Besides playing around the world and being on TV and making lots of money (well, some of them do) one of the perks of being a professional golfer is all the cool stuff they get from their sponsor manufacturers.
Clubs, balls, gloves and clothes are always available and, better yet, free! If a golfer is in need of a new putter, or needs to change the lie of his club, the manufacturer is right there to adjust or deliver the latest tweak that the manufacturer's R&D department has come up with. All of this is in the hope that the professional golfer being sponsored will be winning enough that we will see them often on the Tour's TV coverage. Then, we average golfers will say, "Gosh, if it works for him it might work for me as well."
For those of us hackers who treat golf more like a religion than a sport, who have always wanted to be treated like a pro, there just might be a way, almost.
In Tranås, Sweden, Steve McDaniel, the PGA professional and Director of Golf at Tranås Golf Club was looking for some way to reward the Club's members who focus more seriously on their game. We can recognize these golfers at every club we play. They are the ones that play golf 3, 4, or sometimes every day of the week. When they are not playing, you'll find them on the practice range banging balls or dropping putts. If not swinging a club, they are hanging around the pro shop or clubhouse talking about golf. Do you recognize these players? You may be one yourself.
Steve is an American, married to a lovely Swedish woman, Jenny, and has been around golf his entire life. A collegiate golfer and graduate of the Golf Academy of America-Orlando, Steve has worked in Swedish golf as a professional for a number of years. His teaching school, the Steven McDaniel Golf Academy, is gaining in popularity. An avid social networker, you can see Steve's golf tips on YouTube, follow him on Twitter or be a friend of his on Facebook. It was while tweeting with a fellow professional in Texas that Steve discovered the idea for the Tranås Player's Staff.
The concept was developed by Ryan Crysler, the Director of Performance at the Austin (Texas) Golf Club. "We started this program at our club in 2003," says Crysler. "The secret to our success is treating every player like a tour player. Golfers of all ability are eligible. The only criteria is a passion for golf."
Because of Sweden's shorter golf season and cultural variances, Steve had to tweak the Austin program a little bit for the Tranås members. In the Tranås Players Staff program, the member will receive a shag bag filled with the same balls that the player uses when he plays on the course. If he plays a Titleist Pro V1, then the golfer would practice with that same ball. In addition , four dozen golf balls and three golf gloves will be issued throughout the season. The balls and gloves would be specifically chosen to be the most advantageous to the members game.
At the beginning of each season, new soft spikes will be given out to replace worn ones on member's shoes. A pre-season check of lie angles, grips and clubs will insure that the golfer's clubs are properly fitted for his game. During the season, the members will also receive group training sessions and get discounts on specially ordered equipment from the pro shop. Members will also benefit from information sessions from the equipment company representatives. These special sessions will have the reps unveiling new clubs and discussing upcoming equipment improvements in person.
Finally, there will be season long competitions for the members that generate points, similar to the European Order of Merit. The two top point earners will be made Captains of two teams chosen from the members of the Player's Staff. The two teams chosen will have an end of the year competition based on the Ryder Cup competition, including a winning cup.
"We are always looking for ways to improve the service at our club," says McDaniel. "Typical American services, like unloading bags and shoe cleaning are deemed a little overboard here in Sweden. While the American expects "special treatment" at his club, here in Sweden it seems being polite and expedient is viewed as enough."
McDaniel wanted to find a way to show appreciation for the avid members, who are the backbone of any golf club's success. "We think the Tranås Players Staff is exactly the right way to do this," he said. "It's open to all our "crazy for golf" members, it rewards their loyalty to the Club, and gives Staff members a fun way to improve their games. As a teacher, I will work with highly engaged players that are serious about their game. "
The equipment manufacturers who have been contacted about their participation have been enthusiastic. Steve says he already has 10 to 15 members ready pay the nominal fee to join. "Though we think we are the first to start the concept here in Sweden," says McDaniel, "the hope is that other clubs will start their own Player's Staff programs, and we could have competitions among the different clubs."
With this program to reward avid golfers and expand the fun aspects of team play and competition, Steve McDaniel and the Tranås Golf Club may be taking a small step to increase enthusiasm and golf play in Sweden.