Harry Colt designed Moor Park way back in 1923 and the venue features two superb championship golf courses, the High and West course. Miles Bossom caught up with Head Professional Rob Darwin of First Degree Golf Academy to see how things are going and to learn how the club is growing revenues.
Miles Bossom (MB) – Rob, how long have you been in your current role at Moor Park?
Rob Darwin (RD) – I’ve been here a little over five years now and time has flown by.
MB – What changes have you seen since you started here in terms of trading conditions?
RD – A lot really, I really only deal with the coaching side of things and when we first came here things were pretty basic. All of our teaching was done on the driving range and at the time we didn’t have any cover so if the weather was poor lessons would cancel. Moor Park has changed things around a lot and a 3 bay dry range has been installed as well as astro turf strips on both ends of the driving range which now greatly enhances the lesson experience.
MB – Have you been tempted to invest in the new breed of technology such as swing analysis equipment, simulators?
RD – Yes, we started a few years ago when Moor Park built the indoor swing studio. We started off with cameras and CSwing teaching software and more recently the club have installed a GC2 launch monitor and we have updated our teaching software and are now using V1 to increase interaction with our lessons.
MB – Has this investment increased the number of lessons given and made a big difference to your teaching revenues?
RD – Massively yes. We really wanted to keep up to date remain competitive. If we look back at our winter records for two or three years ago and compare it to current records we see that our lesson volumes have increased dramatically. This is definitely thanks to the investment in the Studio.
MB – So how long do you expect it to take to get your investment back?
RD – Not too long at all really. There is a lot of interest in the GC2 so it was immediately a popular choice amongst the members for lessons and custom fitting sessions.
MB – Do the members here have the ability to hire the simulator to practise or to play courses when the course is closed due to inclement weather?
RD – No, the studio is not for hire as such other than for lessons although we do run challenge matches where we will take on the members. This is always good fun!
MB – In terms of the retail element of the club how has the winter affected your trade?
RD – It has been ok. I only really deal with coaching but the guys who run the shop, The Complete Golfer, are really good at what they do and always seem to be very positive.
Winter is obviously a difficult time for golf clubs but if you stay proactive and keep in touch with your members you can keep them coming through the door. It helps if the course remains open and we have been lucky in that respect compared to many clubs in other parts of the country. I have to say the golf course has been in stunning condition all year and the green keepers have done an outstanding job.
MB – How many days have you been closed through the winter?
RD – We closed for five days in both January and February but the feedback from our members has been fantastic. We play on our greens for 12 months of the year which is a huge positive.
MB – How many members do you have here at Moor Park?
RD – We have around fifteen hundred members in total with about nine hundred golf members and the rest being members of the tennis facility and social aspect.
MB – What is the annual membership fee for golf?
RD – Golf fees are currently Full Memberships are just under £2000 per year but the club offers reduced rates on joining fees and subscriptions for the under 30’s and even has a spouse membership to encourage more families to play golf together. With the two golf courses and a beautiful mansion it is still reasonable value for the area.
MB – In terms of the retail environment do you know what is selling the most?
RD – I know we do very well on logo’d clothing and equipment wise I believe that Taylor Made is doing very well.
MB – Looking around the shop Callaway also feature and Ecco and Footjoy shoes take up some floor space.
RD – Yeah, Titleist balls, Glenmuir clothing, Footjoy clothing does well as do the high end clothing ranges such as Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss. I think is important to get a mix so that it appeals to all elements of the membership and suits all budgets.
MB – In terms of teaching what plans have you got to introduce new golfers to the game?
RD – We have really thought about this and have some exciting plans. In April as always we have free taster sessions for juniors aged four and up and we encourage local schools to get involved. We are also offering taster sessions to adults so we can get as many new people into golf as is possible.
MB – Do you cater well for women golfers?
RD – Absolutely, we have a lot of women members and we are offering a women’s only “Introduction to golf” which is being run by PGA Professional Harriet Key. We also find that our three hour short game clinics work very well and we are starting to look at golf holidays as another way of generating revenue and encouraging people to play and improve in the sport.
MB – So golfing holidays are a new opportunity for you, how are you going about this?
RD – We are looking to offer three different types of holiday. A long weekend break which will be relatively low cost, a Ryder Cup type format and then a longer break which will probably be further afield, say South Africa or Florida.
Well Rob and the team at Moor Park certainly seem to be doing everything they can to improve the experience for their members whilst growing revenues. If you would like to be featured in our behind the counter feature email firstname.lastname@example.org