I saw a post in a group I'm part of on social media where a golfer was asking a similar question. Although this particular question is not for everyone it is still a question that most golfers are curious of. I used to get asked this question a lot but it is something I haven't really thought about or talked about in a long time. Now seemed like a good time to break down what it takes.
First, let me add that if all you want to do is improve your golf game some of these same steps will go a long way in your improvement. If you are a high handicap thinking it is impossible, understand it is easier to go from a 20 to an 8 handicap than it is to go from an 8 to a 5 handicap. I'll cover this is another blog post in the future.
What Does It Take to Become a Professional Tour Golfer?
The first thing it takes is dedication. You have to truly have a goal of becoming a professional golfer. If the desire is not there the goal will not be attainable. Dedication means you have to be willing to put in the work necessary and make the time for what needs to be done.
The road to becoming a professional can be anywhere from 3 years to 8 years depending on the golfer. This time frame is gauged from day one of a golfer deciding to try for professional golf. The difference in years depends on dedication, athleticism, financing, and coach/instructor. If you took someone that has never played golf before and started from scratch the goal would be 5 years on average to get that golfer to that level. Some have done it faster while others have taken as long as ten years. Golfers that have played golf for some time may have to make swing changes and break bad habits. Making changes is harder and takes longer than you might expect.
Regardless of skill level here are the other things that golfers must do to make it to a professional level of golf. Please note these are not in a particular order.
Find a Coach/Instructor - This is maybe the most crucial part. You can not just find any instructor either. You must interview a couple of instructors and find one that understands your goal. They should be someone you can get along with well and has facilities for all aspects of the game. They do not have to be an instructor for current or former professional golfers but that does help in knowing they understand what a professional golfer needs to do. Time with your instructor will vary based on the timeframe of your goal and skill level but will most likely be a minimum of 2-4 hours each week. This may also change as time goes by. You may have three 1-hour lessons each week for the first month then change to one 2-hour lesson every other week.
Get into fitness - This is a very important part of golf if you want to play golf longer and injury free. This does not mean you have to become a fitness junkie but you must get your body conditioned for hitting golf balls 5-6 days a week, being on your feet for 4-7 hours each of those days, and getting used to walking 3-5 miles each day you play golf. Ideally, you would join a fitness center and hire a personal trainer the same as you would a golf instructor that understands your goal. You could also benefit from a golf-specific training program like GolfFOREVER. A system that is portable, can be used during golf lessons with your instructor, at the gym with your personal trainer, or use at home when the weather may prevent you from being outside on a driving range. A perfect scenario would be to have a portable fitness program and a personal trainer.
Spend More Time Practicing Than Playing - This sounds simple enough, right? Well, practicing more than playing does not mean you spend all your time on the practice facilities. Let's say you practice four days a week. Three of those days should be limited to the practice facilities working on irons, the driver, putting, or chipping. However, one day should be out on the golf course. These days on the course are about course management, accuracy, and shot variety. Some things can not be duplicated on a practice facility and the course is the only place to practice them.
Short Game / Wedges - This is maybe the most important part of your practice. Getting control of all the shots from 120 yards and closer. This is one of the areas that separate professional golfers from everyone else. You will not hit every green in regulation and will need to be able to scramble to save par sometimes. Maybe even bogey or worse. The short game is where scores can be saved or implode. You must learn distance control with your wedges. It's not just knowing what club to hit from a certain yardage either. You want to learn how to hit a 60-yard shot with all 3 or 4 of your wedges. The purpose of this is to be able to play shots based on conditions and pin locations. Using the Dave Pelz Clock method is a great start.
Putting - Practice putting is as simple as it is complex. To be a good putter is not just about having a good putting stroke. You need to be able to read greens, control speed, and adapt as conditions change. Although it is hard to practice for changing conditions the rest can be done relatively simple. The first thing is to develop a sound putting stroke. It doesn't;t matter how good you can read a green if you can't start the ball on your intended line. Learn to read greens and work on speed control. Putting practice should be about 30% of your total time practicing.
Bunkers - Practice out of bunkers can sometimes be tricky or can only be done on a golf course. As great as it would be that every golf course's practice facilities had practice bunkers not all of them do. Even rarer are practice bunkers for full swings like being in a fairway bunker. Bunker practice is also more than just being able to hit out of a bunker, especially for greenside bunker shots. You need to practice multiple ways of hitting the ball out and using more than one club. Short bunker shots you need to stop the ball quickly or longer bunker shots requiring the ball to roll out are all crucial to a good greenside bunker game. As are practicing plugged lies. Fairway bunker practice may come from being on the golf course but is just as important. You should also practice those awkward 40 - 70 yard bunker shots where you don't need a full swing. Bunker practice should be about another 10% of your total weekly practice time.
Financing - The road to professional golf takes money. Although the costs will vary there is still an investment needed. There is also an investment in your time depending on your goal. If you want to become a professional as quickly as possible it will take more of your time and more money. If you are willing to take longer and work a full-time job it can be chapter or more cost effective. Besides the cost of an instructor/coach, you need a membership to a golf facility for a place to practice. Preferably this would be the same facility your coach is at but you will still need a place to practice between your instruction days. There are also costs for golf equipment. Additional costs may include golf equipment. Hitting so many shots you may need to buy new wedges every year or more often. You may have to get fit for new clubs or have your current clubs changed. Golf gloves, balls, tees, etc.. will also be replaced quicker.
There is more that goes into becoming a professional golfer, however, most of it past those main topics is individualized to each individual golfer, depending on geographic location, and age of the golfer.
For reference - this is my personal experience.
After two years at the San Diego Golf Academy while earning my degree in Golf Course Management and my teaching certificate, practicing and getting my game back to a certain skill level I decided after graduation in 2005 I wanted to try for professional golf. It took me two years of practicing 5-6 days a week for 3-6 hours each day, having instruction 2 times a week, playing twice a week, and going to the gym 3 times a week with a personal trainer to get my game to a consistent enough level to give it a go. In 2007 I joined the then-named Hooters Tour. Between tournaments I still practiced 6-8 hours every day 4 days a week, had a lesson 1-2 times one week a month, and was in the gym 3 times each week with a personal trainer. I only played 10 events and when you combine all the expenses it was a cost of $50,000 to play that first year alone. To summarize it took me 4 years of working on my game and well over $50,000 to fulfill my dream of becoming a professional golfer.
Video References to some of the practicing points mentioned above.
Dave Pelz Clock Swing - https://youtu.be/GCfsMllDV6w
Green Reading - https://youtu.be/httEDrRJzEs
Bunker Tip - https://youtu.be/L9LVBmRLjFo