’s no wino.

“Listen, I wouldn’t always have a drink the night before. Sometimes I have a few drinks. Tiger is minus-7, he didn’t have a drink last night, I bet. Proper athlete…I didn’t really have that much to drink, just I’m a lightweight, yeah.”

Pepperell clarified that he felt okay this morning, but woke up in the middle of the night feeling poorly. he said. Then it was time to sit back and watch as the leaders battled Carnoustie’s back nine.

Proper athlete or no, Pepperell finished tied with Woods at 5 under.

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19th Hole

Pat Perez: The R&A “do it right, not like the USGA”

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Pat Perez opened The Open, as it were, with a 2-under 69, and at the time of this writing, he’s 4 under for the second round and tied for the lead.

Clearly, there’s something Double P likes about links golf. And when he was asked whether he was surprised by how receptive the greens at Carnoustie were after his opening round, Perez shook his head with conviction and said.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA…They’ve got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you’ve got the greens receptive. They’re not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn’t. The course is just set up perfect.”

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”

Pat Perez has no problem speaking his mind. While it has gotten him in trouble in the past, you have to respect his candor. The interesting question, as I asked in the Morning 9, is how many Tour pros agree him?

Sure, it’s unlikely any of Perez’s compatriots will join him publicly in his “R&A does it right, USGA does it wrong” stance, but it’d be very interesting to know what percentage are of the same mind.

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19th Hole

68 at the British Open in the morning, golf with hickories at St Andrews in the afternoon

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Yes, golf fans, just another day in the charmed life (or week, at least) of one Brandon Stone.

Stoney (as I assume his friends call him), came to Carnoustie on the heels of a final-round 60 to win the Scottish Open. All he did in his opening round was fire a 3-under 68. Not bad!

But his Thursday to remember was only getting started as Stone made the 25-mile trip south to the Old Course to peg it…with a set of hickory clubs! Well played, sir, well played.

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