Two years ago, my golf club introduced Play With the Pro, which allows members to sign up, at no charge, to play nine or eighteen holes with Fran, our head professional. The program has two purposes. The first is to get Fran onto the golf course. Like many people who loved golf so much when they were kids that they decided to make a career of it, Fran hardly ever got to play, and his main exposure to the game was sitting in a chair on the practice tee, watching people with terrible swings hit terrible shots.
The second purpose is to give members opportunities to spend quality time with their head professional. We can sign up in the golf shop, and we can do it alone, with friends, with members of our family, whatever. Playing with Fran is a good way for new members to learn that they aren’t supposed to drive golf carts into bunkers, and it’s a good way for long-time members to sneak in a free playing lesson. (The club pays Fran his lesson rate for his time, so he doesn’t lose income that he could have earned by teaching.)
At a club I used to belong to, playing lots of golf with members was part of the head pro’s job description, and the program was so popular that the sign-up sheet for the entire season usually filled up the day it was posted. At many other clubs, though, golf committees view a pro who’s playing golf as a pro who’s slacking off. They want him in the golf shop, handing out scorecards and hawking balls and telling guests where the men’s room is. Hey—get over it!
At our club, we encourage our superintendent, Gary, to play a lot, too. He usually plays with the gang in our regular game on Sunday morning, after coming to work before dawn to cut the greens, and because he doesn’t mind bad weather he plays with us all winter, too. And every October we take Fran and Gary with us on our annual end-of-season golf trip to Atlantic City, during which we only play golf and eat crappy food, and nobody ever goes to a casino (except, occasionally, a couple of the young guys). It’s fun for Gary and Fran, and it’s fun for us. And that’s the whole point, right?