I came into professional golf 30 years ago, in the 80’s the job was very different to what it is today. Retail was strong, members supported their pro and it was a prestigious position to hold at any golf club. I had a great time as an assistant, busy teaching, playing and running the shop as well as repairing and refurbishing clubs. I couldn’t wait to get my own shop at a club and enjoy the rest of my working days being the best club pro I could be.
I got my chance in the early 90’s and that’s when things started to change dramatically. Boom and bust in the economy, the internet and online shopping and golf companies deciding who they would send their stock to. Within a very short space of time, the humble club pro was facing a very different future, a not so lucrative one and one with very little job security.
The profession has changed and the game itself has been in decline for the past 20 years. The industry has spent the last 20 years having meetings about it, but the slide continues and the reasons continue to grow. Less golf on terrestrial TV, too expensive, elitist, sexist, a game for older people, too time-consuming, less recreation time, too difficult, or a combination of all these factors.
The pro was the hub of the golf club wheel, giving the members lessons, running their competitions, attending functions and representing the club in tournaments and pro – ams. Possibly the most important role was introducing new players to the game and encouraging them to join the club.
It’s a new ball game now, to coin a phrase. Golfers are no longer obliged to be a member of a club and have a handicap if they wish to play other courses. For years the answer to diminishing memberships was to raise the fees, there was always the security blanket of the waiting list anyway. Now joining fees have mostly gone, green fees can be readily purchased on a 2 for 1 basis and clubs are advertising for members in their local press.
All of this is encapsulated in this video report and apart from a 15″ hole or we all start kicking the ball around, there are very few real solutions on the table.
The golf pro MUST step forward and take responsibility for growing the game or many will go the way of ‘Dicks Sporting Goods’ employees, into other jobs and professions.
The golf pro MUST go out from behind the counter and into local communities to bring people to the game, using soft golf in schools and at local functions, they must promote themselves and the game.
The golf pro MUST recruit and educate large numbers of new players, not hide behind a computer screen and launch monitor, working with elite performers, massaging both their egos in the process.
The golf pro MUST work with kids, yes I’m afraid so, not easy for many, must work with kids and parents to open the game and their clubs up to the most vibrant sector of the market.