Can You Teach Golf Without Being A Pro?

For anyone who has spent more than a few years (or decades) participating in the nine-to-five weekly work grind, a career change no doubt crosses the mind on occasion.

If you’re anything like me, and are a believer in the old adage ‘find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’, the mind will likely wander to golf.

When you’re in the office, you think about that crisp iron shot or booming drive.

At dinner with the in-laws, your head replays that thirty-foot putt you sank a month earlier.

It makes perfect sense: if you want to find true happiness, get a job in golf and you have it sorted!

If you’re someone who loves teaching and helping others, but don’t have the time, money or ability to become a certified PGA professional, you may ask: can you still teach golf without being a pro?

The answer: most likely no. While you don’t technically need certification to teach golf, it is highly unlikely anyone will pay you money for your tutelage or advice without you being a registered, fully-accredited PGA professional.

So, if you’re 20-35 years old and presently hold a high handicap, rather than being someone who has played golf since a very young age, could you go down the path of becoming a fully-fledged pro?

Some people claim anything can be mastered and that all it takes is 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

Former American photographer Dan McLaughlin thought so too, quitting his job and selling up everything to embark on the journey to become a professional golfer at age 30.

After six thousand and three hours of practice and having attained a handicap of 2.6 (something less than six percent of golfers achieve), his back gave out, slashing his dreams of a shot at the Tour.

WATCH A VIDEO OF DAN’S JOURNEY BELOW

So, if you don’t reach the level of a scratch golfer, or complete your PGA traineeship, is there still a chance you could cash in on a high hourly teaching rate, working semi-normal hours without having the necessary accreditation?

The honest answer: it’s highly unlikely.

You only need to convince someone you are worth their hard-earned cash to become their golfing sensei, but with so much competition out there you’d be a lucky person, and your student a crazy one, to be engaging in any sort of paid lessons without a high level of qualification or past standard of play.

How do I become a PGA professional?

The PGA (specifically PGA Australia for the purpose of this article) offers training in order to gain PGA accreditation.

If you are expecting to charge money for lessons or work in a pro-shop, this qualification is nearly a necessity.

In 2020, the course fees were $4250 and a minimum age of 18 was required.

While, technically, you do not need to be a gun golfer to join the program, applicants will be viewed favourably if they have “previously held a Golf Australia (GA) handicap of 3.4 (males) or 6.4 (females) or better within 12 months of the time of application”.

Given the competitive nature of these courses, you’d better be well under a 5-handicap player if you wish to claim a position.

The PGA professional training covers several key aspects of the game and employment in the field:

  • Coaching: Knowledge and skills for golf coaching, leading to the highest level of coach accreditation in golf
  • Game Development: Strategies and skills to actively grow participation and enjoyment of the sport of golf
  • Small Business: Strategic and operational skills for successfully operating a small business in the golf industry
  • Management: Skills and strategies relating to planning, organising and leading a golf club or golf organisation
  • Playing: Assessment of playing ability via competition in professional events

To complete the course, students will be required to engage in up to 40-plus hours a week of deliberate practice, be coachable and stick to a plan for a long period of time.

It really needs to become your sole focus, and day job, in order to achieve.

Should I give tips to other golfers if I am off single figures?

This is a tricky one and depends on a few key factors. The main thing to be mindful of is this: are your tips actually wanted? Just because you are a good golfer, it doesn’t mean your playing partners want or need your advice.

Some golfers are happy shooting 90 every week and getting some fresh air on the course; an annoying voice in their ear will just detract from their round and have them wishing they were playing alone.

People can often be too polite to decline your tips as well, so it’s vital you read the room and hang back with your advice if you’re getting bad vibes.

Someone who has just duffed three bunker shots is probably raging too hard to welcome you straddling them from behind and guiding their take away into the right position.

What just about anyone can teach another person on the course is etiquette, pace of play and other non-skill related elements of the game.

