How To Become A PGA Professional Golfer

golfer swinging a golf club

It’s hard not to dream about what it would be like to become a professional golfer. Forget money and fame; think about playing the same golf courses that Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, and even Ben Hogan played on. 

The appeal of becoming a professional golfer is incredibly strong, but it takes quite a bit of work and effort to get there. Unfortunately, this process can take years, and most people don’t make it.

If you have wondered how to become a PGA professional golfer and thought that maybe this is the time in your life to do it, we have all the information that you will need. 

Different Types of Golf Professionals

The first part of this process is to understand the different types of golf professionals. When someone tells you they are a golf professional, it can mean a few different things. For those that know the industry well, we usually can tell if you are golf teaching professional or playing professionally. Here are the different types of golf professionals and what their roles entail. 

Teaching Professional 

Golf teaching professionals teach the game of golf to players of all levels. These golfers are typically very good at what they do and are good players themselves. Golf teaching professionals learn the game of golf insight and out. 

They can diagnose swing issues and then communicate those issues to golfers with the proper ways to help them fix their game. 

A great golf teaching professional is personable and takes a great interest in their students’ progress. Whether they are learning to break 90 or 70, the teaching professional can adjust their methods accordingly. 

Golf Club Professional 

A golf club professional is someone who handles the daily operation of a golf course. They can help with everything from running a tournament to keeping the golf shop fully stocked with the gear that members and guests need. 

golf lessons

The golf club professional job will vary considerably depending on the golf course where you may work and the skill level of that professional. Most golf club professionals were, at one point, very good golfers, which is what brought them into this career. 

Korn Ferry Tour

The Korn Ferry Tour is a bit like the minor league tour for the PGA Tour. These golfers don’t have full-time playing privileges on the PGA Tour but are working on getting them. Playing on the Korn Ferry Tour is similar to the PGA Tour in that you must travel around the country and qualify for events. 

In addition, the Korn Ferry events have a good payout for those winning, but certainly not as high as the PGA Tour. The Korn Ferry players tend to be a bit younger and are still on the path to making it to the big leagues. 

Local Mini Tours 

Local mini tours are popular in areas like South Florida, where there are quite a few aspiring golf professionals. These are typically little one or two-day events where golfers compete for a small purse. 

A mini tour event may help a player make $500 or $1000, but they are certainly not payouts like the PGA Tour. Playing on the mini tours is a great way to gain experience and eventually take that experience to the PGA Tour. 

PGA Tour 

The PGA Tour is typically the ultimate goal for all aspiring golf professionals. When you make it on the PGA Tour, you have shown your capabilities and that you are ready to compete with the best of the best. 

Of all the players that continually try to make it in the game of golf, only 125 will hold a tour card. Those cards are renewed yearly, so getting and keeping one isn’t easy. When golfers win or place at events on the PGA Tour, they are often just as excited about the exemptions as they are about the money or the title. 

pga logo on a phone

LPGA Tour

The LPGA Tour is the women’s version of the PGA Tour. LPGA professionals will have to work just as hard to make it to the professional tours, and they will be able to go through a qualifying school to earn their place in the ranks. 

With the LPGA Tour being so highly competitive, it can be tough to make a living on tour. Players must focus on their ability to score consistently, and their entire lives must be dedicated to the game. 

Champions Tour 

The Champions Tour is sort of like a retirement tour for the PGA Tour golfers. Anyone over 50 years old that can still play fantastic golf at a professional level is encouraged to become a member of the Champions Tour. 

The Champions tour schedule is not quite as extensive as the PGA Tour, but there are still events almost all season long for golfers to participate in. The Champions Tour is where we will see almost all of the young guys we know so well right now in the next twenty years. 

LIV Golf Tour 

The LIV golf tour is a new option for players, and it has caused a bit of an uproar in the game of golf. With the LIV golf tour encouraging golfers to accept large sums of money to be included in their events, you will have to prove yourself before you get the invitation here. 

How To Become A Professional Golfer

Now that you know the different routes for becoming a professional golfer, it makes sense to look at how this process happens. Becoming a professional golfer is an involved process. If your goal is to make it to the PGA Tour, you must have the skills, the experience, and a few good breaks to go your way. 

Get Great At Golf

Getting great at golf is the first step to almost any career in the industry. If you want to stand out as a valuable professional who can help people with their golf games, it makes sense to be a great player. 

Becoming a great golfer takes time, patience, and work. You will have to invest the time at the range and on the course, find professionals that can help you, and spend money on equipment and technology that gets you there. 

Getting great at golf cannot happen overnight, and you will typically have to work on your physical fitness and mental game to get to the next level in this sport. 

Play In Local Events

Once you feel your game is good enough, you can start playing in events that make the game more competitive. We can tell you from experience that it’s one thing to shoot 70; it’s another to shoot 70 in a tournament situation. 

Local events are a great way to see how your game holds up under pressure. Many golfers have a natural opportunity to do this by playing junior golf. They can participate in junior events and work their way up the ranks. 

Participating in local events will typically give you an affordable way to get involved in the game and play in one or two-day tournaments. Many of these tournaments do not have payouts, but some will. This won’t be how you make a living, but it could get you to the next big step. 

