An all-year business

With the season in full swing and the weather mostly dry now is the time for pros who don’t already have one to be thinking about an indoor swing studio. Andy Brown took a visit to Cottesmore Golf Club to meet director of golf Calum Callan to find out more about their new studio, how he persuaded his general manager and what benefits he thinks it will bring.

There’s an old saying that, ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ which is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Well, Mr Franklin would be impressed by Calum Callan, director of golf at Cottesmore Golf Club as with the sun still shining brightly in the sky the club has unveiled their new custom built indoor swing studio. From talking to those who work in this sector I often hear that pros contact them too late, when the winter starts to kick in towards the end of the year. However, at that point the companies are often booked up and the chance has gone, which is why the planning at Cottesmore is so impressive.

Ownership of the club, situated south of Crawley, has changed hands quite a few times over the last twenty years – the Rogerson family that owned it signed a 15-year operating lease to AGUK corporation, which then sold this to Crown Golf – but the Rogerson family have been back in charge since the operating lease ended in 2013 and have invested heavily into the club. Membership is strong at around 1,400 members, with the club growing by eight per cent in 2016 at a time when many are struggling in this area.

Director of golf Callan had been thinking about a shop refit and installing a swing studio for over a year and discussed it with the management. He admits that he thought he would get one or the other but he ended up getting both and for that he is grateful to an unusual source: the M25. “I pitched my ideas to the management but myself and the general manager are both very busy so getting an hour spare to have a meeting to make forward plans is rare,” recalls Callan. “Last November we went to an England Golf seminar and we drove up there and did the seminar in Leatherhead. It took us three hours to get back though as we were stuck on the M25 – this was actually perfect for me as it was the chance to fully pitch the refit and the swing studio and, before we reached Crawley, he said ‘OK let’s do it’. It is the best traffic jam I have ever been in!”

Callan was already using a Foresight Sports GC2+HMT launch monitor which he would take to the nets for anyone who got fitted, but he thought this was a bit ‘fiddly’ and not offering as good a customer service as possible. Due to his use of GC2 he had worked with Foresight Sports before and got in touch with them about the potential swing room. The director of golf was in a very fortunate position as the club decided to custom build the room so it could be made to whatever dimensions suited best, rather than trying to squash it into a pre-existing space. The shop refit was done in the middle of February, for obvious reasons, and then the swing studio followed; this only took two days rather than the usual three as because the room had been custom built for purpose it was a much easier job.

The swing studio is located just off the pro shop – a perfect location as those browsing in the shop will be able to hear the balls being hit and it isn’t hidden away – and Callan says the club’s thriving junior academy was one of the main drivers behind the new addition as he wanted to ensure they had somewhere to practice during winter. Callan started the junior academy in 2007 and it now has three different age groups and is recognised as one of the best in the area with four county players and one who is training with England. While the director of golf is understandably keen to ensure his academy players can keep on practicing the area will of course be used by all members during the winter and Callan fears he may have shot himself in the foot regarding getting time off. “The main purpose for me is custom fit, enabling us to sell more hardware, giving people that far better experience and also for coaching – in particular winter coaching. I stay mostly busy throughout the year, but December and January are the quiet months and normally when I take a holiday – now we have the swing studio I don’t know when I will be able to get away!”

The director of golf has been at the club for 25 years, joining in 1992 as a junior assistant pro when he moved down from Scotland, and so clearly has a strong attachment to the club. What he says next regarding the swing studio is worth all pros and clubs taking note of: “I don’t think that I am ahead of the game by having this because there are a lot of pros out there now who do have some kind of indoor facility. By getting it though, it means that I haven’t been left behind because if I put this in three years down the road it might have been too late and I would be behind.”

Callan says that member feedback has been universally positive so far and he reveals that a member who hasn’t had a lesson in over two years recently got in touch because they want to have a lesson in the new space. He expects hardware sales at the pro shop to go up as a result of the studio and it will generate its own revenue stream by being hired out, but it is perhaps in making golf more enjoyable and just that little bit easier that the real benefits will be seen. As I’m about to leave Callan tells a story about one of the juniors who hadn’t played in a few months because of exams. Their swing had got very flat and they were hooking the ball. “We gave him a lesson in the studio and the numbers that we got on the attack angle showed he was hitting his irons on the up and his club path was massively on the inside, about 15 degrees. Had I been on the range with him then, yes I would have been able to see that, but it is about getting him to understand what we want to improve. After he hit some shots and we explained his numbers and what was happening then on the very next swing he was able to hit a shot that was on the downswing and only six degrees on the inside.

“The shot was still a hook but because there was an improvement in the numbers he was happy, whereas if that had of been on the range he wouldn’t have had the numbers and would have been disappointed with the end result. He got excited about the numbers so the fact he was still hooking didn’t bother him – when he left he was enthusiastic about his golf again.”