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Professional Golf Management: The real story from PGM Program grads

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The PGA Golf Management University Program (PGM), a 4.5- to 5-year college curriculum for aspiring PGA Professionals is offered at PGA accredited universities nationwide. The program provides students the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the golf industry through extensive classroom studies and internship experience. When you graduate, in addition to your college degree, you become a PGA member with 100 percent job placement.

One school which offers the program is the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV). At UNLV, the PGM program falls within the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration. According to QS World University Rankings, the school is the No. 1 school in the world for hospitality and leisure. Several other tier-one schools including Penn State (#59), Clemson (#66), NC State (#80) and University of Nebraska (#129).

The Experience

To better understand the experience of a PGM student, I reached out to Sean Fairholm. Sean is a graduate of North Carolina State University who now writes full time for Global Golf Post. According to Sean,

“I arrived on campus at NC State in 2010 with the intention of being a head professional at a golf course, a common aspiration for kids starting PGM. After my first internship, I realized that writing about golf for the student newspaper was more rewarding for me than standing in a pro shop. Nobody had ever gone through the program with the intent of being a journalist, so I feared my time in the program would end. I couldn’t have been more incorrect. The faculty at NC State (Andy Betz, Rob Wade, Susan Colby) fully embraced what was a foreign concept — they pushed for me to get an internship with PGA Magazine and even hung my first published article in the PGM office. They rallied around the idea of me becoming an A-18 (Golf Media) PGA Pro, and I’m extremely thankful for that.” 

This experience is echoed by Josh Salmon, the assistant director of PGM program at New Mexico State (NMSU) and former student there

“PGM provides a special environment with people who have a passion for golf and love mentoring youth. I chose NMSU because of this passion and it made all the difference; providing me with a home now, wherever day I get to share my passion with young people as a program coordinator of the program.” 

Player Development

Many of the PGM programs have extremely strong player development programs including access to on-campus golf courses at places like Penn State, Coastal Carolina University, North Carolina State, Clemson, Methodist, New Mexico State, Mississippi State, Sam Houston State and Eastern Kentucky.

The programs also have outstanding faculty who are there to help players develop, people like Henry Stetina. A graduate from New Mexico State University, Henry has won both the Sun Country PGA teacher of the year award, as well as the PGA Youth Development Award; or Eric Handley, a Senior Instructor within The Pennsylvania State University’s PGA Golf Management program and Director of the Penn State Golf Teaching and Research Center (GTRC). Prior to arriving at Penn State in 2005, Eric earned his master’s degree from NC State University while also serving as a Golf Professional at private country clubs in Durham, NC and Duluth, GA.

Members of the program also have access to a comprehensive tournament schedule. For example, at New Mexico State each year, players have access to an abundance of tournaments. A closer look at the results from Fall 2018 show that the average length of 6,920 yards and course rating of 72.1. The average winning score at the events is 70.12, with 2/12 events requiring a score of 67 or better to win, while only three had winning scores at or above par.

According to Henry Stetina of NMSU

“Our tournament program consists of 50 tournaments per academic year which allows students the opportunity to compete year-round. They also have access to a state of the art instructional studio featuring Trackman and video analysis. Individual and group player development programs are in place for students to develop their skills even further. Our program offers students the ability to take their game to the next level.”

Professional Golf Management allows young people with a love of golf to receive the mentoring they need to become impactful members of the golf community. Successful graduates have gone on to become head professionals, teaching professionals, golf writers, and even PGA tour coaches. So, if you’re really passionate about golf and see a future in the game, consider reaching out to one of these programs to learn more!

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Brendan is the owner of Golf Placement Services, a boutique business which aims to apply his background in golf and higher education to help educate players, their families and coaches about the process! Website - www.golfplacementservices.com Insta - golf.placement.sevices Twitter @BMRGolf

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Johnson Lampstone

    Jun 19, 2019 at 10:21 pm

    Anyone telling you this is a great business is lying to you. You must be sick for customer service and come from money. Most graduates go in to $35k/yr jobs where they almost never play. The review by “Bryan” is likely from someone who works for a PGM program. This career will drive you into debt and away from golf. It is all customer-service based.

    I dare you to find PGM graduates who are still in the golf business 5 years out of college…

  2. zp

    Apr 2, 2019 at 2:33 am

    I’m an alumni of the New Mex St PGM. I loved my time there, and have been lucky enough to land a spot on Maui. The golf pro life isn’t for everyone. But I sure do enjoy it, and my new life in the Aloha state.

  3. MSU Grad

    Mar 31, 2019 at 8:07 am

    I think this piece is a good start, but you really need to go into more detail about what the program is and the challenges you will face. Internships are amazing and can also open a lot of doors, but you also have to prepare the students for never having a summer off like their peers, due to internships. Some great careers have been spawned from the program, but it is a tough road and really takes dedication to stand out from the pack.

