Joe Simonds sees the Golf Management Program at College of the Desert in Palm Desert as a potential big resource for the golf industry in the desert.
That is, of course, is if Simonds and others can revive the lagging Program.
“No. 1 is increasing the awareness, with some good presentation of what we are doing,” said Simonds, a long-time desert golf professional who is now the head of the community college’s golf management program. “This is just small potatoes from what I envision. At least we are getting something to get people to come in and to see that, well, I can get something out of this. It is increasing the excitement for people.”
Operated out of a series of buildings on the campus along Fred Waring Drive at the college’s public driving range, the golf management program at the school has existed for decades. But in recent years the program has slipped, with the school only offering four classes at the moment for just 11 enrolled students.
Simonds is in his first year as head of the program and wants to add not only students but classes to the program.
“A couple of the classes that I really want to add are obviously, here in the desert, tournament operations,” Simonds said. “I could do a 12-week class on that and hopefully get them from start to finish, how to promote a tournament, how to build a tournament, set up the tournament and have them run the tournament and then be able to go out to some of the country clubs that are having tournaments and have them help them run it.”
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Current classes include methods of teaching, fundamentals of the rules of golf, short-game techniques and golf shop operations. Simonds said the point of the classes, drill work in an indoor swing room and hitting balls on the College of the Desert driving range is not about developing golfers, but developing an interest in the golf industry.
“This is not P.E., learning golf,” he said. “We want people who are in here for a love of golf. They don’t have to be a golfer. They could be interested in retail merchandising. They could be interested in food and beverage at a golf course.”
Reaching the community
A key to growing the program will be the participation of local golf courses and golf pros, Simonds said. Some of his students already have jobs at local golf courses and golf shops, something he believes will increase as the program grows.
“A lot of what I envision is getting this to be a very hands-on program,” he said. “Lots of internships, obviously there are classroom talks, but a lot of hands on out here (at the driving range). And it is going to be a tall task. Because (the program) has been gone, so it is almost like starting from scratch.”
The golf management program was run for decades by Tony Manzoni, himself a PGA of America professional and the school’s men’s golf coach. But when Manzoni retired as a tenured teacher from the school in June of 2018 and died a few months later at 82, momentum for the golf management program slipped away.
Simonds’ own experiences includes 27 years as a club professional, teaching pro and even a general manager at a golf course. In addition to his work at COD, Simonds has a teaching academy at SilverRock Resort golf course in La Quinta and a course in Colorado in the summer. He is also the girls’ golf coach at La Quinta High School.
One of Simonds’ big projects for the program is the development of a two-bay indoor hitting area that will include computerized feedback through a program called Flight Scope. Such amenities could bring more students who see the program as a potential path to a job or to a career rather than just elective courses for a general A.A. degree from the school. But Simonds admits the rebuilding of a program that has shrunk in recent years will be difficult.
“I’m not trying to be the devil’s advocate here, but being realistic, we are going to go hard for a year,” Simonds said. “My biggest thing right now is marketing and promotion. I am trying to teach the classes like these people are interested in the business.”
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