How to Become A Professional Golf Teacher
Aspirations of Teaching Golf? – By Terry Ross & Len Finkel
From Pebble Beach to Key West, public golf courses and private clubs employ Golf instructors and Directors of Golf.
If it is your dream or, career path to be a professional golf teacher, the following information will help you get started on the right path.
Depending on your age, golf handicap, and time available to study, there are primarily three different routes to pursue to
become a professional golf teacher:
- PGA – PGA of America
- Pass the Player Ability Test (playing 36 holes in one day with a specific score)
- Take qualifying courses and pass a test on many subjects with 10% of the curriculum being golf instruction.
- Complete three levels of coursework within eight years. Travel is involved to take examinations and therefore additional costs associated with travel. 3- 4+ years.
- Have a golf-related job for at least two years
- Pay fees – The cost to attend PGA of America ranges from $7,500 to $10,000 depending on the qualification, with a median cost of $7,500. Annual due are $561.00
- A University, such as Keiser University – a two-year Associates degree – PGA Golf Management University Program. Offered at 19 universities. At least 16 months of improved golf industry internships, pass the PGA Playing Ability Test.
- Alternate option – that of a Golf Teachers Association such as the PGTAA
The Professional Golf Teachers Association of America Professional, Recognizable and Affordable
For the past 23 years, the PGTAA has been considered the premier golf-teaching organization in the United States, Europe, and Africa. PGTAA graduates hold positions throughout the world including those of Director of Golf, Head Teaching Professional, Tournament Director, and University Golf Director.
Since April 2002, the Business & Marketing Golf School, a division of the PGTAA, received the PGA of America approval for their Business and Marketing Module to enable PGA Class “A” Members and Apprentices to receive Continuing Education Credits, which speaks to the credibility and quality of what is taught at the PGTAA.
Graduates include the likes of Mark Immelman, the Columbus State University Golf Coach and coach to three Tour players, former PGA Tour players Brenden Pappas and Scott Gardiner both at Paradise Valley Athletic Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Jon Mahanna, the Director of Golf at Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico, Mike Kletz, the Director of Golf at Huddle Park Golf Club in South Africa, Aubrey Daniel at Bahrain’s most exclusive Golf Club, Will Goodreu at the Marble Island Golf Academy and Glen McCartney, the assistant golf coach at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, for the women’s golf team and Patrick Parrish, formerly of Pebble Beach Academy, Poppy Hills and Nicklaus Club Monterey.
While the PGA is older and better known, the skills set offered by both the PGA and LPGA are based on “generalist” principles whereas the skills set being offered by the PGTAA is that of the “specialist” – geared exclusively on how to teach golf.
Both the PGA and LPGA programs are excellent if the student is desirous of obtaining a very broad overview of subjects including those of running a golf shop, organizing golf tournaments, parties, and maintenance experience.
The PGTAA on the other hand has a single mission: Teach the teacher how to teach golf and make an excellent living in this field.
Whether the golfer is a former PGA or LPGA member desirous of seeking accreditation, whether they are a club maker looking to supplement income, a university or resort teacher seeking accreditation, the accreditation offered by the PGTAA is “nullus secundus” – Second to None!
The PGTAA also accepts those individuals with low and verifiable handicaps, existing teachers and “graduates” from other schools into their program provided adequate documentation as to their golf skills is made available to the PGTAA for verification.
As a journalist, when definitive claims are stated as to an organization’s credibility, acceptance and competency levels, in order to verify such statements, we asked and were given permission to audit the PGTAA’s Certification course being held in November at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California. Also requested were access to past graduates of the PGTAA’s Home Study and Onsite course, both of which was expeditiously and gracefully provided.
As an aside, should the reader decide to pursue certification from the PGTAA or any other similar premier teaching institution, asking and receiving references from past and present students, should not be a problem for reputable organizations.
During our interviews both with those attending the onsite school and those home study graduates, one of the primary threads that the students all agreed upon and was very evident in their choice of the PGTAA for certification were the credibility of the PGTAA’s reputation within the industry, word-of-mouth referrals and the high quality of the school’s course materials.
The Home Study Course:
Though it may sound very unusual to qualify and become certified by a home study program what makes this scenario, not unlike many off-campus courses, is that this method is usually sought out by existing teachers and former PGA members who do indeed have both the necessary teaching skills and experience to pass the Exam and do not have the time to attend a week-long course.
Students of the Home Study course, should they desire to, upon their graduation, can also attend the On-Site course at their convenience by simply paying the difference in tuition fees.
We contacted six Home Study graduates who expressed their satisfaction with the materials and the acceptance by both their students and employers of the PGTAA Certification.
Corporate Golf School:
At the time of writing, the PGTAA’s Corporate Golf School’s session on “How To Build Business Relationships Through Golf” was due to start in January 2021.
Home Study: $995.00 plus $20 shipping & Handling
The Optional Onsite Course:
This purely optional course is designed and geared primarily for those PGTAA graduates, PGA members and other golf teachers and instructors who are actively teaching golf.
Secondarily, attendees are there for reinforcement and refinement of existing skills and to obtain a “hands-on” training, based mainly on their written test examination during and after completion of their PGTAA certification.
