Getting paid for doing something you love. Isn’t that what we all dream? Perhaps you harbor ambitions to be a pro golfer. Or do you have a talented child who you feel could make it?
You may feel this is the sort of dream which everyone who has ever played golf has. You may also think that it is just that, a dream. But it may not be as unattainable as you think. Here is your guide to how to become a pro golfer.
Becoming a tournament golfer: how you can do it
We are going to start by looking at the opportunities of making your living by playing for money. (There are other ways of making a living as a pro golfer, and we will look at these later.)
But let’s start by looking at what it means to survive by playing for prize money. Most people who would like to become a golf professional, are usually thinking about playing professional golf tournaments. So, we will start there. And you will be pleased to hear that it may not be as unattainable as it first seems.
Opportunities are growing
The first question to ask is if the chances are there. You can be the best player in the world, but if there is nowhere to play for money, then you will never make a living.
The good news is that the number of professional golf tours is growing, for both men and women. There are opportunities there if you are good enough. And those opportunities are increasing year by year.
Golf is spreading around the world, to developing countries such as China and other parts of South East Asia and India and South America. Tournaments follow as this interest grows.
There is nothing amateur golfers love more than watching the professionals. Many professionals like the idea of playing in exotic locations, and it helps to put these new venues on the golfing map. So everyone wins as the tournament circuit grows.
How to get onto the PGA Tour
Playing on the PGA Tour is the height of achievement for anyone who wants to turn professional. And it takes talent and time. There is a recognized way to do this, and you will need to go through various stages.
Until a decade or so ago it was possible to participate in a series of qualifying tournaments known as the PGA Tour Q School. This series of qualifying tournaments culminated in a final competition which awarded the top finishers the prize of PGA tour membership for the following season.
It is no longer as simple. Now going through this process does not get you onto the PGA tour but only onto the web.com tour finals. It is a developmental route. If you perform well enough in the web.com tour, then you can advance to the PGA tour.
There are a couple of ways to do this. One is what is known as ‘battlefield promotion.’ To get this, you need to win three times on the web.com tour in a single season.
The other way you can do this is to graduate through ‘the finals’ these are series of four web.com tournaments after the regular web.com season. You will need to finish in the top seventy-five.
You will need to be a professional golfer to do this. We will talk about how you do that now.
Education and training: what you need to do
The professional golfer is a recognized career title. You obtain it by taking designated training and education routes. You can learn more about the ways you can choose to become a professional golfer here at the Professional Golfers Association website.
Professional and amateur golfers: spot the difference
Golf began to grow codified by a set of rules more than one hundred years ago. At that time, the division between amateur and professional came from wealth and class. The rich played for fun and did not expect or need to earn any money from their hobby.
If you were not rich but wanted to play it wasn’t always easy. Many young men had grown up around golf who were very good, but relatively poor. If they were to have the chance to spend enough time on the course to get better, they needed to find some way to make money. They discovered that there were ways they could earn enough cash to stay on the golf course. Working as a caddy for the better-off players and being paid for playing challenge matches were two of the most popular.
It was not until well into the twentieth century that golfers began to make enough money to live on their prize money. Walter Hagen is generally considered to be the first man to have done this. He won eleven majors, and the US open twice.
I play as an amateur: where do I start to move into professional golf?
There is a clear route to how to become a professional. In the United States, this involves becoming a member of the Professional Golfers Association. The usual course to achieve this is to attend a PGA qualifying school. In Europe, there is a route through European tour qualifying schools.
Tournament rules: what you must follow
As a professional, you cannot play in amateur tournaments.
The difference between the two is a firm one. Once you are a professional, it is difficult to regain amateur status, so it is a big step.
Can you earn money as an amateur?
The short answer is ‘no.’ If you are an amateur the amount of money you can win is very restricted. The USGA sets it at seven hundred and fifty dollars in the United States. The amount established in Europe is roughly the same. If you go over this limit, you lose your amateur status.
What happens to my golf handicap?
Your golf handicap is about amateur status. But if you are going to get noticed as you move into the professional game you need to make sure it is a low as possible. From now on every game you play counts. You need to submit your scorecard every time. And you need to break 70 to stand a chance. That is your target. If you are ever going to play in pro tournaments, you need to be averaging this.
Should I turn pro? Eight things to think about
Playing professional golf takes a particular sort of person. Before you embark on a new career path, consider if it will suit your personality.
How well do I perform under pressure?
Golf is a very individual sport. There are rarely coaches traveling the country watching teams, as happened in games such as football or basketball. The nearest equivalent for golf is the buzz around the big amateur tournaments.
