28 Golf Industry Professionals and Experts Reveal their Best Golf Career Advice
We asked experienced golf industry practitioners around the US and Europe for one piece of golf career advice they would pass onto our students.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d offer to someone considering a career in the golf industry?
List of Experts
- John Grant – St Andrews Links – The Home of Golf
- Dr. Eric C Wilson – Executive Director of Golf Operations – Keiser University College of Golf
- Luther Blacklock – Master PGA Professional, Explanar inventor
- Alasdair Watt – PGA Teaching Professional Martha’s Vineyard
- Don Callahan – Instructor – Butch Harmon School of Golf
- Terry O’Hara – Director of Golf – The Resort at Longboat Key Club
- Chris Slattery – Head Golf Professional – Avila Golf and Country Club, Tampa
- Barry Churchill – 2017 New England PGA Teacher of the Year
- Carlos M Espinosa – Director of Golf – Palm View Golf Course
- James Williamson – Director of Golf Course Operations – Chambers County Golf Course
- Hill Herrick – Head Golf Professional – The GreenBrier
- Gary Lewandowski – PGA Head Golf Professional – Tullymore Golf Resort
- Michael Travis – GM, Head Golf Professional – Riverside Golf Course
- Marc DeWall – PGA General Manager – The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch
- Colin Dalgleish – Co-Founder – Perry Golf
- Alan Tait – BBC Golf Presenter and former European Tour Player
- Shawn Cox – Director of Golf – Fairmont Grand Del Mar
- Donna White – Instructor – Keiser University College of Golf
- Brian Hughes – Golf Program Director – Keiser University – College of Golf
- Jim Miller – General Manager – Sonnenalp Club, Colorado
- Frank J Longabucco – PGA Golf Program Instructor – Keiser University College of Golf
- John Farren – General Manager – Ballyliffin Golf Club, Ireland
- Geoff Redgrave – Head Golf Professional – Stoney Creek Golf Club – Charlottesville, Virginia
- Ken Martin – Golf Program Instructor – College of Golf
- John DiMarco – Head Golf Professional – Laurel Creek Country Club, New Jersey
- Alastair Love – Head Golf Professional/Director – St Andrews For Golf
- Brad Burgart – General Manager – Capilano Golf & Country Club, West Vancouver
- John Callahan – Program Golf Instructor – College of Golf
John Grant – St Andrews Links – The Home of Golf
John is the Director of Golf at St Andrew Links; the home of golf.
Responsible for more than 200,000 rounds of golf and all staff at the 6 courses at St. Andrews, John has over 28 years experience in the golf industry.
Before then, John was a PGA rules official and administrator with the PGA European Tour responsible for events such as the PGA Championship and World Matchplay Championship.
John’s advice :
It’s a very rewarding industry to be involved in but remember that golf takes place when the weather is good and when people have time on their hands, such as weekends and holidays!
If you play lots of golf yourself, don’t assume that this will continue when you are based at a golf facility.
You have to ensure that everyone else is enjoying themselves and having fun, and so your opportunities to play might become more limited.
However, it is a great industry to work in – you will meet such a variety of people from many different backgrounds!
Dr. Eric C Wilson – Executive Director of Golf Operations – Keiser University College of Golf
Dr. Wilson is a PGA Master Professional and listed by Golf Digest magazine as one of the best golf teachers in South Carolina.
Dr. Wilson is the Executive Direct of Golf Operations at the College of Golf and brings over 12,000 hours of classroom teaching experience to students.
Dr. Wilson’s advice
Be aware that the golf industry involves so much more than just playing the game.
To be successful, one needs people skills, communication skills, management skills, leadership and followership skills, business acumen, motivation, a strong work ethic, time management skills, critical thinking skills, the knowledge and ability to teach/coach the game, AND the ability to play a credible round of golf.
The career is rewarding, but, as with anything else of importance, demanding.
If you have a passion for the game and understand the requirements for success, you will have a career for life!
