As an accredited PGA Professional, I use my knowledge, training, and experience to communicate the intricacies of the game that I’ve played and enjoyed since I was 12 years old.
Attaining membership in the PGA of America is one of my greatest accomplishments, and I look proudly upon the three years it took to achieve the feat. Being an accredited PGA Professional adds validity to any individual who aspires to work, grow and succeed in the golf industry.
This guide will cover the steps you need to take in order to become an accredited PGA Professional in both the United States and Canada. And while the steps to get there differ slightly in both countries, the end goal is the same: to provide great instruction to aspiring golfers and to grow their love of the game.
- What are the governing bodies in the United States and Canada?
- The different requirements between the United States and Canada
- Different types of golf professionals and industry opportunities
- The costs associated with becoming a PGA professional
- How to maintain your membership
What are golf’s governing bodies in the United States and Canada?
Before getting into what it takes to join, let’s dig a little deeper into each country’s respective organization to better understand the role they play in growing the game.
The PGA of America
The Professional Golfers’ Association of America is one of the largest sporting organizations in the world. Made up of nearly 28,000 golf professionals nationwide, it is committed to establishing and elevating the teaching profession and helping golfers of all skill levels further their love of golf.
The PGA of America is made up of 41 regions across the United States to ensure a seamless network of communication, community and collaboration nationwide.
Fun Fact: While the names are similar, The PGA Tour and PGA of America are separate organizations. The PGA Tour split from the PGA of America in the late 1960’s to focus solely on running tournaments for tour players, as opposed to club professionals. That said, the PGA of America still conducts prestigious tournaments in collaboration with the professional tours, including the PGA Championship, the Women’s PGA Championship and the Senior PGA Championship.
The PGA of Canada
Founded in the early 20th century when golf was still quite new north of the border, the PGA of Canada was founded to advance the game in Canada and to more clearly define what role the country’s club professionals would play in doing so.
Today, the organization is made up of more than 3,500 members who are dedicated to growing the game in Canada, as well as to setting and maintaining the high standards for teaching professionals nationwide.
Different PGA requirements between the United States and Canada
While the goals and aims of the two organizations are similar, the PGA of America and PGA of Canada differ when it comes to becoming an accredited PGA professional
How to join the PGA of America as an accredited professional
In the United States, there are two ways to gain PGA membership:
- Through the Professional Golf Management (PGM) Associate Program or via
- One of the 18 colleges and universities that offer the PGA-accredited Professional Golf Management Program.
Regardless of the route you choose, the first step in the United States is to pass a Playing Ability Test (PAT). Anyone who feels like they are up to it can pay the fees and test their skills. You must complete one of the following within eight years prior to registering into the PGA Professional Golf Management (PGM) Program:
- Attempt the PAT at least once within the eight years prior to registering into the PGA PGM Program.
- The PAT consists of 36 holes in one day with a target score equal to or lower than the course rating for 36 holes plus 15.
- To register as an associate, an individual must shoot one 18-hole score in a PAT that is equal to or less than the target score for 18 holes plus five strokes
- They are required to fully pass the PAT before attaining their membership.
The next step is to seek an apprenticeship under a Class A PGA Member. You must work under a Class A PGA Professional in the golf industry. This work experience is invaluable as you proceed through the PGA PGM Associate Program.
With this component satisfied, prospective professionals can register for the PGM Associate Program, a three-level curriculum composed of self-study, seminars, work experience, and testing. Topics include:
The PGA of America allows up to eight years to complete the program—the average is four years.
The PGA of America also offers its Professional Golf Management Program at 18 colleges and universities from coast to coast. Upon completion of one of these four and a half year programs, students will have attained their Bachelor’s Degree in Golf Management or a related program with a golf management component, as well as their Class A PGA Member status.
How to join the PGA of Canada as an accredited professional
In Canada, prospective golf professionals enter into the PGA of Canada Training Academy. As with the PGA of America, you must attempt and pass a Playing Ability Test in order to join.
