WANT TO WORK AT A GOLF COURSE AFTER RETIREMENT? WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
You’re retired, or soon will be.
Golfing 7/365? You can’t wait!
Then reality sinks in. Even the PGA pros don’t- CAN’T- play every single day. Plus, unless you have a membership at a club where both green fees AND cart fees are part of the membership, teeing it up every day is going to cost a few bucks. Even a scratch golfer will lose several dozen balls a year playing that much golf. At least they will in the tree-lined courses of the Carolina Piedmont.
Your 401k is great, but it’s not that great, so in order to play as often as you’d like, you’ve determined a little extra folding money would be handy.
Obviously, working in the golf industry would be a win-win. You’re not dropping your handicap 12 index points at this stage in life, so professional golf isn’t an option. There ARE other avenues, thankfully. Read below to discover the best ways to stay close to the game you love, and make a few extra bucks doing it.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
I was a Parks and Recreation Director for almost thirty years, and two of the departments I managed had multiple municipal golf courses. In one case, we re-purposed an under-utilized par 3 course into a First Tee facility- the first in the state. Another department had five municipal courses ranging from a basic nine-hole learning facility to a Pete Dye design that hosted a USGA national championship several years ago.
Until recently, I was an active member of the Oglebay Golf Club when I lived in Wheeling, West Virginia. As I played hundreds of rounds at the three Oglebay Courses, and participated in dozens of club-sponsored tournaments, I got to know many of the golf course staff.
Between that grassroots exposure, plus my management experience with municipal courses at a senior level, I have been fortunate to learn much of how a golf operation…well, operates. With that as background, I reached out to some colleagues I have worked, and played, with, and asked for their counsel.
FRONT LINE EXPERTISE
Following are comments from two people who experience golf course management on a daily basis. One is a PGA golf professional with several years experience as a golf course manager, and the other is a retiree who is now a part-time employee at a golf course pro shop. Here is what they said:
The Pro Shop Employee
Tim Pelley is on the Board of Directors of the Oglebay Golf Club. He has worked as a part-time employee on the three courses at Oglebay Park (two of which were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Arnold Palmer) for seven years. Following is advice from Tim:
- “Two years before I retired (from his regular full-time job), I was letting them know I would be ready for employment. I retired in December and was working in the pro shop in March.”
Moral: If you’re serious about wanting to work at a golf course, start preparing and laying the groundwork early. Let them know you’re interested. Let them know NOW that you’ll be interested MONTHS FROM NOW. When I was a Director and knew someone really wanted to work for me, I tried to find a way to make it happen.
- “Because unlike the pressures of your everyday job (stress, bosses, coworkers you don’t like, boredom of the routine) you are now in an atmosphere where everyone is happy because they’re playing golf. No one walks into the shop with a frown and says “Do I have to play golf today”. No!! They come in and can’t wait to get on the first tee.”
Moral: Almost everyone who comes to a golf course is coming there because they WANT to, not because they HAVE to. And, you will be working with a group of people who, like yourself, are working there, at least partly, because it’s such a positive atmosphere. Don’t take that for granted.
- “If you like (working) outside you can mow greens, mow fairways and rough, run a string trimmer, aerate greens, cut trees, plant trees and general maintenance of the course. Those jobs start around 5:00 am and it is work!! You don’t get much chance to interact with golfers (with those jobs, however).”
Moral: There is a job for almost everyone. If you’re a people person, apply to work as a starter or in the shop. If you like being outside, want to stay (or get) in shape, or just enjoy seeing the fruits of your labor in the cut grass, the raked bunkers, the repaired greens- then outside is for you. Know your personality and the type of job you’ll be happy- and successful- in doing.
- “Take the amount you made plus the money you saved in getting free golf and your hourly wage just increased. I played 70 rounds this year.”
Moral: Find out what the hourly rate is, how many hours you are likely to work, how many days you are likely to work, which part of the day (opening until 2? 2 until closing?), and everything else you should know about the actual nuts and bolts of a typical day-to-day schedule. Keep in mind that most courses allow the part-time workers to play at a significantly reduced, or free rate. As Tim says, your hourly rate just increased. Also, does the employment come with any other benefits- free range balls? Reduced price on lessons from the pro? Discount in the pro shop or snack bar? All of these add up to an increased effective net pay.