Luther Blacklock – Master PGA Professional, Explanar inventor
Luther is a Master PGA Golf Professional and inventor of the Explanar golf training system.
Luther was head professional at Woburn Golf and Country Club in England for 33 years and his teaching mantra is “learn the shot, the swing’s for free”.
When mums or dads in the UK talk to me about their kid’s career, I tell them to get a proper education in the USA, go to a college in Florida, even if they are a great player.
You have a 1% chance of making it as a tour player.
In the next 10 years, 75% of golf facilities will have indoor teaching and swing analysis aids enabling you to teach from dawn till dusk.
Find a facility that will enable you to teach indoors and outdoors that has technology aids and you’ll have a solid career for life.
But, of course, to teach you have to love helping people and, of course, be a good player.
Alasdair Watt – PGA Teaching Professional Martha’s Vineyard
Alasdair is the teaching professional at Farm Neck Golf Club in the corner of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Alasdair’s teaching blends modern technology, such as Trackman, with golf fundamentals and his playing experience.
Originally from Scotland, Alasdair was runner-up to Colin Montgomerie in the 1987 Scottish Amateur Championship and studied at New Mexico Military Institute and Augusta College; yes that Augusta.
At Farm Neck Golf Club, where I work, we have interns come each summer.
They have a different internship each summer at many fine clubs so they get to see where they may like ie: private club, municipal, resort, golf academy etc.
They don’t get paid well but this, I believe, is an invaluable experience.
This is more for the person wanting to get into the golf club end of the golf business.
If I had a chance to go to a school with a great golf program with a known good coach I would not hesitate.
If the goal is to compete and you are in a hurry, have a great instructor and go to Q school.
In my opinion, there is a lot of time wasted at college taking useless classes that never get used in real life.
Don Callahan – Instructor – Butch Harmon School of Golf
Don was Head Professional at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, and Head Professional at Thunderbird CC in Rancho Mirage, CA before joining the Butch Harmon School of Golf.
In 1988 he was the host professional of the U.S. Open and in 1999 he was the host professional of the Ryder Cup.
He was NEPGA Golf Professional of the Year in 1986.
Don also taught under Claude Harmon, the father of Butch Harmon, for 14 years.
My advice to aspiring people entering the golf business after 60 years in the business follows:
Learn the history of the game.
Study all the teachers and their ideas.
Work on your own game, be able to demonstrate shots and procedures you are teaching your student, play as much golf as you can.
Love everything about the game and the people in it, present and past.
Always have a current resume’ ready to submit.
Ask great teachers if you can watch them teach, try to gain employment under them.
Personal hygiene is VERY important, always clean and neat at all times.
Be positive and polite.
Terry O’Hara – Director of Golf – The Resort at Longboat Key Club
Terry is the Director of Golf at The Resort at Longboat Key Club off Sarasota in Florida’s Gulf Coast.
There are 2 golf courses at the resort; the Harbourside and the Links of Longboat
My best advice about being in the golf business is that it takes a lot of hard work but if you are passionate about the game, it is never really work.
I have been playing the game for over 45 years and have been a PGA Golf Pro for over 20 years.
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a golf professional and when I realized that the PGA Tour would be too difficult I set my focus on being a Club Pro.
My first job was picking range balls at a private course and that started out my journey to where I am today.
I have done every job in the business and enjoyed each and every one of them.
I have worked at Public, Semi-Private, Private and Resort courses.
Remember that if you want to be in a position to run a facility it takes someone who remembers all the details and appreciates all of the team members you work with.
Hard work does pay off!
Chris Slattery – Head Golf Professional – Avila Golf and Country Club, Tampa
Chris is the head golf professional at Avila Golf and Country Club in Tampa, Florida.
A classic and traditional club, Avila was built in 1980 offering golfers and sports enthusiasts the luxuries and anonymity of country club entertaining.
The signature golf course was redesigned in 1988 by developer Bob Sierra of Avila and partner Jack Nicklaus.
