Hiring a Staff Coach: Do It Right (and You Won’t Have to Do It Often)

Nov 18, 2020 | News

By David Gould, Staff Editor

Here’s the scenario: Unexpectedly, a teaching slot opens on the staff of the facility or academy where you oversee instruction. And, bingo, the problem is solved with a single phone call. It’s a reach-out to a candidate who’s qualified, who’s affordable, who’s a fit for your work environment and who will say “yes” right away.

That bit of good fortune can happen, according to Pinehurst Resort’s award-winning director of instruction, Eric Alpenfels. But only if you’ve done your talent-scouting work on the front side and you get somewhat lucky. If that’s not the case, then it’s time to conduct a proper search.

We asked Eric, who is a longtime Proponent member and a 30-year Pinehurst veteran, for his advice on talent recruitment and position-filling in the golf coaching field. Alpenfels came back with these seven recommendations:

1.   When I’m hiring for our academy, I look for someone who truly enjoys teaching and gets frustrated when they don’t achieve results. I can train people and they can learn about swing plane and how to use video, but the love of teaching is an innate characteristic. Not everyone possesses that.”

2.   “If a job search comes down to a couple of finalists, I’ll lean toward the candidate who’s been recommended by a professional I know well. In the case of a candidate who is recommended by someone whom I not only know, but who has worked here at Pinehurst Resort, I’ll  almost automatically select that candidate. I’ll be confident they can easily adapt to our culture.”

3.   “One other point about references: Calling the people who provide them is a must. When a job-seeker asks if they can list you on their resume, you might say yes because you like them and you want to be courteous. Then, your phone rings and the serious questions get asked. You may find that your answers get lukewarm. I’ve experienced that a few times, when I’ve called references. So, make the phone calls.” 

4.   “This resort was owned and managed by ClubCorp for so long that corporate protocols for conducting job searches and making hires got ingrained. We did things by the book with personnel, or we’d get pushback from our HR people. That experience made me see that careful, conscientious hiring isn’t too much too ask. In fact, it led to very good hires. It led to the addition of people who made us better, and who wanted to stay for the long haul.”

5.   A director of instruction seeking a coach or a clubfitter who has strong potential might feel uncomfortable about making a national search. They’ll be concerned about selecting someone who will be moving a long distance, relocating their family, and taking the risks that go with that. This is natural. So, work your way out from the more local and regional candidates. Go as far as you feel comfortable going, but push things a little if you sense that a particular candidate will do well in the job, will enjoy the environment, and will contribute to their own success as well as your organization’s success.”

6.    “If you’re in a position where programs staffed by full-time teachers need to be supplemented by golf professionals who work on the operations side, take advantage of that. You’ll be adding talent to your clinics and a few of the people you borrow from the operations team may decide that teaching is their true calling. Either way, if you manage things properly, they will be an asset to your program.”

7.   “Over my career, I’ve gotten involved with work that’s about giving back to our profession, but it’s also helped me as a manager of our academy. So, I’m an adjunct faculty member of the PGA’s national education program, which often puts me in front of 80 or so young people early in their careers. It helps me spot talent. When you’re asked to help educate, and you say yes, there are benefits. It could be for your own organization, or it could be that you’ve identified someone who could help a colleague, when that colleague is in need of a new staff member. They’ll appreciate it, and down the road they’ll be glad to help you when you call them to ask a favor.”