Meet the PGA pro: Alistair Welsher

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 23, 2018 06:49 Updated

The professional at Tiverton Golf Club in Devon talks about winning the ‘TGI PING Custom Fitter of the Year’ award and the programmes he runs to introduce more members to the club.

What daily challenges do you face in running a pro shop and teaching?

I would say the biggest challenge is time management. Having to run the retail shop, whilst coaching, club fitting and all the golf admin I do for the club, is very challenging. I’m naturally quite an organised person which helps, and luckily I have some great assistants that help me with all elements of my role.

How do you manage your day in terms of keeping on top of things in the shop and teaching?

On most days I try not to have any more than four lesson or club fitting appointments. As much as I enjoy coaching and fitting, I have to stay on top of all other aspects so I find by trying to stretch my appointments over several days it allows me to usually keep on top of things. I also train my staff to a very high standard so I’m able to delegate various items to them.

What year did you turn professional?

I turned professional in 2008, doing my PGA training at Taunton & Pickeridge Golf Club.

You recently won the highly coveted TGI ‘PING Custom Fitter of the Year’ award. Congratulations! For you, what has been the focus of attention that enabled you to drive the business and win this prestigious award?

When I opened my first pro shop at Reigate Heath Golf Club in 2012 I knew PING was going to be my main hardware supplier, and my relationship with them has continued to grow over the years since. They are tremendous supporters of green grass PGA pros, and their commitment to custom fitting is perfectly aligned with how I want to run my business.

Not only do the PING clubs themselves perform exceptionally, but the whole company is behind custom fitting. Whether that be the speed of the build and delivery of new clubs, or the attitude of my rep who wants to help me keep fitting and selling. They really have been a pleasure to work with and the award and the subsequent trip to Phoenix was truly an experience I will never forget.

What have been your career highlights – both playing and employment?

I do try and keep my playing up to a decent standard around my work commitments. My highlight was being captain of the PGA in Devon in 2017, and winning our Devon PGA Medal at Saunton GC during my captaincy year.

During my training at Taunton & Pickeridge I came runner-up in the PGA Trainee of the Year awards, something which even several years later I’m extremely proud of. This helped me get a head pro position at Reigate Heath in 2012. I was delighted to return to the West Country in 2014 when I was appointed head professional here at Tiverton.

Young golfers are the future of the game – what are you doing to support junior golf and introduce kids to the sport?

Here at Tiverton we have a fantastic junior section, and a lot of the credit for that must go to the members for their hard work and generous support. As a PGA team we offer regular beginners’ coaching, and in recent years we have been going out into lots of local schools to bring golf to lots of youngsters who may not have experienced it before.

A lot of PGA pros and professional shops are having to be a step ahead of their competitors in their offerings and technology – what additional added value services do you provide your members and visitors?

The biggest investment I have made is in the Devon Golf Lab, our indoor coaching and fitting room. In there we have the latest TrackMan 4 launch monitor, including the new Virtual Golf from TrackMan. Not only do we use the Golf Lab lots for coaching and fitting, but our members regularly hire the room out for their own practice.

As well as this we try and be pretty active on social media, keeping in touch with our members.

I also organise regular away days where I take 30 to 40 members to play some quality links courses during the winter months.

Alistair receiving his award from John Solheim, chairman and CEO of PING

A lot of golf clubs are now offering academy membership to introduce people who are new to the game. Is this something Tiverton offers?

Yes, we are heavily promoting the Get into Golf programme, and this has been a big success for us. Over the past three summers we have created over 30 new members for the golf club. It’s a low-cost three-step programme, of which stage three is a two month trial membership.

You’ve been a member of TGI Golf for a while, what was it that appealed to you about the TGI business model and in what ways has the relationship contributed to the success of your business?

I have been a member of TGI Golf since I started my own shop in 2012. When I was a trainee I worked in a TGI pro shop, so I was well aware of the benefits of being a TGI Partner.

I can’t speak highly enough of the guys at TGI. They’re extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and the events they lay on for us like the business conference are superb. I try and attend as many of those as possible.

There is a constant flow of new golf products and apparel – how do you manage what you stock and when you stock it, so you can meet the needs of members and visitors to the club?

For me an EPOS system is a must, and it needs to be used properly! I feel the better quality information that goes in leads to better quality information coming out in the reports. I then use these reports to plan my buying for future years. I don’t always get it right, but this information helps me identify good or bad performing areas of the retail shop.

I also try and keep my stock levels sensible. Not being overstocked allows me to react quickly, if a new product comes out I can immediately get it in and provide my members with the latest products.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 23, 2018 06:49 Updated
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