Meet the PGA pro: Gordon Stewart

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 13, 2019 21:36

The head PGA professional at Cawder Golf Club in Glasgow talks about how the club converts beginners into members and the technology he utilises.

Gordon Stewart

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

Being based at a busy 36-hole private members’ club is a challenge in itself. Overseeing tee reservations for both members and visitors, officiating competitions, controlling stock both in and out, merchandising displays and managing staff to make sure we meet and exceed the expectations of all our customers, while also finding the time to update social media channels and e-newsletter campaigns, is at times very time consuming.

To that end I have always tried to take full control of my teaching diary. This is open for four slots in both the morning and afternoon of Tuesdays and Thursdays and also for four slots on a Sunday morning. This allows me to control appointments and also fulfil all my other club commitments.

How do you manage your day?

I employ two full time PGA professionals (one qualified and one trainee) who work shift systems to cover all shop opening hours.

At the end of each day I always sit down and write the task list for the following day. This 10 minutes is extremely valuable to maintain efficiency and pass on or delegate tasks to the staff at the start of the following day.

As a small team we need to work closely together, also communicating through WhatsApp when outside of shop hours. I also attend a weekly management meeting with our general manager, head greenkeeper and our clubhouse catering team to make sure all departments are up to speed with all the arrangements and events going on at the club.

Do you have any programmes in place such as academy membership to make it easier to introduce beginners to the game?

Yes we do. We have just introduced a ‘Pathway into Golf’ with various categories of memberships. As an ‘Introduction to Golf’ we offer four informal fun group lessons, providing clubs, if necessary, to beginners.

We then offer another four sessions as part of our ‘Get into Golf’ category that allows you to take your skills onto our six-hole academy course and also benefit from 10 rounds on our flat and more forgiving Keir Course.

A popular option nowadays, we also have a ‘Flexible Membership’ that allows access to both courses – our Keir Course and the Championship Course – with a nominal fee paid each time you play. This category still enjoys the full benefits of being a member of a golf club, full social access, members’ guest rates, reciprocal golf and so on, though playing restrictions do apply for Saturday medal competitions. It is hoped through any of these categories that we eventually do see transfers into the full membership category.

What are you doing to support junior golf and introduce kids to the sport?

At Cawder we are very proud to support our junior section and we have tried to keep membership prices as low as possible to encourage junior membership. Any under 12 who has a relative who is a full member is welcome to play at Cawder for free and as a spur to increase membership we have just released an initiative where any junior joining us will receive their first year’s subscription free of charge.

We also schedule both Easter and summer coaching camps and in between offer ‘Friday Fun Night’ sessions that have all proven to be very popular. Our ‘Little Big Shots’ coaching programmes have nearly 50 interested pupils that enjoy learning in a fun and friendly environment. ‘Bring a Friend’ and ‘Bring an Adult’ have also added a bit of interest. In addition we also have a couple of development squads as we look to steadily improve the ability of all our age groups.

Are you trying to attract more women to golf?

We have a large and very healthy ladies’ section which definitely helps. We have however completed a structured marketing campaign around the time of The Masters that has left us slightly disappointed by the interest from both ladies and beginners. We are now looking at our next step as we have seen some really successful initiatives that have elsewhere proven really popular.

There is a constant flow of new golf products – how do you manage your stock to serve the needs of your members and visitors?

Our Crossover EPoS system is a must in being able to control our stock and through specific reports, identify areas of opportunity as well as warn of potential dangers that could influence future investment or overstocking situations.

With hardware brands now accepting the high percentage of custom fit orders, equipment pre-books have become less cash onerous and the residual discontinuing product has become much less, allowing us to be ready to reinvest into the current product.

We tend to split apparel drops into pre-ordered merchandising collections that allows us to create impacting displays when it first arrives and then allows us to freshen up with different colour drops over the next six to eight weeks. This helps customers to see something different from week to week and also allows us to improve cash flow over the second and third drops.

To help engage with our customer base, we conduct an annual survey focusing on preferred brands, products, price points and so on. This has proven popular and has at times thrown up some surprising results with all the returned information, compiled and honestly fed back to our customers.

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

Although not everyone will have a swing studio, nowadays every PGA pro should have some form of launch monitor capability. This has undoubtedly helped us retain customers by displaying our product knowledge and expertise to fit customers into the best and most suitable product for their game. To allow customers to afford their investments we have also just recently added a zero per cent finance initiative through TGI Golf Finance that will help spread payments over the course of the season.

We will always look to improve, although for the moment we feel our facility is suitably equipped, so for us we now try to add value through tapping into the TGI Golf Partnership and our relationships with key suppliers to allow us to offer promotional events such as the Srixon Amateur Championship, Medal Competition incentives from Adidas, FootJoy and Titleist and so on as well as offering VIP ‘Experience Days’ to allow me to take customers to play a major venue while being personally fitted for new equipment.

We have also introduced a season long ‘Order of Merit’ competition marketed as ‘The Race to Turnberry’ where three members will win their way through to play with me in the final over the Ailsa Championship course at Trump Turnberry. Last season this created a real buzz, helped increase medal participation and produced an exciting finish to the season.

When did you join the TGI Golf Partnership and what was it about it that attracted you?

I joined the TGI Partnership when it merged with Golf Ecosse in January 2001. Then the opportunity to grow in numbers was beneficial in increasing our buying power to secure best trading terms. This was exciting for us all and allowed us to challenge our suppliers to provide us with opportunities to challenge the bigger retailers. The TGI Golf Partnership from then has grown from strength to strength and is now so much more than just a buying group.

Has TGI Golf been of benefit to you as a PGA professional?

Undoubtedly, and as the partnership has broadened its services, even more so.

Individually, the assistance we get from our own retail consultant, the provision of in store digital marketing, the e-news programme and the new zero per cent finance initiative allows me to confidently run an efficient and professional business. Collectively though we also enjoy the Team Challenge in Turkey, along with other playing opportunities through the Partnership Trophy, Srixon Amateur Championship and the regional golf days, but probably the best event of all is the annual business conference where we have been treated to keynote speakers such as Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn and respected coaches in Denis Pugh and Roger Cleveland.

The camaraderie and togetherness shown at all of these events doesn’t just show the benefits but also the size and professionalism of the partnership and the pride that everyone takes in being part of such a respected organisation.

What year did you turn professional and what have been your career highlights, both playing and employment?

I qualified as a PGA professional in 1992 where in the early years like most of us, I concentrated on playing and teaching the game. Subsequently as I moved through my career and became a club professional, the last 23 years have focused mainly on improving my business and developing my role within both clubs I have been fortunate to be employed by.

During this time I have also been proud and fortunate to have employed some real quality professional staff. Many of whom have moved onto their own professional positions, or are employed as fitting technicians or sales representatives with key brands or have taken up various other positions within the golf industry.

Other highlights have been being TGI chairman, a PGA regional committee member and a brand ambassador for TaylorMade Golf, which have provided so many fun and exciting opportunities, to which I constantly remind myself of how lucky I am to work in such a wonderful and rewarding industry.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 13, 2019 21:36
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