The risk that you run in cost-cutting during tough economic times is cutting too deep and taking the heart out of your business which, in the case of a golf course, would be the professional in many people’s opinions.
The important role of the golf professional will be a constant message conveyed by the Canadian PGA during the challenging times ahead in 2009, according to association executive director Steve Carroll.
“I think the main issues are mostly economic and I don’t think this will be different than any other organization in golf in that we’re in for some tough times in 2009,” said Carroll.
“We’ve got to make sure our businesses are right and I think that the golf facilities that have the correct economic fundamentals will survive and do well. I think it’s those that aren’t fundamentally based in the right way, they’re going to struggle,” he added.
“I’ve been saying to those golf course owners and employers who think that maybe now is the time that they may not be able to afford a Canadian PGA professional, I think quite the opposite.
“I think now, more than ever you need a Canadian PGA professional working for you to make sure that your business is run properly and brings value to the golf customer and to have all those things that a Canadian PGA professional brings to the facility,” he said.
The changing role of the golf professional has been well-documented over recent years. No longer is the pro just the person who plays with members, gives lessons, runs the golf shop and rents golf carts.
These days, the golf professional is taking on general manager duties or adding food and beverage to his or her job description. Marketing, public relations and business skills are all seen as assets by a potential employer.
The Canadian PGA continues to emphasize education, but Carroll points out that focus was in place long before he arrived as executive director and should pay off in difficult times.
“I think, in times gone by years ago, that when we had some members who weren’t equipped from a knowledge and competency basis, that those people would have a tough time surviving in times like this,” said Carroll.
“Now that we have this requirement that you have a three-year college business diploma or a university degree in business, those are the fundamentals that will serve people well and will keep businesses running properly.
“Thanks to the foresight of committees and boards years ago to take the golf core competencies and combine them with business core competencies, you’ve got Class A members who can deliver on the bottom line.
“Also, just as importantly, they have all the golf skills – golf instruction, golf playing ability, golf coaching now, merchandising, product knowledge. They bring all those important things to the table that are going to ensure that your business is successful.”
Carroll’s read from his members is that there is, understandably, concern out there , but he adds that having more tangible evidence of green grass shop sales across the country would offer a better of idea of what’s actually going on.
Currently, only educated guesses can be made on a national level and that very topic has been brought up with the National Allied Golf Association (NAGA), which also includes owners, superintendents and Royal Canadian Golf Association, among other interested groups.
“The consensus I’m getting is flat (sales) at best and down in some cases,” said Carroll. “This speaks to the point that we need better, more reliable measurements for the business of golf and we’re working towards that with our partners,” said Carroll of a plan that would include golf data collection agencies.
Partners is a word not often used in previous eras in Canadian golf when the game was very much territorial and often featured spats between the different organizations. That is changing within NAGA, according to Carroll, and never was there a better time for that to happen than in this difficult economy.
Carroll recently returned from giving a presentation at the RCGA’s annual general meeting in Halifax and points out that the two associations are working together on various programs such as player development, national team coaching, golf in schools programs and the Future Links junior program.
The Canadian PGA also has a more open dialogue with the National Golf Course Owners Association, which is of course comprised of potential employers of members within Carroll’s organization.
According to Carroll, the Canadian PGA’s message to potential employers will become much clearer when a revised PACE (Professional Advancement and Career Enhancement) program is introduced. An earlier version of that program was defeated in March.
“We’ve taken that back in the shop and we’re retooling it,” said Carroll. “We’ve checked with the members, were checked with the zone leaders, we’ve done surveys, we’ve gathered all the information we need to make significant changes to what we brought out last March.”
“The first time around, the golf course owners saw it as a fantastic step forward, an ability for them to have a clear understanding of what they’re hiring when they’re hiring a golf professional in terms of a person who is certified in certain areas.
“So I know I’m getting a food and beverage expert or I’m getting a golf business management expert or I’m getting an expert teacher. It gives them the ability to clearly check and see what qualifications, certifications a golf professional has,” he said.
“They have a much better match when a golf professional is hired by a golf course owner,” said Carroll, adding that a proposed move of the Titleist and FootJoy Canadian PGA Club Professional Championship from Florida to Arizona is still a possibility in 2009.
He also said that there is nothing new to report on the latent Canadian PGA Championship last played in 2005, when it was part of the Nationwide Tour.
Carroll agrees that every year the tournament isn’t played, it falls off the radar a little more, but having said that, he doesn’t want to bring it back if it isn’t feasible.
The association had worked with IMG to turn it into an invitational event that would include Canadian touring pros as well, but it hasn’t panned out. Carroll adds that other formats would be considered, but not until it makes sense.
“We’re exploring options with that. Now, it’s more difficult with economic difficulties upon us in terms of sponsorship,” he said.
“We will only bring the Canadian PGA Championship back when its ready financially, structurally, in every way. Our centennial is looming on the horizon, 2011 is our 100th anniversary – there might be something to tie in with that.”