This partnership created other highly acclaimed communities such as Wynstone, English Turn, Country Club of the South, Bear Creek, and Country Club of Louisiana.
Chris’s advice :
My best advice is to figure out exactly what niche you want to go after and do things in your early career to target that.
In other words, if you want to teach golf exclusively, you probably shouldn’t worry too much about merchandising.
Don’t aim broad, aim tightly!
Barry Churchill – 2017 New England PGA Teacher of the Year
Besides being an award-winning instructor, Barry is certified in Golf Instruction and Playing the Game by the PGA of America.
As a distinguished PGA Instructor, Barry has made it his business to know how to teach the game.
Barry is certified as a Flexor Golf Fitness Instructor, a K-Player 3D Biomechanic Instructor, a US Kids Golf Instructor, and a SeeMore Putter Putting Instructor.
Barry’s advice :
Here’s my input on my advice to anyone considering a career in the golf industry.
1) If you’re looking to work at “green grass” I would suggest working at Daily fee, Resort, and Private facilities to get an idea of the pros and cons of each.
Of course, it would be a benefit to work at the more prestigious facilities as benefits are an issue. Health, dental, 401k etc.
2) For most, the willingness to relocate is necessary.
3) Learn the industry and to figure out what aspect of golf you enjoy. Administration, Golf Instructor, Retail, Green Grass, Sales Rep etc.
Hope this helps.
Carlos M Espinosa – Director of Golf – Palm View Golf Course
Carlos is the Director of Golf at Palm View golf course in McAllen, Texas; a par 72 hole 6771-yard course.
“Hard Work Never Ends”.
You will not succeed in this industry if you stop working hard; it is very demanding, very competitive and there is always someone out there better than you; if you stop working hard, then, you will never be the best!!
James Williamson – Director of Golf Course Operations – Chambers County Golf Course
James is the director of golf course operation at Chambers County golf course in Anahuac, southern Texas.
James’s advice :
You are only as good as the people that work for you.
Hill Herrick – Head Golf Professional – The GreenBrier
Hill is the head golf professional at The Greenbrier; home of the Greenbrier Classic PGA Tour event, home of the 1979 Ryder Cup and the golf course where Sam Snead was golf professional at in the 1930s and 1940s.
The best advice for a career in the golf business is to stay patient.
Just like playing golf.
Your first few jobs will be for experience only, income cannot be a major issue.
It generally takes at least five years to get a good feel for what the business is all about.
By then you will know what your strengths, weaknesses and interests are and hopefully find a job that will be both mentally and financially rewarding.
Gary Lewandowski – PGA Head Golf Professional – Tullymore Golf Resort
Gary is PGA Head Golf Professional at the Tullymore golf resort in Michigan.
There are two golf course at Tullymore; the Tullymore and the St Ives golf courses.
What I would tell anyone interested in the golf industry is very simple.
You really need to love everything about golf.
Not just playing but teaching, running events, dealing with every type of customer (happy or mad), leading your staff, working with and setting up budgets, marketing your facility and expect to work long hours because you love being around golf 24/7.
If you love it and breathe it you will be successful in it.
Michael Travis – GM, Head Golf Professional – Riverside Golf Course
Michael is the general manager and head golf professional at the Riverside golf course; where Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite learned their game at.
At 6309 yard course from the back tees, Riverside is a historic and picturesque course in Austin, Texas.
I would say to make sure that you not only have a passion for golf but that you have a passion for customer service and building relationships with people.
When you start in the business you think mostly about playing the game, but that is only a small part of the business.
Marc DeWall – PGA General Manager – The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch
Marc is the PGA General Manager at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch; the number 4 golf course in Texas.
The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch, near San Antonio, is a Jack Nicklaus signature course that extends to 7450 yards.
You absolutely have to have an energy and passion that is unwavering for the golf business.
Have a good business acumen, be a complete and well-balanced professional and be an other-centered person that has a servant’s heart and likes to build relationships.
Finally, understand the time challenges this business presents that can impact family and friends.
