‘’Do what you do best and forget the rest’’ was the advice once given to me by a businessman at a golf day in Australia.
In a way, it is good advice (to start with anyway) because once you are a specialist, you have authority, can build a reputation and are likely to be paid more.
For the modern PGA Professional this makes perfect sense, we have seen a trend over the last 20 years towards specialist players, coaches, golf psychologists, retailers, club-fitters, club managers, corporate event organisers etc and away from the traditional club professional model – although, of course, that quite rightly still exists.
So how do you maximise your opportunities as a specialist?
It might seem contradictory but my solution was to specialise and THEN diversify.
The day golf finally met business for Jeremy Dale
I am quite certain that no professional golfer ever set out to become a trick shot artist.
Everyone dreams of playing for a living BUT, when you see a new opportunity, it is a good idea to explore the potential.
My big chance came in the summer of 1991 at the Rijswijkse Golf Club in The Hague when Head Professional John Woof unwittingly gave me the opportunity of a lifetime – an opportunity that quite literally presented me with a fork in the road of my career.
Find yourself a business model (or mentor) BUT make up your own version
As an assistant, I saw a really good future business model in John.
He was earning from a few different areas of the golf business but was really well known at that time in Holland for the quality of his play.
As well as winning tournaments (both nationally & internationally) and making the PGA Cup team, he was also a successful coach, had some sponsors and, importantly for me, he performed a really good trick shot golf show. It was the first one I had ever seen and I liked the combination of entertainment mixed with a high level of skill and accuracy.
John also ran events (for his sponsors & featuring his show), sometimes took them on private outings to famous courses, and later in his career, despite being a foreigner, he became a golf commentator on Dutch TV.
It was especially obvious to me that John was able to carry over his reputation for tournament golf into everything else he did.
I concluded that to have a good career in golf, you should be really good at one thing (whatever your speciality might be) but ALSO diversify your range of products AND be good at selling them……..by the way, don’t forget that last one!
(If you are a coach read Ian Clark’s excellent blog on making sales and creating a client base)
Look out for a life changing opportunity
I decided that I needed to put together a golf show………….….if I could become really good at that then it would do for my business what playing had done for John.
The problem was that I did not want to copy anyone, I needed a USP of my own and was well aware of the importance of being my own person.
I had no idea what that could be until that day at Rijswijk in 1991 when John asked me to give a lesson to one of his sponsors, who happened to be left-handed.
After the lesson, I asked if I could have a go with his club since I had never hit a shot left-handed. It felt quite good and I was very surprised at the quality of my best shots so I spent the whole evening on the range.
This did not have to be a life changing moment, but that is exactly how it turned out.
I decided there and then that I was going to relearn the game left-handed so that I could put together a switch-hitting golf show, something that, unsurprisingly, had never been done.
I was about to find out why.
Left-Handed Golf – my hard won USP
John said: ‘’Give yourself two years’’ and (cryptically) ‘’You never know’’.
He was right on both counts.
My father always used to say ”We never give in’’. He was only partly joking, it’s great advice.
Everyone else thought I was nuts and looking back, I can see what they meant.
My good friend and co-assistant at the club, Michael Unsworth, had seen almost every shot of my left-handed experiment, from hitting air shots to making cuts in Dutch PGA events.
I knew I was making progress when he said to me:
‘’When you started playing left-handed I would always hope you’d hit a good shot off the first tee……..now I kind of hope you don’t!’’
It was a frantic time. Somehow, within two years, I learned to speak Dutch fluently, made the required scores in professional tournaments (left-handed) and passed the exams with the Dutch PGA. Later, having contacted Lawrie Thornton at the PGAs of Europe, I passed the British PGA exams too.
I was all set for a career in golf as a trick shot artist and did my first proper show in April 1994 at Golf & Country Club ‘t Sybrook in the Netherlands.
You never know!
Wind the clock forward and these days people assume that switch-hitting was just something I could always naturally do but nothing could be further from the truth.
It had seemed impossible to me that I would make a living from golf but it has somehow happened.
So far I have performed my show in 39 countries in front of business people and top golfers from all parts of the globe. I have also met and performed with many of the great golfers I grew up watching on TV. Gary Player, Seve, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Tony Jacklin, Padraig Harrington, Ian Woosnam and so the list goes on.
Specialise in one thing – but diversify your business too
What I have also done is (like John Woof) use the golf show to develop other areas of my business.
Here is a list of the other things I have done in the last 20 years in golf:
- PGA Coach – individual coaching, golf schools and golf holidays
- TV presenter
- Organiser and Promoter – World Golf Trick Shot Championship
- Charity event organiser
- After Dinner Speaker
- Brand Ambassador
- Master of Ceremonies
- Charity Auctioneer
- Business and Marketing Consultant for other PGA professionals
I even won a trick shot competition in America in 2015 and finished No. 2 in the World Golf Trick Shot Championships in 2005.
Specialists really do get paid more
My advice to any golf professional is to find the thing you do best and specialise.
Work hard to gain the knowledge and expertise you will need – invest in yourself, go on courses, ask other PGA Members and read everything you can find on your subject.
It does not matter what your specialist area might be. As long as you are (and are seen as) one of the market leaders, you’ll have an advantage you can really use.
Being an expert gives you credibility and a chance to make a reputation that you can THEN exploit into other areas.
I think it is a winning formula.