The boys from La Manga

Eduardo Ruiz, director of golf at La Manga Club in south-east Spain, and Thomas Johansson, the resort’s golf training director, share their latest news with us.

How long have you been a golf pro for?
Thomas Johansson (TJ): I started teaching golf in Mallorca in 1996 and I’ve been a pro ever since. I’m educated by the PGA of Sweden.

Can you tell me a bit about your current club – what are the membership levels like?
TJ: La Manga Club is one of the most famous resorts in Spain and Europe and we have members from all around Europe. You can find really good players and very high handicappers, but the majority are in the middle of that range.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
TJ: To be able to help people and make them happy every day is a great feeling. I enjoy working with my students on a long-term basis and following their improvement. To see juniors get a university degree thanks to a golf scholarship is also very rewarding.

What are the most challenging aspects of it for you?
TJ: Many players hesitate going to a golf professional as they think it’s all about changing the technique and that they might get worse before they improve. I believe that you always should improve straight after a lesson otherwise the pro has changed too much. In fact, I’m actually taking away more movements than adding as the majority of the golfers move too
much in their swing.

How would you describe the state of golf in your country? What are some of the specific challenges golf faces there?
TJ: Golf is really thriving in Spain, not only in terms of the professional game where Spain has a vast number of players competing at the top level, but also at the grass roots and beginner levels where numerous initiatives have been put in place to encourage participation. It really is a very exciting time to be a golf professional and player in Spain right now. Unfortunately, however, many people still attach a stigma to golf in Spain that it is an elitist sport and one which requires a lot of money – both points that are just not true. My biggest challenge in general is convincing potential or new golfers that this is indeed not the case and it is open to absolutely everyone.

What are some of the most popular apparel brands that you stock in the pro shop?
Eduardo Ruiz (ER): We have three pro shops with different brands in all of them but our best brands are adidas, FootJoy, Callaway and Under Armour. In terms of hardware companies, our biggest brand is TaylorMade and we also sell Cleveland and Callaway.

Is coaching a major part of your business? What do you do to encourage more people to have lessons?
TJ: Yes, coaching is my main business. Golf training is all about the improvement of the students, and the more often I can see them, the more I can make sure that they are practising the correct things. By offering “drop in” group lessons, I can see the majority of my students several hours a week at an affordable price. The atmosphere in the group has attracted more people to start and we are having a lot of fun together.

How was business for you in 2016?
TJ: I only started at La Manga Club in October but the whole experience has really been positive so far. One of my students, Paul Appleyard, retained his title as the World Blind Golf Champion last November and that was the highlight of the year.

ER: Last year started really well for us and business was really good for the first two quarters. Things slowed down a bit after the Brexit vote but we still managed to reach our budget.

Do you think that the major brands are now easier to work with for golf pros?
ER: Yes, I’ve had a good experience with the major brands and they have always been a good support to improve sales.

What are some of your goals for 2017?
TJ: My main goal is to create a strong junior academy and get more juniors to start playing. Getting more adults into the game by joining our Try Golf days is also a big goal. We will start selling hardware and training aids at our Golf Training Centre and we will continue organising golf schools for holiday golfers visiting La Manga Club.

ER: We are hoping to make the same progress that we made in the first half of last year. During the first quarter of 2017, we have a lot of players visiting from continental Europe so it will be easier, and March is our biggest sales month during the winter season.