Road to Singapore: The Journey of CPGA Member Mark Bates

Road to Singapore: The Journey of CPGA Member Mark Bates
Member Profile: Mark Bates

Twenty-seven year old Mark Bates was introduced to the game of golf by his father at the young age of eight and became passionate about it shortly after. He turned competitive at the age of 14 and at the same time started working at his home club in Innisfail, Alberta picking the range and parking carts for Jim Boomer who was his mentor at the time. Mark won numerous local junior events and also played for Alberta in the Alberta/Montana Ryder Cup as well as the Western Canadian Juvenile Team matches. Growing up on the golf course was something that Mark lived and breathed every day of the summer. “When I wasn’t practicing or competing, I was working, I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time in the summer”, says Mark of his growing love for the industry. After he graduated high school, the golf course was naturally where he took up work again in the summer.

Mark never considered golf as a career as he really didn’t know much other than the competitive aspect of the game. He knew he was interested in the sport, but didn’t want to rely solely on competitive play, so he decided to venture into the other side of the game spending one year in the pro-shop at a 9-hole course at Gleniffer Lake in its first year of operation. Here, he educated himself in the construction and start-up aspect of course development. Shortly after, he attended the University of Calgary for two years of general studies in an attempt to “find himself”. Mid-way through his second year, he found himself discouraged with classes that didn’t seem to be leading anywhere and also noticed that he couldn’t wait to get back to the golf course. Mark decided to do a little more research on the golf industry and what it would take to become a Canadian PGA Member. “I was encouraged by some of the options of the education component at the CPGA and decided I would attend Lethbridge Community College for PGM as it offered a business diploma in conjunction with the golf program” said Mark. After making this decision, Mark transferred to university and completed a management degree en-route to finishing the ELITE program and obtaining Class ‘A’ certification.

While studying, Mark started to establish himself in the golfing community by working as an assistant with Alan Killian at Inglewood Golf Club in Alberta. He graduated with Great Distinction in 2004, and was on the Dean’s list each semester. “I thought it was very important to get the university degree because I figured it may better prepare me to be successful in the industry, and if I ever were to leave the industry I would be well prepared for other options. But at the end of the day, I’ve always had a passion for golf and figured if I applied myself, I knew I could make a living doing something I love”.

Fresh out of university, Mark and his girlfriend Sara (now wife) decided to make the move overseas in 2004 after she was offered an opportunity to use her education degree to teach at an international school in Bangkok, Thailand. They figured it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and took the plunge. “We saw it as an opportunity to live in an exotic location, experience a different culture and travel places we may never go after settling somewhere in Canada”. With Sara making enough for the two of them to get by, Mark decided to take a chance and look for work in the golf industry. With a little perseverance and luck, Mark was introduced to Tony Meechai, a USPGA Professional of Thai decent who had been operating Heartland Golf Schools in Thailand since 1998. The timing was perfect as Heartland was rapidly changing at the time and was in need of a Golf Professional with business training, something that is rare in Asia. Tony and Mark clicked right away, and soon after Mark worked for Heartland as a “Jack of all Trades” in ‘04/’05.

After Sara’s contract was complete, Mark returned to Canada to work a season for Steve Moe in Turner Valley, AB. In January of 2006 while Calgary was under a blanket of snow, Mark was called back to sunny Thailand to do groundwork and a proposal for the expansion of Heartland Golf Schools to Jurong Country Club in Singapore. After he completed this consulting project, he moved back to Canada in March to work for 2006 Canadian PGA Club Professional of the year, Ron Laugher at Priddis Greens, AB. During that summer, Mark received word from Thailand that Heartland had indeed been awarded the contract at Jurong Country Club and that it would be opening in July. The golf school opened July 1 and after 2 months, Heartland called on Mark to come back and manage the operation. “It was an extremely tough decision to leave Priddis, but my wife and I decided this was a good opportunity for us both to have good careers in Asia”.

Since working overseas at Heartland, events at the golf school have taken him to numerous exotic places; he has been to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Perth (Australia), Singapore, and all over Thailand. Next month he will be going to Kunming (China) for another golf school event. Mark’s personal travels have taken him even further. “Travel in Asia is much cheaper compared to North America. There are so many exotic locations in close proximity and costs are generally much lower than at home so I have been taking advantage of the opportunity. My wife and I have been on vacation in Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Mainland China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar and even Egypt. India is next on the list in October,” said Mark.

