Meet the head professional: James Erskine

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 12, 2023 11:44

The head professional Dumfries & County Golf Club in Scotland, James Erskine, explains why the club has invested in custom fit and swing studios, how he manages the shop as well as his time, introducing the game to thousands of children and how TGI Golf has helped his business for several years.

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

The biggest thing has been the huge resurgence in the sport with new golfers coming in. The technical environment we now live in means people are far more tuned into custom fitting and coaching so we have had to adapt our business to the more modern golfer’s needs.

Golfers are now looking for more of an experience when they visit the golf club and particularly the pro shop, and people are far more attuned nowadays to the gains available to the game from interacting with the PGA professional and pro shop staff, so our training levels have gone up over the last few years as has the investment in a custom fit studio and the shop, the whole in-store customer experience has been enhanced for our members and visitors.

We work particularly hard on our customer service training. When shopping online a customer has far more depth in terms of products – as a small independent retailer it is hard to offer the same depth so presentation in store and product knowledge plays a hugely important role to give the customer that bit more when dealing face to face. Therefore, we realised we have to be sharper with our product offering.

We have worked closely with the brands to enhance the product knowledge of all my staff. We are extremely fortunate here to have four people working in the pro shop who are excellent golfers with great knowledge of all products. Our customers can rest assured that they are being served by highly qualified staff which really helps with the customer experience.

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

Like many PGA professionals, time management is the biggest challenge for me. We welcomed a new addition to our family last June, so I now have two children under the age of four. This has completely changed the way that I run my business – I used to work seven days a week, up to 14 hours a day, but now my family is my priority.

We have daily task sheets that show what needs to be done on each day and my team are so well trained they know exactly what is best for the business if I am not there.

You feel that you’re fighting a constant battle to do enough in the business but also at home, which is a challenge. I have reduced my teaching hours, but have managed to maintain the same level of service. Customers can still get lessons and custom fits seven days a week, we have just condensed my diary a little to allow me to oversee the business better, which, in turn, helps me to make better decisions. Before that I was spinning a lot of plates, they were all spinning fine, but occasionally it got a little bit out of control.

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 feel we do a really good job at this. We utilise XPOS which gives us an in-depth knowledge of what stock is working and what is not. We also rely heavily on our TGI Golf retail consultant Ricky Gray to keep us in the loop as to what is happening in the golf industry and we have great working relationships with the brands that allow us to make good choices and cater to the needs of golfers of all levels.

In our custom fitting suites, we have six hardware companies to choose from and in apparel we have a budget brand, a sportswear brand, a couple of golf brands and an outerwear brand, so we tend to go good, better, best in all categories.

How do you manage your day?

We use an online diary system called Bookio which allows us to control when we’re teaching and when we’re custom fitting. We have our rotas established four weeks in advance throughout the year so everyone knows where they are for the whole month. We used to do it week to week, which got a little messy, this way gives us much better balance.

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

Junior golf is something I’m passionate about and I’m a big believer in you reap what you sow. I grew up in this area and there were not many opportunities for young golfers in Dumfries and Galloway, so for the last 20 years it has been an integral part of my business.

During the winter we teach 1,000 kids for free in the local schools, then invite them to the golf club to try it out. If they join they get 30 hours free coaching, membership and equipment provided, so the cost is quite low. We have seen lots of kids coming into the club and other local golf clubs through the scheme, which is all done through Royal Troon PGA pro’s – and fellow TGI Golf partner Kieron Stevenson’s – Children’s Golf Trust.

On top of that we created a South of Scotland Winter Alliance for male golfers from October to March and that has generated £15,000-worth of capital which is used to give every child within a 90-mile radius – roughly 20 golf clubs – 20 minutes of free golf coaching.

The Winter Alliance has also allowed me to attract more senior golfers to become customers so it is a win / win on both fronts – we are doing our bit for the future of the game but also further establishing our business in the local golfing community.