  4. Nicholas

    Mar 31, 2019 at 8:02 am

    If you love golf don’t get into the business. After 12 years my handicap went from a +3 to a 6 and I sunk further and further into debt. Trust me not worth it, there’s no sunlight at the end of the tunnel for 99%, if you’re a good golfer just put everything into getting on tour you probably have as good a chance of making it as you would making a good living as a pro… Now that “I’m on the other side of the counter” I’m happily a scratch player… don’t go into the golf industry; it’s a great game that I love, it’s an awful business decision

    • Bryan

      Mar 31, 2019 at 2:50 pm

      I do just fine as a PGA Professional financially and so do an endless amount of my peers. It seems you were “weeded out” by the system which it is great at doing. If your #1 and only priority was playing golf, then I’d say you got in for the wrong reasons.

      • Peace PGA

        Mar 31, 2019 at 11:06 pm

        I found the “weeding out” process you’re referencing to include both those that don’t quite make the cut but also, and more importantly, those that are exceptional but see the industry for what it is. I’ve worked at a number of top clubs and have noticed the lead assistants and head professionals to have remained not because they want to or desire to but because they are in too deep. For those of you reading, take my advice and stay as far away from PGM programs and the golf industry as you can.

  5. Gus

    Mar 31, 2019 at 12:48 am

    I’m a Ferris State PGM Grad- the initial PGM program. I’m steering my children elsewhere, this business is not what it once was. If you’re capable of obtaining a college education you can do much better elsewhere.

  6. Former pro

    Mar 30, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    Interested in golf? Go get a job that pays well and offers a twelve month position. Because the deeper you get into you golf career the more you work and the less you golf. You end up working 10-12 hour days, and your salary ends up earning you $10 an hour. Go earn money at a job that can afford you to golf.

    • Smith

      Mar 31, 2019 at 2:57 pm

      I don’t see a whole lot of truth to this… I’m the Head Professional at a private member owned club in an area with many other similar private clubs… each Head Professional easily clears $140k. I don’t golf much because I choose to spend that time with my family, but I could realistically still golf at least twice a week if I chose to.

      Your post is a summary of the guys who get into the industry expecting to golf 8 days a week and don’t have the drive to stand out from their peers, which is unfortunately a very common sight in this business and why so many are weeded out. If you have the proper mindset and follow the course, it isn’t hard to make great money and still play golf in this industry…

      • Former pro

        Mar 31, 2019 at 10:24 pm

          • Smith

            Apr 1, 2019 at 1:33 am

            I imagine that figure is compiled from a survey that got 4 responses from Public golf course head professionals in rural areas with low cost of living, like the Midwest. With tools such as PGA CareerLinks available these days, I’m not sure who would be reporting their salary to “Payscale” anyways…

            As a golf professional, you choose where you want to work, what type of facility you want to be employed at and what type of professional you want to be, and how successful you want to be. If a Golf professional settles for any type of position or income level and then complains about it, that’s on him. The good jobs are out there.

          • Smith

            Apr 1, 2019 at 1:38 am

            I imagine that figure is from a very small sample of non-PGA professionals in a rural area with low cost of living like the Midwest. With tools available now like PGA CareerLinks, I’m not sure who would be using “payscale” anyways.

            As a golf professional, it is up to you as far aswhat type of facility you work at, what type of professional you aspire to be, and where you want to be. If any golf professional settles for a certain compensation and then complains about it, that’s on them, because the money and good jobs are out there

    • Fred

      Mar 31, 2019 at 4:08 pm

      My experience is different than in that comment. I’m almost 20 years into my golf career and play more golf than ever before. I also play more than most of my friends that love golf but work in other industries. Sure, a lot of it is with members and in work related golf but it’s still playing golf. Bottom line is that if you choose to use your free time to play and take advantage of opportunities to play on the job, you can play a decent amount in this business.

  7. WG

    Mar 30, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    Are they still using vhs tapes and teaching how to whip heads like my experience in the mid-2000’s?

  8. Brian McGranahan

    Mar 30, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    The course I worked at starting getting so many unsolicited resumes from PGM graduates, my boss just started throwing them away without even opening them. Lol

  9. Dr Scrotenpuf

    Mar 30, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    You graduate, get hired somewhere that the cost of living greatly out ways your 15 hr wage, all while realizing that head pro job might be 10 + years out. Biggest waste of time/ money I have ever done. Oh, and all while you watch the caddies quadruple your pay.

    Want to be in the golf world = be a caddy and make 50k+ year min and get to play golf everyday.

    • DL

      Mar 30, 2019 at 10:24 pm

      Haha and make $50k every year with no health insurance. Not as glamorous as you make it sound.

  10. Trey Wingo

    Mar 30, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Not to mention the very first one, Ferris State in a “Big Miss”. There are more Ferris State grads in the golf industry then all other programs combined.

    • DL

      Mar 30, 2019 at 10:25 pm

      Absolutely! No mention of it. Complete whiff of an article.

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