For the industry overall in 2023, the National Golf Foundation (NGF) anticipated rounds finishing 2% to 4% ahead of 2022. That took the pace for overall increased rounds in the post-pandemic surge to roughly 20% since 2019. Considering that in the previous 15 to 20 years, the industry lost close to 1,500 golf facilities, this amounts to strong growth in golf participation that doesn’t show any indication of slowing. A large part of this growth has been from weekday play, which is attributed to the working-from-home phenomenon created by the pandemic.
Another interesting statistic comes from non-green grass participation, better known as the Topgolf phenomenon. The NGF put the total number of golfers at the end of 2022 at 25.6 million. And when you include non-green grass golfers, some predict as many as 44 million Americans are now playing some kind of golf, which is a 7% increase since 2022. While many questioned whether these non-green grass golfers would also transition to playing golf on actual green grass, there is ample evidence that they have.
Women also represent 60% of net golfer growth since 2019, with junior golf and people of color also making up large parts of the overall growth since 2020. This all makes for a very healthy future, at least in the short term, for golf. The trend of more non-green grass golfers eventually becoming players at golf facilities and country clubs is expected to continue to proliferate in 2024 and beyond.
PGA Professionals and the Business of Golf
In 2017, the PGA of America announced three career tracks for PGA Professionals to follow: Executive Management, Golf Operations, and Teaching and Coaching. As education has been upgraded in each of these areas, it has paid dividends, as more clubs are recognizing the value that golf expertise can have on their overall operation.
Since 2010, the number of PGA Professionals moving into an executive space, made up mostly of those transitioning to general manager or COO roles at their clubs or facilities, is up six- to seven-fold. Specialization in one of these three path options will become even more prominent in the year ahead.
Retention is one of the biggest ways PGA professionals can make a difference at their clubs in 2024. More clubs will be building teaching facilities and dedicating directors of instruction to ensure that golfers (especially those new to the game) keep playing and enjoying it. Constantly engaging members/customers to make sure they’re enjoying the game and finding ways to improve golfers’ ability will be critical moving forward. Look for clubs to incentivize their PGA professionals based on member/customer retention.
Responses to questions in the Outlook 2024 Pulse Survey indicated there is plenty of opportunity for more clubs to add facilities to support these efforts. Fewer than a quarter of respondents to the survey (24.9%) said their clubs currently have a dedicated golf performance center for year-round teaching and training, and 36.6% said their clubs have golf/game simulators. Interestingly, of the clubs with simulators, over half (51.2%) said their amenities includes a social gathering space with lounge seating and drink service, attesting to the broader appeal they can have beyond golf training and recreation.
One final point to be made when looking at the year ahead concerns the turmoil in the professional game, which has definitely led to concerns from those who love it. The battles between the PGA Tour, DP World and LIV tour have created divisions not seen in golf in some time, and raised concerns about the negative effect they could have on the growth it is enjoying. Experts still anticipate that when all is said is done, there will be one major professional tour worldwide, but time will tell. On the positive side, junior golf is at an all-time high in participation and college golf and the amateur game have also never been healthier.
The PGA of America has named KK&W team member and PGA Past President Paul Levy as Captain of the 2023 United States Junior Ryder Cup Team. He will lead the U.S. contingent of 12 boys and girls as they compete in the 12th Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Nazionale and Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, Italy, Sept. 26-28.
Levy, who served as the 40th PGA President, was inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame in 2021.
“I am incredibly honored to be selected as Captain of the 2023 United States Junior Ryder Cup Team,” said Levy. “The Junior Ryder Cup is a special event that highlights the exceptionally talented junior players from across the United States and Europe. I am looking forward to leading our team in Italy.”
Levy is the President and CEO of PKL Golf Management and Club Services, which specializes in operational management and consulting services to all aspects of the golf and club industry. Additionally, Levy serves as a Search & Consulting Executive at KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, an executive search firm focused on executive placement, education and consulting. READ MORE.
“The last subject I want to talk about, and most importantly, is something we’ve discussed a lot this week. We’ve gone from a demand problem in terms of players to a supply problem. The lack of supply is hours in the day, lack of balance in our members’ lives and a lack of pipeline of talent to replace our aging population … virtually everyone has been asked to raise the bar, to do more with the same, to work insane hours. It’s absolutely unsustainable, and there’s a crisis brewing for facilities that don’t get in front of it. They simply won’t be able to deliver the same level of service in the short-term, much less attract the next generation of talent. We have to shout this message from the rooftops, change the dynamic and restore work-life balance.”
