Jay Karen - National Golf Course Owners Association

Jay Karen is the CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association, where he leads the golf industry’s trade association and initiatives to support the success of the golf course business.

Jay Karen also chaired the board of the industry-wide advocacy coalition, We Are Golf, and served on the Golf USA Tee Time Coalition board, a joint initiative with the PGA of America, and the advisory board of the World Golf Hall of Fame. 

The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, CBS Radio, New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, the Golf Channel, Golf Digest and many others call upon Jay for his insights on the golf industry.

Jay has also served as CEO of two associations in the lodging and hospitality industry, and he is a certified association executive by the American Society of Association Executives. 

Jay also served on the board of directors of the US Travel Association.

Jay Karen's LinkedIn Profile

The National Golf Course Owners Association


  • How Jay's hometown impacted his career.
  • The important advice his Mom gave him that often comes in handy.
  • Do you need to leave your organization in order to become CEO? 
  • What you need to know to become CEO.
  • Insights for preparing and interviewing for the CEO position.
  • What’s unique about working in associations, and what’s the key to success.
  • How to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • How Jay is going about addressing diversity and inclusion in golf.
  • How playing golf for four hours deepens any relationship.
  • Why difficulties are the best places to grow.
  • Why front-line worker turnover is about more than money.
  • What Don Draper in Mad Men said about gratitude.
  • The missed opportunity from paying employees electronically.
  • A time when a failure led to growth down the road.
  • The one thing most people miss when they are making a decision.
  • How to efficiently read the Wall Street Journal.
  • How leaders can curate content and provide value.
  • The first step you should take if you'd like to start playing golf.


The "Holy Grail" of reducing turnover:

  1. Create a place for people to have a security in their lives
  2. Be reliable.
  3. Show gratitude.

The steps the NGCOA is taking to make the golf course more welcoming:

  • Prioritize starting the conversation.
  • Focus on creating diversity at the Board level.
  • Create a collective consciousness around diversity across the industry.


“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.”

“You have to show that you've done the job. People don’t want to take a big risk when hiring a CEO."

"Moderate doses of fear can be motivating. Too much of it can be overwhelming."

"In an association you get to be mission driven and entrepreneurial."

“When you begin to invest in what your younger customers wants, often the older generation will follow soon."

Advice for you early on in your career..."embrace the difficulties".

The sign in Jay's office..."A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor."

"The best employees take ownership."

The Holy Grail of turnover reduction..."Create a place where people can have security and reliability in their lives."

"Showing gratitude and appreciation to your employees makes a bigger difference than you realize."

"I try to stay one step ahead of members when offering them something of value in my newsletter. Two steps ahead is too far."

When it comes to relationship building..."Golf levels the playing field for four hours."

"The relationship is richer after fours hours of golf."

"I'm a better CEO because I seek to achieve balance in life."


Wall Street Journal


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