I’ve been here 25 and a half years now, I started in February 1996. Time has flown. I had aspirations to play on tour, entered tour school unsuccessfully, and played locally. I was an assistant at a public course in Portsmouth, and then my boss took over a second public course, and I ran that for him for three years before I got offered the job at Corhampton.
It’s a great friendly club, out in the countryside and it’s a lovely place to work. I’ve been incredibly happy here. Founded in 1891. It’s a great track in lovely condition. Being on the South Downs, it’s chalk-based, which means it drains well and we never have to close. It’s pretty tricky because it’s nearly always windy.
This year in particular, since we’ve returned after the first lockdown, has been very strong. Two of the months that we missed, January and February, are generally not very good months anyway. A lot of the time in January you’re trying to clear old dead stock, ready for new product to come in. When we came back, it was to a barrage! Like every golf club and every golf course, it was just mega, mega busy.
We’ve had lots of new members join the club. We’ve got a waiting list for the first time in years. Our average age at the club was on the elderly side. But we’ve noticed that since Covid we’ve had a lot more new members around the 30-40 year-old category. We’ve got a lot more active golfers. That’s why the golf course is rammed all the time, we’ve probably got 200 more active golfers than we did previously. It’s made for a really good atmosphere at the club, and long may it continue.
When we first came back, it was good. Sales were booming! But a combination of maybe not forecasting that early success, plus the logistics issues that golf and many other industries have had to deal with has slowed down our sales. Most companies are having issues. It’s important to remember it’s not just the golf trade that is experiencing that.
I think I’ve only had a couple of people that weren’t prepared to wait for clubs, when you give them such a long lead time but most of our members or customers have been very understanding.
We stock three hardware brands, TaylorMade, Cobra, and Ping. They’ve been helpful and we’ve got very good relationships with our reps. They can only supply what they’ve got.
I’ve stocked all three brands for quite a few years now. TaylorMade is our biggest seller and their range covers everything. Like any golf club we’ve got varying levels of golfers and they truly offer something for all of them.
I stock Under Armour which is very popular, and our club cresting is done with Glenmuir. I like to keep it simple, we’ve only got a small shop. Those two brands complement each other well.
We stock Under Armour, Skechers, and Puma footwear. Puma appeals to the younger members and Under Armour shoes over the last three or four years have progressed and become very good. Skechers have amazing step-in comfort, and have proven very popular with our older clientele.
SIM2 has been brilliant for us. We’ve just had another fitting day. It was mainly for the new P790 irons and MG3 wedges, but we had one earlier in the season where the drivers just flew out. The online ordering system at taylormadegolfdirect.com, their B2B site, is certainly the best we use because it tells you the availability, and if it’s not available, it gives you a date that it will be in stock.
P790 has been a game-changer for a lot of people. A lot of golfers look at them and think they aren’t good enough for them, that they look too much like blades. But then they hit it and it offers the soft feel of a blade, with the forgiveness of a cavity back iron, and longer distance. We’ve also done really well with their golf balls. In particular, Tour Response has been a great hit for us. Their wedges tick along nicely, but with the new MG3 being so good, we’re excepting a big jump in sales.
I’ve got a great relationship with our rep Tom. The POS this year has been next level, the illuminated stand is the biggest and first thing you see when you come into the store. Their marketing is second to none. They help us seamlessly transition product from year to year. They are my favourite brand to work with.
We’re at the point now where everyone wants to be fit for their golf clubs. We’re practically at the point now where we will refuse to sell a product unless it’s been fit by us. If you sell them something they don’t get on with, then it looks bad on us.
We’ve got a very good practice ground that’s about 400 yards long and three years ago we had two new level cutting areas to hit from. We’ve got a couple of covered bays, and within the next year the club are going to build some more covered bays, plus an indoor bay that will become a fitting studio and coaching studio. This year we got a GCQuad and that has been brilliant. The fitting data it gives you is incredible. It is obviously necessary for fitting, but there are a portion of golfers now who insist on it for their lessons, they want all that data and obsess over their numbers.
I’m a Foremost Member and that has been a great help. We get some great deals which obviously help. But whether you are a Foremost Member or a TGI Partner, it says a lot about the quality of your business.
We’re quite lucky I would say, in that because of our location, we don’t struggle with competitors Prices have held over the last couple of seasons which has been great, and I’m 15 miles from the nearest high street retailer. My members always give me a chance, and it’s only when we don’t stock something that we might lose the sale.
I’ve also been very fortunate with finding trustworthy reliable staff. Matt has been there with me since day one. Adam has been with me nine years, and Brent has been helping me out the last couple of years. They are very loyal, which is a real help to the business.
From what I can see, golf and cycling have been the biggest beneficiaries of all the problems we’ve had over the last couple of years. They are time consuming pastimes, that could be done safely, and they both allow the user to obsess over the details and which equipment they want to buy. Now we just need to do our best to keep these returning and new golfers interested going forward.