How to Start a Professional Golf Career

Chances are, just about everybody who has ever shot par or under on a championship golf course has at least momentarily had visions of playing professional golf. After all, the lure of playing a game for a living on lush green fairways is tantalizing and exciting.

Rest assured, though, before you can stroll the fairways competing against Tiger and Phil, you must follow a process to become a professional golfer. Once you've developed sufficient skills under tournament conditions, you should take certain, defined steps to compete professionally and then later play at the highest level, the PGA Tour.

  1. Start playing golf as early as possible and compete in junior tournaments. While there are exceptions -- such as Y.E. Yang, the 2009 PGA Championship winner who started at age 19, and three-time major tournament winner Larry Nelson, who took up the game at age 21 -- most professional golfers started playing as a youngster. The model for professional greatness is exemplified by superstars such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, who started swinging clubs as toddlers.

  1. Practice all phases of the game.

  2. Develop a consistent practice routine with a sufficient amount of time allocated to the short game and putting. In professional golf, regardless of the tour, everybody can hit fairways and greens. Statistics show that golfers who are more proficient from less than 100 yards tend to perform more consistently and win more money.

  1. If possible, play golf in college, which is an excellent training ground.

  2. Play in local, regional and national amateur tournaments that feature top-notch fields. Some of the top national tournaments include the USGA Amateur Championship, USGA Amateur Public Links Championship and North/South Amateur Golf Championship at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

  1. Participate in the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, which is commonly known as "Q-School." Conducted in four stages, the grueling series of tournaments determines who has the ability to participate on the PGA Tour and the Nationwide Tour, a highly competitive circuit that's considered a stepping stone to the PGA Tour.

  1. Play a multitude of professional golf tournaments. Even if you don't participate in Q-School or you fail in your attempt, it's imperative to play in professional golf tournaments.

  2. There are a wide variety of smaller stature professional golf tours with prize money and competitive fields often referred to as "minor league tours."

  3. Some of the more popular tours in the genre are the NGA Pro Golf Tour, the eGolf Professional Tour and the Moonlight Tour.

  4. Pros such as Tom Lehman, Zach Johnson and John Daly honed their professional skills on the minor league tour circuit. Most of these tours are headquartered in Florida and North Carolina.