If you are thinking of turning professionals pick a series of amateur tournaments to play in. Spread them out and then see how you are doing. You will need to be winning consistently in the amateur arena if you are to stand a chance as a professional. Consider if you can stand having to go out day after day and always win.
If that sounds too harsh and too lonely consider a gentler path. A more realistic path may be to make a living as a golf instructor or coach and then build up your skills.
Does my personality suit the life of a tournament pro golfer?
Getting onto the tour is tough. If you are even thinking of it, then you probably have a good skill level. It is essential. But it is not the only thing you will need. What sort of person you are counts as much as skill. Some professional golfers would say it counts more.
Your personality matters. Before you embark along this route, it is worth considering if it is the life for you.
It is a life which is fun and fulfilling, but it does involve sacrifice. Be honest with yourself and ask if you can deal with the pressure, the constant traveling and being away from friends and family.
Can I sustain traveling on your own?
If you take up tournament golf, you will likely be traveling the world. Or at least the whole of the United States or the whole of Europe. Traveling the world or just the country can be fascinating, but it can also be lonely. So, if you are thinking of taking this step to make sure it is a lifestyle which would suit your personality. Discuss it with your family and friends. Think about what your life would be like if you succeeded and if it is what you want.
Can I stand constant stress and pressure?
You may feel you can stand tournament pressure. You have probably played in many amateur tournaments and enjoyed the buzz. But doing it for a living is different. It will be constant pressure, day in and day out, week after week. It will go on for months on end. And the stakes are high. Much higher than you can even imagine as an amateur. If you lose, you may not be able to survive. It can be that much on edge.
You need to ask yourself if you are tough enough psychologically because you will lose as well as win. You will have streaks when nothing goes right; this happens to even the top professionals. Do you think you could survive this?
Can I be prepared for failure?
More people fail than succeed when they try to break into the professional golf tour. Could you cope with that? It is essential to have a Plan B in case you do not make it. But it is also crucial to have an attitude where you can work through a bad streak and put it behind you. Many successful professionals say this is the difference between success and failure.
Do I have a winning mental attitude?
You will need the right attitude. Most professionals will say that their talent is the least of it. If you speak to many professional golfers, you will find something surprising. Many do not regard themselves as uniquely talented golfers. They will say that there are a lot of people out there who are just as gifted. The real difference between success and failure is about mindset and determination.
Can I focus?
You are going to need to practice every day for many hours. But you will also need a new level of focus. You will need to be happy to spend endless time practicing that shot you can never get right. You will have to confront the weakest spots in your game and do whatever is necessary to put them right. If thinking about that takes the fun out of the game for you then pro golf may not be the path you should choose.
Can I afford to take the risk?
You also need to think about money. Of course, rewards can be high in terms of dollars earned. But you need to look at things as an investment. You will need to ask the hard question: can I support the financial outlay necessary?
You will need to have savings or access to funds. There will be a period before you begin to win serious money if you want to make your living through playing in professional tournaments. At a minimum, you will need to:
- Buy top quality equipment and replace it as necessary
- Invest in top coaching
- Pay fees to obtain essential qualifications
If you want to turn professional, then get an outstanding coach
Many good young amateurs make a mistake in trying to make it on their own. It is easy to see why this is tempting. If you are talented and enthusiastic, it is easy to think that you know enough to train yourself up to a professional level. It does not work. You need a top coach who knows what is required to play on the professional circuit. You need an expert who can identify those weaknesses in your game which could stop you succeeding.
Remember that if you are going to make this step up, you are moving into an area where the competition is at a higher level than what you have seen up until now. An elite coach will be more familiar with this than you are. He can develop the strengths of your game and show you how to overcome your weaknesses.
A top coach will help you develop a strategy, not just improve your shots. They will help you develop a professional training plan, the intensity, and duration of practice and what you need to practice. They will also have access to the best technology to take apart your game and analyze every aspect. Even if you are using this technology, an expert coach will be able to supercharge its potential for you.
Another area where your coach can help is in making sure you have the very best equipment. It is a field which changes very rapidly. You can end up wasting a fortune on new stuff which does not suit your game. You coach can make sure you avoid that trap. He can show you what will benefit your particular type of play.
The tour circuit not for you? How you can still make a living as a pro golfer
Even if you do not have what it takes to make it to the PGA tour, you may still have a life ahead of you making money from playing golf. There are other ways of making a living through the game.
Most professional golfers live by providing services to other golfers rather than by winning tournaments. There are a whole number of ways it is possible to do this.
Professional golfers might teach the game and act as coaches. Some run golf clubs and courses. Others sell and advise other golfers on golf equipment. You can do this and still take part in golf tournaments as well.