Colin Dalgleish – Co-Founder – Perry Golf
Colin is the co-founder and managing director of Perry Golf, one of the world’s leading golf tour and cruise travel agencies.
Colin was the Scottish Amateur champion at the age of 20, a Walker Cup player, an Ohio State University NCAA champion and caption of the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup in 2007 and 2009.
If you enjoy being around the game, are prepared to work hard to advance your career or build your business, the golf industry in all its forms can be highly enjoyable and rewarding with many opportunities.
Importantly, expect your own golf to take a back seat as can often be required.
Alan Tait – BBC Golf Presenter and former European Tour Player
Alan is a BBC Golf radio presenter commentating at the Scottish and British Open and works for The 59 Club; a golf customer service benchmarking company.
A former European Tour player Alan previously held the course record at Carnoustie (64) for 23 years until Tommy Fleetwood fired 63 in 2017.
Alan was PGA Golf Professional at the James Braid designed Dalmahoy Golf and Country Club; home of the 1992 Solheim Cup.
I can’t emphasize enough to any individual, that they must go into the industry with their eyes wide open and not to focus on one particular part of the golf business.
They must be prepared to embrace and learn all about the industry and not just the “game” of golf.
The individual cannot be a one trick pony and must be prepared to diverse from their comfort zone.
Take me for example, I turned Professional at 21 after a successful Amateur career.
All I wanted to do was play the game and fully expected to carve out a career as a player, by doing just that.
With the reality of tournament golf and the fierce competition, my career soon took a different turn.
At 29 I moved towards golf management and the hospitality business.
I put myself through countless training and personal development courses and started to strive towards a slightly different career that would still keep me in the industry.
To this day, this decision took me down a Director of Golf route working at a major country club in Edinburgh, managed and operated by Marriott International.
It didn’t stop there though, I realized I had a talent for public speaking and telling humorous stories from the tours and my past.
This then led to some media work and commentating at events like The Open and Scottish Open.
From the Director of Golf role and from the ongoing training I received working for Marriott, I became a competent General Manager and went on to manage a golf and leisure country club overseeing the total operations of the business.
I now work with The 59Club who specialize in customer care, and benchmark performance at golf/leisure industries and hotels.
Only this week I carried out a full day’s training at one of our venues, on the importance of food and beverage.
So initially, what started out as pursuing a career playing golf is now a mixture of golf and non-golf business activities.
Broaden your mind, be prepared to learn new things, come out your comfort zone.
The golf business and industry has hundreds of different aspects, try and learn about as many of them as you can and become the most rounded and experienced individual you can be.
Don’t get left behind, playing the game for a living only cuts it for a very lucky few seriously talented individuals.
Do the next best thing and continue to stay working in the great game, but get to know as much about the business as you can (stop).
Ps: still playing regional tour events to warm up for the senior’s tour and chasing the dream!
Shawn Cox – Director of Golf – Fairmont Grand Del Mar
Shawn is the current Southern California PGA Golf Professional of the Year and has managed all golf operations at The Grand Golf Club since 2006.
Shawn serves on the Education and Teaching Committee for the Southern California PGA.
Think of the PGA program as like getting your high school diploma. So many people fail to complete this program.
You can’t continue your career without finishing this program.
Make it the most important thing you do.
While you are working on the program you should find a management, teaching and leadership mentor.
One of each and ask lots of questions.
Donna White – Instructor – Keiser University College of Golf
Donna is a PGA professional and instructor at The College of Golf and former United States Women’s Amateur Champion.
She is also an instructor for the LPGA Player Development program that improves golf skills for LPGA and PGA professionals.
This is a 70+ billion dollar industry with a vast number of career opportunities blending both the business and the game.
Many extend well beyond a golf course.
Do your research about the education, certifications and experience required for a position of interest.
Then ask to shadow or interview someone in the area of the business that appeals to you!
After that, network, network, network!
Brian Hughes – Golf Program Director – Keiser University – College of Golf
Brian is a PGA Master Professional in instruction and Golf Program Director at the Keiser University College of Golf.
