This month GR talks to John Tolliday, Director of Golf at Dale Hill Hotel & Golf Club in East Sussex.
Professional: John Tolliday
Position: Director of golf
Club: Dale Hill Hotel & Golf
Location: Ticehurst, East Sussex
Retail affiliation: Foremost Golf
In 50 words, what is your career history?
I have worked at Dale Hill for 10 years, having arrived as retail manager, before eventually becoming director of golf. Previously I worked at Chevin Golf club in Derbyshire for 10 years as assistant pro, and that was where I completed my PGA Training.
What has been the personal golfing highlight of your career so far?
That would be when I played in Local Final Qualifying for the Open in 2003, and I was in the same group as Nick Dougherty at North Foreland. Nick was a great guy to play with, and with quite a few spectators on the course it was a great experience. I can’t remember my exact score but it is was around level par, so not too bad, but not good enough to get me into the Open!
What is a unique selling point of Dale Hill?
The club offers 36 holes of golf, driving range, other leisure facilities and a hotel, and all available at good prices and packages. There are very few places in our area can that can match this.
How was business in 2012?
To be honest, it was a very tough year for golf in the UK as a whole and Dale Hill was no exception. Like all clubs we are fighting hard.
How is trade in 2013 comparing to 2012 so far?
We endured a bad start to the year due to the weather – it was a long winter with a lot of snow – but the second quarter picked up and finished ahead of 2012. However we are still playing catch up for the overall year.
Have you set specific targets for your business this year?
We have targets as a business, but personally I want to see the business grow year on year. With the economy the way it is, and with golf being a difficult industry, I think any growth is a good result.
Have any supplier promotions or initiatives proved particularly successful for you so far this year?
Callaway has been very pro-active with its promotions, and these have worked well for us and the customer. A prime example this summer has been an offer to golfers that when they buy the Callaway Razr Fit Extreme driver, they get a fairway wood for free.
Which brands of hardware and software tend to get the till ringing the most in your shop in general?
We do the majority of our hardware business with Callaway, and FootJoy are our leading brand for apparel and footwear.
What is your opinion on pro shops entering into e-commerce?
I think it is a difficult thing to do as a small independent pro shop, although now the main buying groups that most clubs are involved with are starting to get involved with this.
What kind of fitting facility do you offer golfers?
Fitting is extremely important to us, and we have use of a launch monitor and Opti-fit unit from Callaway, and also a Ping fitting bag. Everyone should be fitted for their clubs in my opinion, and there is far more to genuine custom fitting than measuring for the length and lie of clubs.
How do you keep in touch with your members and customers?
Through Foremost we have a weekly email that goes out, and we also use Intelligent Golf, which is an email database we can contact.
Will you be attending the 2013 Golf Show in Harrogate, and have you attended the show in the past?
I have gone to Harrogate in the past, but I might not go this coming year, mainly due to the distance from East Sussex to Harrogate and the time the trip would take away from work. If the show was nearer to us I would definitely attend.
What has been the event’s biggest benefit to you?
It is always interesting to see new products I may have missed by not going to a show, such as a new clothing line, or perhaps even a new manufacturer.
How did you think the Golf Show could be improved?
The location of the show from my point of view is the big down side, and the other negative factor is that not more companies attend.
Not naming names, but what has been the most ridiculous request you have been asked by a golfer?
One member came in to tell me he had bought a new set of irons from another retailer, but that he could not hit them, and asked if I would I go on the range and check the sweet spots were ok on the clubs. We made a very polite suggestion that he take the clubs back to where he bought them and talk to them about it!
View from the top: The Woosnam course at Dale Hill, designed by the former Masters champion Ian Woosnam, which opened in 1997