Tim Hall, head professional at Ross-on-Wye Golf Club in Herefordshire, Talks to GOLF RETAILING about being named Foremost Golf’s 2013 Pro of the Year
What is your career history in 50 words?
I started at Cleobury Mortimer Golf Club, enjoying eight years there going from PGA assistant to director of golf. While I was there I opened The Tim Hall School of Golf (THSG). In 2012 I moved to The Ross-on-Wye Golf Club as head professional. The highlight of my career came in October in Harrogate, when I was awarded the 2013 Foremost Golf Professional of The Year award.
Congratulations! Have you put the plaque up in the pro shop?
The plaque is taking pride of place amongst our main shop display, and I am currently sitting right next to my 2011 Foremost EMP award and my Nike Ambassador plaque!
Apart from speaking to GR now, has the award led to many media requests?
Yes, I have done a lot of magazine work since winning the award, and I have also been nominated for the local Sports Personality of the Year Award!
What has been your personal playing highlight so far?
I will never forget my first tournament wins, and I also get a real buzz every time I play in Open Qualifying. The buzz comes from knowing you’re only three rounds away from playing in the most prestigious tournament in the world. I suppose that’s every club pro’s dream; to make it through local and final qualifying. Everyone loves a Cinderella story!
What is a unique selling point of Ross-on-Wye to golfers?
That is our selling point; it’s one of the most ‘unique’ courses around. Likened to Woburn and Wentworth, originally the course was cut out of dense woodland, with every hole lined with mature oaks. Rolling fairways lined with mature stands of trees mean that accuracy and course management are at a premium.
How has trade in 2013 compared to 2012?
It’s been fantastic; month on month we have hit and exceeded our targets. I have worked very closely with Foremost this year to improve all areas of my business and to offer an improved proposition to every golfer that comes my way. I worked closely with Peter Durham of Foremost earlier in the year on the pro shop revolution project he was carrying out, which was designed to improve branding and signage throughout the store. The results were fantastic; my professional shop’s image and proposition changed overnight, with a clear message to every golfer that visited the club.
How did you promote your business in the build-up to Christmas? Any raffles, events or special offers?
We always run a prize draw which has already sold out. We sold 500 squares at £2 each, and we make sure all money goes back into prizes, so you can imagine there are some great prizes on offer. We have also used the Foremost EMP weekly e-newsletter to promote special offers and various mornings in the shop with free mulled wine and mince pies. We also held a night golf event that attracted 54 golfers.
Which brands of hardware and software tend to get the till ringing in your shop?
There are two brand leaders for me, Nike and Ping. I am a Nike brand ambassador and part of their Swoosh Staff team. The Covert range this year, along with the Lunar golf shoes, have been among my best sellers. Personally, it is great to be part of the biggest sporting brand in the world, which leads sporting innovation, especially in the golfing sector. 2014 already promises to be even bigger with the Covert 2.0 and further improvements to the RZN golf balls.
Ping has also stood out and the G25 family has been my best seller. All categories have been fantastic, including the new, improved ladies’ Serene range. Ping’s Scottsdale TR putters have been great sellers too. At the THSG we pride ourselves on custom fitting, and working with the iPing app, we have gone strong into putter fittings this year. My team pride themselves on giving the complete golfing solution; we work hand in hand with Ping’s custom fitting process and are constantly working closely with the brand to improve our services.
We are also seeing a growing trend, especially in the lead up to Christmas, in GPS and laser units. I stock Nikon, Skycaddie and Bushnell and have done very well with all these brands over the last few months.
What is your opinion on pro shops entering into e-commerce?
I strongly believe the internet is a tough place to break into if you’re a small business. So many of even the smaller retailers are dipping their toe into e-commerce for little return. The constant battle online to slash prices and beat the nearest competitor leads to a dangerous business model. Obviously the larger internet retailers will always do well, and with technology changing daily the internet’s future is bright.
For me, the new Foremost e-commerce is a no brainer. Normal green grass professional shops can’t stock every item like the large internet retailers, but now Foremost green grass pro shops CAN, using the site. My customers can use it to buy the latest golf equipment from every brand at a competitive internet price, and have it delivered to my shop to collect in a matter of days. This will help us combat the lure of the larger internet retailers and offer a unique proposition to our customers.
You mentioned custom fitting; what kind of fitting facility do you offer?
Custom fitting is vital to our business as it offers the complete golfing solution. We pride ourselves on the depth we go to when custom fitting. We use the five-step custom fitting process that Ping has made famous, and we do all our custom fitting using the Foresight GC2 launch monitor, which is a fantastic unit that supplies us with the ball data we need to get the very best equipment for our golfers.
We also have a putting specialist, PGA pro Oli Leett. Oli uses his breadth of knowledge and the iPing app to carry out one of the most thorough custom fits for putters in the county. He measures crucial factors such as length, loft, lie and stroke type, and he also takes into consideration grip type and the insert of the putter. He is also looking to invest in the very impressive SAM Putt Lab in 2014.
In 2014, work will start on a new THSG performance lab. The £70,000 investment will see us offer a new indoor putting studio, repairs centre and swing centre. The Foresight GC2 will also be available to hire out for ‘on-course’ play, with over 10 simulated courses to choose from, including St Andrews and Congressional.
How do you keep in touch with your members and customers?
Through Foremost’s Elite Marketing Programme I write a weekly e-newsletter to my database, and I base my content around a number of subjects, from latest lesson success stories to the latest shop offers and equipment reviews. The programme also provides me with a personal website, and growing my online presence has helped me grow turnover, margins and teaching income.
In terms of social media, I picked up Twitter and Facebook in the early days and generated a big following on each. My Twitter page @timhallpga #thsg, has many hits every day and it’s great to communicate with my followers, promoting shop specials and teaching clinics. It’s also a great way to network with other professionals. I am also using Instagram and I write a weekly blog. It all allows me to keep in touch with my customers when they are not at the club, which is crucial.
Did you attend the Golf Show 2013 in Harrogate, and if so, what did you make of it?
Yes, and it was a great show. It’s fantastic to have all the major suppliers under one roof so you can get round and see what’s new in the industry. I spent a lot of time with my team on the impressive Nike stand, and having all the products on show helped my team get some crucial extra training from the Nike experts. Secondly, I valued the networking aspect of the show; sharing views and ideas really helps me understand the industry better. Attending the Foremost and PGA seminars were also a highlight for me. This year I spent a lot of time on the Foremost stand and got some invaluable business advice that will help me improve my business going forward into 2014.
Not naming names, but what has been the most ridiculous request you have been asked by a golfer?
We seem to get a lot of funny questions in this industry. Probably the funniest (and I had to keep a straight face too) was being asked to re-grip a ball retriever, and yes, they were being serious!