The duration of the course is 5 days, running from Monday (7.30a.m to 2 .00 p.m.) through Friday and is held either in San Diego, Denver, Orlando, Philadelphia, Fayetteville or Phoenix. This course venue was in La Jolla, California at the Torrey Pines Golf Course.
Right from the onset and upon arrival at the Hilton Hotel Torrey Pines, which itself sits on the golf course property, one knew immediately that this was a high-class operation.
The accommodations were superb with fresh fruit waiting together with a welcome folder embossed with our names. Inside the folder were a personal welcome letter, the daily agenda, bios of the instructors and Torrey Pine scorecards and golf guides to the two courses.
The course materials, all 10 pounds, had already been sent via FedEx to us 10 days prior to commencement so as to allow one to become familiar with the materials.
Bright an early on Monday morning, the class of 8 students (maximum allowed per session) met in the glass-lined conference room, overlooking the 2 practice putting greens at the Torrey Pines Golf Course clubhouse.
Turns out that this was to be the only time we used the conference room as the remainder of the week was spent on the range.
After introductions by each student, the “buzz of excitement” was palpable. The group’s makeup was 4 practicing golf teachers, a former PGA member, 2 university coaches and a scratch golfer who decided his time to switch professions and teach was at hand. Plus myself.
The primary instructor for our group was Michael Major, a PGA Class A pro, Dr. Barry Lotz, the Associations’ director, author and marketing wiz, Andrew Baker, a club-fitter, Mike Stubbs of Astar Inc. (video instruction) and Brandon Conway, another PGTAA instructor.
What was evident from the outset was that the attendees were most definitely not there to improve their golf game nor playing abilities, but to learn what it took to become a master in their field, and, of equal importance, how to succeed financially as a golf teacher.
The course materials are outstanding. Four separate workbooks were included with both “Secrets to Successful Golf Teaching” and “How to Make $100,000 a year as a Golf Teacher” being to most popular and most often referred to and discussed.
The general consensus of the attendees was that these two books were themselves well worth the price of the course.
The Open Book Exam advocated by the PGTAA has to be completed prior to attending the onsite course. The student’s answers serve as a tool for the instructors in determining what skills need to addressed at the onsite course.
Rather than detail each day’s events, suffice to say that the training was intense, detailed, but most importantly, each student was put through their paces of teaching his fellow attendees and the instructors. Not only was this hilarious watching the various teaching techniques used, but also the learning experience via constructive criticism was empowering, as it was technical.
The PGTAA’s system revolves around the theory that every golfer’s swing is different and that the teacher needs to work from this point forward to best improve their student’s playing skills.
Through the use of the Astar system, the students were drilled in the 12 most common mistakes golfers make. The philosophy and techniques used in identifying and rectifying these mistakes is the primary contributor to both the student and teacher’s success.
Over the 5 days at the school, the camaraderie between the students was evident. The enjoyment of having a lesson produce the desired result was great to experience and appreciate. Though each day began at 7.30 a.m., time flew by. Each day’s lunch with the instructors being at a different restaurant was another course highlight.
Classes ended at 2.00p.m and thereafter the students could either stay for further training or play Torrey Pines, a treat in itself.
The marketing techniques introduced by Dr. Lotz were extremely well received, as it was most evident that the students were not accustomed or aware of what it took to become financially successful.
The subjects taught in the 3 marketing classes covered how to market oneself, the social media techniques, how to find a position, how to apply for a position, types of advertising to use and most importantly where and how to get students.
Extra time is devoted to the marketing of kid’s programs as an essential factor to both the ongoing need to attract golfers at an early age and as a potential for residual income – smart! PGTAA graduates are also able to become USKids Golf certified coaches through the PGTAA.
A formal graduation dinner takes place in the evening at the hotel and this dinner ended at midnight.
Since the course ended and prior to this article being written, we submitted the Open Book Exam to 5 teaching PGA pros for their professional opinion. Unanimously they all agreed that the exam was indeed a fair test and that for one to pass the test, knowledge of golf and teaching skill was essential.
Prices: On-Site: $1495.00 per person which includes accommodation, meals, and tuition.
Since this article was completed. The PGTCA has ceased operations in May 2020.
The USGTF is no longer US-owned. It is now Korean owned and where, according to industry rumors, their focus is going to be concentrated.
The PGTAA is most definitely the institution we most recommend to become a top-rated Golf teacher. No other golf teaching facility has anywhere close to the curriculum, reputation, or study materials as the PGTAA.
Leonard Finkel & Terry Ross
Leonard Finkel is the author of The Secrets to the Game of Golf & Life and former editor in chief of Golf Journeys Magazine. His work has been featured in almost 200 publications including Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Golf Illustrated, Golf Tips, and Player Magazine. He has written more than a dozen cover stories for Golf Today Magazine. He has written extensively about golf and travel and added poker to his writing repertoire and also works as a marketing and public relations consultant. Prior to his career in golf, Finkel owned a chain of retail stores and a consulting and import company based in Asia. He attended the University of Utah.
Terry Ross has covered sports as both a print and radio journalist for more than 45 years and is the Associate Editor of Golf Vacations Magazine. He has served as a consultant to the golf industry in a variety of capacities, including PGA Tour events. He has been a regular columnist for the Long Beach Business Journal and is based in Orange County, California. He attended the University of Southern California.