You enjoy playing golf.
You enjoy it so much that you want to teach others and learn how to become a golf trainer. That’s good, but I’m here to help ground you and dial it back.
Let’s answer this question outright: you can teach without certification because there is no law against it, but you cannot expect to get high-paying students.
In fact, I would be surprised if you got any students at all.
That’s not a dig-in at you, or your abilities, or the number of hours you’ve spent playing golf in the past.
It’s in no way meant to discredit you as a golfer, but if you wanted to learn something that’s intricate and time-consuming like golf, you wouldn’t exactly be looking in the classifieds of a Sunday newspaper.
You’d want to go to a professional course, get a professional tutor, and learn how to do it the right way with hands-on experience.
There’s more to it than that.
Why Being a Private Golf Instructor Isn’t Easy
Being a golf instructor, first of all, can be frustrating at times when you’re dealing with complete newcomers.
It’s rewarding to watch them grow and learn, which is a fantastic part of the job.
But finding private clients isn’t going to be a simple task.
More like a difficult chore.
Most golf courses come with membership programs, which can include 1-4 golf lessons per month. That may be part of a standard package, being the lowest tier that they offer for entry and use of the course, or it could be an upgraded package.
Either way, the golf course usually provides an instructor. It’s an easy way for them to make money without having to do much.
If the patron is going to spend time on the course anyway, they charge extra and take a chunk out of it before paying the instructor for their time.
In that same spirit, some will not allow you to bring your own golf instructor onto the course. The first thought to counter this is, of course, acting like your client’s friend and like you’re just going to the course to help each other out.
Until you bring your sixth “friend” onto the same course, and word gets around that you’re an instructor. Then, you may be asked to leave the course permanently.
On top of that, you’re also paying membership fees to be allowed to use the course in the first place.
Those can range from $199.99 per month, and even if you’re on the higher end of the pay scale for a private golf instructor, that’s still 6-8 hours worth of your time that you’re paying to a course.
How many courses will you have to pay for? What’s your area of coverage as a private instructor? Have you accounted for your own vehicle wear-and-tear, gas, and other transportation costs?
There’s a lot more that goes into it than people think.
At the end of the day, having a stable spot to teach (somewhere that you can call out of if you need to on a bad or sick day), and being paid on a structured basis by a golf course administration office is a pretty good deal.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be a freelance golf instructor, I’m just saying that it’s a steeper hill to climb than applying for a position at a golf club or course.
How do You Become a Certified Instructor?
One of the most concrete and credible ways to become a certified instructor is to go through a reputable school like the Professional Golf Teachers Association of America, or the PGTAA.
They’ve not only been shown on major news outlets and verified through numerous professional sources, but they actually know what they’re doing. They’re not just pedaling a worthless good.
Now, with that being said, you’ve likely not heard of anyone else that’s this big when it comes to teaching golf and getting certified. Keep in mind that the PGTAA and PGA are separate things.
They’re not directly associated whatsoever.
Being certified by the PGA is technically better since everyone knows the PGA, but the PGTAA certifications can usually get you the exact same jobs on the PGA job board of their website, which you can find here.
So while one is better than the other, if you’re just happy to become an instructor anywhere, you can go with a PGTAA certification, which is easier and less costly than going through more difficult channels.
How Much Money Does a Golf Instructor Make?
On average, around $35,000 per year – it’s not a very high-paying job. Glassdoor reports that there are additional cash compensations available, but even with a combined maximum reported range (which is beyond rare), you would make around $69,000 per year.
Keep in mind, the base salary is what you should expect. The high end of that salary, as reported by few, is around $39,000 per year.
I say reported by few, because there isn’t even enough information or enough reports to fully corroborate that maximum amount. While that may also point to discredibility for the median amount of $35,000, there’s another report as well.
Chron states that on average if you work for the government or for political organizations, you may make up to $62,610 annually, which isn’t too shabby.
So where’s all the credible information? We have to take some of this information at face value because there’s nothing to really dispute it. Golf instructor is a very niche career path, which is why it’s so hard to find information on it.
The most credible way to determine how much you can make as a golf instructor would be to check out the listings on Indeed or Monster, where you can find courses that are hiring in nearby areas.
These job listings can be up and then taken back down in thirty minutes, so providing any in this article would be asinine.
We can make some safe assumptions about golf instructor salaries based on the information we were able to collect.
The minimum annual salary would be around $35,000 ($17.50/hr at 40 hours per week w/ two weeks vacation).
The maximum annual salary would be around $62,000 ($31.00/hr at 40 hours per week w/ two weeks vacation).
Even at the bare minimum, you’re still bringing in twice the annual expected wages of an employee at an entry-level position under the federal minimum wage. When you look at it objectively like this, it’s not a bad deal.
At What Handicap Can You Become a Golf Instructor?
Your handicap is basically a mark of your skill, which I’ve written an entire guide on as well. In short, your handicap is how other players will look at you and how they’ll form opinions.
A high handicap, which is around 28, means you’re an amateur player who is enjoying the game but hasn’t become elite yet.
You need a low handicap not only to establish a reputation as a good golf player, hence being able to teach people properly, but to get any sort of certification.
They say “Those who can’t do, teach,” but in this instance that’s far from the truth. You have to be able to display your knowledge of the game through demonstration.
From personal accounts, online stories, and information found on various sources from PGA certified professionals, the average is around 1.5 to 3. Your handicap should not be higher than that, otherwise, you risk losing credibility.
Ideally, if you want to go for the big bucks, it would be best if you have no handicap whatsoever.
The better you are, the easier it’s going to be to get certified, and the more likely it will be for you to get a higher paying job as a golf instructor.
Some courses in the United States will look for not only certified instructors but those with a wide range of skills in golf.
It becomes an attraction.
It would make you one of the best, giving the course more to offer than their competitors.
It’s all basic business, so get as low of a handicap as possible, make sure it’s under 3, and you’ll be an eligible candidate at most golf courses in the US.
Make Your Dream a Reality
If it’s something you want to go for, I recommend doing it.
It’s not going to be easy, but if you can break your way into being a golf instructor, you’d be doing what you love for as long as you’re able to do it. That’s something commendable.
Just know the pitfalls before you dive in. If you’re serious about doing it, get into a good course, either online or otherwise, and pitch yourself to privately-owned golf courses and clubs that offer this kind of service.