Golf management students visit golf's birthplace for spring break

The words “cold” and “rainy” don’t describe most students’ ideal spring break destination—unless students are interested in golf management. Scotland is known for its cloudy skies but, more importantly, it is where golf originated, so it provides a unique historical outlook on the sport. Twenty-two Penn State students in the Professional Golf Management (PGM) option of the Recreation, Park and Tourism Management degree program spent their spring break in St. Andrews, Scotland, where they had the chance to play on some of the oldest golf courses in the world, meet with head golf pros and see different operation styles, and learn about the golf’s history.

“I wanted students to get a look at golf and the golf industry outside the United States,” says Eric Handley, instructor in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management and chaperone for the trip. “It’s an international experience that many students don’t have, and they might not otherwise get.”

Stationed in St. Andrews for the week, the students spent the majority of their time learning about different golf operations and the history of the sport. Students brushed up on their golf history at the British Golf Museum, which chronicles the evolution of golf, from how ball and club design have changed to ways tournaments have been planned to information on winners of the British Open, the oldest major tournament in the sport.

“It was a really special opportunity to study abroad, because we had the chance to see what golf means to people in a different country,” said Matthew Bird, a PGM student on the trip. “Through talking with golf pros there, we were able to see differences in their operations—everything from how staff members interact with customers to caddy management to basic day-to-day operations. Knowing that, we could see if there is anything to incorporate into our own management styles when we begin our careers.”

The students also took the opportunity to play at famous courses in the area. In addition to playing St. Andrews’ Old Course — which is ranked the second-best course outside of the United States by Golf Digest — the students took day trips to nearby courses: Muirfield, the oldest golf club in the world, where the original rules of golf were created; Carnoustie Golf Club; and Crail Golf Club, the seventh-oldest in the world.

Handley has been helping PGM students coordinate spring break trips to golf resorts for several years, but this is the first international spring break trip for the students.

“I found that a lot of the PGM students wanted to do something over spring break other than go on the traditional beach trip — most of the students just wanted to play golf,” Handley said. “I also knew that, if they had help coordinating a trip, it could be more than just a getaway. It could be learning experience, too.”

Handley says he plans on coordinating an international trip every two years, to make sure that each PGM student at Penn State has the opportunity to learn about golf and golf operations in a different country.

In past years, Handley and PGM students have traveled to Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina; the PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Fla; and Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, which sits on the Pacific coast of Oregon.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010