—Seth Waugh, PGA of America CEO, at the PGA annual meeting in November 2021
Editor’s Note: In order to avoid professional consequences, several sources in this story asked to remain anonymous. When a first name only is used, the name has been changed and geographical details have been generalized. When a first name and last name are used, this is the person’s real name and story.
Thanks to his connections, Casey Kermes had forged what looked like the start of a brilliant career. After hurting his back playing college lacrosse, he joined a Professional Golf Management (PGM) program, landed his first internship in Ireland and spent the first four years of his post-college career bouncing between some of the most prominent courses in America as a seasonal assistant pro. Frequent travel was an expectation for ambitious assistants, but money was a problem—he wasn’t even making enough to rent a shared apartment and would often stay in the spare bedroom of the head pro. At his breaking point, he landed a job as a full-time assistant in North Carolina, with the promise that he’d spend most of his time teaching. Instead, when he left the clubhouse at all, he found himself babysitting large groups of kids who didn’t want to be there any more than he did.
At 26, he took stock of his career. He felt like “a glorified McDonald’s checkout person,” his golf game was dismal—he had played just five full rounds in two years—and he was working anywhere from 60 to 90 hours per week depending on the season. The concept of having a normal romantic relationship, much less a wife and kids, was a joke. And dealing with members could be a nightmare; he vividly remembers the day when he told a board member that her foursome couldn’t start on the second hole, and she chewed him out and did it anyway. There was another board member in the group she skipped, and he marched into the golf shop to yell at Casey for letting it happen. Both members, incidentally, were millionaires. Casey was making $30,000.
This article is from Golf Digest, read it entirely by clicking HERE
KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE press announcement for immediate release
KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE Continues Expansion
Paul K. Levy, PGA, 40th President of PGA of America is joining the firm as a Search & Consulting Executive
KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, for over 25 years, continues to methodically add the brightest and most accomplished industry executive talent to our team to better serve our Clients and Industry Leaders. We would like to officially welcome the esteemed Paul K. Levy, PGA as a Search & Consulting Executive. Paul, most recently is the President and CEO of PKL Golf Management and Club Services in Pinetop, Arizona, specializing in operational management and consulting services for the golf and club industry.
“Paul K. Levy represents our continued organic growth as a firm and is a golf-centric hospitality leader in complete alignment with our core values. Paul has had an extraordinary career as a golf professional, general manager, president of club operations and development and chief executive officer. Coupled with his decades-long support and leadership within the PGA of America, culminating in his Presidency of the organization from 2016 to 2018 and being inducted to the PGA of America Hall of Fame in November 2021. Paul immediately adds an enormous amount of golf operational and strategic knowledge to an already strong KK&W Team.
His network within the PGA will allow us to continue to place their best and brightest into great golf professional and general manager roles. We are excited for him to apply his passion for the industry and his hospitality development relationships will add to the success of our clients and the professionals we place,” as expressed by the KK&W partners.
“Being in the club and hospitality industry for all of my career, I was afforded the opportunity, early on, to meet Dick Kopplin. I clearly saw his passion for continuing education and advancing the careers of professionals in the industry. His love for helping others achieve success at the top private clubs in the country has been his life’s work. In my early days as a club executive and later as the President of the PGA of America my passion for the same two pillars of the club industry; career advancement for industry professionals and their education, drove many of my decisions. Now being part of the KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE firm allows me to continue my passion for helping others achieve success. I am thrilled to be part of a team that shares the same values,” Levy responded.
Following a two-year term as the 40th PGA President, Paul K. Levy was named PGA Honorary President at the 2018 PGA Annual Meeting. Previously, he also served two-year terms each as PGA Vice President and PGA Secretary.
For more than 18 years Paul was President of Club Operations and Development for Sunrise Company in which time he developed and managed several properties in California, Texas, Nevada and Colorado. Additionally, he was the CEO and General Manager at Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells, California. Paul has been an active member of CMAA since 2005 and was also inducted to the Southern California PGA Hall of Fame.
Levy earned PGA Membership in 1986, and has served in a leadership capacity at both the Section and national levels since 1992.
As PGA President, Levy was influential in the decision to relocate the PGA Headquarters to Frisco, Texas, and spearheaded growing the employment consultant arm of PGA of America‘s Career Services and executive search. The $550 million PGA Frisco development will bring 26 PGA of America championships, approximately 150 jobs and a new Northern Texas PGA Section Headquarters.
