‘If you have the best customer service you’ll have people coming to you’

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 22, 2021 11:44

Jimmy Bolger from Kilkenny Golf Club in Ireland explains how he helped members during lockdowns, how he runs the pro shop and how the club supports its 250-strong junior membership.

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

The first few days of lockdown were quite busy and worrying as I was on the phone all day ringing around all the companies we deal with, rescheduling, reducing and restructuring deliveries. Fortunately the brands were very good and we managed to simply reschedule the delivery of most orders.

After those first four days, I’ll be honest it was a little enjoyable as it was the first time for about 20 years that my phone wasn’t constantly ringing.

During lockdown I sent out a message to the members saying that if they send me a video of their swing I would give them some pointers for free – this built up a lot of goodwill among the members, even those who didn’t send me a video were talking about it once we reopened.

Once we knew lockdown was lifting things started moving quite quickly as we had to get the shop ready again. Throughout lockdown we were lucky as TGI Golf Partners that we had a lot of communication to help us prepare, so we spent a lot of time taking the steps we had been advised to take.

It took us about two weeks to get the shop ready and then we were away. We are very lucky here at Kilkenny that we have a full membership of 1,200, so we didn’t have the sudden surge in membership that other clubs experienced.

However, there were a lot of members with a lot more time on their hands and, for quite a few, more money to spend.

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

Time management is the biggest challenge I face … not just my own. Running the tee sheets, which are incredibly busy, means you’re not just managing your own time, but that of your staff and, even more so, that of the golfers coming to play.

So, managing time sheets and managing stock levels at the moment are the biggest challenges.

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

It’s very difficult, especially at the moment with the supply chain issues. If you go big and stock as much as you can, you can end up having to reduce it all come the end of the season and losing out.

In reality we use a Crossover system so I can see what’s selling well and what isn’t selling so well. If people are buying it then we’ll stock it, if not, we don’t – it’s that simple.

We keep a close eye on products we’re asked for too – I’ll always attempt to get a product if we’re asked for it, as I’m a great believer in good service. So if someone asks for something we don’t have I’ll let them know we’ll try to get it for them, then call on our fellow TGI Partners to see if they can help out.

Then if we can get it I know that customer will go away telling his or her friends that we managed to get it for them.

I’m a huge believer in quality customer service. You don’t have to have the best stocked shop, but if you have the best customer service you’ll have people coming to you.

How do you manage your day?

A simple diary and lists. I’m a real list guy, I’m constantly making lists. I would previously get into the habit of doing too many jobs and not always finishing them, so now I keep a constant list of things that need doing and I will cross them off as I complete each task.

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

We are well known in Ireland for a great junior section here at Kilkenny, which goes back to before my time. At the moment we have a junior section of around 250 kids, which is great.

Something we have introduced in recent years is a pod system. We get an adult member and they would have six kids each – they can be their own kids, their kid’s friends or family friends for example.

Once a week during the season the adult will bring their pod to the practice ground or out to the course to practice or play. Then two pods would get together and see me for an hour’s lesson too. It is all funded by the club so the kids don’t pay a penny and it is working brilliantly.

We also have a par three course purely for the juniors with holes at a maximum of 70 to 80 yards long with hazards sprayed onto the ground. This is the perfect place for the pods to learn about the rules of the game and course etiquette.

We have a strong list of around 120 next year, but can probably only take 20.

Are you trying to attract more women to golf?

We run Golf Ireland’s Women in Golf Programme each year. We would love to take 100 women each year, but we take on about 30 at the moment.

Through the scheme they pay a reduced membership fee for three years while they pick up the game and integrate into the club. If they enjoy it and want to continue they then start paying a full fee.

Through the scheme they also have regular lessons with me and can play in their own competitions until they are ready for the full membership.

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?

During lockdown we built an indoor swing studio with a TrackMan 4 system. I feel it is now something that has become expected of a PGA professional and it has already proved its worth, it has been a huge benefit to everyone.

We now offer a range of services from lessons and custom fitting to hiring out the room to play in the winter and gapping sessions. The gapping sessions have been amazing, in the old days you just wouldn’t be able to do it very well as you’d be outside trying to judge it by eye or pacing out distances, then taking wind and ground conditions into consideration. Now you can sit there for half an hour, watch the customer hit shots and work out a report – it’s so easy.

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

I joined TGI Golf as soon as I started at Kilkenny in 2001. There were few options for groups over here at the time and TGI Golf had just come into Ireland and a couple of my good friends were already in – Karl O’Donnell and Brendan McGovern.

They approached me to join and the big attraction was the ability to be able to buy better. At the end of the day anyone can sell something cheaply, but the real trick is buying well and with TGI Golf in those early days that was the key.

Each year they’ve added to the services on offer and now there is so much they do to help the business it’s amazing to have them there for you.

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

Absolutely, I mean what group gives you money back at the end of the year just for doing your day job? We only pay a one-off joining fee to be a part of the group and I must have had that back tenfold over the years.

Here’s a perfect example of how they help our business – about two months ago my teaching diary was stacked, but I’d arranged to see Peter Smyth, my TGI Retail Consultant. Unfortunately I had to cancel seeing him, but he said not to worry he’ll still come along and look at the shop and speak to the guys in there.

Within a couple of days he’d sent me a report of what he saw making a few recommendations here and there and it blew my mind. He’d seen things that I just hadn’t seen and wouldn’t have even thought of. I took that on board, made the changes and additions he’d recommended and the shop looks amazing.

There are so many little things they do that help out the business, such as Eddie Reid’s (managing director) lockdown diary videos and the podcasts they put out give you little snippets of information that really help.

They were brilliant during the lockdown when everyone felt a little isolated. They kept in touch throughout the bad times, which is a sign of quality in my opinion.

The events they stage are also a great help, not just from a golfing point of view, but you can learn from your fellow partners. Whether you’re talking over a drink after your round or just chatting away down the fairway as you play you pick up things to try or even things that didn’t work so you know to stay away.

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

I turned pro in 1987 and from a business point of view getting the job here at Kilkenny is definitely my career highlight.

From a playing point of view I’ve been lucky enough to win more than 40 times on the Irish PGA circuit. I have also been the Irish Club Pro champion and Irish PGA Challenge champion, and won the Moran Cup, which is the oldest professional event in Ireland.

 

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 22, 2021 11:44
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9 Comments

  1. PM November 4, 17:36

    Not only a top class PGA professional but Jimmy is an absolute gentleman also and a huge asset to Kilkenny Golf Club. Well done Jimmy

    Reply to this comment
  2. Envirobead November 3, 12:27

    Fair play Jimmy

    Reply to this comment
  3. Bateman November 1, 12:09

    Common sense paired with customer service is, and always will be superpower that attracts the masses.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Bunclody October 29, 11:05

    Great article Jimmy, a true Gent

    Reply to this comment
  5. Doyle October 26, 21:57

    Well done Jimmy, you have a fantastic attitude which always shines through…

    Reply to this comment
  6. Matt October 26, 14:54

    Great article on a great guy.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Athy October 25, 12:32

    A great article and Kilkenny are very fortunate to have Jimmy , a true gent also

    Reply to this comment
  8. CDillon October 24, 16:18

    Great insight into Jimmy Bolger’s great career as a PGA Professional.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Enda October 24, 10:33

    Jimmy and Kilkenny have a fantastic setup.

    Reply to this comment
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