Meet the PGA Advanced Professional: Ian Ridsdale

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick May 4, 2023 12:30

Ridsdale, the director of golf at Wrag Barn Golf Club in Swindon, talks about keeping costs in the pro shop down in 2023, how he manages his time as a coach, supporting junior golf and his successful playing career.

How has your business adapted to the golf industry’s changes since the start of this decade?

What we’ve tried to do in the shop, especially with the increase of prices of products – both wholesale and retail – is give real value for money with our services and a different quality of product.

We have looked closely at different suppliers for this season to help keep prices down but to help with our margin too to cover the increased costs we face in utilities and staffing.

We have changed the way we are purchasing thanks to guidance from TGI Golf and our retail consultant Simon Keeling. We looked closely at current trends, what companies will work well for us and our customers and those that are the best to work with.

We also took TGI’s advice in cutting down on the number of brands we work with, going deeper into fewer brands, which has helped build stronger relationships. It helps with dating too which is key to spreading costs as everything is going up.

Ian (right) collecting his PING TGI Custom Fitter of the Year 2019 award in the famous Gold Putter Vault from Andy Solheim, PING’s executive vice president

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

The biggest challenge for many head professionals who are business owners is time management.

One thing I’ve been trying to concentrate on is to manage my lesson diary more effectively. To maintain great relationships and manage the lesson programmes we have on offer I’ve found it is actually more efficient to not do as many lessons.

So, I have cut down from teaching six days a week to five and doing just two or three in the morning and the same in the afternoon. This has freed me up to ensure I still have time to be in the shop and manage everything from staff to stock replenishment and purchasing.

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

Generally, I will attend stock rooms as early as possible with those brands that we would like to work with. We make that decision through keeping an eye on what’s going on with the brands through social media, chatting to our customers to gauge what they want, but also through TGI Golf’s industry insight, surveys and the expertise of my retail consultant.

With footwear and apparel, I’m always on the lookout as things change so quickly each season. With hardware I tend to keep to the top four brands. Their offering is so good and their lead times are great. As 90 percent of our sales are custom fit, that’s a really important thing for us.

Teeing off on the 15th at TPC Scottsdale

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

We run a very successful ‘Junior Pathway Scheme’ at Wrag Barn. ‘Cadet 1’ is the first level for our youngest golfers. They can go on the six-hole course here and have lessons as part of the ‘Golf Access Scheme’ which gives certificates for completing different stages.

They then move on to ‘Cadet 2’ where they can also play the academy course, but predominantly on a shortened version of the main course. They can get an official handicap from these academy tees, then once they reach a certain level they move on to the junior section where they can get a full CONGU handicap from the yellow and white tees.

It is a great pathway for youngsters to get into the junior section and into golf, with roughly half of those going through the cadet programme ending up as junior members. We have two group sessions for everyone on a Saturday and an after-school club on a Monday.

We have also been running the Girls Golf Rocks programme for the last six years.

Once a year, usually in the first week of the summer holidays, we have a ‘Junior Week’ where all sections of the cadets have competitions for seven days, with a different event each day and coaching every day from 9am to 3.30pm.

Throughout the week they’ll play their own medals and Stablefords as well as against the ladies’ and seniors’ section. At the end of the week, we hold a presentation event where everyone comes together to collect their awards, it’s a phenomenal week.

With John Solheim (centre) and fellow regional PING TGI Custom of the Year regional winner James Erskine (left)

Are you trying to attract more women to golf?

We have three coaching groups – two non-members and one for members each week.

We have something similar to the cadets’ progression pathway scheme where once those attending have reached a level where they are comfortable on the short six-hole course and had a few playing lessons to understand golf etiquette on the main golf course, they can then join as an academy member. From there they can play nine holes together in groups on the main Wrag Barn golf course.

Once they feel they are ready for a full membership we have a buddy system with the ladies’ section, so they can play with some of the members. They take them under their wings to make sure they know everything they need to know about the club to ensure they are comfortable.

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 made a significant investment in two TrackMan 4 simulators and a GC Quad for indoors. I see these investments as imperative to give value to fittings and lessons and to provide the very best levels of service.

We use them for gapping sessions, ball fittings, in the bad weather customers can play and practice in the indoor studio. We also have an indoor Huxley putting green with SAM Putt Lab and the iPing app for putter fitting.

For every fitting we throw in a gapping and MOT session about four to five weeks after purchase. This hour-long session gives the customer the chance to give us any feedback on the new clubs and to ask any questions they have about their swing. The gapping session makes sure that we have got their set right and there are no gaps, we do everything to ensure they get the maximum out of their new clubs.

This service gives us that extra interaction with customers and has led to many coming back for additional lessons as they have that comfort of already working with us, not to mention a number of lesson referrals to friends of satisfied customers.

For me it is key to make the customer absolutely happy with everything they have purchased. They could be hitting their new clubs further than before so they might need an additional wedge in the bag or we may need to bend a wedge loft a little, which we can do in-house easily, or take a club out …we want to make it a seamless experience for our customers.

Discussing cars with John Solheim while checking out his private collection

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

As soon as I took my first head professional’s role 14 years ago. I was attracted to the group as I knew a lot of pros who were already involved in TGI or were involved in other groups and I could see the differences.

I like to look after my own business as an independent retailer, so I want to see all of my invoices from all of my suppliers and stay in control of everything. I also loved the idea of having my own retail consultant who I could use as a sounding board for ideas and was on the road seeing what was working for other PGA professionals in a similar situation.

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

Absolutely. The email marketing tool is amazing, providing me with the templates to create my own communications to my customers. It is so easy to use and I get to be in control of what my customers see and when they see it.

The advice I receive on a regular basis from my retail consultant is first class, from advice on shop displays, product mix and industry trends.
It is like being part of a big family. Everyone buys into the group as a partner, but you are not just invested in it financially but also mentally and personally too as everyone is there to help everyone else out.

TGI Golf make the job we do so much easier and so much better.

Ian Ridsdale (left) receiving his TGI Golf Most Improved Business of the Year award from his retail consultant Simon Keeling

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

I turned pro in 1994 when I was 18. I started out at Broome Park in Folkstone, Kent, for two years then went with to Walmer & Kingsdown where I got fully qualified, then took my first head professional’s job at Orchardleigh Golf and Country Club in Frome

Becoming director of golf and owner of the pro shop at Wrag Barn was a great highlight in my career.

Playing wise my highlights all came in Kent. I won the St Augustine’s pro-am in the late 90s and shot a course record of 65 there. Playing for Kent was another highlight and winning the assistant’s league with the county in the late 90s has to be up there too.

From a business point of view, two of my highlights have come in the last few years thanks to TGI Golf.

I was the PING TGI Golf Fitter of the Year in 2019. I was invited down to PING’s European HQ in Gainsborough where I was named regional winner, then flew out to the company’s HQ in Phoenix, where I was crowned national winner.

The trip to Arizona was just an unbelievable experience. We sat down and had dinner with John Solheim where we discussed a shared love of cars…he then drove me across the city to see his private car collection. Sitting in his pick-up discussing cars, golf products and science in general was an incredible experience.

Most recently I collected the Most Improved Business of the Year award from TGI Golf for 2022, which is a true honour to be recognised by a group of such quality PGA professionals across the UK and Ireland.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick May 4, 2023 12:30
Write a comment

No Comments

No Comments Yet!

Let me tell You a sad story ! There are no comments yet, but You can be first one to comment this article.

Write a comment
View comments

Write a comment


Join Our Mailing List

Read the latest issues

Advertise With Us

For editorial enquiries in the magazine or online, contact:

For advertising enquiries in the magazine or online, contact: