Meet the PGA professional: Neil Colquhoun

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick July 17, 2022 12:47

From Merchants of Edinburgh Golf Club, Neil discusses teaching the game to youngsters who have learnt how to play via social media, how he sells out of stock items, attracting more women to club membership and the group that helps him run his business.

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

Quite odd when it first started as it really was unprecedented, so I had absolutely no idea what would happen. Luckily the weather was great so I spent a huge amount of time in my garden and really enjoyed the time I spent with my family.

I sent out newsletters to our members, did some teaching videos and ran some competitions, to remind people I was still there.

When we started playing golf again in Scotland we were still in lockdown so the daily commute to work was heaven as there very few cars on the roads, we weren’t retailing but we were controlling the start sheet, it was pretty full-on and once I began the ‘Click and Collect’ service as suggested by my TGI Golf retail consultant I was even busier.

When we eventually opened up again fully, things really took off and we had a huge upsurge in participation, our job now is to keep those people in the game as life gets back to normal.

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

Staffing is really hard at the moment, we don’t see as many youngsters taking the traditional route into the PGA and getting good people to work in this sector is very difficult.

One of the biggest challenges I have seen lately in teaching is pupils watching far too much social media, be it YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and so on.

While it should be a great thing as it gives access to information, unfortunately there’s no filter so it ends up just confusing people, I end up having to debunk or explain many things people have seen online and it is quite tiring.

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

I think utilising the stock system on your EPoS system is invaluable, even in a really small retail operation like mine. I still get it wrong at times but at least it’s more scientific now as opposed to the past where it was pretty much guesswork.

The TGI Golf Swap Shop is a great asset, as it allows us as partners to help each other out if we don’t have a specific product in stock. We simply post a message saying what we’re looking for and invariably a fellow partner will have it in stock and are happy to send it your way. I always point out to my members that if I don’t have it in stock, I can normally get it.

How do you manage your day?

I use my phone diary a lot now. In the past I used to have it all in a desk diary, but now I can see at a glance what I have on and due the colour coding whether its lessons, PGA tournaments, club tournaments or a family commitment, I also use the notes section on my phone too now as I tend to write a list of what I want to do during the day. This has helped as I used to lose a lot of scraps of paper, but it’s a bit more difficult to lose my phone … though not impossible.

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

I use a company called Golphin who are based on the west coast of Scotland. They produce lovely, huge, easy-to-hit clubs for kids and a great app for their phone, so anyone signing up can track their progress and we can upload videos, coaching tips and so on.

We ran lots of sessions last year, my assistant is in Germany at the moment but we plan to run more sessions in August.

Are you trying to attract more women to golf?

We have an initiative called Get Into Golf which we started last year (it was meant to start in 2020 but Covid put paid to that), it gives participants the chance to try golf.

We run a course of five lessons and there is a social aspect to it as well – after the lessons, the members have coffee together.

There is the opportunity to then join for the rest of the year at a reduced rate. Our hope is then to convert them to full membership. So far 20 upgraded to full membership from last year’s intake.

We are doing it again this year so hopefully we have something approaching the same kind of success rate.

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

This year we have expanded the hugely successful Get Into Golf initiative to include men, hopefully this will help encourage more to take up the game.

We also have some half sets for them to use before purchasing their own clubs.

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?

I was a fairly early adopter of a radar monitor, but most pros have them now, if I was younger I wouldn’t hesitate to finance and build my own fitting studio, I also make sure my knowledge is up to date with the latest technology and theories.

I also offer brand new hire clubs and electric rental carts to offer any visitors a great experience.

I went on course to learn how to smile more but dropped out!

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

I joined TGI Golf Partnership quite early on when we still had trade shows at the Craws Nest Hotel in Fife, I just felt some of the best pros I knew of were already partners, and if they were willing to accept a dour chap like me why wouldn’t I join?

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

Over the years TGI has provided me with opportunities to learn from some of the greats in the game, let me access discounts due to the numbers in the group, paid me dividends, helped my business in numerous ways, allowed me to participate in events which have been great fun, from the old Ashworth Cup to the more recent Partnership Trophy and the Team Challenge in Turkey.

All in all it’s been an outstanding return on investment and a great business decision.

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

Say it quietly … 1984.

There have been many highs along the way but in employment the move to Germany after visiting there for a friend’s birthday and loved it so much I was determined to work there.

I met my wife back home at a wedding then moved back to my current job.

Playing with Rob Lee in the Johnny Walker at Gleneagles. The crowds on the first tee turned my legs to jelly, but I still hit the fairway.

I’ve won a few pro-ams over the years and was only one of two Scots to qualify for the British Assistants two years in a row … there was a big difference between the two of us though, the other chap won it!


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick July 17, 2022 12:47
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