The Reintermediation of the Club Pro
by Bill Bales, Clarity.Golf Founder
Harrogate, England – The lot of club pros in the United States has been in decline for two generations. These fine ladies and gentlemen who have dedicated their lives to the game we love have been serially and systematically disinter mediated, disenfranchised and disrespected over most of my adult life–and I turn 70 in less than three moons.
I recently caught a brilliant but sad piece by Golf Digest writer Shane Ryan describing this decline, where various club pros recounted their experiences involving Gulag-esque hours and work environment, tragically low pay, and disrespectful treatment by members. This decline perhaps started with the giant sucking sound of golf equipment sales first channeling from the pro shops into off-course retail followed by the growth of internet sales. Then one day in 2014 the Dick’s Sporting Goods stores fired over 500 PGA pros in lieu of low wage clerks and a shifting focus on higher margin clothing sales. Adding to this, and presenting this as my own singular opinion, the PGA of America has done what I feel to be a weak-at-best job of helping the membership it exists to support.
As I sit in my tiny flat in Harrogate, England, where I have been spending a good bit of time interacting with the UK golf world and falling in love with Yorkshire, I must say that the situation here with club pros is not dissimilar to the good old US of A.
So, am I just going to whine about the deficient lives of this wonderful cadre of dedicated true professionals that give their heart and soul to the game of golf, or do I have a solution to offer?
I have a solution. And I intend on investing time, money, and lots of effort to manifest it. There will be no pretension of altruism, unlike what I perceive amongst the true powers in golf whom I honestly struggle to support. My motives are purely and unabashedly capitalistic.
But first a little background. Over the last generation, American golf has grown the number of participants by roughly 50%–based on NGF data. But it also must be pointed out that all of this growth has taken place, as NGF defines, “off course”. Yes, the number of American on-course golfers has remained essentially static while at the same time the number of so-called “off-course” golfers has grown perhaps by six-fold. We’re seeing similar growth in the UK.
Let’s say what everyone should be thinking right now. Wow!
A technology miracle is taking place. Launch monitors, range tracking systems, and simulators are at the root of this growth. TopGolf has become an overnight massive success–except like most overnight successes the first TopGolf was established here in England–twenty-three years ago. Simulators and launch monitors have been around for over thirty years. The fact that the TOUR, the USGA, the PGA, the R&A and others are just figuring this out only validates that these guys (they are almost all “guys”) are “slow”. One, two, three, four, another, another…
Okay, back to the club pros. They know golf. They are credible golf authorities. They know golfers. My company, Clarity.Golf, knows golf tech. We know it well. We probably know it “more well” than anyone. And we think that this presents an amazing opportunity for golf pros looking to reduce their workweeks to 40-50 hours and make a multiple of the minimum wage so many are earning today.
The golf tech and golf simulator industries are raging. And Clarity.Golf wants to empower and support golf pros interested in hooking onto this soaring star. Within the next thirty days we will be formally launching the Clarity.Golf Simulator Network and offering to empower golf pros and industry veterans to become indoor golf and golf tech integrators.
More to come…