Mark’s job on a daily basis is to manage the operations of the golf school in Singapore and liaise with the parent company in Thailand. “Since our teaching professionals here work very hard and are extremely busy teaching, my main focus is on developing business practices that allow the operation to run as smooth as possible. I spend a lot of time developing school programs, corporate programs, and company policies/procedures on everything from our products and sales to accounting procedures and promotional/marketing initiatives”. Mark designs and maintains the Heartland website and personally looks after the corporate and group accounts. He also helps out with large corporate programs and teaches a few private clients, but mainly leaves the instruction to the teaching professionals.

Mark recommends that Members explore the opportunity to work overseas. “It is definitely not for everyone, but living and working overseas can be very rewarding in many ways. Intrinsically, you gain a whole new appreciation for different cultures and how different people live”. Mark believes that Canadian PGA Members can gain career changing experience overseas that they would never be exposed to back in Canada. “I have gained a whole different perspective on the golf industry. Many employers value overseas experience because it shows that you can adapt and succeed in a different environment. There are positions overseas that offer good compensation as well. If you couple that with many places where the cost of living is lower than Canada and the fact that most countries have much lower tax rates, the move can be financially rewarding as well” said Mark.

“The golf business is very different over here. Again, the typical Asian golf club is not currently run by a golf professional. In fact, most pro-shops and golf shops are not run by golf professionals, and because of this, most people go to shopping malls to purchase equipment, not to their local professional located at the golf course,” said Mark.

He states that to this day he is constantly amazed by the facilities in Asia. “The driving ranges are massive, having up to five levels of hitting bays to accommodate the hoards of people who love to beat golf balls. Many of them are not simply driving ranges, but entertainment complexes including pubs, restaurants, gyms, spas, shopping and even minor car repair and servicing. In Thailand, they have butlers to take your clubs and bring you balls. Many of the ranges have automated ball dispensers so you don’t even need to put the ball on the mat yourself. There is one range in Bangkok where the balls each have a computer chip inside that is coded with your name when you purchase your balls. You hit the balls into various targets (like a giant dart-board) and thereby scoring points that are then displayed on the plasma screen at your hitting bay. It adds a really fun element to practicing.”

“There are quite a few courses in Asia, including Jurong Country Club, that are floodlit for golf at night. Because of our proximity to the equator, the sun always sets around 7PM. With high demand of golf courses and cooler temperatures at night, lighting up the course simply makes sense”.

“They take their golf seriously over in Asia. Since, Singapore is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and the island is so small (100 sq. km smaller than Calgary), land is a premium and there are only 14 golf courses. With such high demand, golfers need a Proficiency Certificate in order to get access to the course. It is basically a license to play golf. They are tested on skills, rules and etiquette before they are allowed to play. They then also have to go through further rules and etiquette training and testing to be awarded a handicap.”

He advises those that are looking for the opportunity to work overseas to do their research before applying. “Like in Canada, there are many positions that may or may not suit you, depending on where you are in your career. Do as much homework as possible on the position. Where is the posting? Who is the employer? What is the facility like? What is the economic/political situation there? What is cost of living like? How long is the contract? How will your spouse/family adjust,” suggests Mark. He recommends that if you are interested in a position, to ask the potential employer as many questions as possible and then once the decision is made to make the move, go in with an open mind and be prepared to adapt to new surroundings.

Mark believes that becoming a Canadian PGA Member undeniably helped him reach goals that he has attained along the way. “I feel fortunate to have gone through the CPGA ELITE program, there is currently no PGM or PGA in Asia that train their Members like the Canadian PGA. It is something I did not fully appreciate until I was exposed to the lack of training by other associations around the world. I think that many of our Members take things for granted back home. The four main PGAs that are highly respected around the world are Canada, US, Australia and the UK. These are the only associations that uphold education and job specific training that prepare their members for every facet of the golf industry. Professionals here in Asia and in many other parts of the world simply do not have access to the structure and resources we have in Canada”.

If you would like to get in contact with Mark, about his travels thus far, or are interested in the new position open at Heartland Golf School, please don’t hesitate to contact him at:

Mark Bates
Canadian PGA Professional, BMgt.
General Manager
Heartland Golf Schools @ Jurong Country Club

For More Information Contact:

Erica Bury
Communications Coordinator
Canadian PGA

About the CPGA:

Established in 1911, the Canadian Professional Golfers’ Association is a non-profit association comprised of approximately 3,500 golf professionals across the country with a mandate to promote and advance the game of golf, serving the needs of both its membership and the golf public through professional and junior golf development programs and high-calibre competitive events. The National Office is located in Acton, Ontario with nine Zone Offices across the country. For more information, visit