Behind The Counter: Tour Tolerance Golf

Matt Byrne, owner and founder at Tour Tolerance golf, explains how he has grown a premium custom fitting business, and how you can learn from that.

It’s the experience that counts when it comes to club fitting. Lots of guys and girls will go through their PGA training at an early stage when they’re 19, 20, or 21. They’re in club jobs as assistants and they take an interest in it. But until you’re out there and hands-on in fitting sessions, seeing all kinds of different scenarios, it’s difficult to gain that experience.
My first job was at Royal Liverpool. My second job was at a local driving range run by a guy called Chris Gill, who was quite revolutionary in what he did in 2004. He had one of only three Achiever launch monitors in the UK at the time. It was cutting edge and it worked off lasers! But the knowledge we were learning from the launch monitor was really helping us learn about what golfers needed.

In 2008, I went to work for TaylorMade. I was working with Ian Fraser, who’s become a big name on YouTube with his TXG and Club Champion club fitting videos. He’s totally impartial in what he does. I worked with Joe Hughes, who runs Club Champion in Glasgow. Again, I would put him in the top four or five club fitters in the UK. We were managed by Jason MacNiven, who founded Golf Principles and who sold that business to Club Champion. I played golf with Chris Trott, aka Trottie Golf, as a kid and worked with him at TaylorMade. These are all leaders in the world of custom fitting, and TaylorMade was a great place to learn my trade. It’s the same as when you play golf with better players; your game has to improve.

Brand Agnostic
In my opinion, unless you are multi-branded and have access to aftermarket shafts offering various weights, flexes, and kick points across all brands, you can not fit golf equipment properly. It’s impossible to fit because no single manufacturer, whether it be clubhead or shaft, has the answer for everyone. You need access to all these brands to give the best fitting for each individual.

This is where Over The Top Golf comes in. Manufacturers offer shaft options, but they never offer them in all weights and flexes, and generally, very few are the premium options played on tour. There are golfers out there who will need the Fujikura Ventus Black 8 TX. It’s doubtful they’ll be able to try that in an OEM fitting cart. As a small business having access to Fujikura, Mitsubishi, Graphite Design, and KBS shafts through OTT is a game-changer. They hold good stock of product, and if I order before 2 PM, I can have the shaft the next day. I keep stock of the driver heads too, especially in the more obscure lofts, and as long as everything is available, I can turn around a new club in three days.

I can offer club solutions that the majority of retailers can’t, unlocking extra performance that cannot be matched in a stock club for many golfers. I’ve had a lot of success with the TaylorMade Qi10LS and Callaway Ai Smoke Triple Diamond so far, paired with a Fujikura Ventus Black or TR Black. Ventus is still proving popular; I’m tracking to sell more this year than last year, and it’s not like it’s a new product.

I find it easier to sell a driver for £800 than I do for £400 because of the type of customer I get. There’s definitely a different profile of players coming through, a lot of good golfers. However, I love fitting average club golfers, as you can help improve their game so much more. It’s not uncommon with a correct fit to find 10-25 yards extra for a golfer.

Solo Challenge
I’m on my own, so I am basically the fitter, salesperson, marketer, administrator, and club builder. All of my business comes from word of mouth, but the problem I’ve got is if I spent on advertising, I would see an uplift in footfall but wouldn’t be able to cope with the extra work. My space is split over two levels. I’ve got the fitting studio full of demo’s from all of the leading brands of heads and shaft manufacturers, and I have a workshop fitted with the same clubmaking machines and tools as a tour van.

Fitting this way is expensive. You need to spend on shaft adapters. You need to spend on demo shafts. And golf swings are so different that you might only use 5% of your selection in any given fit, it’ll be a different 5% every time.

Over The Top Golf runs a very good program regarding pricing for demo shafts. That’s an integral part of successfully setting up a custom fit studio. The guys are dead easy to deal with. They offer multiple brands and always keep me informed on stock levels. If something isn’t in stock, they know when it will be. If it is in stock, I normally receive it the next day. They are responsible with pricing. Custom fitting is not a ‘race to the bottom’; you’re offering your value in your knowledge and their improvement. Nobody is selling aftermarket shafts 20% cheaper and driving the price down.

People don’t tend to want to work together and collaborate, but I’ve come from a position where I’ve built a lot of trust with retailers from my time with TaylorMade. The modern-day professional isn’t just giving lessons and selling golf balls and Mars bars. They are club managers. They’re managing the first team. They’re having to run a range of apparel, golf shoes, and soft goods. There are so many strands to what they do.

I can go into your venue. I’ve already made the investment in the fitting equipment, I can offer a fitting event, across all of these brands, offering a heightened experience for your members. Golfers pay for that. They pay me for my knowledge and that experience. The Pro still sells the product to his member. The member gets the heightened experience and they are still supporting their golf club.

We did five events at Heswell GC last year, turnover Is almost tripling for the pro because he is offering a multi brand, brand agnostic experience. I’m in the process of kitting out a trailer so I can easily travel around to different golf clubs in the region to replicate this.

What can you learn from my model?
When people come into my studio, they often remark, ‘This must have cost some money to set up.’ If the pros just stay in the lane that the OEM puts them in with the demo offerings they provide, they’re just in a pool of thousands of retailers who are all doing the same thing. How do you separate yourself from the guy down the road? Make yourself a destination.

Players don’t come to see me for a driver based on price. They’re coming to see me to buy the best possible driver that will suit their game. There are loads of golf shops near me where you can buy stuff cheaper, but I can offer an experience and performance gains that they can’t.

With a little bit of investment in some aftermarket shaft offerings that a manufacturer does not offer, all of a sudden you’re separating yourself from those other accounts that are using the same demo kits. OTT can even build the order for the pro so they don’t have to get their hands dirty. At the end of the day, offering premium options is a way to increase your margins; it’s more profitable.

If you are interested in their range of aftermarket shafts contact OTT Golf:
Tel: +44 (0) 1243 213 601