“Why do we need Player Development and Golf 2.0?”

On my third day at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FL, this week, I was speaking with a PGA member from another Section about Golf 2.0 and our player development focus as an Association.  I am quoting exactly what he said, “I’ve got a burr in my butt about this.”

I asked him what he meant exactly.  Did he not like Golf 2.0, the Player Development department or something else?  He clarified it with, “Why do we need the Golf 2.0 initiative?, PGA members should have been doing this all along…they shouldn’t have to be told.”  On the one hand, I can understand his logic, but whether he was right or not, the facts are abundantly clear.  We need Golf 2.0 as a strategic effort and the focus on it is required.

From the late 80s to the mid-2000s, I believe we went through a cultural shift of our industry.  In this shift, we got away from our core principles of teaching, promoting and growing the game to focus on business, management and operational skills.  At the very same time, our country went through several cultural and economic shifts.  These shifts for the family, the workplace, and the economy trickled over to have a negative effect on the bottom line of nearly every golf facility.

As a result, we have seen unprecedented “compression” and “contraction” in golf.  As the bottom line health of golf facilities has waned, so has the opportunity and in many cases, the income streams for PGA Professionals.  Conversely, responsibilities (“on the plate” of golf professionals,) and expectations have risen to high levels.  At the same time, we’ve come to understand “underemployment” is a real factor in our business, where golf professionals have employment, but it’s not what it used to be OR it’s not in line with their qualifications, skills and experience.

Thankfully, these factors are not as apparent in the PNW Section as they are, perhaps in other Sections in the West and Southwest.  To be more concise, the pain is more real in other areas…so far.

Are You “The Pilot” or Just a Passenger?

With the thoughts above squarely in my mind, I was flying back from Orlando, FL and the PGA Merchandise Show late on a Saturday evening.  On approach to SeaTac, we were flying in through the clouds and the standard rain prevalent to the area.  We were “bouncing” along through the thick layer of clouds, where you couldn’t see anything (above or below,) but the lights on the wings.  Many of us have experienced this before.  We either give in to fear or trust, because, after all, we’re just the passengers on this jet.  Literally, all we have is trust…our trust in the pilot, our trust in the plane, (its parts and the mechanics who put it together,) and our trust in the plan, the staff in the tower at Seatac, etc.

What does the pilot trust in?  He or she also trusts in the plane, its parts…but more importantly they also TRUST THEIR OWN SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE, their ability to read the instruments on the plane and follow the flight plan they developed before taking off.  To take off, with literally hundreds of people (plus their families at home,) counting on you for their safety, must be a huge responsibility, and I am glad these pilots take it very seriously.

Can we apply these principles to the work of a golf professional?  (I’m going to try.)  Difference making and responsibility taking is what separates THE PILOT (or The Captain) from the passengers…in the last two decades, it’s my view that too many pros have been willing to take a seat in the back as a passengers, or a steward, or maybe even the 1st Officer in leading their facility or their operation, (sometimes it hasn’t been their choice as someone higher up made the choice for them.)  Either way, they’ve let someone else be The Pilot who defines where the “facility plane” is going and when.

As a result, many facilities, led by well-meaning and effective “cost-cutters” have turned from generating revenue to “trying to survive.”  In this “death spiral,” facilities stop re-investing in their product, their infrastructure and their staff.  Sometimes, this is literally forced on them because of debt service and similar circumstances.  In order to survive, they cut corners, compress departments and contract on service to the customer.  These efforts usually do work to delay further cuts, and often they can get the facility to next year or next month, but it doesn’t ever work to get off the “spiral” itself.

Only REVENUE GENERATING LEADERSHIP by a “qualified PGA Pilot” can get a facility off the spiral.  Instead of being a passenger or even the 1st Officer, I’d like to challenge you to think of how you can morph into, or flat out become the PILOT at your facility.  You can do it by challenging your own “HABITUDES” (that is, your habits and attitudes as a golf professional,) and it’s going to be worth it.  Think about it for a moment please:

  1. No one, (likely at your facility,) but YOU has your unique personality, character and charisma.  Your ability to inspire golfers, creating loyalty through your own contacts, your colleagues and/or your staff, one customer/member at a time, makes you special.  It makes you qualified to be “The Pilot.”
  2. No one should know your “products” better than you do, especially those products focused on helping your customers hit more good shots, have more fun with friends and shoot lower scores…if your personal “why” is wrapped up in this, customers, staff and owners can trust in you.
  3. No one has more to gain from your success as “The Pilot” than you do…when your plan succeeds, (especially if you track your efforts well,) you reap the rewards…but so do others on your team, at your facility and similar.  (They may have never said it, but they’re counting on you to lead them…to pilot them from this “rough patch” to smooth sailing where they and the facility can succeed.)  They want to matter and be significant in the Plan, but they’re still counting on you.
  4. No one is likely to do it, if you don’t.  Again, your unique qualifications have made you ready for this assignment.

With your qualifications, talents and abilities, there is also responsibility…and thus, a certain vulnerability.  If you’re willing to be “The Pilot,” you’re also willing to take responsibility for the success or failure of the plan, [with your personal “why” as a foundational cornerstone,] and entrust others to join you in the endeavor.  For some of us, this may take some growth in aspects of leadership, mentoring and making our owner(s), staff and customers see how they truly matter in the short and long term success of the plan.  In the end, it will be worth it…are you ready to step up and get back in the cockpit?  (Please click on the video links around this article for some ideas on how to become “The Pilot” you want to be…)

As YOUR PGA Member benefit, I would love to help you, your staff and your facility in any way I can.  Please let me know how I can help you by contacting me today:  mkoch@pgahq.com or (206)335-5260.