When I was 19-handicapper, I gave many on-course lessons to a new friend starting out in how to keep pace with the group ahead, take a penalty drop and avoid aggravating someone by walking on their line when putting, but at no point was I going to tell him how to swing a club.

Sure, at times we’d discuss reasons why some people slice and I’d explain issues I’d had in the past and worked on with a pro, but I was in no way qualified to fill his head with swing thoughts after hitting my third drive out of bounds on the front nine…

Are all golf pros good teachers?

Simply put: no. Unfortunately, high-level qualifications or exceptional ability won’t guarantee that every golf pro has the capacity to give clear explanations, communicate their advice effectively, or connect with every student.

All the same, if you are a handy golfer and find people respond well to your tips on course, this also won’t necessarily translate to a successful career in teaching golf.

Remember, people charging others for their golfing expertise need to be able to provide a range of different outcomes for a range of different people.

Most importantly, they need to be able to diagnose swing faults and communicate them effectively to their student.

Without good communication from the pro, the student will never learn or improve.

The best golf instructors can communicate their advice effectively to their students.

In reality, players off +3 and 36 handicaps could both go to the same pro for lessons. A good teacher will cater for all players.

Both able bodied and disabled people fall in love with the game and want to improve.

So, if your only experience of helping people with their golf is 20-something men who shoot 90-100, you’ve only scratched the surface as far as the world of golfers out there goes.

What other careers are there in golf?

If you’re not good enough to teach golf lessons, don’t worry: there are plenty of other ways to get involved in the game as a career.

Worldwide, golf is a $176 billion industry, employing millions of people.

There are employment options at a range of different pay grades requiring years of high-level experience or at the beginner level.

Here are just some of the potential careers in golf:

General manager

You don’t necessarily need a specific set of skills to run a golf club, but an overall knowledge of the game would definitely help.

You’ll likely need tertiary qualifications to get a look in at an above average club, but if you’re sick of working in a field you don’t care about and have a background in management, maybe transitioning to a golf-centric career is a possibility.

Sales and marketing

You don’t need to play off scratch to convince someone to buy a membership. So, as long as you have passion for the game and charisma to boot, you’re a good chance to be successful selling the game to others.

Most clubs have at least one person running a marketing arm of the organisation, trying to attract new people, or retain current members, to play at their course.

With the rise of social media and golf as popular as ever, given its relative protection from COVID closures, connecting with new players via digital media is only going to grow going forward.

Many clubs are partnering up with breweries and sponsors to hold events as much about the 19th hole as the golf itself, so an in-depth understanding of the game might not even be a prerequisite to work in this area.

Hospitality

Nearly as important as the course itself is the quality of the food and the wine list in the clubhouse afterwards.

You needn’t know the difference between a five iron and a putter to forge out a successful hospitality career in the golfing industry.

However, if you are a guru in the kitchen or have experience running a restaurant, what better way to warm up for a shift than nine holes on the course prior to hitting the grill?

Who wouldn’t want to spend their days cruising across fairways on a giant lawnmower?

Greenkeeper

If you’re someone who loves the smell of a freshly-cut fairway, or the look of perfectly undulating greens and manicured bunkers, then pursuing a career as a greenkeeper could be right up your alley.

It’s no secret that golf courses need lots of regular upkeep, and there are thousands of them worldwide that need the attention of a committed green thumb.

You don’t need to be a scratch golfer to be trained in turf management, and it could be the perfect job if you’re someone who spends every minute of your working day wishing you were out on the course.

Final message

In summary, there isn’t really anything stopping someone from charging another person for golf lessons, it just comes down to how good you are at convincing someone you are worth their money.

Ultimately, unless you are a PGA pro with clear experience, certification and ability, you’re next to no chance of forging out a career teaching golf.

Nonetheless, if a career in golf appeals to you, don’t be discouraged as many options exist that require a basic to deep love of the game, without the high level playing ability.

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