I am very fortunate that a high number of my juniors have gone on to join the professional golf ranks, either as PGA professionals or onto the tours, including Liam Johnston, who achieved his DP World tour card and a few Challenge Tour wins.

Are you trying to attract more women to golf?

We have offered a number of Get Into Golf campaigns over the last eight years and have seen real growth in the ladies’ section. Many of the ladies who take part in the campaigns go on to become full members of the club and they support our business greatly.

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 a two-bay indoor swing studio with two TrackMan 4 units, 3D Biomechanics as well as putting solutions to assist with all our teaching and custom fitting requirements.

We built the studio back in 2016 and it has completely changed our business – the off season is now often busier than the summer season and we have a constant footfall through the shop as a result.

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

I joined in 2010. Back then I was in a job but was having to drive to another PGA professional’s shop and buy stock from him because I couldn’t get accounts with brands.

He was a TGI Golf partner and could see that I was struggling so advised me about everything TGI Golf could do to help me, so I applied and joined. It was a great decision and something that has allowed me to grow as a person and as a retailer.

As soon as I joined, TGI assisted me to get accounts with brands and guided me to make my business more profitable. I was very naïve back in those early days and TGI were instrumental in getting me on track to running a great business.

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

Absolutely, firstly it has enabled me to become a more astute businessman, it has educated me every single year since I joined. I learn from fellow partners and from the group as a whole which has allowed me to evolve my business, to be more professional and financially it has been extremely rewarding.

After that initial investment you receive money back each year as a shareholder, which has allowed me to be more profitable as well as giving me some great experiences along the way.

I’ve had some of the best golfing experiences of my life through TGI Golf – being named top PING TGI Custom Fitter of the Year for Scotland was an enormous honour. As a result, we travelled to PING’s headquarters in Phoenix, which was unreal. I’ve represented Scotland in (and won) two Partnership Trophies at Trump Turnberry and Fairmont St Andrews – all of the TGI events are great, the business conference and the golf days, where you can take a member or a client out for an amazing experience, they are invaluable.

We use TGI’s email marketing service, which allows us to communicate professionally with our customers and utilise MyMarketing HUB to design and print great marketing material.

Finally, working with Ricky Gray. He has been a huge asset to our business, to use him to improve myself and my staff has been one of the best assets to being a TGI partner.
I can’t understand why you wouldn’t utilise everything TGI Golf has to offer.

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

I turned pro in 2001 and was fully qualified by 2004/5. Career highlights would include five pro events. Although I’d say I’m a complete failure as a player there are glimpses every now and then that I can play.

My biggest achievement is giving others the opportunities that I simply didn’t understand as a youngster, so missed out on. I’m so proud to give people the opportunity to play the game and seeing so many of my pupils go on to further their careers in the sport.

The best thing about my job is interacting with the golf club members, making sure they’re happy and helping them to enjoy the sport through the experiences that we offer is a bigger buzz to me than any playing achievement.

Winning the PING TGI Custom Fitter of the Year and being named TGI Golf Partner of the Year last year and also great achievements I have enjoyed along the way.

I am so proud to be a PGA professional at Dumfries & County, I have loved the last nine years here and hopefully that will continue for the next 20 years and beyond.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 12, 2023 11:44
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  1. Stirling October 17, 10:15

    What a legend, well done James keep up the great work

    Reply to this comment
  2. Lomond Golf Tours Scotland October 13, 10:46

    Couldn’t agree more Chris, one in a million, his energy and passion towards the next generation is joy to see. Well done Ersky!! ‍♀️

    Reply to this comment
  3. Ealing October 13, 06:55

    A credit to his profession and a role model for so many kids in SW Scotland over the past 20 years. Absolute legend amongst his peers too. Top man Ersky.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Alan White October 12, 17:31

    James is a top guy who has done so much for golf in the South of Scotland. He deserves every accolade going.

    Reply to this comment
  5. DR October 12, 14:45

    Good insight and great to see a pro-active pro looking to the future….

    Reply to this comment
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