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Golf in Germany is Thriving. Here are Three Reasons Why…8 min read

Tom BentleyAuthor: Tom Bentley

Posted on: 11th Oct 2021

When you think about golf and professional golf in Germany, names such as Bernhard Langer, Sophia Popov, Sandra Gal, Martin Kaymer and Marcel Siem usually spring to mind…

Having produced a long list of players to have reached the upper echelons of the game, Germany can certainly boast a history of consistently shaping the very nature of European golf at the elite level. But as we see in each and every successful golfing nation, producing great players requires solid structures and foundations to have been constructed and managed by the organisations responsible for the game’s governance. Germany is no different. What interconnects the above-mentioned players is that a PGA of Germany Professional has in some way, shape and form, influenced every stage of their games.

So, if German golf is thriving, the PGA of Germany must remain as strong and as influential as possible. To find out more about the ways in which it is doing this and about the wider German market, we spoke to PGA of Germany Professional, Stefan Quirmbach, who has played a central role within the PGA of Germany as its President for over 20 years. Throughout his sit-down conversation with CPG Chief Executive, Ian Randell, he shared his insight into the German golf industry and some of the most significant contributions he and the PGA of Germany have made to its growth.

Here are just three.

The organisation was not always the ‘PGA of Germany’

“When I started my apprenticeship in 1984, the organisation was actually called the ‘German Golf Teachers Federation’. This placed the members at a disadvantage because to a certain extent it limited them to experts in coaching and nothing else. At the end of the day, PGA of Germany Professionals are just that, Professionals” Stefan recalled.

“At the time, it was an association of good, collegial friends, and you had the feeling: ‘yes, they all understand each other very well’. But what I felt was that colleagues did not really talk honestly and openly about their profession. When they talked, everyone said at first that their shop was running well and that the hour book was full – but when you talked to the individual a bit more intensively, that was not always the case. The Professionals in the clubs at that time perceived themselves as golf instructors, and the situation was simple: the PGA Professional was there on the driving range giving lessons and usually he ran the shop. At that time, I had the feeling that the actual situation of golf Professionals in the clubs did not match the role we were supposed to have been playing. I did not feel comfortable with that.”

So In 1997, the organisation reorganised and became the PGA of Germany, enabling a new internal structure to be brought in, driven by Stefan himself, whilst also enabling them to utilise the PGA brand – something that Stefan places an incredible amount of value on: “We reformed the organisation into the PGA of Germany. Everybody in golf knows the three biggest letters are PGA. It is a highly marketable asset and attachment to have. It was clear back then that we needed to have this label.” This has meant the standards of the PGA of Germany Professional have increased and the German golf industry is becoming more and more reliant on their skills and expertise: “I feel now we have one of the best PGAs in the world. We have a reliable structure and the organisation has the respect it deserves in Germany. It is highly reputable and influential across the industry. It is enabling us to represent our members wholeheartedly. There is now a sense of pride amongst our PGA of Germany Professionals to wear the badge on their shirt.”

PGA of Germany members are more crucial than ever to the game’s commercial growth, and perceptions have changed

Throughout Stefan’s early career, industry attitudes to PGA Professionals were very different to present day. There were only 17,000 golfers playing the game in 1966 and the sport was, like most countries in the mid-twentieth century, considered very elitist. For Professionals, their reputations were not fully recognised by clubs: “When I started my training with Henning Strüver at the Frankfurt Golf Club in 1984, he told me that two years before he was only allowed on the terrace of the clubhouse – but not in the clubhouse. And when I chose this profession, my mother said to me: ‘You are going down to the lowest social level I know!’.

Not one to sit on his laurels, Stefan was spearheading change within the industry, through careful planning and a radical change in structure and educational delivery. PGA of Germany Professionals began to receive internationally recognised standards of education and training, meaning they could better meet the demands of the industry. “We really believe in education here in Germany. If you work on the education of your members, you improve their skills and in turn, professionalise the profession. This increases respect, trust and reliance on each of our members. We do continuously review and adapt our education to ensure we stay relevant and the workforce maintains its suitably for the demands of the market.

“The role of the golf Professional has changed radically in the last 40 years, thank God: we are all commercially minded and educated now. The profession of golf Professionals is now recognised as a business, and therefore the Professional himself is valued much more. That is also one reason why I do not want to be called a golf teacher. We are the basis of the game, but beyond that, we are also the ones who are highly competent in many other areas of the golf market. That is why I was also very happy when we changed our name from the German Golf Teachers Association to the Professional Golfers Association of Germany in 1995, because this reflects what we do much better.”

This rise in standards has also meant that the quantity of highly-trained professionals is increasing too: “When I first started, we had roughly 30 apprentices each year on the apprenticeship. Now, this number is more like 65-80 apprentices. This means we are able to satisfy the market with more highly skilled and knowledgeable PGA Professionals.”

So how does this reflect for the commercials in German golf? Well, the maths is quite simple: a highly-skilled workforce that is, as Stefan puts it: “incredibly engaged and wants to drive the game forward” means that golf clubs are far more commercially driven as they are now managed by PGA members and the connectivity between organisation and professional is as strong as it has ever been. “I wanted the association to be recognised in the golf world as a highly attractive business partner and that a partnership with us professionals is desirable for companies. Ultimately, this helps the association to be in a better financial position. There is definitely still room for improvement. I envisaged an association whose members proudly show their students and customers that they are PGA golf professionals. Because such a self-image then also radiates to the association’s partners. This is significantly better but we must continue to engage across our membership.”

The PGA owns and manages the Pro Golf Tour

The PGA of Germany owns and manages a number of different assets, which has enabled the organisation to grow and deliver a successful commercial programme consisting of revered brands such as Allianz, BMW, T-Mobile and Titleist all choosing to collaborate and partner with the association: “We first published our own golf magazine – pro!golf – which highlighted the association and our activities and was very important for our perception in the market.”

Another of these key assets if the German Pro Golf Tour: “At the time, the Pro Golf Tour was actually called the EPD Tour. Taking ownership of the tour was important for the organisation. With the purchase of the then EPD Tour, now the Pro Golf Tour, in 2005, we clearly committed ourselves to the promotion of professional tournaments.” But the work did not stop at the acquisition phase. Stefan and his board changed the way the tour was managed, primarily to ensure it enhanced the reputation of its players: “Whilst we wanted to increase playing opportunities for our members, reducing the bureaucracy that surrounded it and placing ownership into the hands of the Professionals was important too. For example, we stopped having referees on the tournaments. It meant that the players had to self-police their rounds, become more open and honest and really, this helped to increased and drive the reputation and credibility of all our members playing on the Pro Golf Tour.

“Every time we have stood for election in the past 21 years, we have brought new projects forward, sometimes internally and sometimes externally oriented, which were close to our hearts and which we ultimately successfully implemented together with the managing directors.”

Final Thoughts…

Through Stefan Quirmbach’s leadership and contributions, the PGA of Germany has shaped and developed its business significantly to ensure its PGA Members receive the highest possible standards of education and support services, whilst also enabling the organisation to further its role as a leading and influential voice for German golf. This has meant both organisation and member has increased its influence and reach to the amateur golfer and ensured that the game grows in both relative and absolute ways. German golf is thriving and with the structures and foundations that have been set by the PGA of Germany, the future looks bright for golf in the country.