Exclusive 2023 Operations and Compensation Survey Results: Highlights and Analysis

Mar 7, 2023 | News

By David Gould, Staff Editor                

At the core of our business support and assistance to members is hard data. Meanwhile, it isn’t just hard, it’s hard to find — extremely so, if you don’t have access to Proponent Group’s tracking and analysis.

Our annual effort to gather the facts, figures and operating trends that go into our Operations and Compensation Survey is fully dependent on the input of member coaches—our sincere thanks to all who participated. The full, 25-page report is complete and you can find it on the Proponent website. Go to the green button on the home page marked “Compensation Survey Results.” Meanwhile, here are a dozen or so of the most interesting highlights and trends we found in this year’s data:

  • Coming off a record year in 2021, overall average revenue decreased 5 percent, likely affected by the same weather problems that reduced Golf Playable Hours appreciably. Employee revenues were down 1 percent, Independent Contractors were down 11 percent and Academy Owners were down 4 percent.
  • Key instructor out-of-pocket expenses rose an average of 6 percent over the past year from $25,138 to $26,554. These expenses include: Revenue sharing, rent/lease payments, teaching technology, marketing, continuing education and training aids purchased.
  • The average respondent has 22 years of teaching experience versus last year’s average of 21 years.
  • Only 48 percent of member revenues comes from one-on-one private golf lessons, a result of program offerings continuing to broaden ($84,586 out of $177,386 total average revenues from non-private instruction). This percentage has generally hovered around 50 percent over the past decade.
  • Independent Contractors averaged 11 percent higher income after key expenses versus Employees ($151,438 versus $136,457) and Academy Owners averaged 63 percent higher income after key expenses versus Employees ($222,750 versus $136,457).
  • Revenues on average have grown from $126,813 to $177,386 over the past 10 years for an average increase of 39.9 percent. This easily outpaced Inflation during this period in the U.S. which totaled 27.5 percent.
  • Golf instruction, like business meetings, are no longer strictly in-person. We asked on the survey whether our coaches offer “remote internet instruction whereby golfers can send you a video of their swing and you can send back a critique,” and got a yes answer from 62 percent, a no answer from the other 38 percent. Compared to last year’s affirmative percentage of 59 percent, that’s a three-point gain.
  • The related activity, offering live remote lessons online, is more of an undertaking and therefore less commonly practiced. The survey asked whether a respondent gave live remote lessons and on that question we got a yes from 39 percent against a no from 61 percent.  The share of respondents saying they did offer live lessons online was up an impressive eight points from the 31 percent who said yes last year.
  • Online lessons made up 4 percent of overall revenues in 2022 – more than doubling from the previous year — but this result relied on a handful of coaches who dramatically ramped up online lesson offerings and thereby generated significant revenues. The median revenue is still $0, as 68 percent of respondents still do not offer online lessons. Among the 32 percent who do offer online instruction, median revenues were $2,000 last year.
  • For the first time, we asked which programs our members include in their programming menus. We found that PGA Junior League has a nearly two-thirds participation rate, with 63 percent saying they offer it. Next in popularity is Operation 36 at 50 percent and U.S. Kids Golf at 34 percent. Rounding out the list of programs that showed an appreciable presence in the menus of Proponent members are Get Golf Ready (22 percent), LPGA 101 (12 percent), Discover Golf (9 percent) and Birdie Basics (8 percent).
  • Also for the first time, we asked: “Which of the following student performance tracking software packages do you use?”  For context, about half of member coaches are not currently using student performance tracking software. As we look at the segment that is using this digital tool, CoachNow is the most popular option. Newcomers Clippd, Upgame and Golf Genius Coach 360 all recorded market share in their first months of availability.
  • This year’s survey repeated a question from last year about which company’s launch monitor technology the respondent chose to use. The largest jump was Foresight’s climb from 14 up to 26 percent usage. The leader in this category, TrackMan, saw its share of the Proponent membership slip 6 points from 64 down to 58 percent. Runner-up FlightScope held steady with 31 percent usage in the 2023 survey against 30 percent in 2022.
  • Our survey addressed the trend-driven world of social media and found that Instagram’s usage by coaches had leveled off in the low 80s while Facebook saw its biggest gain in years, moving from 73 to 81 percent usage. LinkedIn, up 11 percentage points, was the other major platform to see significant usage growth over the past year by golf coaches. YouTube and Twitter, as judged by our survey, generally remained steady.
  • We dove a bit deeper in the social media category by asking, for the first time, about Instagram audience size. Our median coach had 600 followers, but the variation was very wide with 22 percent of coaches showing zero Instagram presence and 5 percent of our coaches at the other end of the spectrum with more than 20,000 followers. Only 37 percent say they have 1,000 or more followers on Instagram at this time.
  • Similarly trend-driven is the usage of simulator studios for teaching. Responses to this year’s Comp Survey tell us we are nearly to the point where there are more Proponent coaches able to teach on sims than not able to. The percentage of members with access to teaching in a simulator has increased over these past five years from 34 percent to 2023’s figure of 49 percent—next year we’ll be surprised if the sim users don’t represent a clear majority.