Early 2014 figures show our friends in the North are getting it right

Stats compiled by 59Club, the golf-specific mystery shopper service and a PGA Official Supplier show variations in staff attitude for golf clubs across the UK.

Back in 2012, an article in The Economist created quite a stir when it declared: “Economically, socially and politically, the north is becoming another country …”

If that is true – and far be it for us to confirm or deny – then it’s to that other country you should head if you’re in search of truly excellent service in your golf pro shop. For figures established by 59Club show that the further north you travel for golf, the better the service, within the pro shop, you’re likely to experience.

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The figures are the first releases from mystery shopper visits in the first quarter of 2014 and show clearly that Scotland, is leading the way in the UK in terms of golf shopper experience. The most glaring example of this comes in terms of the sales experience, but we’ll be looking at that in a future edition.

This month we’re looking at staff attitude within the pro shop, which is broken down into five categories:

Acknowledgement

Eye contact

Smile

Warmth

Parting comment

Scottish clubs scored very highly in this area, with a rating of 98 percent, suggesting that staff are hugely welcoming, and putting the lie to the oft-quoted PG Wodehouse line that “it is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine”. Clearly, those in Scottish pro shops are, indeed, a metaphorical ray of sunshine when dealing with visitors.

The North-West is just 0.9 percentage points adrift of the Scots, with the North-East just a little more than 12 points further behind. London and the Home Counties are the next best, recording 78.3 per cent, with the South-East close behind on 77.8, and Wales bringing home the wooden spoon at the moment.

Scotland also leads the way in overall pro-shop experience – see graph opposite – which, additionally, includes the ratings for ‘process’ and ‘sales’. Indeed, Scotland extends its advantage over the North-West to 6.7 percentage points, despite dropping to an overall score of 91 per cent.

A spread of just 1.7 percentage points covers the four ‘mid-table’ performers here, with the Midlands, just heading the South-East, South-West, and, lastly with just 65.9 percent, London and the Home Counties.

The three best-performing venues in the UK – known in the 59Club system as the ‘Podium’ score – amassed an impressive 95.6 per cent performance rating overall, considerably higher than the average of the UK as a whole which falls to 69.6 per cent.

59Club director Simon Wordsworth believes the slight difference in ratings between the North and ‘the rest’ might even be down to cultural differences, reinforcing the north-south divide stereotype.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 11.45.40“Is it coincidence that the best overall service is found in Scotland, the Home of Golf? Where they really know what a golfer requires and expects … And then, the next best regions are the North-West and North-East, the traditional heartland of independent retailing. Or maybe I just have a romantic view of traditional values,” he smiled.

“These early stats for 2014 do come as something of a surprise to me, as many of the 59Club Gold Flag venues and recent award winners are in the south – Wentworth, for example was the Ultimate Golf Members’ Club in 2014; Stoke Park, was also a gold flag winner in the members’ club category, while Celtic Manor Resort took gold in the golf resort section. That reaffirms that the quality of service is present countrywide.

“What these early 2014 figures may suggest, however, is that the Scots, in particular have upped their game. There are, still, of course, some honesty boxes on the first tee at some of the more remote Scottish courses and maybe it’s that sort of old-style value and bonhomie which they’ve managed to translate successfully to a twenty-first century retail environment.

“Plus, of course, there’s all the historical ambience which, as a nation, they use very well to their advantage. We should not rest on our laurels, however – or in the case of our Caledonian friends, on our thistles – for there is still room for improvement across all areas. An overall UK rating of 69.6 per cent is not cause for major concern, but it does mean there’s ‘wiggle room’ of 30.4 per cent. And who among us wouldn’t appreciate seeing our staff’s performance increase by that sort of figure?”