The PGA of Canada PAT is 18 holes and, statistically, is easier to pass:
- Men, 49 years of age and under, the course rating plus 9
- Men, 50 years of age and older, the course rating plus 11
- Women, 49 years of age and under, the course rating plus 13
- Women, 50 years of age and older, the course rating plus 15
After successfully completing the PAT, you must submit a membership application and pass the following courses:
- Instructor of Beginner Golfers Workshop
- Respect in Sport Activity Leader Program
- Career Literacy Part One: Map Your Career and History
- Background of the PGA of Canada
The PGA of Canada allows Training Academy participants up to six years to complete its program. Through its Partner Pathways Program, students enrolled in golf-related management programs at four partner colleges and universities can complete the course requirements within their school curriculum.
Different types of PGA professionals and job opportunities
There are a wide variety of career options available to PGA members. Whether you’re destined to be a head professional at a golf course, a general manager at a golf entertainment venue or a member of the media, there are many potential avenues for accredited members of a Professional Golfers’ Association.
When I was an Associate, called apprentice at the time, I worked under a PGA Class A member. My duties included teaching, tournament administration, customer service, industry knowledge and promoting the game—after all, we wear many hats.
As you grow into your career, you can narrow your focus to what you love to do the most.
- General Managers: Oversee the entire club operation
- Head Professional/Director of Golf: Managing golf operations and the pro shop
- Dedicated Teacher or Coach: Offer lessons to members and guests
- Director of Instruction: Oversee player development programming
As the industry grows and custom fitting, technology, golf entertainment venues and digital journalism/social media continue to alter an ever-changing business environment, there are more golf industry opportunities than ever, both at green grass facilities and away from them. In fact, the PGA of America has 24 classifications that tell you all you need to know about the different options available to accredited members.
As an A-18 classification, I am a member of the golf media family that reports the news of the game, enlightens on industry trends and tells the stories of what many in the business feel is the greatest game in the world.
Costs associated with becoming an accredited PGA professional
So now that you know what it takes to become a golf professional in both the United States and Canada, what will it cost you? Let’s find out.
PGA of America costs for becoming an accredited pro
The PGA of America charges $100 for each PAT attempt, and the host facilities may charge an additional fee. This is reasonable considering you’ll play 36 holes of golf.
Once registered into the PGM Associate Program, there are online access fees, test fees, and costs to attend seminar sessions with the completion of each of the three levels. The estimated cost without travel and lodging is approximately $4,000. Once you are a PGA of America member, there are annual dues payable to one’s PGA section and the national organization.
PGA of Canada costs for becoming an accredited pro
The PAT in Canada costs $325, with additional attempts, if needed, costing $150 each.
The first year of courses within the PGA of Canada Training Academy is $780, beginning upon the successful completion of the PAT. Fees will range from $2,800 to $4,000 over the course of the six years that one has to complete the program. As with the PGA of America, membership will require payment of annual membership dues.
Considering that education is an investment in your future, the costs that come with these programs are worth it when you consider that you are working towards a career you’ll enjoy in an industry you love.
Maintaining your status as an accredited PGA professional
Once you become a member of one of these organizations, there are continuing educational requirements you must meet each year, in addition to annual membership dues.
It is important to find your niche and seek employment in an area of the industry that you will enjoy and thrive in—whether on the grounds of a golf facility as a superintendent, in the golf shop as head or assistant professional, upstairs in the general manager’s office, or your own home office writing about the game day and night.
As a member, it’s also important to develop your network of professionals—as mentioned, we wear many hats, but we cannot be experts in all of them.
Both the PGA of America and the PGA of Canada are close-knit communities of professionals who share information and experiences, successes and failures, so colleagues can avoid the pitfalls or enjoy the rewards of a job well done in golf.
Feed your passion, fuel your future.
When completing high school and entering college, we don’t always know what we want to do when we grow up. I always knew writing was for me, but the golf component came a little later. The PGA of America has two vital programs in place for those who figured it out early, as well as for folks like me who worked in other fields first.
Similarly, the PGA of Canada offers an enriching, affordable program that will educate individuals on the ins and outs of being a golf professional and allow them to grow and nurture the game.
The best players in the world play on TV every weekend – they are professional golfers. We, on the other hand, are golf professionals. We are the ones who drive the business of golf, who grow the game from the grassroots level, and who teach the young kids who may someday walk the fairways of the world’s various professional tours or at the very least, bring their kids to their local course, to enjoy a game we can all play for a lifetime. Either way, figure out what you love to do and go all in.
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