A clock on the wall inside GolfTEC’s Denver headquarters tells the story. Sometime this spring, GolfTEC will pass the four million mark for golf lessons given in its 17-year history. No other company even comes close – testament to the vision and desire of PGA professionals Joe Assell and Mike Clinton, who acquired the company in 1995 with the basic intent to create a better way to give golf lessons.
Today, GolfTEC (the name changed from Driving Obsession in 1997) probably is the largest employer of PGA golf professionals in the U.S., GolfTEC is one of the golf industry’s great success stories. The Denver-based company, which generated more than $50 million in revenue last year, gives more than 25 percent of all the private golf lessons in the U.S., annually, has more than 500 GolfTEC Certified Coaches at 165 center nationwide, including 68 within Golfsmith stores. GolfTEC also has successfully expanded globally to Canada, Mexico, Japan and Korea.
The “TEC,” in GolfTEC, by the way, is no accident. Just as everything else at the company, the name is well thought out, researched and has a purpose. In this case it’s Technique, Equipment and Conditioning.
It’s part of what Assell and Clinton refer to as “Go big or go home” business mantra and research-based and fact based instruction.
“If we were trying to train people in the ‘Joe Assell Swing Theory,’ we couldn’t do that. It’s just not replicable,” Assell said. “That’s the reason some of the biggest names out there – a David Leadbetter or a Hank Haney – haven’t been able to replicate themselves around the world. They can’t be there.
“So we took my philosophy out of it and just made it research based and fact based. And that’s what we use as the core for all of our instruction. “
From its Denver headquarters, GolfTEC created its “Five Factors: Fact-Based Diagnosis, Sequential Lessons, Video-Based Practice, Advanced Retention Tools, and Precision-Matched Clubs. The company produces its own software (it has five full-time software producers) videos and closely monitors the number of lessons – and success rates – of its teaching professionals.
Suffice to say that GolfTEC is not your average teaching professional sitting in his or her office with a planning book.
“We’re in business to help people play better golf,” Clinton said. “It’s that simple. We’re not here solving world problems, but at least we’re solving golf swing problems.”
GolfTEC does that in corporate settings and event settings, but mostly in one-on-one sessions with a student and a GolfTEC certified instructor, the latter of which has been through an exhaustive month-long training session that includes 11 days at GolfTEC University in Denver.
“The first two weeks the professionals are at a GolfTEC Learning Center near them to understand the culture,” Assell said. “They come here for 11 days and then go back to the Center and observed for a couple of weeks before they’re turned loose.”
Turned loose, but not forgotten.
“Most of our coaches come from a background where there only three or four guys in the golf shop and that’s all the communication structure that’s required,” Assell said. “We’re a little different scale. We record videos almost daily that we send to our coaches as part of our communications to the field. All of our training material – about 4,000 pages on content to train our coaches – is all backed by video.”
A GolfTEC Learning Center – some are free standing and others in shopping plazas – coms fully equipped with hitting bays, state-of-the-art swing analyzers, launch monitors and club fitting stations. Each piece fits together to help a golfer play his or her best.
“I can have the greatest swing ever, but if I tried hitting my six-year-old son’s club, I wouldn’t be a very good player, so have to have right equipment and have the proper lessons,” Assell said.
Each perspective instructor is drawn from PGA Professionals and apprentices. There is no cost to the perspective GolfTEC instructor. Each franchise owner foots the bill for the training. If the Learning Center is one GolfTEC owns corporately, the company covers all the costs.
In 2011, Assell said, GolfTEC received approximately 1,500 applications from PGA professionals. The company hired approximately 200 of those applicants after each successfully completes training.
“If you want to teach at a GolfTEC Learning Center, you have to go through this training program,” Assell said. “Every single person we hire – before we let them give a golf lesson to a paying customer – has to go through our training program. We take it very seriously.”
And, Assell said, GolfTEC continues to gather momentum.
“There is no national player besides us,” Assell said. “We have increased the pie significantly. Our clients 15 to 20 lesson where they used to take two or three. We have a very loyal clientele. About half of our new biz comes from referrel. Our clients take more lessons than they do from their local professionals.”