‘Our USP is our professional, face-to-face advice’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 11, 2022 11:10

Peter Roberts, from Surbiton Golf Club in south west London, discusses how he constantly improves the pro shop, more than quadrupling the club’s junior section in just over two years and being named the TGI Golf New Partner of the Year.

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

Following a wet winter the first national lockdown could not have come at a worse time. Being a new business I had outstanding loan repayments, wage costs alongside general business expenses all while my business was closed down. So the first three to four weeks was a bit of a nightmare.

However, I ran a campaign offering members to pay money onto their accounts and in return they were entered into a draw for a golfing day out with me.

The support of the membership was incredible and from there we have been flying. The boom in participation has seen more feet through the door and as such an upturn in the figures through the till.

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

The old adage that the members expect us to ‘play like Tiger, teach like Leadbetter and retail like John Lewis’ could not be more accurate. As such we spend each day wearing several different hats.

The running of the shop is important as it gives an opportunity for a stable income. The challenges are to form a team within the shop that are engaged in the business. As such, my team are all on a commission linked to shop performance. The result – I can leave the shop to play, teach or spend time with family and it still functions as if I were there.

I believe the teaching aspect is extremely important for club professionals as it directly links to shop performance. Regularly we see that those seeking advice on their golf swing will also trust our opinion on their equipment.

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

Although it is early days, I like to see the shop looking fresh. While the products are changing regularly, so should our shop displays.

If an item is getting close to its first birthday we will look to get it out of the store, either by way of a promotion or utilising sites like eBay. This helps maintain our cash flow while creating space for the new product.

One thing we are always looking to improve is our product knowledge. Our key USP over our online competitors is the professional, face-to-face advice that the team is able to give. If we get this right and our pricing is competitive, then there is no reason for our members to shop elsewhere.

How do you manage your day?

Last summer we started to use ProAgenda and an online diary provider and that has been a total game changer. I sit on several different committees, am a busy coach and have a lot of shop administration, so time management is crucial.

Add into the mix two small children and life, at times, can be pretty chaotic. By blocking out certain times for meetings or admin, I can then leave available lesson slots for members to book into.

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

In October 2019 the club had just 12 registered juniors and we have now hit our cap at 50. On the course, during last year’s lockdown we installed the ‘Green course’ on the front nine.

These are a set of tees laid close to the start of the fairway. They are professionally laid mats with marker posts that are the same as the other tees. This gives new to golf golfers, both adults and children, the opportunity to get out on the course without being intimidated by its length.

We have also installed one of the best short game areas in the area and are currently working to develop a ball supplied driving range on our long practice field.

The professional team have been the driving force behind these projects and have been very fortunate to have had the backing from the club and the hard work of the greenstaff to complete them.

Are you trying to attract more women to golf?

Our academy is currently the main route for getting women into golf, but we have ambitions to do a lot more.

At the moment, due to the limiting factors of our long practice area, it is difficult to get involved with any of the programmes currently available.

However, on completion of the range this is definitely something we will address. Recently I attended the TGI Business Conference where Jasmine, ‘The Jazzy Golfer’, talked about getting more women involved in the sport and this has certainly set the ball rolling with lots of new ideas.

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

Our ‘Academy’ programme has been a great success. There was already a programme running when I took the job and we were able to restructure it slightly.

The Academy membership is heavily weighted towards tuition and we have already had three ladies graduate the academy into full membership.

It was unfortunate that Covid affected 18 months of Academy membership and this made it very difficult to offer any kind of social aspect to the membership. The lockdowns also made it very difficult to maintain momentum.

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 are currently going through the planning stages of a construction of a performance studio at the club. It is my plan to install either GC Quad or TrackMan allowing us to coach, fit and provide ‘gapping’ sessions utilising the very latest in technology.

Currently I use a Mevo+ to conduct our outdoor fittings and in particular our wedge fitting service.

However, I still like to use a very underrated piece of kit to give us the edge over our online competitors when it comes to shoes. The FootJoy Brannock. Being able to accurately size someone’s feet and make recommendations for the best fitting shoe is one of the most important services we can offer when it comes to a product like shoes.

You recently won TGI Golf New Partner of the Year, how did that feel?

It was extremely encouraging. It has been a tricky couple of years but the team and I have worked very hard and I strongly believe have done a good job. So to receive that kind of acknowledgement really is lovely.

Although the celebrations were short lived, as on my first day back one of my team handed in his notice to take on a head professional’s job. So I am delighted for him and his great progress, but now I need to start the recruitment process.

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

My previous boss had been a longstanding TGI partner and as such I had formed a good relationship with retail consultant Simon Keeling by the time I got the job. It was an obvious step for me as the partner aspect was very appealing.

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

Hand on heart, it has been pivotal. The support you get not only from the TGI team but also the other partners is invaluable. It was a terrifying time for the industry and to have so much support, advice and assistance was incredible.

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

I turned pro in 2009, completing my PGA qualification in 2012. My modest playing career peaked when I finished second in a regional sprint event, picking up £125 (I never had any aspirations of making it on tour).

It turned out to be more profitable in the classroom than on the course when I picked up a nice cheque from Acushnet for finishing inside the top 10 trainees of the year.

I spent an incredibly happy decade as an assistant at Walton Heath. An incredible venue where you never really knew who was going to show up from day to day. Being part of tournaments like the US Open qualifiers, Senior Open, Palmer Cup and finally the British Masters.

By far my proudest moment, however, was accepting my first club professional role at Surbiton Golf Club in October 2019. From the first week refitting the shop to today, it has been a real rollercoaster but I have relished the challenge.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 11, 2022 11:10
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