The Experts’ Take, Episode 4: Is the Model Broken?

Two members of our all-star panel – Golf Channel/Sirius XM’s Michael Breed and Golf Channel/’s Charlie Rymer – engage in a spirited debate on this topic as pro golfer/social media personality Paige Spiranac and Golf Tourism Solutions’ Bill Golden offer their thoughts as well.



Bill Golden: What breeds passion in golf? Why are we so passionate about it? Even if we don’t play all the time, why are we so passionate about it? It’s to hit that one shot, right? Some of those shots you were hitting over there, Michael, it felt good right? They’re in your mind, but …

It’s always interesting, to me, that at all the highest levels, when we talk about growing the game, I never hear the word instruction. Why are we not instructing golfers in a different manner to keep them engaged, get them passionate, fix the shank, fix the yips. Just to … It could be a little grip change, to keep them engaged. With less than 10 percent of golfers getting lessons and we’re all trying to be better-

Paige Spiranac: It’s expensive. A lot of people can’t go and get lessons.

Bill Golden: Is the model broken? Is the model broken and are we approaching this the wrong way?

Michael Breed: Let’s back up a little bit because there are some interesting things have been brought up. One of the things that’s brought up is, people come to the game for a variety of different reasons. Some people want to hit the ball where they’re looking, some people want to go for a walk in nature, some people want to hang out with their family and friends, and do that. When we start talking about all this stuff, maybe the reason why there’s only 10 percent of the people taking golf lessons, “You know what? I’m not in it to get better. I’m not looking for that. I’m looking to go out, be with my friends. Come to Myrtle Beach with all your buds.”

I was just having this conversation at lunch. “Come to Myrtle Beach, hang out with my friends for three or four days and play some golf.” That, to me, is a great reason for the game. Okay.

Does everybody want that? No. There are a lot of people that wake up and want to be the best they could possibly be. Dustin Johnson wants to be the best golfer he can possibly be. He’s driven then to go seek information that’s going to help him get to that spot. Not a lot of people are thinking that way. I think that’s actually the beauty of the game of golf.

What would be an acceptable number of people that are … What’s the acceptable percentage of people to take a golf lesson? If it’s only 10 percent, if that is it, does that mean it’s broken? Because I don’t know that it means that it’s broken. It just means that there’s a lot of opportunity, but it doesn’t mean it’s broken.

Paige Spiranac: I don’t think there’s actually that much opportunity though because-

Michael Breed: For golf lessons?

Paige Spiranac: To have a good golf lesson. I think that there are a lot of really bad instructors out there that can give someone the wrong information, and really mess them up, and maybe they don’t want to play anymore or when it comes to clubs you always think, “I need the best clubs.” Well, those are expensive so you can’t pay for that, or “I want to have a lesson with you. Well, I can’t pay for that.” It’s actually discouraging-

Michael Breed: Or maybe availability. That’s right.

Paige Spiranac: I think that’s really frustrating to be like, “Gosh, if I want to get good at basketball, I need a basketball and a hoop. That’s it.” It’s not like there’s a more expensive basketball out there that’s going to help you perform better. It’s just the hours you put in, but with golf it’s like, okay you’re this good. Well, if you have these clubs that are this expensive, you’re going to be this much better.

I think that’s the marketing part of it, but I do think that’s frustrating for a lot of people that they feel like they can never reach a level that’s good enough because they don’t have the resources to do so.

Charlie Rymer: See, let me jump in here. I’ve got some really strong feelings about this. You asked the question: is the model broken? You guys might not like this but-

Michael Breed: Well, we’ll let you know.

Charlie Rymer: I think the model is absolutely broken. In that, if I’m a golf course owner and being a PGA member, I’m going to hire PGA member to be my director of golf, golf professional. I do not want to see that PGA professional in charge of running the business, trying to be a general manager. I want to see that PGA professional, who has to pass a playability test to become a PGA professional, I want to see them engaged with the folks that play golf at my golf course. I want to see the volunteers and the hourly employees behind the counter, in the office doing what they need to do to make the business run. I want my PGA professional to be walking the range, engaging the members when they show up.

One of the biggest issues, and I bet Paige would agree, when you show up at the golf course, what do you do? Do you go to the bag drop or not go to the bag drop?

Paige Spiranac: You have no idea where to go.

Charlie Rymer: What do you do? I want him outside feeling comfortable. I want him walking the range-

Michael Breed: Then pay him.

Charlie Rymer: … giving him golf-

Michael Breed: Then pay him.

Charlie Rymer: But see here’s the part-

Michael Breed: But see, your budget can’t afford to pay him.

Charlie Rymer: Well no, no, no. Listen to me on this.

Michael Breed: Seriously!

Charlie Rymer: I don’t want to pay them … I want to pay them-

Michael Breed: You’re going to make them … You’re going to allow them to make $200,000 a year?

Charlie Rymer: I want to pay … If they get the volume to my golf course to support that, absolutely I do. I-

Michael Breed: But you’re not going to get … You got to pay the guy first to get him there.

Charlie Rymer: I’d make that investment.

Michael Breed: If you have a job that’s a $200,000 job, I’m in.

Charlie Rymer: I would tie their compensation-

Michael Breed: But you don’t.

Charlie Rymer: … to rounds of golf played. That’s how I would give them … I would give them set goals-

Michael Breed: You’re going to incentivize them?

Charlie Rymer: Incentivize them based-

Michael Breed: What are you going to do when it rains?

Charlie Rymer: Plus-

Michael Breed: What are you going to do when it rains?

Charlie Rymer: That’s part of the business but I want them-

Michael Breed: 90 percent … Listen, hold on. 90 percent of all rounds of golf are played between the temperatures of 55 and 90. Last year alone there were 145 of those days. Eight years ago there were 200 of them. We lost 55 of those days. Up in the Northeast we had 60 days, at golf courses around the country, where people weren’t able to play in golf carts.

Charlie Rymer: You figure that out.

Michael Breed: Now what I’m saying to you is-

Charlie Rymer: You figure it out.

Michael Breed: … if you have all that, how are you then going to compensate your guy because I need to make my 200? I’m not going to work for you unless I get two.

Charlie Rymer: You figure it out. If I’m investing in a golf course my golf course is going to be outside just like this one. That’s baked into the cake. What I’m saying-

Bill Golden: You guys are hung up on something here. The pro over here gets a base salary. Then he works extra on instruction.

Michael Breed: That’s the point.

Bill Golden: Turn those instruction dollars-

Charlie Rymer: Into rounds played dollars-

Bill Golden: Into rounds, and apparel, and golf balls. It can be tracked. There’s POS, there’s-

Charlie Rymer: Right, but I don’t want a golf guy sitting in an office running the business.

Michael Breed: What defines a round … Okay.

Charlie Rymer: … I want him engaging the-

Michael Breed: What defines a round-

Charlie Rymer: … folks at play.

Michael Breed: What defines a round of play?

Bill Golden: It wouldn’t matter if they came in, slid their card and there-

Michael Breed: What defines a round of play?

Bill Golden: … the nine holes. It doesn’t matter.

Charlie Rymer: We work this … Your talking about little details.

Michael Breed: … five holes?

Charlie Rymer: I’m talking big picture.

Bill Golden: That’s up to the golfer.

Paige Spiranac: The charge. Any charge.

Bill Golden: How do you encourage more rounds of play? How do-

Michael Breed: Well that’s … You’re back to the time issue.

Bill Golden: That’s the first place I would start. Your idea about how to grow the game of golf.

Michael Breed: You’re back to the time issue.