Your mates tell you that you hit it far enough to be on the Tour, and that you’re great at giving them tips that get them back on track mid round. So why not turn all of this into a satisfying and lucrative career: after all, doing what you love is supposed to be the ideal form of work, isn’t it?

Of course, if it was as easy as that, everyone would be doing it. The reality is somewhat different.

Let’s take the first option: turning professional and playing in tournaments for prize money. You can renounce your amateur status and declare yourself a professional, but unless you have been through one of the recognised Qualifying Schools (“Q Schools”), you will have no status and so your chances of playing on one of the regular circuits will be basically zero. You will then have to join the thousands of self-declared professionals playing on mini tours, where the entry fees are high and you are effectively playing for your own money. A tough life.

Even if you gain a recognised tour card, the road to riches is not usually a quick one. High performance sports research suggests that it takes around 10,000 hours or around 10 years of intensive training to reach international elite level in a sport. Data from the PGA Tour tells us that this period may be closer to 20 years for golf. There are obvious exceptions such as Jordan Spieth and even our own Danny Lee, but for most it is a long haul exercise demanding extreme and sustained mental toughness. Most fall by the wayside (see the sidebar: “Fast Track/Slow Track”).

So what about the second option, making a career as a club professional, coach or other position in the golf industry? Back in the 1850s when golf was played on a handful of golf courses mostly in Scotland, the early professionals tried to make a living from making golf balls, and playing in high stakes matches from time to time. They soon realised that to make this perilous existence sustainable, they needed to promote the growth of the game and be the recognised experts in all facets of it. That meant getting involved in club making, coaching amateurs, designing and building golf courses, organising tournaments, and spreading the game beyond Scotland.

Led initially by Old Tom Morris, and later by James Braid, J H Taylor and Harry Vardon, the PGA of Great Britain and Ireland was eventually formed in 1901 to protect the interests of professional golfers, and to set standards for the profession. Nearly 120 years later, PGAs around the world now run comprehensive programmes for those wishing to become qualified PGA vocational members.

In some ways, these follow the road travelled by the early professionals. A high degree of playing skill is mandatory (a handicap of 3 or better for men, and 6 for women), and the trainee programme covers topics such as swing fundamentals, coaching, club fitting and repairing, and the business of golf. Qualifying as a full PGA member takes a minimum of 3 years, and requires a level of practical and theoretical study equivalent to a university degree, plus maintaining playing standards at a high level, and working full time under a current PGA member throughout.

However, the qualifications obtained today are increasingly business and technology focused, and although the 2021 PGA graduate will have a sound overall knowledge of all key aspects of golf, they are likely to move into more specialised areas which could include coaching, promoting and growing the game (for example through junior golf initiatives), retailing or golf club management[i]. Because the qualification is recognised internationally, they can build a global career, with many recent PGA NZ graduates working in markets such as China, Australia, the UK, Europe, and North America.

The professionals of the past would surely relate to this, as they left Scotland in large numbers to spread the game around the world, not least in New Zealand. If they landed here today, they would no doubt be intrigued by the widespread use of Flightscope, Trackman and video technology in coaching, let alone the business planning tools and spreadsheets the modern professional has access to. But they would recognise the same attributes they needed to grow the game and their own careers: passion, persistence, and the overcoming of frequent setbacks and adversity to be recognised as experts in the game and business of golf.

If you believe you have these qualities, a career in golf may well be the right choice to join an elite club of some 40,000 PGA qualified men and women around the world who get up every morning to go out and do their bit to grow the great game of golf.

Duncan Simpson

Association Secretary

PGA of New Zealand

For more information, go to