PGA Advanced Fellow Geoff Dixon is helping to put Norway on the golfing map in his role as a head coach for Team Norway’s junior/amateur squad
What led to you working in Norway?
The opportunity to work in Norway came when I met my Norwegian wife of almost thirty years. She was then living on the south coast of Norway, and the local golf club was looking to hire a young coach. The demand for coaching in Norway at that time was extremely high and, over the following seven years – (‘89 –‘96) I developed my coaching skills by delivering a large number of lessons on a daily basis, primarily to beginners.
After a spell back in the UK, my wife and I returned to Norway in 2009, and I took up the position of head coach at a Vestfold Golf Club, which is located on Norway’s east coast. I was presented with a group of juniors and given a brief of guide them to the highest possible level.
One of those players, Madelene Stavnar, became the youngest player to qualify for the Ladies European Tour in 2017 aged 16, while another, Celine Borge, is currently playing on the Symetra Tour, the second tier of women’s professional golf in the US.
In 2014, I was offered the position of regional coach for Team Norway’s junior-amateur squad, and in 2016 I was promoted to head coach.
What is the current state of golf in Norway?
Because of the climate, golf has a relatively short season, with courses in the north open from April to October, depending when the frost sets in, although some courses in the south west are open almost all year round. There are around 170 golf clubs and 100,000 registered golfers in Norway.
Like many European countries, club membership has been on a slight decline over the last five years or so. A recent survey revealed that one of the main reasons for this reduction in numbers is that the game is proving too difficult for many people. Potential club golfers in Norway have to undergo both a practical and theory test before being able to play on the course, and while this scheme introduces the basics of the game the first experiences of on-course play, it can be quite daunting for some people.
On a professional level, Suzann Petterson has long been a flagbearer for golf in Norway, but there are a growing number of younger players coming through in both the women’s and men’s game, with the likes of Viktor Hovland, who won the US Amateur in 2018, and the low amateur medals at this year’s Masters and US Open, helping to put Norwegian golf more in the world spotlight.
Describe a typical working day…
It varies considerably. Typical tasks include coaching, arranging training camps, traveling to tournaments, liaising with other coaches around the regions, and, of course, answering lots of emails/phone calls – all the duties you’d associate with the role of a national coach.
How does being a PGA Professional differ in Norway compare to the UK?
It is some years since I worked in the UK, however, there seems to be less demand in Norway these days for the ‘traditional’ all-round club professional. There is a far greater demand for specialist coaches.
Given the short season in Norway, is it possible to make a decent living as a PGA Pro?
Pros must be prepared to work long hours given the limited number of outdoor golfing months, but as long as they provide a good service the financial rewards are more than adequate to cover the cost of living.
What advice would you pass on to other PGA professionals who may be interested in working in Norway?
I would encourage anyone to develop detailed knowledge in a particular area, so that they have something extra to offer. Whether that be an element of coaching – putting, short game, psychology or fitness – or perhaps custom fitting. Also, although English is widely spoken as a second language, being able to speak Norwegian would definitely help your job prospects, especially if you want to coach juniors.