Meet the head PGA pro: Rye Golf Club’s Matthew Holland

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu January 20, 2018 08:52 Updated

Matthew Holland talks about how a swing studio has revolutionised what he can offer golfers, plus how he adapts communication to different types of members to ensure they use the pro shop more

What year did you turn professional and what have been your career highlights to date?

I first started playing golf when I was 12 years old and became a junior member down at Littlestone Golf Club in Kent, achieving a handicap of one. When I finished school at 16 I wrote to all the local clubs in my local area which I could get a bus to and luckily for me I had a phone call from Michael Lee, who was the club professional at Rye at the time, and he asked me to come over for an Interview. After this I worked under the guidance of Michael, completing my PGA course and becoming a fully qualified PGA professional by the age of 22. Michael Lee retired in April 2012 and I was in the fortunate position to succeed him as club professional at Rye and this certainly is my career highlight to date.

How do you market and stimulate interest in your retail business? What determines the product range you carry and are there companies helping you?

I market and stimulate my retail business in a number of ways:

  • Monthly newsletter. As a professional shop, we provide a monthly newsletter that we send out to our members, telling them about all the new brands that we have in stock, all the deals we are currently offering and any other appropriate information. We have had a lot of success with this monthly newsletter due to the positive feedback we get from the members.
  • Twitter / Instagram. As times are changing, we decided to create a professional shop Twitter and Instagram account to show our latest stock and offers through social media. Throughout the time of these accounts being active, we have gained many followers, with this; many local businesses and residence have been viewing and liking our pages, increasing our publicity in the local area.
  • Face to face communication. I would say face to face communication with our members is the key when dealing with sales. As they talk to you, you can give them the confidence in what they are purchasing is worth the amount and have the satisfaction and guarantee that if any product is faulty, they can return to us, and we will sort out the situation in the best possible way. This helps build a relationship and rapport between myself and the members.

  • TGI. I am a member with the TGI Partnership. They help a lot with stimulating my business by providing excellent advice on retail, marketing tools and financial. Also, being a member of the TGI Group, you can contact other brands within the group and they help you get the best deals through the group.
  • Demo days. Some days throughout the year we host a variety of golf demo days where well-known brands such as Titleist and Mizuno come down to us and set up sessions where members can try out the newest equipment. This helps the members to engage with the experts and learn a lot more about why newer technology helps with all aspects of the game. When the session is finished, the members come into the shop and enquire about the products they have used.

In my opinion, it’s all about how you portray this information to all the different generations of members. I find that with the younger members, they prefer to receive an email or look on social media to find out about our latest stock and deals. However, with the older generation, they prefer either a newsletter or to have a face to face talk with one of the professional team, to physically show and tell them about specific brands or products. You have to find a balance between both of these so all generations are satisfied with the way you portray and promote these offers.

Rye has a swing studio. How has this benefited the club? Were there any companies you assigned the task of building the facility three years ago?  

Having a swing studio at Rye has been very beneficial for the club and the members for a number of reasons:

  • Custom fitting. This has been a success since the swing studio has been produced. When a member is looking for a new set of irons, we offer them a custom fitting deal. We have multiple brands that we custom fit, however, Mizuno is our main supplier.
  • Lessons. When the weather is not appropriate to provide tuition outside we take our players into the swing studio, in there we have FlightScope and V1 Pro video analysis programme. Using these are very beneficial as we can record the swing in slow motion, showing myself and the player where the fault is within their swing, giving them a clear example of what they have to do to help change it. With the FlightScope, it records your necessary data, showing a path of where the ball starts and finishes. It also gives specific statistics to help all types of golfer increase their golfing knowledge, such as ball speed, smash factor and total distance. Using this data, we have provided many members their own personal yardage chart, this allows them to see how far they carry the ball, so when it come to the course, they have more confidence in what club they should hit.
  • Due to Rye being a very traditional golf club, the swing studio has slowly been integrated into the club and is now one of our key assets. Many of our older members didn’t really know or understand why we got it. However, now, they are very keen to use it as they know it helps them understand the different part of their golf swing and how it works.

The company that installed our swing studio was MIA Sports. They are the main distributor of FlightScope throughout the UK and Ireland. They were very efficient by installing the studio quickly and we have had no problems with the system since it has been installed.

Does Rye Golf Club have a strong junior section?  

Rye has a strong junior section called ‘The Cadets’. The professional team and I host a junior coaching session every Wednesday in the holiday periods for the cadets, we have on average 15 to 20 juniors attend every week for a two hour coaching session. in 2017, to engage more juniors and increase their knowledge of the game, we held a nine-hole competition on our Jubilee course. This was a success as they got to play the course by themselves, increase their knowledge of the game and increase their skills. Through this, we helped some of them reduce their handicaps and even gain a handicap by making it a qualifying round.

Tell us about the recent refurbishment of the pro shop.

The benefits of the refurbishment is the appearance of the shop. We introduced a dark wood finish throughout the shop which looks very professional and helps show the presentation of our merchandise. The apparel looks very good with the new refurbishment as it become a good background of customers, so it helps certain apparel to stand out to the customer’s eye. With this, we decided to introduce higher and well-known brands within the professional shop. Overall, with the new refurbishment and layout of the shop, our total sales has increased.

Does the professional shop offer non-members any services?  

Yes. Most of our products are available for non-members to purchase. All our products are Rye-crested so we get a few non-members, such as members’ guests asking about the history behind the crest. With the story, they are influenced to purchase a crested product for a memorabilia. We also offer non-member lessons and custom fittings.

What do you find are the biggest challenges in your job?

The main challenges I face on a daily basis are stock rotation / management, cash flow and just managing the business. These three things are very important for a business to strive, and if one of these challenges is not done to an expected level, the business will not run efficiently. The most satisfaction I get is from the members. Knowing that my members our satisfied with our service and products is very important to myself and my professional team.

What advices would you give to anyone looking to be a PGA professional?    

Know what profession you are going into. Do your research, gain knowledge of what is needed to succeed. You have to be hard working and dedicated to your job, make sure you are doing more than your job description requires. I would also recommend to find extra qualification to help put you above everyone else. For example, both of my assistants have either graduated or are in current studies at the University of Birmingham, where they studied applied golf management studies. With this, they have gained a bachelors of science degree and have also gained their full PGA memberships.

At a private members’ club, my best advice would be to communicate with the members. They are your best source of income and building a relationship and rapport between yourself and the members is crucial at a private members’ club.

Lastly, how do you see your role developing over the next five years? And are there any changes which you are currently working towards at Rye Golf Club?

It should remain largely the same but I will continue to develop the shop and swing studio for members; trying to improve their experience when they come to the club.

 

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu January 20, 2018 08:52 Updated
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