It looks great on TV! Play golf every weekend on the best courses in the world and get paid large sums of money when you play well.
As you have probably guessed, learning how to become a professional golfer is quite challenging. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
It is a long road. You can’t just call up the PGA Tour and request a tee time with Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.
Firstly, you need to be good at golf. Like really, really good. A scratch golfer is a great player but isn’t close to making it as a professional.
Below we take a deep dive into the topic of how to become a professional golfer.
We spend time talking about how good they are, how you get to the professional tours, and the lifestyle of a professional golfer.
If you are interested in learning how to become a professional golfer, keep reading – you will probably realize that an office job is a safer bet!
How To Become A professional Golfer: How Good Are They?
We guess that if you are reading about how to become a professional golfer, you are looking for a little more detail.
Let’s start by looking at some of the statistics from the PGA Tour. We have included the tour average and the best player in the 2022 season.
- Scoring Average: 71.2 (tour average), 69.2 (Cameron Smith)
- Driving Distance: 298.2 yards (tour average), 324.2 (Cameron Champ)
- Fairways Hit: 59.9% (tour average), 74.9% (Ryan Armour)
- Greens In Regulation (how often they have birdie putt): 64.9% (tour average), 72.3% (Jon Rahm)
- Scrambling (how often they miss the green and still make par or better): 59.3 (tour average), 70.8% (Shane Lowery)
Do you track these types of golf numbers when you play? How do yours compare?
These statistics are impressive, but they don’t tell the entire story. You can’t learn how to become a professional golfer simply by getting to these numbers.
The other critical factor is that professional golfers play courses that are much more difficult than you encounter when you visit your local track.
The yardage is longer. The fairways are tighter. The rough is higher. The greens are firmer and faster.
The golf handicap system does consider the difficulty of the golf course when calculating your handicap.
The course rating and course slope tell you how hard a course is to play. You can find these numbers on most scorecards.
With this in mind, we can use golf handicaps to approximate the difference between your game and a professional’s game.
Most golf professionals don’t keep an official golf handicap, but you can calculate based on their tournament scores.
We will use Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as our examples. In 2020, Golf.com performed this calculation.
Related article: 8 Reasons Why Golf Is The Best Sport To Play
They concluded that Tiger would have a +7.1 golf index and Phil would be a +6.0. The average golfer in the US has a 14 handicap.
Easy to conclude. To learn how to become a professional golfer you must have the ability to consistently play 20+ strokes better than average.
How To Become A Professional Golfer: The Path To the PGA Tour
Making your way to the PGA tour is extremely difficult. Many great golfers spend years (and tens of thousands of dollars) and never make it.
Most professional golfers start young and dominate at every level. They win tournaments as juniors and lead the way for their college team.
There are a few exceptions, but most professional golfers have been winning golf tournaments since their teenage years (if not earlier).
To learn how to become a professional golfer you first must understand how you get into a professional event. You can’t simply fill out an entry form and write a check.
How To Become A Professional Golfer: 5 Ways To Make It To The Tour
Of course, there are unique paths to reaching the professional ranks, but the vast majority of players take one of the below roads.
#1: Sponsor Exemptions
All PGA and European tour events have a title sponsor. The sponsor has up to 8 exemptions that they can grant to players that are not already in the field.
Typically, these go-to well known players. In other words, they don’t typically get granted to players that are just getting started in the world of golf.
It is hard to turn a sponsor exemption into a permanent “tour card”. You can only receive 7 per year and they are hard to get.
Even if you get 7, you have to earn enough money to make the top 125 on the year-long money list on the PGA Tour. Very difficult.
We included this option because Tiger Woods took this path. He was famous coming out of Stanford, so sponsors gave him exemptions.
He won a PGA Tour event as a sponsor exemption, earning his PGA tour card and he never looked back.
Players of Tiger’s ability and fame are rare. So is the “sponsor exemption” path to the PGA Tour.
#2: Mini Tours
Did you know that there are tons of professional golf mini-tours? This is where most professional golfers get their start.
If you play well, you can work your way up the ranks and eventually make it to the PGA tour. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of money in mini-tour events, so this can be a struggle.
The best “mini-tour” is the Korn Ferry tour. This is the true gateway to the PGA tour. Each year 50 players from the Korn Ferry tour advance to the PGA tour.
It isn’t easy to get status on the Korn Ferry tour, but this is the most common path to the top of professional golf events.
#3: Q School
Once a year, the PGA Tour has “Q school”. This is a series of qualifying events that allow you to get status on the Korn Ferry tour.
If you want to learn how to become a professional golfer, this is the path you should try to follow.
It is a multi-step process and it is grueling. This is where most golfers start and here are the steps:
- Advance to Q School Finals by getting through three additional rounds of qualifying
- At Q School finals, finish the in top 45 to earn status to the Korn Ferry Tour
- Play a season on the KFT (Korn Ferry Tour) and earn one of the 50 PGA tour cards
- Every year on the PGA tour you have to finish in the top 125 or you have to back down the mini-tours or Q school
We never said learning how to become a professional golfer would be easy.
#4: College Stardom: PGA Tour University
A relatively new path to the PGA Tour is Tour University. This allows top collegiate players to skip Q school and other mini-tours.
College seniors that finish the season ranked in the top 5 in the nation get playing privileges to the Korn Ferry tour. Players ranked 6-15 get limited playing opportunities.
This is a very small number when you consider that close to 2,500 players are on college golf teams! This is designed for the elite players coming out of school.
#5: Monday Qualifiers
We saved the hardest path for last. You can try to get into PGA Tour events via Monday Qualifiers.
These are 1 day (18-hole) events that typically include 100+ professional golfers competing for 4 spots in the tournament.
It is not uncommon for a player to shoot 6 under par and still not qualify. Imagine shooting a 66 on a tough golf course and going home with nothing.
Monday qualifiers are an important part of learning how to become a professional golfer, but they can be heartbreaking.
How To Become A Professional Golfer: The Path Is A Grind
Playing on the PGA tour is glamorous, but getting there can be brutal.
You travel all over the world and play for small purses. One bad shot can cost you thousands of dollars or status on the Korn Ferry or PGA tour.
It can be difficult for the player and their family. If you want to learn how to become a professional golfer be prepared for the grind.
You will have to stay patient and understand that failure is part of the process.
One final piece of advice related to learning how to become a professional golfer. Don’t quit your day job!
Golf is probably better as your weekend passion than your primary way of making money. Enjoy your time on the course and don’t take it too seriously.