Brian brings a wealth of educational, golf operations and tournament experience to students.
While there are many pieces of advice for anyone that is interested in making a career in the golf industry, my belief is the most important is having a true passion for the game itself.
If you enjoy playing, practicing, and talking about golf, this passion and dedication helps move you through the ups and downs, good days and bad, of the career.
At the heart of being successful at anything in life is the enjoyment that comes from doing it.
Without enjoyment at the ground level, likely the work effort to develop and improve skills will not exist either.
And without skills, career success is not possible.
Jim Miller – General Manager – Sonnenalp Club, Colorado
Jim is the Club General Manager at the Sonnenalp Club in Edwards, Colorado that is part of the Sonnenalp Hotel.
The Sonnenalp has been consistently voted as one of the best luxury hotels in the USA and world by TripSavvy, Conde Nast, TripAdvisor over the past decade.
The Sonnealp Club is a private championship course with stunning mountain views of the Rocky Mountains that can be played off 4 tees ranging from 5293 yards to 7100 yards.
Find your niche in golf as early as possible!
Early in your career, expose yourself to as many different areas of the golf industry as you can.
Work in private, public, resort, retail, tournament operations, juniors, teaching, and anything else associated with the game of golf that excites you and accentuates your skill set.
All along the way, you should be networking like crazy and cultivating meaningful relationships (this is invaluable in our business) with everyone you meet.
Then, when you find what you love, don’t settle.
If “Top 100” Private is your niche and that’s where you excel, then don’t rest until you’re in a “Top 100” private club.
You’ve got to get “Top 100” clubs on your resume so that you can get an opportunity at another one.
If you want to work at Cypress, you’re going to need a place like Seminole on your resume.
If you want to work at Bandon Dunes, you’re going to need Kohler on your resume.
Go get it!
Frank J Longabucco – PGA Golf Program Instructor – Keiser University College of Golf
Frank brings a wealth of experience in all areas of golf operations and specializes in short game instruction.
Frank is a Certified PGA Professional and instructor at The College of Golf
If you love the game and your a people person consider a career in the golf industry.
I believe the key to success in many industries is your ability to build relationships with people.
Why not do this working in an industry you enjoy.
John Farren – General Manager – Ballyliffin Golf Club, Ireland
John is the General Manager of Ballyliffin Golf Club in County Donegal in Ireland.
Ballyliffin Golf Club is widely regarded as the finest links complex in Ireland boasting two championship links courses – The Old Links and Glashedy Links.
The Glashedy course is 7462 yards from the Championship tees and the Old Links 6937 yards and has hosted numerous Irish and European Tour championships.
Don’t attempt to turn your hobby into your career unless you have a defined career path laid out – as a PGA Professional or a Professional within the administration of the game.
Working in golf won’t make you a better golfer- in fact, it may result in the opposite but having a passion for the game will give you an advantage in choosing a career in golf.
Geoff Redgrave – Head Golf Professional – Stoney Creek Golf Club – Charlottesville, Virginia
Geoff is the Director of Golf and Instruction at the Wintergreen Resort.
Geoff is a Certified Professional in Golf Operations and the 2016 MAPGA Merchandiser of the Year (Resort category).
The former Director of Instruction at PGA National Resort & Spa located in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Geoff also worked at the Tam-O-Shanter Club located on Long Island, NY.
As a soon to be quarter century member of the PGA, my advice to prospective club professionals:
Establishing and staying in this profession is based on your love and appreciation of the game and your respect for yourself and others who share the same opinion.
You will be pulled in many directions but always continue to learn everything about the business, not just a certain piece of it.
Knowledge is power as well as a personality.
The two pillars of the golf profession, however, in my opinion, are teaching and playing.
These are the two “game changers.”
Don’t let anybody guide you into thinking that you cannot continue to work on your own game or learn how to teach better.
Both are attainable and although time-consuming, will give you an edge on future jobs.