Work Up To Qualifying School

Qualifying school for the PGA Tour is something that all golfers dream of. The process of qualifying for the PGA Tour is much different today than it was just a few years ago. Things are getting more competitive, and some adjustments had to be made. 

In years past, you could pay for qualifying school and, if you did well, potentially end up with some status on the PGA Tour. Now you will need to go through qualifying school just to make it to the Korn Ferry Tour. There are several stages to qualifying school; each must be completed to make it on the Korn Ferry Tour. 

Golfers will typically pay around $3000 to get into the qualifying school; if they don’t make it, they will not be able to get the money back. Each stage of qualifying school gets smaller and more competitive. 

You would have to finish in the top 25 spots for the final round to get full-time playing privileges on the Korn Ferry Tour. However, for those that finish in the 26-50th spot, there are some tournaments where there is an exemption and playing opportunities. 

This road to the Korn Ferry tour is stressful, but once you have access, you can start showing what you would do on the PGA Tour. 

Get Korn Ferry Access

Once you have access to the Korn Ferry Tour, you will have to play a lot of golf and compete to the best of your ability. This access to the Korn Ferry Tour is certainly not a guaranteed pass to the PGA Tour. 

The goal on the Korn Ferry Tour is to play as well as possible, make it into the finals, and eventually graduate to the PGA Tour. All Korn Ferry Tour players who finish in the top 25 at the end of the year will get automatic access to the PGA Tour. 

Any players that finish in the 26-50th spot will get conditional access and a spot in a few tournaments. The key to doing well on the Korn Ferry tour is not just to play well but also to play a lot. The more you play, the better your chances are of improving your rankings. 

pro golfer playing in front of large crowd

Play Well and Make It On Tour

Once you have made it through mini-tours, qualifying, and then the Korn Ferry Tour, you have your shot at the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour card is a prized possession and something that you don’t get to keep forever. Golfers that can make it to this level are outstanding players, and at this point, they are competing in golf full time. 

Golf is different than other sports in that you are on your own throughout this process. Even if we see a great player like Sam Burns come through the ranks of the Korn Ferry Tour, we really can’t do much about him making it on the PGA Tour. 

It’s different than a college football player being drafted because someone wants to give him a chance. In golf, it’s all on your own; you are your only chance. 

Keep Your PGA Tour Card

Once you get that PGA Tour card, you must keep it. Playing well, winning, competing in plenty of events, and always conducting yourself properly will ensure that you keep your PGA Tour card. 

Many golfers will go back and forth between Korn Ferry and the PGA Tour if they struggle with things in their game or health and family issues. This is commonly seen but very frustrating for golfers who have worked so hard to earn their position in the first place. 

Can I Have A Career In Golf? 

Seeing what it takes to make it as a golf professional is one thing, but being honest with yourself and determining if this is meant for you is another. A career in golf can be a great one, but there are some things that will make it much easier for you. Here are a few requirements to make a career out of professional golf. 

Physical Ability 

The first and most important part of this process is to have the physical ability to hit a golf ball far and straight and to play challenging golf courses. In other words, if you can’t get the ball in the hole, you have no career in this game. 

Golfers who make it as professionals typically shoot under par for 18 holes. Even though the low 70s may feel like a great round, you will be hungry out on tour shooting these numbers. The game continues to get more competitive, and you have to go really low and have the physical ability to do so. 

Hand-Eye Coordination

Golfers need great hand-eye coordination. Even on the days when your game is struggling, if you have great hand-eye coordination, you may be able to recover and have a great hole. The hand-eye coordination can go hand in hand with physical ability. 

You will notice that many golfers are also good at other sports and maybe even grew up playing several sports before they chose golf. 

Strong Desire to Compete

As a professional golfer, you will be competing for a lot. If competition scares you or makes you think that you don’t have the game necessary to win, you won’t make it/ You must have a strong desire to compete and to win. 

This is not to say that you can’t be gracious about losing, but it should still really eat you up. There is no reason for golfers to accept a loss as part of the game; it should motivate and push them to want to work harder to win. 

If this is the type of person you are, then professional golf could be an excellent fit for you. If, instead, you simply want to have fun, it may be hard to make it out there. 

Ability to Travel and Plan 

Travel and planning are a big part of this equation. When you first start to play in professional events, it may seem easy, but then week after week, there is really just no break. Golfers have to commit to a unique lifestyle, one that does not work for a large majority of people. 

Planning out your schedule, having excellent time management, and the right people surrounding you are all essential parts of this process. 

Money 

Although some people will likely fight us on this point, it is considerably easier to make it as a professional golfer if you have money. Having access to golf courses, the top equipment, and even the ability to pay for things like Q school will all come into play with this equation. 

The more money you have, the less you will have to worry about the financial side of this process. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, you have a better idea of what it takes to become a professional golfer. In no way do we want to discourage you from becoming a golf professional; however, you should be adequately prepared before beginning the process. You will spend a great deal of your time and money in this process, which could pay off big time. However, it’s important to remember that what goes into being a professional golfer is not nearly as easy as it looks to be. 

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Joe Morelli

Joe Morelli is the founder of TopRankGolf, a passionate golfer with 25 years of experience playing and coaching golfers around the world. He's dedicated to helping golfers learn and enjoy the game of golf.