Becoming a PGA Member: Step 6

When you return home from the PGA Education Seminar in Florida, that's when the real work begins.
When you return home from the PGA Education Center in Florida, that’s when the real work begins.

Once you return from the Level 1 Seminar at the PGA Education Center in Florida, it’s time to get to work on Step 6: the Level 1 Work Experience Portfolio. This is where you can really start to separate yourself from your Apprentice peers because sadly, only about half of the Level 1 students who attend the Seminar will be back for Level 2. What’s more, only 20% of the 1,300 Level 1 attendees every year (about 260) get through Level 1 within one calendar year.

For some, it’s because of the Portfolio itself. It takes several hours to successfully complete, and life simply gets in the way. For others, it’s because of the Level 1 tests and all of the potential retakes. At $40 a pop, the money really starts to add up (as if it’s hasn’t been adding up already at $3,587.99 and counting).

Depending on the time of year you eventually submit your Portfolio, it could take the PGA Education faculty anywhere from 15-30 days to grade. If you don’t have to make any changes, you’ll receive an email prompting you to schedule your five-test battery for Level 1 with PSI Exams.

The tests cover Business Planning, Customer Relations, Tournament Operations, Introduction to Teaching & Golf Club Performance, and the only Level 1 self-study course, Golf Car Fleet Management. The cost for the four-and-a-half-hour testing session is $78. Go figure! It’s $78 to take five tests, but it’s $40 to retake each individual test thereafter should you fail to earn the required passing score of 70% or better.

According to PGA Senior Manager of Education Helene Belle, “The goal should be to pass at least two of the five tests on your first try.” For whatever reason, I’ve been told that most students have the hardest time with the self-directed section, Golf Car Fleet Management since it’s the one section that isn’t covered at the Seminar.

I was surprised, and even a little saddened, to learn that the average student takes 26 months to pass Level 1 – the Portfolio and all five tests. That’s a problem because Level 1 must be successfully completed within two years (24 months) of the Level 1 start date. Apprentices who do not complete Level 1 by that date are suspended from the program.

If an Apprentice does not become a PGA Member within eight years of the Level 1 start date, s/he is terminated from the program and must start all over from the very beginning, including passing the Playing Ability Test (PAT).

There are two Case Studies to choose from, Saguaro Sands (public) and Pine Valley Country Club (private).
There are two Case Studies to choose from, Saguaro Sands (public) and Pine Valley Country Club (private).

In my opinion, that should never happen. If you open up the Portfolio while you’re in Florida (which only about half of the class admitted to doing) and start working on it while you’re there, you can get all of your questions answered by the same faculty members who’ll be grading it once it’s submitted. You can also call those same faculty members when you get back home if you have any follow-up questions. They can log-in to your Portfolio directly to see if you’re on the right track.

My advice is this: treat the Seminar like a business trip. Work on the Portfolio while you’re there and continue working on it when you get home if only to keep your momentum going.

Work Experience Portfolio
On the first day of the Seminar, you’ll gain access to your Work Experience Portfolio within the first couple of hours. There are a total of 23 Activities, and the first eight relate to the Case Studies in both the Business Planning Manual and in the Case Studies Supplemental Course Manual.

There are two courses that make up the Case Studies: Saguaro Sands Golf Links and Pine Valley Country Club. Saguaro Sands is an 18-hole, daily fee facility located in the desert mountains of the southwestern part of the U.S. Pine Valley is an 18-hole private country club in the same southwestern metropolitan area as Saguaro Sands. I recommend choosing the Case Study that most closely resembles the facility where you’re working. It’ll make the Work Experience Portfolio feel that much more applicable.

The Case Study Activities involve everything from conducting a SWOT Analysis of your chosen Case Study to Developing a Golf Car Fleet Business Plan. The hardest of the Case Study Activities, by far, is Activity 4: Developing a Financial Forecast and 12-Month Budget. While we were there, PGA Education faculty member Erik Nielsen told us, “The hardest thing you’ll have to do throughout the whole certification process is the financials (in Level 1). It’s better to start you off with that at the beginning of Level 1 than at the end of Level 3.”

Here’s a breakdown of the remaining Activities. I’ll add to them as I get through them:

Customer Relations (3 Activities)
These activities require you to describe situations that occurred at your own facility, evaluate the situations using elements of the PGA Customer Relations Model, and recommend changes to improve future customer interactions at your facility. There are three work experience activities as they relate to your facility: Moments of Truth, Applying Interactive Strategies and Interpersonal Skills, and Improving Positive Engagement Routines. As with all of the sections, each activity is described in detail, and expandable space is provided for your responses.

