Short game gains & long-term profit

Sometimes overlooked in favour of drivers, fairways and irons, custom-fitting wedges and putters can bring significant revenue to a golf retailer. Here are two concepts that have worked wonders for club pros in 2014: ‘Short game Sundays’ and the putting studio

Pitching in

Don’t just take it from us – this is what shot-game specialist Dave Pelz says on the subject of golfers and their wedges.

“A matching wedge set is important but often over-looked,” starts Pelz, the Texas-based coach who works with Phil Mickelson. “I don’t like miss-matched wedge sets because each manufacturer has different specs: different degrees of off-set, camber, sole radius, length, lie, and face technology varies a lot. A consistent wedge set will provide consistent wedge shots and give golfers added confidence in their short game.

IAIN DARROCH“In each round of golf, roughly two thirds of shots are played from within 125 yards of the green. Wedge shots to the green determine what you score almost every time you play, yet most golfers do not have custom-fit wedges.

“Every aspect of your wedges should be custom-fit to your swing. I’m six-foot-five, but if a golfer who is five-foot-six uses my wedges, his aim will be a long way to the left because the lie angle of the club, relative to the ground, will have changed due to the position of his hands.

“The lie angle is just one aspect of wedge fitting. A retailer with a wedge-fitting system can ensure golfers have the right length of shaft, the right lie angle and the right bounce. Every wedge should be fit to your body and swing, and fitted wedges will make the short game a lot easier.”

Wedge Wednesdays

Iain Darroch, the head professional at West Kilbride Golf Club, has enjoyed success with short-game clinics at the Ayrshire club, which don’t just generate coaching revenue, but also promote wedges on sale in his pro shop.

“We have worked hard on selling coaching to golfers, including on-course lessons and special events that bring together instruction and equipment advice, such as ‘Short Game Sundays’ and ‘Wedge Wednesdays’”, states Darroch. “On a Short Game Sunday we would talk to golfers about helping their game, but also about what all the different wedges could do to help. A lot of people don’t have the right wedges for their game. We charge golfers a fee for the clinic and we normally have six golfers for a 90-minute session.

“It is like going back to basics. As PGA professionals it is sessions like this that we are good at, and it is something golfers can’t get online! You can get distracted as a club pro by trying to stock all these different brands of hardware, but it is hard to win in that area alone because of online prices, so we are better off offering golfers something different.”

Selling putters with science

DAVE PELZAt Manchester Golf Club, father-son duo Brian and Scott Connor converted a redundant barn at the club into a two-floor, state-of-the-art, custom-fitting and coaching facility. The ground floor became a swing studio and the hayloft upstairs became a putting studio complete with a SAM PuttLab system installed by MIA Sports Technology.

The result is that rain or shine, coaching and fitting continues at Manchester GC throughout the year.

“Business through the putting studio has continued to be very good this year,” confirms Scott Connor. “It’s a long-term investment, but the lab opened up new profit opportunities in custom-fitting putters, and the sessions we offer can be fitting, tuition or a bit of both, for £49. It brings people into the club from all over the place.”

“Putter evaluation and assessment are areas of significant potential for retailers and golf professionals,” says Andrew Keast of MIA Sports Technology, who has just completed another successful mission to Golf Europe in Augsburg. “A dedicated putting studio is considered a rare luxury, but if a pro has the space, and after an initial outlay, its running costs are low and it opens up coaching and retailing opportunities from a club’s membership and beyond. A dedicated putting studio helps to build a strong reputation in a club’s local area, bringing more people into the club and into the pro shop.

“If a pro has a room, a putting mat and a laptop, and they want to employ the entry level SAM PuttLab system, the basic system carries a price of £3,100. For that investment, pros would immediately be able to analyse putting strokes and provide this kind of detailed feedback to their customers.

“A simple process of analysing 10 putts will tell the golfer a multitude of information: face aim, face position at impact, consistency, and this is data that starts to tell you exactly what is happening during the putting stroke.

CORNERING PELZ“If a golfer wants to compare putters, the system tells the golfer which putter they hit most consistently from the centre of the clubface, so ultimately it finds the best putter for any individual. It is clear for golfers to see how their putting will be improved, and so the retailer is presented with a great sales opportunity. It takes 15 minutes for a golfer to receive scientific analysis to show which of three putters is best suited to their game.

“If golfers can see graphically that they are hitting the ball from the middle, and that their consistency has risen from 75 percent to 88 percent, that has got to be a big confidence boost.”

SAM PuttLab comes in Basic, Standard and Pro versions, with the Pro model costing £5,300. A comprehensive SAM PuttLab installation, with camera, lights and TV screens, is available from MIA Sports Technology at costs in the region of £11,000.