“I tailor my weeks around what is on at each club”

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick June 13, 2024 11:58

James Crawford is the club professional at Waterlooville Golf Club in Hampshire, and also runs the pro shops at Selsey Golf Club, Petersfield Golf Club and South Petersfield Pay & Play. Here, he discusses how he manages his role and how it has changed in recent years, introducing juniors to the sport and winning the TGI Golf Most Improved Partner of the Year award.

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

We’ve tried to focus on specialisation among the staff, so we no longer have one or two people who do multiple things, but more focusing on one job.

We now have a custom fitter, a coach, a repair technician and a full-time player, so we just focus on specific skills.

This came about as a reflection on me doing everything and doing it to an average standard. I felt the members deserved better, so we brought in specific specialists for each role.

Our buying habits have changed a touch, we went through a period of ordering lots in and being stock heavy during the boom, but that’s eased off now.

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

Like many PGA professionals, time management can be a bit of an issue. Having multiple sites can be a challenge, especially when moving stock between them all. You can guarantee the nine-degree stiff shaft will always be at a different site when you have a customer in for a fitting and they need it.

So, lots of driving around, but we’re fortunate that we will have most things across all sites, so it’s not too much of a headache to get hold of it if you need it.

Inventory control, having the right stock in the right shop. There’s a general buying plan, where I’ll buy on terms, but then, particularly with apparel, there are certain demographics at different shops, so we’ll be more focused with our buying there.

Recruitment is also quite tough, luckily, we have a good, settled team now, so I’m quite keen to keep them in place as prior to that it was tough.

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

We conduct regular questionnaires with our customers, so we have a really good idea of what they do and don’t want. We keep a database of sizing, so we have the right sizing in for our members.

The questionnaires go out before we start looking at the next season, so about November time we’ll send them out prior to our buying and that helps the customers to feel engaged, they feel like it’s their shop. They have a big input in what’s stocked and therefore feel more empowered to buy.

I have a very casual background in social science having studied it at university, so I’ve understood the importance of doing questionnaires and small focus groups where we get to talk more in depth with a cross section of the membership to find out what they want. This has really helped to tailor our business and helped our buying decisions.

How do you manage your day?

I look at what the big events are, if we have a pro-am at one course or a meeting at another, I will tailor my week around what is on at each club and what each club is expecting.

I have very good staff, so I can focus mostly on my primary site Waterlooville, and the other head pros can take care of the others, they have a great level of autonomy for day to day.

We also must work around staff needs. We work very hard to train our staff, we benchmark four percent of turnover to go on staff training, so they’re quite often away, we support that, if they are away then I might need to fill in somewhere.

We empower the staff to choose their training, we like them to come to us with an idea and how it will help the business, if they’re more engaged, they’ll get more out of it.

We also work with the clubs to make sure that all learning objectives are in line with the expectations of the various clubs, we like everyone to feel they are part of the business.

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

We are lucky to have a club that is very progressive about junior golf, so we work in conjunction with them. They offer free junior membership, so we offer free junior coaching alongside that, we have a specific lead junior coach whose focus is on juniors and he’s very skilled at that.

We try to take down any barriers, so we have all the equipment for children to use if they don’t have clubs, the coaching is free or heavily discounted – we run boot camps during the school holidays – I would see it as a long-term investment, not just in my business, but in a wider sense for the golf industry. For me it’s an obligation as a PGA professional to support junior golf and help to grow the sport.

I see it as a deferred payment, one day that will come back.

Our junior coach Stuart Fallow is a new addition to the team, and he works across all our sites. He’s also going into a lot of the local schools to work with the children and introduce them to golf.

Are you trying to attract more women to golf?

We use Love.Golf, I think it’s a great programme and we have another coach, Kat Chaszczewski, who has been great for our business. She has 20 to 30 ladies coming along for lessons each week and this has added great value to our business as it has changed the demographic quite dramatically.

We now sell a wider range of products; the club is happy as we are bringing in more ladies and it’s a fun programme where they are learning through play rather than on the driving range and everyone enjoys it so much more.

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

We have an academy membership which is a very good price, again it has that focus of learning through play, so we make sure they learn in a community, so they form strong relationships and tend to join en masse. Therefore, there is a ready-made community of friends that are fully integrated, and because of that they are very unlikely to move on.

Because of that we have found that we have very few leavers now, whereas before when people joined purely on price, we saw a higher drop off when it came to renewals.

We get 25 to 30 golfers a year coming through from the academy into full membership.

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?

Along with the prerequisites of having multiple swing rooms, we use both Trackman and GC Quad. We do quite a lot of data collections and data capture so we have a big portfolio of customers that we can target with offers.

We set aside a budget each year to keep up with the current trends. We refurbished our swing from this year and have made sure we have renewed all the golf balls. We stock every major golf brand too, which is a big investment.

We also like to stock a niche brand each year too in hardware, just to keep things moving a little.

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

Joined in 2016, I looked around and spoke to a few people and everyone I spoke to held TGI in a much higher regard than the other groups. The idea of being a partner rather than a customer was a big selling point, being part of a collective group, rather than being sold to was a huge plus.

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

It has been of great benefit. I rely quite heavily on my retail consultant Simon Keeling, I try to see him at least once a quarter to come in and take a look at the business.

I love taking members to the TGI events that are always very professionally run, the members always have a great time.

We use the Email Marketing Service, probably sending four or five a month to ensure that our customers are up to date with everything that we do.

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

I was incredibly proud of winning the TGI Golf Most Improved Partner of the Year award was a great highlight of my career. To stand on stage in front of so many first-class retailers was an amazing feeling.

I was also incredibly grateful to be named Titleist TGI Partner of the Year for south England this year, which involved a trip out to the Titleist ball plants in the US.

I qualified in 2009, there are not too many professional playing highlights; I had more as an amateur.

Going to Augusta in 2010 was amazing; we were guests of members which meant we were able to stay on site.

Seeing staff improve and move on to big jobs is always a highlight for me, and to see the way my business has grown year on year since we started is amazing.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick June 13, 2024 11:58
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