By Sara Dickson, PGA
Over the past 20 years, every industry, including golf, has adapted to the benefits and pressures of modern technology. And within the past five years, COVID-19 accelerated the growth of the sport we love, yet also put unprecedented demands on golf professionals who never paused, while most of the world did.
The “COVID Boon” has been largely sustained, and golf nationwide has been a beneficiary. Hardworking and loyal golf professionals kept their facilities running, while some shifted away from golf into other opportunities accelerated by the “Great Resignation” and remote working opportunities. Data from the Golf Business Network’s Golf Leadership class indicates the number of green grass professionals dropped by 10 percent in the four years prior to 2023, and that almost one-third of golf professionals between the ages of 25-35 left the business. But there’s no better time to be a golf professional than now.
The best clubs are guided by skilled managers, caring board members and passionate employees and have adapted to the current demands of our industry. These facilities continue to align resources and operating models in a way that keeps them and their teams growing. They understand that the service industry is not immune to work-life balance. Of course, the best clubs have extremely high employee performance standards, yet they understand that their operation produces excellent member experiences when keeping employee experience, growth and work-life balance at the forefront.
To succeed and grow in any business, dedicated effort and heartfelt passion is required. And in 2023, there are opportunities in the golf industry that support both personal and professional growth. Through the trials, tribulations, risks, foresight and confidence of forward-thinking club management and industry leaders, the best clubs are thriving and continuing to grow, and not surprisingly, recruits gravitate toward those special cultures.
Purpose fuels every spirit. As a golf professional, you will make peoples’ days better through golf. You will create enjoyment. You will introduce a junior to the game of golf who might become a club champion, a committee member, a board member or a club president. You will help a new-to-golf spouse feel comfortable on the course, and then watch as he or she competes in a Couples’ Club Championship. You will honor veterans through the PGA HOPE program and watch families come together through PGA Family Golf. You will preserve the traditions of civility and sportsmanship through the facilitation of first-class events. And, you yourself will grow in the process as you dedicate time to your craft, whether it be a specialization in team-building, teaching, playing, budgeting, event planning, club-fitting, marketing, merchandising or any of the many hats that PGA and LPGA Professionals wear.
To start on your path toward becoming a PGA or LPGA Professional, there are resources that include the PGA of America’s Affiliate, Associate and University Programs, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Associate or Teaching Education Programs, the Golf Range Association of America (GRAA), the Golf Business Network (GBN) and the Proponent Group. There are 16 accredited universities nationwide where you can earn both a degree and PGA Class-A Membership within four to five years. To become a member of the PGA or LPGA, you will prepare for and pass playing ability, teaching and business tests, complemented with work experience.
If your purpose includes a love for golf, a love for people and a love for creating enjoyment, there is no better time to be a golf club professional.
Sara Dickson is in her fourth year as PGA Director of Golf at Wilderness Country Club in Naples, Florida, her 14th year as a PGA Professional and 20th year in the golf industry. Sara studied Business Administration with a concentration in PGA Golf Management at Methodist University and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2009.
Sara enjoys the variety that being a club professional provides, including delivering engaging member events, challenging and competitive tournament play and helping others reach their professional and golfing goals.
Sara has been recognized with the following:
- 2023 South Florida PGA Section Bill Strausbaugh Award,
- 2023 South Florida PGA Section Southwest Chapter Merchandiser of the Year
- 2018-2024 Golf Digest Best Young Teachers in America
- 2017-2023 Golf Digest Best Teachers by State
- 2017 Metropolitan PGA Assistant of the Year
- 2015 Metropolitan PGA Woman Player of the Year