Why Are We Getting Out of the Business?

by Brian Dobak
May 30, 2012

It's natural in any career path to think about why we are in it, or to think about a different career path and why we should get into it. The PGA presents quite a few career paths to take as a PGA Professional, that is a good thing. But when it comes to the traditional golf professional, the position that our business was founded on over 100 years ago, there isn't much wiggle room. There are a lot of reasons why we are in the club profession. Whether it's free golf, merchandise perks, fellowship with other professionals and members/guests, being around a game we love, or our office being a golf course and not a cubicle, there are plenty of reasons why we are in the business. So why do club professionals quit the business? More specifically, why do assistants get out of the club profession, regardless of whether or not they are going down another PGA career path? The easy answers are low income, long hours, working holidays and weekends, etc.

Some say that most assistants that leave don't understand what the business is all about. They say that the PGA sells them on living the dream, and the reality is it often takes years to reach a place of satisfaction. Others say that for a lot of apprentices and assistants, it comes down to the fact that PGA education is expensive, and the payoff for the education is small. The PGM University Program can certainly help young kids cultivate a sense of purpose in their pursuit for success as a club professional, however when you're 18 years old, it doesn't matter who you are, you're merely testing the waters and you really have no idea what you want to do yet, and there is nothing wrong with that.

And then there is the argument that it's good that assistants get out because there are too many in the system. We won't go down that road, but it is a problem when good kids that could be great club professionals and make great contributions to our profession are getting out. Why is this?

Too often, apprentices quit because they lack mentors and/or they haven't been given positive, educational, and dynamic work experiences from their Head Professionals. The passion can be there, but passion is not enough. If apprentices/assistants don't have mentors or their first job as an apprentice is not a positive experience, then they will likely get out of the business because the experience overshadows the passion.

First impressions are everything. If a kid graduates with a college degree, attains a job as an apprentice professional, is treated like a high school bag drop attendant, and the Head Professional cares very little about his/her professional well-being (this does exist), what reason is there for the apprentice to believe the business is not like that elsewhere? Once again, first impressions are everything.

This is a tough business, there is no denying that. But it's not all about assistants keeping their own heads above water. It's in the Head Professionals hands to help as well. When we put our chips into this profession and claim it as our career, we should know that we are also making an investment in not only ourselves, but also those directly around us. When we climb the career ladder as a golf professional, we will get to a point where we will actually have opportunities to influence others. How we handle these opportunities is critical for our profession. We can either treat them like counter jockey's, or we can treat them like professionals who require effective mentoring and attentive professional development. If you're thinking on broad terms with a long term mindset for your golf operation, the former is not the way to go. The HP and the golf operation should not get all of the investment when those chips are chucked in. There must be a considerable investment one way or another in making sure the assistants are given the best experience possible. HP's can't protect their assistants from the harshness of the golf business, but they can make the golf business more meaningful to them and give them a positive experience that truly and accurately reflects why the club profession is so great.