Keating see’s Changes for PGA Pro’s

Now in his third decade as a PGA Professional, David Keating has seen plenty and has watched the industry change through the decades.  “When I started as a PGA trainee almost 27 years ago there were just over 200 courses, and there’s well over 300 now” explained Keating.   “We have gone from having 200 pros to 700 since I started.  Golf went through a boom period from 2000-2007 which covered up some cracks but everything came falling down after 2008.  The market is now much smaller, there is more free information online and obviously on-course retail has suffered.  Costs have gone up, lesson rates have stagnated or reduced, and customer numbers have reduced.” 

Keating sees a big divide between the standard level provided by most clubs and the top end premium offering.  “Certain links courses have bucked the trend, and we should all be very thankful to the likes of Old Head in particular, and more recently Adare who lead the way in the premium market.  They have raised standards significantly and this has been the catalyst for improved quality and service for our top end golf tourists.  Excellence will always survive and Old Head and Adare have levels of excellence that are a match for anyone.”

Having worked in busy members clubs like Charleville and Killarney, David knows what’s involved in running a pro shop to serve members and guests.  “What people sometimes forget is that Pro Shops are open for 80 hours per week over the summer months and remain open during the winter period for 55 hours per week.  The only day that a Pro Shop is closed is Christmas Day and staff costs are significant.  It isn’t possible to operate as a one-man band as you need time to teach, custom fit and carry out a number of other services on behalf of the Club.  In real terms golf clubs are getting 2-4 staff for the cost of a retainer.  In Killarney I would have had up to 10 staff during peak season.”

David Keating hitting balls from the range in Cork Golf Centre.

That said, Keating also some of the future directions that PGA Professionals may take.  While the number of PGA trainees currently on the three year degree course has fallen, there are still a number of students working through their qualifications.  Now that the PGA trainee programme is a full degree qualification, new PGA Pro’s should be equipped for the new challenge.  “Moving forward I see PGA professionals specialising in in different segments of the business, namely teaching, club fitting, management or becoming directors of golf.  There will be other opportunities for Pros to set up companies that will operate and manage a cluster of Clubs who can’t afford to staff their facilities in the current climate.”