From 2004-2008, Levy was a member of the PGA Board of Control. He has served on several National Committees dating back to the early 1990s. Levy was president of the Southern Texas PGA Section from 1998-2000, and earned the 2000 Southern Texas PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award. He has also been named as a three-time Section PGA Junior Golf Leader recipient (1992, ’93, ’98); the 1999 Section Bill Strausbaugh Award winner; and the 1997 Section Merchandiser of the Year for Public Facilities. Additionally, he chaired every major committee of the Section at one time in his tenure as a Section leader. From 2007-2012, Levy was elected as an Independent Director on the Southern California PGA Board of Directors.
From 1999-2004, Levy served as General Manager and PGA Director of Golf at Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston; and was the Senior Vice President of Club Operations for Sunrise Company (the developer of Royal Oaks Country Club), overseeing properties in Nevada, California, Colorado and Texas. In 2004, Levy moved to Southern California to oversee the development of Toscana.
A native of New Orleans, Levy is a 1983 graduate of Louisiana State University, where he was a three-year member of the Tigers golf team.
Paul can be contacted at: email@example.com or M. (760) 417-9048
Please join us in welcoming Paul to the KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE team.
KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE specializes in GM/COO, CEO, Assistant General Manager/Clubhouse Manager, Director of Food and Beverage, Executive Chef, Director of Golf/Head Golf Professional, Golf Course Superintendent/Director of Agronomy, Director of Tennis/Director of Racquets, Fitness and Wellness Director, Chief Financial Officer, Director of Finance, Controller, HR Director, Membership and Marketing Director Searches and Consulting Services for Private, Resort and Developer – Owned Properties, Clubs and Communities as well as Senior Living Communities and Property Owners Associations.
Richard Kopplin has been recognized for his career dedicated to the betterment of the private club industry and one of five new inductees to the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame held recently at the Induction Ceremony hosted at Paradise Valley Country Club.
Following a 35-year career as a general manager and vice president for nationally recognized clubs, Kopplin started Kopplin Search, Inc. over 23 years ago with the objective of assisting clubs in their search for skilled, competent staff. Today he leads KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, a dynamic firm with a focus on executive searches, industry education and consulting.
KOPPLIN & KUEBLER emerged in 2007 as Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM joined the firm, and expanded to KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE with the addition of partner Thomas B. Wallace III, CCM, CCE, ECM in 2016.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, Kopplin began his career in the private club industry by managing golf clubs in Wisconsin and Minnesota. His career continued as general manager and vice president of operations, including Castle Pines in Denver, CO, Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, AZ, and PGA West in LaQuinta, CA.
“Clearly, there are few in our club industry who are better known for their commitment to giving back and helping to develop both current and future leaders in all aspects of the golf experience,” expressed partner Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM.
“I met Dick when he was finishing his role at GM/COO at Desert Mountain, and he quickly offered his support and insights should I wish to have them, in order to be successful at nearby Desert Highlands. That initial and sincere offer has continued in the 20-plus years since, and in even greater depth when asked to join him at Kopplin Search, Inc. nearly 13 years ago. Since then, his style and genuine generosity has grown even stronger, not only for me, but for countless club professionals around the country! He’s the BEST!!”
“Dick is being duly recognized by the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame for his distinguished career and track record of going above the norm for golf and the club industry in the state of Arizona and throughout his career,” explained partner, Thomas B. Wallace III, CCM, CCE, ECM. “I have been privileged to watch firsthand the effect that he has had on club professionals through his leadership, mentorship and passion. I know this passion will continue into the future. Our team at KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE couldn’t be prouder of our dedicated leader.”
“Congratulations on your induction to the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame!” exclaimed Club Management Association of America President & CEO Jeff Morgan. “This honor stands as a true testament to the impact you have demonstrated throughout your tenure for private clubs and golf in Arizona.
“The mark you have made on a national level through your executive search business is even more impactful. Indeed, you have placed hundreds of club professionals who oversee top clubs across the nation, yet in my opinion, your legacy is that of helping to create better club leaders, deeper thinkers, and lifelong learners among club professionals and club board members. Leaders are Readers, as you so often share.
“Your legacy doesn’t stop there, as your energy, care and enthusiasm have extended into supporting non-profit organizations including those within the golf community, particularly those focused on our veterans, like Tee It Up for The Troops. Congratulations again on becoming a Hall of Famer!” In addition to Kopplin, the 2019 Arizona Golf Hall of Fame induction class also included seasoned Arizona Republic journalist John Davis; business industry leader and Ping Board of Director Doug Hawken; professional golfer and architect Tom Lehman and vice president of science and agronomy for Troon Jeff Spangler.