By James Gilmore, Denver, Colorado
Metropolitan Tee Times
They said it couldn’t be done—-training and certifying golf teaching professionals. That was the exclusive terrain of the PGA of America, established in 1916. How could any other organization dare challenge tradition and compete head to head with such a Goliath of the golf industry? Furthermore, how did this entity become the largest organization of golf teaching professionals in the world?
For the answer to these questions, I asked Geoff Bryant, president of the United States Golf Teachers Federation, based in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. According to Mr. Bryant, “As a USGTF member it is important to understand the history and evolution of the organization and what prompted its founding. Our story is about taking the golf teaching profession and for the first time in history making it a separate entity unto itself. It is about providing opportunity, offering inclusion and demystifying the golf teaching profession. Having a history is what sets us apart and our story has proven ever relevant to over 25,000 golf teaching professionals around the world.” Mr. Bryant knew twenty years ago there was a market for personable, qualified golf teaching professionals. Bryant, a former ski racer and teacher, knew that some of the best ski instructors in the world attended six-day certification courses. If it worked so well for skiing, Bryant was sure it would work for golf. He was right.
Nowadays, the USGTF holds 4 levels of certification with continuing education through Golf Teaching Pro magazine, the official member publication of the USGTF. In order to achieve certification, candidates may choose to attend the level of certification they prefer and successfully pass the criteria required for each level. The playing ability test also includes a division for seniors and super seniors.
Prior to the existence of the USGTF, candidates with a desire to teach golf had to attend a three to four year apprenticeship program governed by the PGA. Ironically, these individuals did very little teaching. That’s still the case today. Most apprentices work for minimum wage and spend most of their time selling merchandise, cleaning clubs, or taking charge of tee times.