Mark Rogers, head professional at York Golf club and 2016 Foremost Professional of the year, talks to GOLF RETAILING about why having sections of the pro shop dedicated to specific brands is proving to be a real hit.
When I speak to Mark Rogers he’s pulled over in a layby, on his way to play in a competition. After chatting for half an hour or so, it’s clear that the head pro is someone who likes to be busy, who is not one to put his feet up and take it easy. Rogers first became a head professional aged just 22 at Darlington Golf Club before moving onto Seaton Crew golf club before joining York golf club back in 2008. He says that he was attracted to the club because of the advert – it was clear that they were looking to make big alterations and wanted a pro to drive them.
“The club was looking to do some changes and it started off a great relationship with them and in the eight years that I have been here the total membership numbers have increased by 150. We have introduced a driving range onto a practice field that was hardly used but is now very busy and we also have a short game area and are currently developing a six-hole par three course,” he says. “The modern member isn’t worried about just the golf course, it’s also about what facilities there are. We have a lovely course and we are currently implementing a Course Development plan which includes bunker reshaping and positioning along with some new tees. In addition to this our Head Greenkeeper, now in his third year, has really made his mark too, presenting the course in fantastic condition with many visitors commenting our greens are the best they played on all year.”
As well as keeping the course and the facilities fresh and updated Rogers also says that it is vital to ensure that the pro shop doesn’t go stale. The shop, at approximately 15 metres by seven metres, is a good size, but the head pro says it is important people don’t become bored walking round it. “We keep it current and move the stock around the room. You have to freshen it up as people don’t want to walk in and see the same things in the same position every time,” he confirms. “We organised the shop in different departments, so different sections are branded and that makes a huge difference.”
In 2015 Rogers was awarded Foremost pro of the year for his efforts and he says that one of the main reasons he thinks he won the award was his ability to balance all the different aspects of the role. He believes that the job has definitely got harder and that clubs now expect more of their pros – he cites as an example the number of committees he now sits on compared to when he started as a head pro back in the mid-1990s. As Rogers says, there are now more ‘balls in the air’ for the pro than ever before and to be successful time-management is key.
“I really enjoy all the aspects of the job; I love the meet and greet, the retailing, the lessons and working with the club. If you divert more time and energy into one thing then that means there is less going into the others, so it can be hard to get the balance right with where you are spending your time,” he says. “I think that the fact the role is varied is great – you aren’t ever doing too much of one thing. The Foremost aspect does help enormously and the EMP newsletter is massive for me – it is hard to quantify, but I would be frightened to not do it.”
One retail area in which Rogers has experienced real growth is golf trolleys, something he believes has happened because he provided a dedicated space for the products. This came about several years ago when, at the Golf Trade Show in Harrogate, he was so impressed with the Motocaddy stand that he decided he wanted some of the elements in his own shop to create a store within a store. Rogers says that they used to do OK with the brand but after the dedicated section opened sales have gone, “through the roof” and they haven’t looked back.
“We sell a decent number of trolleys every year but we also do really well with all the additional pieces and the way that it is presented means more sales: all the trolleys are displayed with the accessories dripping off them and it means when people see the trolley with the umbrella holder and all the other bits and bobs they want the whole package and it makes it easier to upsell,” he confirms. “Not everyone is comfortable asking about the extras so it makes it easier and it also means that if you are busy then you won’t lose a sale because not all the information is displayed. Having it all together definitely makes a huge difference.”
Having a specialist area has worked so well for trolleys that the store also have specialist TaylorMade and PING sections, although another reason for York Golf club’s success with trolley sales is surely down to their policy of letting members take out a new model for a round free of charge. Rogers explains: “When people come in and they have left their trolley at home I give them a Motocaddy to try – they often have never used an electric trolley before but they try it and most of the time they come back and say they really enjoyed using it. This is something that works really well. We sell more electric trolleys now than push. The pricing for them is coming down and it’s the way forwards – it’s like power steering on a car; when you’ve experienced it you wouldn’t want to be without it.”
While changing the products in the shop around to keep them fresh and having specialist sections has added to their pro shop’s revenue, the more members the club has the more people will visit the shop. One of the ways in which the club has increased membership is by offering their customers more options with their associate membership; by paying just over £300 a golfer gets 12 rounds a year, that they can take at nine or 18 holes, and can play in most of the competitions. “It is great for those guys who felt that they weren’t playing enough and could have left, but they have dropped down to that. It is also a stepping stone for people to come into the club and some have progressed onto full membership,” he says.
“We have also introduced academy membership and the club have given me a good amount of money to do ladies coaching and give them a lot of time and we have seen a good uptake in ladies members in the two years we have been running that. Our membership numbers are increasing which is bucking the trend but it is testament to working well with the club – it is in both of our interests to see the club moving forward. There is no ‘them and us’ and I have never felt like that.”
When it comes to making a success of life behind the counter Rogers has one final piece of advice: don’t be shy about approaching the brands that you work with. “It’s all about relationships, like with the golf club. It’s important to have a good selection of brands but not stretch yourself too thin. These brands have budgets and know how to make things look good. If I’ve got a golf day coming up then I’ll phone one of the brands that we work with and ask them to supply a few prizes, and it works for them as well as it is good publicity.”