‘I remortgaged my house to build a pro shop and driving range’

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick July 22, 2021 09:16

Rob Macey, the head professional at Norwood Park Golf Centre in Notts, details his incredible career, plus his experiences during the pandemic, which included working as a greenkeeper, and how he’s back to selling stock and introducing and teaching the game to people now that golf is booming again.

Rob (left) with John K Solheim

Can you detail what your life was like from the first lockdown in March 2020 until the present day?

My lockdown life has gone like this – in part one when the world seemed like it would never be the same again I became very concerned for my family. I shed a tear when I locked the pro shop door not knowing when we would return and took one look at all the new products that had arrived and went home and panicked.

What became very clear early on though was that I knew I had the support of the TGI family and having spoken to my retail consultant, Chris Taylor, early on I started to feel a bit more comfortable with how stock and payments where going to be managed so with regard to that problem I started to feel a little better.

Having sorted the garden, watched a bit of Netflix and tidied the garage, I knew I had to do something to help both my mental health and my golf club so I popped in to see the head greenkeeper and asked if he needed some help as most of his staff had been furloughed.

This proved to be a winner for both myself and Norwood and in my late 50s I learnt how to mow the course and look after my machine for the day. It was a great experience and one I am very thankful for. I did regular updates on the club’s social media and this had a positive effect on our return which was amazing to see how golf had become so popular again.

Until the second lockdown in November I have never been so busy in all the years I have worked in golf (over 40 years) which is good but it has come with huge challenges with regard to getting product especially custom fit items with some orders taking four months to arrive and these challenges are still with us which is extremely frustrating and time consuming but better to have this problem than no business at all, so we must remain thankful.

So lockdown part two: my time was mainly spent developing an online site through Shopify with the help again from Chris at TGI and my assistant, Tom Warnock. I have to say I found this a real challenge but we managed to sell a few items but it was mainly stock that was discontinued and reduced in cost. This area needs someone almost full time to make it successful so not sure what to do at this stage to be honest.

Lockdown part three saw us update our custom fit suite and redecorate the shop, changing the layout and moving over to an online booking system for lessons and custom fitting.

So we have been very proactive and have certainly reaped the benefits and my members can see we really put some effort in and the support has been overwhelming.

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

Running the pro shop comes with many challenges as it’s the heartbeat of the club. All enquiries start there; membership, tee time management, lesson / custom fitting information and we run my driving range from the pro shop. To try and improve the services we offer all my staff attended a few of the seminars put on by TGI and they have definitely improved so a big thanks to them for laying the ongoing customer service training.

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

With a lot of new products coming to market I have to make a judgment as to what I feel will work for us here as we get a lot of all abilities coming through as we also have an academy course and 18-bay floodlit driving range so it’s important to study what is coming through and speak to my valuable staff who have got a feel for what might work for us.

How do you manage your day?

Now that we have gone to an online diary for all appointments it’s become easier to manage my day. With just a couple of clicks I can see what’s on for the next month or so. All I need to do is block out my diary for when I need to catch up on emails and so on, and take some valuable time off.

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

We have a number of link ups with associations such as GolfSixes by the Golf Foundation and we have a ‘Junior Roll Up’, which pre-Covid was really popular. It’s still going well, but obviously we have to restrict numbers now.

We also have a junior club night on Mondays where the kids can come along and have an hour with my assistant Tom – they have a group lesson as well as going through game management, have a quiz and so on. We like to make it as fun as possible so they all enjoy it and want to keep coming back.

Are you trying to attract more women to golf?

One of the most successful programmes we have is our ‘Pink Ladies’ initiative, where ladies can come along, have an hour’s tuition, followed by coffee and a chat where we can introduce them to the club and talk about the game. They also receive a complimentary round on the nine-hole par three course.

Over the years we have picked up a lot of new members through the Pink Ladies. Much like the Junior Roll Up the numbers pre-Covid were great, but now we have to limit it, which is a blow.

It’s still going well and once restrictions are lifted I see it being as popular as ever. At the end of each year we make a donation to Breast Cancer Awareness through the fees that we collect.

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

We have membership opportunities on the par three course, which was always fairly quiet, but since the end of lockdown it has been flying.

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?

We have a full custom fitting suite at the rear of the pro shop, which hits out into the driving range. We have just installed an adjustable putting green and hitting mat so we can now conduct putter fittings indoors and give lessons from awkward lies.

We use Trackman 4 for all our fittings and custom fit for a number of brands including PING, TaylorMade, Cobra, Mizuno and Callaway.

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

I became a partner of TGI in 2014 and the one thing that attracted me to the group was the aforementioned Chris Taylor.

I was in a group before but didn’t find it too great, so I looked at a few other groups and had a chat with them. As soon as Chris came in we clicked and he was miles ahead of everyone else in terms of personality, but also in the way he sold the benefits of TGI Golf to me.

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

Undoubtedly. The team at TGI Golf has always been a great source of information and guidance and as I alluded to earlier, they have gone above and beyond to help us all during the last year when there was so much uncertainty about.

The assistance we receive from our dedicated retail consultants is second to none. They are always on the end of the phone if we need them and visit us in store to provide hands-on assistance and another set of eyes to merchandise the shop. All of this is free of charge too, it comes as being a partner – which is an important point, we are partners of a business, not members of a club, so we share in the success and profitability of the group.

What they do is fabulous; the events, the professionalism of the team. Every one of them bat off the same wicket. They are all so professional but with a real friendliness to it, always there whenever I want to discuss something.

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

I turned pro in 1979, and qualified in 82.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to always work in good environments. I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the years and have been able to learn a lot about the business side of running a golf venue wherever I’ve worked.

My biggest achievement is probably what I’ve done since coming to Norwood Park – when I became head professional here there were about 400 members, but there was great potential to do so much.

I set about a major project, I remortgaged my house so we could build a brand new pro shop and driving range and made it a great place to come and play golf.

We now have more than 800 members and it has been a massive buzz to put in all that hard work and to now reap the rewards. I’m very proud of what we’ve done to the business to take it up a number of levels and make it a sustainable and popular venue.

Through TGI Golf I was named PING Fitter of the Year for England, which was an honour. I was invited to join the Irish and Scottish winners on a trip to Phoenix to PING HQ, which was an extremely special experience.

On the playing side of things I won the Nottinghamshire Pro’s Matchplay Championships at the turn of the century. While I don’t have a huge portfolio of playing honours I’ve made final qualifying for The Open on a couple of occasions in the 80s and have won a few local Pro-Ams.

I was also Midland PGA Captain in 2007 and named Midland PGA Pro of the Year in 2016, a reward given to me for growing the game more than playing it.

 

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick July 22, 2021 09:16
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2 Comments

  1. BMF July 23, 11:32

    A great club and course

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  2. AW July 23, 08:44

    Excellent and very informative article. Rob has always been a pleasure to deal with ever since he came to Norwood, with a keen and wicked sense of humour! It has been wonderful to watch the progress that he and his Team (especially his lovely wife Jackie) have made in building the business. Probably the best stocked and friendliest Pro Shop in Nottinghamshire and surrounding counties. Well worth a visit if you’ve never been before.

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