The Tournament Operations activities should be completed with as much direct involvement on your part as possible.

Tournament Operations (3 Activities)
These activities should be completed with as much direct involvement on your part as possible. Depending on your specific tournament or facility, you may be working with a committee chairperson, tournament director, or other golf professional responsible for the event. There are three Tournament Operations work experience activities: Planning and Preparing for a Tournament, Running the Tournament, and Reviewing and Evaluating the Tournament.

Golf Car Fleet Management (4 Activities)
For these activities, assume that the facility where you work has asked you to study the facility’s golf car program and then prepare a report that identifies its strengths as well as the areas where policies, procedures, and performance could be improved. There are four Golf Car Fleet Management work experience activities: Analyzing Fleet Policies and Procedures, Exploring Maintenance and Storage Practices, Analyzing Customer Satisfaction and Financial Performance, and Preparing a Final Report.

Introduction to Teaching & Golf Club Performance (5 Activities)
The work experience activities consist of teaching a series of three, hour-long golf lessons focused on the full swing to a beginning junior or beginning adult student. The second and third lessons must be scheduled a minimum of 7 days and a maximum of 14 days after the previous lesson.

After each lesson, you will complete an associated activity and submit your video documentation of the lesson (three swings at the beginning and end of the lesson; 2 minutes max) via YouTube. The videos and Portfolio will demonstrate your ability to apply the teaching skills presented in this course: knowledge of learning, knowledge of teaching, and knowledge of the game of golf.

Next On the Tee
Schedule your five-test Level 1 battery with PSI Exams. You won’t be able to do this until your Portfolio is graded and approved. Be on the lookout for an email confirmation.

Cost: $78

Previous Steps
Step 1 – In order to become a PGA member, you first have to become a registered apprentice and go through the PGA Professional Golf Management (PGA PGM) Program. It takes up to three years to complete all 11 steps. Step 1 is pretty self-explanatory. To register into the PGA PGM Program, you have to register or re-register as an apprentice and complete a Background Check. (Cost: $58.99)

Step 2 – You’re not considered a PGA Apprentice until you satisfy all the requirements at the Qualifying Level and register as an apprentice. At the Qualifying Level, applicants must complete three online courses: Introduction to the PGM and the Golf Profession, PGA History and Constitution, and Rules of Golf 1 as well as pass a knowledge test based on the three courses. (Cost: $200)

PGA Qualifying Test – This 90-minute, 75 question test is administered by PSI Exam centers nationwide. The test covers three online courses: Introduction to the PGM and the Golf Profession, PGA History and Constitution, and Rules of Golf 1. A clean, unmarked copy of the Rules of Golf is permitted into the testing center and a score of 70% is required to pass. (Cost: $40)

To earn you PGA Class A Certification, at some point, you have to pass a Playing Ability Test.
To earn your PGA Certification, at some point, you have to pass a PAT.

Step 3 – The 36-hole, one-day Playing Ability Test (PAT) at a PGA Approved Golf Course requires a target score within 15 shots of the course rating in order to pass. The $160 total cost includes the $100 pre-registration fee as well another $60 paid on-site to cover the cost of green fees, cart fee, range balls, and lunch. (Cost: $160)

Step 4 – Print out the PGA PGM Program Application, get it signed by your Current Employer/Intermediate Supervisor, and then fax or email it back to the PGA. Be sure to include proof of your highest level of education and a copy of Work Permit or Employment Visa if you’re not a U.S. Citizen.

The last page of the application is a combination of National Fees ($60), Section Fees ($250), Liability Insurance ($25), Life Insurance ($34), a Registration Fee ($200), and the Level 1 Online Course Access Fee ($560). Once your registration is approved, you’ll have access to the Level 1 courses through the PGA Knowledge Center. (Cost: $1,129)

Step 5 – Register for the PGM 2.0 Level 1 Seminar in Florida
The all-inclusive package includes five days of classes, airfare to West Palm Beach (from the city you prefer to fly out of), lodging for the week (it’s $500 more for your own hotel room if you don’t want to share with another Apprentice for the five days), ground transportation, and breakfast and lunch each day. (Cost: $2,000)

Apprentices registered after January 1, 2010, can view and/or download PGA PGM 2.0 curriculum information online.

If you’ve been convicted of a felony, misdemeanor or equivalent, you should submit documentation to the PGA Membership Department to determine eligibility for PGA Membership prior to proceeding. Per the PGA Code of Ethics, certain transgressions are cause for permanent preclusion to PGA Membership.

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