May 9, 2018
The Golf Pro: Chatting With Rich Waage
Getting into golf was an accident for Orchid Island’s Director of Golf, Rich Waage. The first time this, now professional, golfer swung his club at a ball, he was eight years old, and that’s the day everything changed. “The first time I played was the last time my dad played,” the golfer jokes. What began as raw talent has since turned into passion and dedication; his love for the game shines with every lesson, every event, and every member he meets.
Waage’s golf journey has taken him up and down the east coast. As a boy, he first played the game in Monroe, Wisconsin, but made the leap to New York City at just 21. His dedication to the sport secured him a job at a big city club where he had the opportunity to network. While the city afforded him the chance to become a PGA mentor, Waage knew what he wanted out of his career. After meeting Mark Heartfield, who was to become his mentor, Waage was offered his dream job — a chance to work under a director of golf. A telling move for Orchid Island’s future Director of Golf, Waage jumped at the chance to work at a club in Jupiter, Florida, a place where he could play year-round.
Though moving to the Sunshine state was intimidating and far from home, Florida’s weather created a tempting offer. With warm, bright springs turning into hot yet beautiful summers that give way to tepid autumns and mild winters, it was hard to pass up the opportunity to play golf year-round as a job. Waage made Florida his home and in 1997 was offered a position at the Crown Jewel of Florida’s Treasure Coast, a position as head pro at Orchid Island.
The Golf Pro
Waage became a golf pro fairly young in his career, joking, “I’m not sure I could get into the PGA now.” Becoming a pro isn’t necessarily the process you may have imagined; it isn’t just participating in the PGA tour (though sometimes it is)! At the time Waage went pro, the process was similar to a two-week long business school program, complete with a skills test, written exam, and oral interview.
As the program has evolved, so have the duties. The old-school idea of a PGA pro is that they’re playing golf, teaching golf lessons, and running tournaments on their home courses. But contrast this with Waage’s busy days of phone calls, emails, organizing events, and going above and beyond to ensure member’s feel challenged on the course, and it becomes clear that the role of Golf Director is more than just old school.
Though most camps are reserved for summertime, Orchid Island’s Golf & Beach Club is fondly known as “Camp Orchid,” thanks to the delightfully ambitious calendar. This calendar keeps the Director of Golf busy year-round, meaning that the perception of a PGA pro isn’t quite fitting to his day-to-day life. Much like Camp Orchid’s activity calendar, Waage’s days look very different. He’s gone from teaching lessons to encouraging assistants to help train members. Instead of playing daily, he’s answering phones, connecting with members and vendors alike, creating picture-perfect advertisements for Orchid Island’s course, all the while planning and hosting private tournaments.
While the club does host tournaments throughout the year thanks to the mild Florida winters, a particularly exciting event is coming up this year. In October, Waage and Orchid Island will be hosting the 2018 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship.
Golf at Orchid Island
Orchid Island’s golf course is what draws most members into the community, and because of that, one of the most important parts of the Director of Golf’s role is the customization of a member’s experience. “We want members to know we enjoy playing with them. We love to build relationships,” he says, emphasizing the custom experience at Orchid Island. “We try to work hard and enhance the experiences of our guests and club members.”
A custom experience is expected at Orchid Island’s course. The award-winning Arnold Palmer Championship course has a phenomenal layout, all set to the beautiful backdrop of historic oak trees, superior grasses, and lush landscaping. It’s the the centerpiece of a community boasting 60 species of birds, unrivaled numbers of wildlife, and a challenging layout that offers nine sets of tee combinations to choose between. The tees have flexible distances, ranging from 4,321 to 7,126 yards. Even though the course is tailored to a mid level handicap, it tests players of all skill levels.
“The club has grown and evolved to keep members active,” Rich describes. “We’ve worked to make our events open and friendly, encouraging members to play a course they’re comfortable with regardless of the tee location. We encourage Beach and Tennis Club members to join, too!” The golf club at Orchid Island is the perfect place to raise a family, retire, or simply join in on community events as members can bring guests to the course with no charge.
It’s clear that the Director of Golf’s heart is not only in the course at Orchid Island, but in the way the members get to experience the game. “We help new members find golf groups, give them an introduction and orientation to the club, and even the opportunity to play nine with me,” he says, emphasizing the staff’s engagement with new club members. “The most rewarding part of this job for me is making people smile.” And Waage does just that, often going out of his way to make sure the details of the game are just right for each member. If a member likes to play with a particular brand of ball, Waage will make sure they have that. The course, the club, and the experience are all customized by the Director of Golf, and it’s clear his passion for Orchid Island shines through.
When he isn’t in the office or on the course, Waage spends his time with his family. A man of many talents, the Waage home is also home to a bird sanctuary in the backyard. His favorite guilty pleasure? Roasting his own coffee beans.
Lauded as one of the most visually stunning and exclusive barrier island clubs, Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club is a private, gated residential golf course community in Florida. Offering a variety of luxury properties, including breathtaking waterfront and golf course homes, Orchid Island is nestled between the peaceful Indian River Lagoon and gorgeous Atlantic Ocean. Having all the amenities island living has to offer, Orchid Island is more than just a place — it’s a lifestyle. Let your journey begin.