Navigating Compensation Trends in the Golf Industry: A 2023 Perspective

What a season we’ve had in 2023! According to the insights from The Pellucid Perspective in October 2023, we’ve seen a return to normal weather in September, and Golf Market Research Center (GMRC) subscribers have reported positive metrics across most of our key performance indicators. It’s safe to say that “the party continues for the golf operations sector of our industry.”

During this “party” (aka the COVID Bump), we’ve witnessed a substantial increase in rounds played since 2020, with a steady uptick continuing through 2023. However, it appears that PGA Professionals might be feeling a bit more burnt out this year.

There is more good news! In the PNWPGA Section this year we have seen 100+ new PGA Associates join our ranks. That is real help where it’s needed, where the “front line service” is delivered. That growth is a strong 32.52% growth in 2023 over 2022. There are some other good nuggets too, as once again we are seeing compensation increase overall, but not as sharply as in previous years.

Compensation Trends: Let’s Talk Turkey!

I need to get “down to brass tacks” with EVERY PGA Professional who takes the time to read this. Considering the very high (compared with the prior decade) amount of inflation across all the key areas, including housing, transportation costs, food and similar, one can see that compensation simply hasn’t kept up. The question is why?

 Well, that is not so simple (unsurprisingly) and it’s quite complex. Here are a few reasons I feel contribute to the slower growth:

Generally, employers tend to opt for an “ignorance is bliss” strategy. Even for their best employees and specifically PGA Professionals, they seem to “not want to know just how valuable a specific professional actually is” in their operation.

Here’s a few ideas (and articles for you to review/revisit) to counter “ignorance is bliss”:

Part of the “ignorance” strategy is to underestimate the comp market (or stay uninformed intentionally) to the median or average compensation numbers for a given position in the specific facility’s neighborhood (of similar clubs/facilities) and market. How do we “inform the uninformed?”

First: Complete the PGA Compensation Profile

COMPLETE/UPDATE THE PGA COMPENSATION PROFILE AT LEAST ANNUALLY (If not, bi-annually if you get a raise in your base or a bonus, etc.) May I suggest that if you’ve not updated your comp profile in 2023, you may be part of the problem.

Fact-Check: You Won’t “Bring the Numbers Down”

I hear this regularly: “I am underpaid in my current position, so I don’t want to complete the profile and bring down the numbers,” or “I’m underemployed, or unemployed,” or “I’m listed as an assistant pro but really I’m retired,” or something like that. I appreciate your sentiment to not want to “bring the numbers down.” But, based on the way our comp model and reporting works, you are NOT going to bring down all of the numbers. We segment, we use median averaging that takes out the highest and lowest of the range of numbers, so don’t worry about that issue. Please move past this point of view and complete your profile today.

Take Advantage of the Reports

Once you’ve completed your update of the Compensation Profile, you can take advantage of the reports we generate from the data. With help from the PNWPGA Section staff, you can find updated compensation reports for Assistant, Head Professional, Dir of Golf, General Manager and for Dir of Instruction in the “Job Board Notice’’ that is shared bi-weekly in the Foreword Press.

We can produce “custom neighborhood comp reports” (it takes about (takes about 2-3 business days) for management positions in specific markets and/or specific facility types. Here is an example:

How do you use these reports found in the Job Board Notice listings?

Sometimes, a specific report will match up very well with what you’re trying to find out for your situation. If that is the case, use it.

If there’s not a simple match for your needs, I suggest you look at 2-3 reports that have relevant information and similarities to what you need. For example, if you’re an assistant golf professional at a private club in the Portland, Eugene or Central OR markets, you will find relevant information by reviewing the same “asst pro at a private club” in WA State as this report pulls from relevant and similar markets like Seattle, Bellingham, Olympia, Spokane and Yakima for example. Of course, there may be a report for both OR and for WA State, so compare them both and have them both ready when you have a discussion about comp with your supervisor. Whenever possible, for pros in Western MT and Northern ID, I have tried to keep them together as they are relevant, similar and comparable.

These principles of comparing and contrasting “like roles/positions at like facility type in a relevant or similar market” is the best path to find the most meaningful information.


Once you have the relevant information that is meaningful to the situation, you can then (and only then) approach your employer with the following:

  • Proof of your interactions with the customers/membership to “show your value” to the facility (especially in terms of driving revenue, enhancing spend by customers/members, etc.)
  • Documentation on how you have grown in your role (in terms of responsibilities, productivity, leadership, team management, etc.)
  • Suggested updates or modifications that need to be made to your current job description so that it matches what you are actually doing. (If your job description doesn’t accurately reflect what you’re actually doing, you are likely going to be allowing the “ignorance is bliss” strategy to work.)
  • Relevant compensation reports that you’ve studied, with your own documentation of supporting notes and details you need to make your case. These reports need to be “tested” in advance by you or someone you trust to ensure they will pass the employer’s “sniff test” for relevance to them, their facility and your role. Again, relevant and current reports that compare and contrast “like roles/positions at like facility types in a relevant or similar market” is the best path to ensure your employer will find this information is both weighty and meaningful.
  • In many ways, all of the above are aimed at REALIGNMENT of how you/your position (and maybe your department) is viewed by the employer. Think about the difference in this perspective of a given position/staffer/leadership position below:
    • Viewed as an “Expense-aligned Position”
    • Viewed as a “Value-aligned Position”
    • In a simplistic way, think bluntly about your employer’s view of your role. Which is it? What can you do based on the concepts above to change that if it is “expense-aligned?”

If you have any questions on these steps/details, please feel free to reach out to me!

As I wrote in the article linked above (about Tracking Interactions, Verifying Your Impact, etc.), “Remember that showcasing your efforts is a crucial part of your role. By documenting your engagement activities/interactions and their outcomes (and revenues driven), we can demonstrate the remarkable difference you make to the game of golf and its stakeholders. Individually and collectively, it is our PGA passion that fuels the success of golf, and I am here to assist you in making your efforts visible and acknowledged.” In this way, you can break down the “ignorance” and gain the appropriate amount of leverage in your negotiation.

 Reach out to me anytime. I look forward to hearing from you soon. If you would like to discuss any of these concepts, please click on the Book an appointment on Monte’s Calendar link here or in my email signature below.

Monte Koch, PGA Certified Professional, CIC | 206.335.5260

PGA of America | PGA Career Services | Career Coach & Consultant​

Certified Interview Coach | Certified Predictive Index Practitioner​

Based in South King County, WA

Book an appointment on Monte’s Calendar

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