Pitch perfect: The 12 best jobs in Irish golf

How often do you look at someone on the TV, in the newspapers or just walking down the street and think: I wish I had THAT job. Who, after all, wouldn’t want to do something they love… and get paid for it? 

Not many of us get to live that dream but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Kevin Markham lists some of the best jobs in Irish golf...

1. Caddie at Old Head

Carry the clubs, enjoy the chatter, look for golf balls, act as tour guide, search the horizon for whales, offer advice and enjoy one of the most spectacular locations of any golf course in the world. The golfers who come to the Old Head typically have deep pockets so a caddie can make a handsome return from tips. They may also find themselves attracting an invitation or two to play glamorous courses around the world. No surprise then that there are far more applicants than positions. The stories these guys could tell!!

2. Greenkeeper at Galway Bay

Greenkeeping is a passion, binding you to the land and immersing you in nature. The hours might not seem too friendly (5am starts in summer) but experiencing sunrise day after day, across Galway Bay and The Burren must be exhilarating for the team at the Galway Bay Golf Resort. Plus they get to see how the fruits of their labour flourish.

Damien Coleman, course superintendent, Galway Bay Golf Resort paints a stunning picture of life out west. “Ireland is world famous for its natural beauty and lush green land. Having the opportunity to blend a golf course into this beautiful landscape makes greenkeeping a special and unique job in Ireland. It’s incredibly rewarding. Add in the smell of freshly cut grass and wearing shorts, sunglasses and sun lotion, and it sounds like a holiday. Not so — it’s just part of the job. Then again, there aren’t too many jobs in Ireland where sun lotion forms part of the uniform. The atmosphere in my office is dictated by mother nature… and there is nowhere else I would want to be.”

3. Golf course photographer

Any photographer will tell you that sunrise and sunset are the best times of day to capture stunning landscape images. It is also when Ireland and the world are at their most beautiful. On a golf course you get to watch as light and shadow tumble over greens, through bunkers and across rolling fairways. There is nothing quite like photographing a hole which sums up a course’s beauty. And in between sunrise and sunset there’s plenty of opportunities to sneak in a lazy 18 holes.

4. Starter

A bit of banter goes a long way and starters are not found by the first tee just for official reasons. Yes, they’ll check you in, offer advice and send you on your way but in between expect to hear tall tales and humorous stories. A good starter will have his/her audience hanging on their every word and visiting golfers will lap it up before teeing off at Ballybunion, Waterville, Doonbeg, Old Head, Royal Portrush and so on.

Many of the world’s greatest golfers and biggest celebrities come golfing in Ireland, so who knows who you might meet.

5. Chef at Slieve Russell

We’re not short of impressive golf resorts in this country but if you know your onions you’ll discover some special golfing ingredients at Slieve Russell. This parkland beauty is tucked away amidst the rolling drumlins of Cavan, and the chefs here enjoy complimentary golf as a perk of the job. Other resorts may do the same so pick the right one and you could have glorious beaches, beautiful lakes or lush landscapes right outside the window… and a stunning 18 holes to enjoy between courses.

6. Sports management agent

Wheeling and dealing, ensuring your client gets the highest profile possible, talking to the nation’s and the world’s biggest brands… and that’s without even mentioning the hob-nobbing with golf stars and celebrities, playing in Pro-Ams, travelling by private jet or standing behind the 18th green of Augusta as your ‘client’ walks off en route to collecting his Green Jacket. Nice little earner, that one!

7. Golf professional at Waterville

Liam Higgins (left) has made this job his own over the decades. Now 74, he continues to maintain a legendary status in Irish golf… and continues to play the links every day. Considering that this is one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, in a landscape of outstanding natural beauty, you can imagine the hardship such a ‘job’ must entail. If such a role tempts you, be warned: The Higgins clan have the professional positions wrapped up for a few years yet. Liam’s two sons, David and Brian, are both pros here, too.

8. Irish Golf Tour company

You do all the work arranging itineraries for groups of golfers visiting Ireland… and what thanks do you get? Well, that all depends on you. Nurture a loyal clientele with an exceptional service and you’ll probably receive invitations to play golf with your customers — in Ireland, or elsewhere. If you run a strong business you’ll also receive the gratitude of golf clubs, hotels and restaurants who may extend similar invitations. After all, how can you stand behind the services you provide without experiencing the product/s for yourself? At the very least you’ll feel good about supporting Irish golf. Joe Lyons, business development manager with Premier Irish Golf Tours explains: “The job involves assisting golfers fulfill their dream golf holidays. It’s great to assist friends in the golfing community with their holidays and one of the big perks of the job is getting paid to go on ‘familiarisation trips’ to ensure destinations are up to the required standards for our customers. Tough job but someone has to do it!”

9. Equipment/ clothing rep for a major brand

Think about it! You get to work for a company — let’s say Callaway for the sake of argument — learning about their products, trying out their products and then selling those products to golf stores, pros and golfers themselves. You’ll get free clubs, obviously. You’ll also be at the cutting edge of technology which will take you not just to golf courses in Ireland but to trade shows, events and courses around the world. Work hard, succeed, and one day you could be discussing the benefits of this technology with the world’s greatest golf pros. Did I mention the free clubs? Or work for an Irish clothing brand (Dwyers and Green Lamb are both based in Cork) and help sell/shape the future in golf clothing. You can pretty much guarantee it will take you to a golf course for testing sessions… plus you’ll have a trendy and up-to- date wardrobe.

10. Golf writer

If you love the game that much, put pen to paper/finger to keyboard and start writing about it.

Perhaps you’re a slave to new equipment pr technology, or you have a particular take on the professional tours, or you’ve made millions with the accuracy of your betting forecasts… Why not talk to one of the golf magazines, national papers or even your local newspaper about a writing gig. That’s how most of us got started. Jeremy Clarkson got his first motor column by approaching his local paper… if only they’d turned him down.

11. Barman at Dromoland Castle, Doonbeg, Fota Island

Golfers are renowned as good tippers so why not get a job behind the clubhouse bar at one of the big golf resorts. The tips will come but you’ll also have a superb golf course and exceptional practice facilities right on the doorstep.

How about a quick 30 minutes of practice before heading home? Or just shoot the breeze with visiting celebrities and golf pros as you rustle up a Vodka Martini. Who knows, they may seek your advice on how to get over their putting yips. Or they might not.

12. Rory’s caddie

JP Fitzgerald may not be giving up the job anytime soon but what a job it is: When Rory won the 2016 FedEx Cup, JP earned a cool $1m (€943,000).

From 10 feet away he gets to watch the greatest striker of the ball hit shots like those at the K Club — who’ll forget those 5 woods to the 16th and 18th greens during the 2016 Irish Open! If you’re JP, you get to travel in luxury, stay in luxury, visit golf courses where mere mortals will never tread, and you get to call it work. In return, all you have to do is know the golf course and the golfer inside out.

You never know your luck

  • It may not all be glamour — although a lot of it is — but if you love golf and want to be a part of it then there are countless opportunities. Sometimes you just never know what will swing your way. A friend of mine worked for Adidas and one day he was sitting in a clubhouse bar with his back to the door. The door opened and someone walked in, asking if anyone fancied 18 holes. He stuck up his arm and said he was game without knowing who it was… and so he played 18 holes with Ernie Els.


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