If you want to get an idea of what you can do then go over to the website of the Professional Golf Association of America (PGA).
The PGA has thirty-one classifications for professionals. You can see the whole list on its website. But to give you some food for thought, here are some of the roles it includes.
- Organizational roles such as head professional at a golf course or golf range administrator or organizer of tournaments
- Skills-based roles such as golf clinician or golf coach
- Professional functions such as management and financing and administration
- Specialist roles such as golf course architect
- Rules-based jobs such as superintendent of a golf course or officiating rules
- Teaching roles such as golf coaching or teaching a college squad
- Equipment-based jobs such as advising golf equipment manufacturers
- Sales-based roles such as club fitting and repair
What you need to know about golf careers
The opportunities are varied, and you can have a wide range of jobs. It is a big industry with lots of possibilities. The golf industry in the US alone is around seventy billion a year. Worldwide it is worth more than one hundred and seventy billion dollars. Participation in golf tournaments increases year on year.
Let’s take a look at some of those golf roles in more detail.
Director of Golf
It is the top job. You will oversee all the operations at a golf club. It includes staff, maintenance of the course, hospitality and other matters which ensure the success of the club.
Duties will include
- giving lessons to members
- club fitting for members
- overseeing the golf shop and all retail operations involving golf equipment
- looking after the junior members of the club and organizing lessons and tournaments for them
- in liaison with the ground-staff, you will also be responsible for keeping the course in tip-top condition
It is one of the most desirable jobs in golf. You get to set the golf tone in the club and bring on other players. You never know, you might find yourself mentoring the next champion.
You will be PGA-trained to provide club members and juniors with the highest quality training. You will be able to coach amateurs and professionals at all levels.
High school or college coach
You will be responsible for recruiting, supervising and training the golf squad of a big high school or a college. It is an excellent job if you like working with young people.
You will be responsible for the overall operations of a golf club. As well as your golf skills, you will need management skills and be good at marketing, communication and people management.
As you already know, equipment is a big part of golf, and we all value those who are experts in the field. You will need retail skills and a vast knowledge of the various golf brands and how they position themselves. You will need good selling skills, but also the ability to analyze and communicate about the rapidly-changing equipment available.
Golf club maker or fitter
As part of your training to be a PGA-professional, you will acquire knowledge of how to manufacture golf clubs and how to repair them. If you are technical, and you love engineering and finding out how things work, this is the career for you. You will be loved and valued by everyone in your club if you can give them the right grips, re-weight their clubs to suit them and tell them about the latest and best clubs.
Sales are not just about selling in golf shops. The big golf equipment manufacturers employ golf professionals in advertising, direct sales, to develop campaigns and manage brands. To do these well, you need an intimate knowledge of golf so it might be for you.
You could also work attracting sponsors for tournaments or bringing new members into clubs. There are many different routes to get more people into golf.
Many golfers would say this is the most critical person in the whole golf operation. Where would any of us be without an excellent smooth course on which to play?
Even with all the golf technology we have these days, nothing can replace a knowledgeable professional golf caddy. The duties involve helping the golfer pick the right clubs, maintaining equipment and repairing the course after they have made the shot. But the essential skill is understanding and motivating people. If you caddy for a top professional, you will need to manage their quirks and know their strengths and weaknesses. To do this well, it helps to have substantial experience as a tournament player yourself.
Top professionals are businesses as well as individual players. As a golf agent, you will recommend where a player should play and scope sponsorship deals and merchandising opportunities. You will be a link between the player and golf brand equipment manufacturers. You will also be responsible for looking for more sponsorship deals.
An in-depth look at one golf career: golf coaching
If you want to become a top golf coach, you will need to become PGA master certified. You will need top golf skills if you are going to develop other people to play the game at the best level they can. You will also require complete knowledge of the rules of golf, something you will have to revise as they change with new developments.
To get PGA certification, you will need eight years of playing, experience, and education. Once you have this, you are qualified to coach everyone from the newest player at a club up to top level professionals.
Some golf coaches specialize in specific skills. Coaching players to improve their swing is the most popular. Whether you specialize or work with all aspects of coaching, you can be self-employed, advertising your services and working on your own. Or you could work out of a golf club, helping the members improve their game.
How to become a pro golfer conclusion
If you are a good amateur golfer, then it is possible to turn professional. You will need the right type of personality. A good coach is essential.
You must give up your amateur status and take a PGA recognized training. Getting on the PGA tour is not easy, but there are routes to do it. And remember there are many other careers a pro golfer can pursue.
Good luck in your future golf career.