An article called The Club Pro Crisis published in Golf Digest recently created quite a buzz in the club world. The golf boom and labor shortage have caused the work-life balance of many golf professionals (and other management professionals) to tip in the wrong direction. The article emphasized the need to rethink and restructure these important roles to retain current golf professionals and attract the next generation. Current and former club pros shared experiences and stories in the lengthy article, shining light on pros being berated by members for enforcing club and course rules, working 30-plus days in a row, averaging 60-90 hours per week consistently, minimal annual salaries and poor work-life balance which sometimes led to divorce, addictions and mental health challenges.

While the labor shortage continues, these examples and the lack of applicants for open golf professional positions have caused industry leaders to speak up for change. “These issues have been ignored for a long time and they can’t be ignored anymore,” said Paul Levy, former PGA of America president. “We have to realize that quality of life has risen to the forefront and it isn’t going away. Owners and boards have to embrace this and show how much they value their employees if they want to keep them.”

Levy says fortunately assistant golf pro salaries have risen and continue to rise due to inflation and the tight labor market. Depending on the market and location of the club, assistant pros are being paid $75,000 on the high end and $45,000 on the low end for base salaries (the article features examples of assistant pros making less than $30,000 annually in the past). While Levy supports salary increases, he also believes clubs can do more to promote a better work-life balance for golf and all club professionals. He has the following suggestions:

  • Offer four-day work weeks where professionals work four ten-hour days and then get three days off. This kind of consistency allows employees to plan their lives, schedule family events and have the balance they desire.
  • Give every professional a three-day weekend off once a month. In an industry where it can be hard to get one day off during the busy season, ensuring a long weekend off each month can keep employees fresh, motivated and boost overall employee morale.
  • Empower and support club professionals for enforcing rules, trying new ideas and pursuing the balance they need for their health and well-being.

If clubs want to keep and attract great people (not just in the golf department), they need to create a culture where employees are embraced and better working conditions (work-life balance, pay, etc.) are provided. Levy urges club executives to think: “If it were my son or daughter in this role, what would I want for him/her?”

Tom Wallace of the executive search firm, Kopplin, Kuebler and Wallace (KK&W) believes expectations have to change. “We’re spending a lot of time educating search committees and boards because the expectations can’t be that professionals are going to work morning, noon and night. No one is going to work like that anymore. The industry as a whole has to make an effort to change. Clubs have to start budgeting for the extra people they are going to need. Offering a better quality of life is the only way to attract and keep employees.”

While Levy and Wallace state adding more staff and increasing salaries does have a financial impact on clubs, both agree that this initiative goes beyond just morals and ethics—it’s good business. “You’re going to get a better product and an enhanced member experience when your people are rested, balanced, healthier and happier,” Wallace said. KK&W reports seeing a stark divide between the progressive clubs that are taking steps to ensure the health and general well-being of their staffs and those that are not. Clubs that are staying close to the old model are struggling to keep employees and attract candidates for open positions—and their member experiences suffer as a result.

The PGA of America is offering consulting opportunities to advise and assist clubs on the process of restructuring staffing levels in golf operations. It also offers a Member Assistance Program for PGA members that provides a variety of quality-of-life services, including counseling on mental health, relationships and additional issues.

Private Club Advisor – August 2022