Ken Martin – Golf Program Instructor – College of Golf
As a Certified PGA Professional and instructor at The College of Golf, Ken has taught throughout the US and Germany.
Ken shares his extensive playing, teaching and management experiences with students at The College of Golf on a daily basis.
The golf community is surprisingly well networked and building good bridges should be considered in all professional interactions.
Even if one’s current job is not in the golf industry, connections and impressions made there could affect future references and opportunities.
This goes for students as well.
Make professionalism a habit in daily interactions and dress the part of the job you want.
The adage that you only get one chance to make a first impression is typically correct.
Finally, demonstrate a good work ethic in all tasks, earnest action earns notice and respect.
John DiMarco – Head Golf Professional – Laurel Creek Country Club, New Jersey
John is the head golf professional at Laurel Creek Country Club in New Jersey.
Laurel Creek is one of South Jersey’s premier private country clubs.
John played in the 2014 US Seniors Open at Oak Tree National.
My career advice would be to make sure you have a passion for the game.
Keep building your resume try to work at different golf courses in the public, private, and resort sector See which one fits you and your goals.
Learn to Network with alumni and other golf professionals the more information you can gather the better you will focus on your career path.
Alastair Love – Head Golf Professional/Director – St Andrews For Golf
Alastair is a PGA Golf Professional and managing director of St Andrews For Golf; who run and manage vacations, golf schools and corporate golf days and are an Authorised Providers of Guaranteed Old Course Tee Time Packages.
With a Business degree and fDA in Professional Golf Studies Alastair turned professional with an amateur handicap of +2.
Think outside of the box and build relationships, if you are willing to work hard, your time and dedication will be rewarded.
The days are gone of the standard roles in Golf at Country Clubs & Resorts, it is an exciting time and really anything is possible.
Vlogging, Social Media, Instant bookings, Online Instruction, etc have opened up an opportunity to make yourself indispensable and also very desirable to others.
The time you dedicate to building relationships with clients (the best place to do it is on the course) or a following, will stand you in good stead, members/clients buy into you and from my experience, they become very loyal to you.
Nothing comes without time and hard work, always provide what you promise as a minimum and exceed where possible.
Finally, play golf at every opportunity…as you will reach a point in life where you want to play, but cannot.
Brad Burgart – General Manager – Capilano Golf & Country Club, West Vancouver
Brad is the General Manager of Capilano Golf & Country Club in West Vancouver, Canada.
Opened in 1937, the course was designed by one of Canada’s best-known golf architects; Stanley Thompson.
Early in your career, ideally while you are obtaining your education, experience as many aspects of the golf industry as possible.
This would include various roles in the industry as well as different types of facilities- private, public, resort.
They all offer a different experience and by living these experiences you will be better equipped to decide which is best suited to you.
John Callahan – Program Golf Instructor – College of Golf
John has been Head Golf Professional at private, public and resort courses giving over 30,000 lessons to golfers.
John has been a PGA of America member since 1970, one of Golf Magazine’s Adjunct Top 100 Golf Instructors of America and a current instructor of golf at The College of Golf.
At 14 years old and making $10 dollars a week delivering daily newspapers to 42 families, I found out that caddies were making $4 plus tip for carrying one golf bag for 18 holes.
I was all in.
Filled with enthusiasm I rode my bike to the local golf course and introduced myself to the caddy master, only to be told that he had enough caddies for now.
However, he told me that if I was willing to sit all day in the caddy yard for a while, keep quiet, keep my eyes and ears open to learn as much as I could, and work hard––if and when I did get my first “bag” (caddy jargon)––he may let me “out” (more caddy jargon) in a week or two. I did wait a week, and when I pocketed that first $5 bill for my first “loop” (yes, more caddy jargon), I was the happiest kid in town.
All these years later I have the same advice (minus the caddy jargon) to those who love golf and are thinking about starting a golf career.
Namely, be patient, learn as much as you can about the golf business, and work hard when you get your first opportunity.
Follow that formula, good things will happen, and you will also be the happiest kid in town.