- “Play that course. You will get to know a lot of the regulars, the greens keeper, the superintendent. Talk to people and let them know you are interested. If they think your personality fits in then they will hire you. So every time you golf there you are actually interviewing.”
Moral: This is great advice from Tim. Play the course. Play it in the morning, and the afternoon, and during the week and on weekends. See who works when. Do you like the employees? Do you enjoy the course? If you don’t like BOTH, it’s doubtful you will enjoy working there, regardless of the pay, or the hours. Also, know your demeanor well enough to be aware of whether or not you will enjoy playing the same course over and over, or if you would rather play different courses. If it’s the latter, you might want to consider how much playing one course for free will mean to you after months of doing it. Alternatives could include searching out a 36-hole facility; or, possibly consider working at two different courses. Be sure to interview the course and the employees as much as they interview you. Any successful interview should be a two-way interview. I always believed that as a Director, and Tim’s advice reinforces it.
THE GOLF PRO
I also interviewed a Golf Professional and Golf Course Manager in another state. Although his management position is significantly different, his perspective was very much the same as Tim’s. Following are some of his most noteworthy observations:
- “It is becoming difficult to find help in the golf industry. There are many contributing factors to that. We hire a lot of retirees and high school and college kids. The pool of retirees is becoming smaller because we are all working longer. Also, the millennial generation doesn’t seem interested in working for minimum wage. They think they can find jobs making $15-$20 an hour and I don’t know where those exist. “
Moral: Jobs are out there. Don’t think that courses aren’t hiring. And your competition may be limited primarily to other baby boomers. If you’re interested, go talk to them (i.e. interview them, as explained above). As emphasized earlier, be sure and ask about what the job entails IN ADDITION TO basic pay.
- “ I typically ask 2 to 3 days out of my employees and they have to be flexible in those days because they may have to work on a weekend. Everyone wants to work the morning shift at the course but it’s not always possible. The majority of my morning staff are seniors but I do have a few that prefer to work in the evenings as well. “
Moral: It is unlikely you can work at a course (especially if you’re new) and only work weekday mornings. Almost everyone at any course I had anything to do with rotated hours and days so that everyone would have to work a weekend shift, a closing shift, etc. Keep in mind that if you have a standing Saturday 9 am tee time with your 7 other buddies, that’s probably not going to work every week once you start a job at a course. It should go without saying you have to work when others are playing, but sometimes that’s overlooked.
- “ I hear someone once a day tell me that working at the golf course has got to be the greatest job in the world. Plus, the networking (opportunities) are huge. I do agree with that but just like every job there can be some days that give you headaches.”
Moral: It’s still a job, and as with any job, there will be times you disagree with the boss, times it is stressful, times you are dealing with unreasonable, drunk, entitled, the-rules-don’t-apply-to-me golfers. Those are exceptions, thankfully. Almost anyone who is working at a golf course is working there because they truly enjoy working there. That type of job environment is one to search for. Making $8 an hour at a job you love is worth a lot more than making $10 an hour at a job you hate.
Both individuals said that the older worker is more reliable, more dependable, and can be trusted with more responsibility. Both said the retiree inherently understands the importance of customer service and interactions with the public.
Everyone reading this remembers the times we have had positive (and negative) interactions with a starter and /or a marshal. That friendly starter that is cheerful, gives you encouragement and seems to genuinely want you to play well (I’m thinking of Coach Camp at Speidel) makes anyone want to come back. That starter who is going through the motions, or only emphasizes all the “don’ts.” sets the wrong tone for not just the round, but paints the rest of the staff in a negative shade. If you can show you have the characteristics of the first example, you’ll get a job.
It’s clear that courses need friendly, responsible employees with flexible schedules. Make that employment a win-win for both you and the course. Do your homework and you will find a perfect fit. And you’ll golf all you want!
P.S. Be sure and smile when you’re getting your photo made for your employee i.d. badge