“I take great delight in seeing players I work with achieving their goals”

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick September 18, 2022 14:38

Robert Irvine, the club professional at Douglas Park Golf Club in Glasgow, discusses how he manages a busy schedule, the business benefits from having a swing studio, expanding the club’s junior section and why the TGI Golf community is so important to him.

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

I think like most of my colleagues the early stages of lockdown were really concerning. We obviously had very little idea of what was to come, whether our roles were secure and whether our insurance policies were applicable.

I was very fortunate, the club was great and, as I couldn’t be furloughed I was able to at least offer some support in different roles within the club.

I must confess I actually really enjoyed the enforced time off with my family and it made me realise that I wasn’t making enough time to spend with them. This realisation influenced my staffing plans going forwards and it even determined our Christmas marketing campaign which was #BuyTime, highlighting that investing in your golf game is a way to enhance the time you spend with those people you chose to spend it with.

Like many pros we took to offering online coaching, medals and regular newsletters to the members. We added an online retail store to the business and we are now in the process of upgrading that system to make it more user friendly and viable moving forwards.

I also took the opportunity to go back to studying and hope to graduate with a BA Hons in Golf Studies next year.

Post lockdown could probably be best described as mental! The boom in the industry, coupled with the playing restrictions in place made life very interesting, but it was also brilliant to see the number of new or returning players and the enthusiasm from everyone for playing.

Demand for product was incredible, the issues with which have been well documented, however overall, looking back, there were arguably far more positives than negatives!

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

My biggest challenge is time management. I’m very guilty of feeling as though I should be in the business all day every day, not making enough time for me, my family or my own golf!

I love teaching, custom fitting and the general day to day interaction with the members, but sometimes it leads me to spending copious hours in our swing studio, then I feel I haven’t spent enough hours customer facing in the shop. Add in the extra work that we do behind the scenes for the club and it’s difficult to juggle it all. Sometimes after a 70-plus hour week you still hear the members saying that you’re never there – it’s difficult!

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 try to deal primarily with companies, and in particular reps, who I know I can rely on. It makes life so much easier when you know that they will deliver on their promises, or be honest if they can’t help out.

Ricky Gray, my retail consultant at TGI Golf is a great sounding board for us too and I’m regularly pestering him for advice on merchandising and on brands which I should be considering in order to further develop our consumer offerings.

He recently visited with Matt from Crossover which allowed us to identify some of the key reports we should be utilising to further enhance our knowledge of the business and how to ensure we are carrying the correct stock levels.

Our swing studio, which opened in 2018, has allowed us to offer a far more comprehensive coaching and fitting facility and therefore to offer a greater level of both product and service. We have just completed a £30,000 overhaul in there too, introducing new cameras, an improved hitting area, projector, lighting and pressure plates.

How do you manage your day?

Not very well sometimes! Since lockdown I try to ensure there are two members of staff in the shop at key times each day. This typically allows me to teach, fit or conduct trolley repairs more immediately. One of the advantages of the studio being attached to the shop is that we can facilitate an impulse lesson or fit far more readily than before.

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

My assistant Andrew and junior convenor Martin have developed a great junior section, with around 100 kids involved. One of the biggest changes we have implemented has been introducing a ClubGolf membership for children under 10 years old.

Previously membership was only available to those over age 12 whereas now we have a large number of primary school children going through our programme.

We are going to utilise the Golphin App for the communication and organising of the programme going forward which, in addition to having previously introduced a shortened nine-hole medal course for the younger players, should allow the programme to grow further.

We are also in the process of engaging with the local schools to establish curriculum time where we can visit.

Are you trying to attract more women to golf?

Several years ago we launched a hugely successful ‘Get Into Golf’ campaign. The scheme was so successful that the club was recognised as a ‘Centre For Excellence’ by Scottish Golf for the programme. This has been very much my baby over the last few years and, whilst we have also rolled out this offering to men too, it is the women who have really embraced it and it continues to go from strength to strength.

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

Like most clubs it used to be that children had to be of secondary school age to be a member. We realised a few years ago that by that age most children had already been playing their desired sports for several years. The ClubGolf membership allows the children access to club funded coaching 40 weeks of the year and we are now having to look at engaging more volunteer coaches to cope with demand!
This programme, coupled with our Get Into Golf, has seen a number of families take up the game together, with many parents being driven to take up the game by their children’s desire to play.

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’ve always loved utilising technology in my tuition. We upgraded from FlightScope to Trackman five years ago and now I have introduced Gasp Pressure plates, high speed cameras, Capto and Hackmotion into the studio in the last 12 months too!

I love the software solutions that these brands offer to be able to engage with the consumers too, so that they don’t see their visit as a one-off but as an ongoing dialogue to further their game.

Upgrading the website and introducing CaddieApp has allowed us to communicate with consumers in new ways too, augmenting the fantastic Campaign Monitor E-news platform from TGI Golf.

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

I was really lucky, I did my training at Kilmacolm with Iain Nicholson and he was in TGI. When I was offered the role here at Douglas Park the first call was to Gregor Munro who was our retail adviser at the time and he got me sorted really quickly. I only had four weeks from being offered the role to starting and the input from TGI was invaluable. Ever since then I have relied heavily upon them within my business.

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

There are so many ways it really is immeasurable. I love the fact that the support and offerings are ever evolving. TGI Golf Travel is a great example of this, as is TGI Golf Finance. The products available via the email marketing tool and MyMarketing HUB are fantastic too.

Perhaps the biggest benefit, however, is the sense of community / family among the whole team and the partners. There is a real sense of togetherness and it really helps, particularly when times are challenging, to know that there are people there who are ready to go through it with you and to help you out. Whether that’s on the end of a phone for a chat and advice, or via the private Facebook group when you are needing to source a product you don’t have in stock.

The recruitment policy is obviously exceptional as the whole team of staff are brilliant. There is never anything that is too much trouble when you ask for it and you can see just how much they all seem to love their jobs at the various events that we all attend.

The business conference is a great example where almost every member of the team is in attendance and the atmosphere is buzzing. It always amazes me how they remember everyone’s names from one year to the next – it’s a small thing that doesn’t cost, but it’s amazing how much of a difference it makes to the sense of belonging.

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

My claim to fame is turning pro the same day as Jack Nicklaus retired! The similarities very definitely end there on the golf course sadly. I always saw my career path as being more coaching than playing and I take great delight in seeing those players I work with achieving their playing goals.

I’ve coached players from their initial lessons as juniors who are now on Tour and still coming back, which is brilliant, but I get equal pleasure from seeing player’s handicaps tumble and winning medals too.

I take great delight in seeing some of my previous assistants going on to great success too and I’m proud to have seen them venture abroad, take up roles with leading manufacturers and to be appointed to new head professional roles.

One of my biggest highlights was being nominated for TGI Partner of The Year a few years back. Although I didn’t win it was amazing to even be considered for the award.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick September 18, 2022 14:38
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