You have to visit a giant sporting goods store to buy bowling balls, baseball bats and football helmets. A few sports such as cycling and tennis have their own dedicated retail outlets but golf is the only sport where just about every club will have some kind of pro shop.
As a youth at Lilleshall, I marveled at the small shed of a pro shop run by PGA professional, Gwyllam Hardiman and his two assistants, Shaun Ball and Kevin Short. It stocked everything you could possibly want. A fine selection of clubs, balls, bags, shoes, shirts and accessories were squeezed into a tiny space. The back of the shed was reserved for club repairs, re-gripping, re-shafting and refurbishing. Take in your favorite persimmon driver and whatever was wrong with it would soon be fixed quickly and professionally.
Hooked For Life
I was standing in the pro shop where, as a young teen, I often hung around between rounds, when a middle-aged man came in and started to look at the golf clubs. Gwyllam enthusiastically greeted the man and asked if he could help. The man had just taken up the game a couple of weeks earlier and wanted to buy a set of brand new Ping golf clubs. At that time, Ping clubs were in great demand in England and were comparatively expensive.
In response to Gwyllam’s question as to why he wanted Pings, the customer said he had been told they were the best. Gwyl agreed that they were very good clubs but suggested that, since the customer had just taken up the game, it would make little difference what clubs he used initially. Instead of buying a new set, Gwyl suggested he start with a used set, take some lessons and play a few times to make sure he was going to enjoy the game. Then, when he had improved to the point that he could benefit from top-of-the-range clubs, he should come back and see him. In this way he would not waste money on clubs he might never use.
I sat there hardly able to believe my ears as Gwyl successfully talked a customer out of spending several hundred pounds. The customer eventually left with a set of used Wilson clubs, for which he paid a fraction of what a new set cost. At best, Gwyl made £25 pounds on the deal. I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to ask him why he had done such a thing.
Gwyl smiled and said, “That man will spend more money in this shop in the next twelve months than any other three members combined.” He was almost right, the guy spent more money than ten other members!
Although he had not even mentioned the possibility of giving the customer instruction, the man came back the following week to sign up for a series of lessons with Gwyl because he liked him better than the pro at the range from whom he had been taking lessons. While he was there, he bought a pair of golf shoes, some socks and shirts. Later he bought a new bag, golf balls, a cap and a couple of swing training aids. When he signed up for a second series of lessons, both he and Gwyl were convinced he was hooked on the game and Gwyl took back the used set he had originally sold him in part-exchange and allowed him a few pounds off the price of a new set of Pings.
The customer’s game improved rapidly and it was easy to see that he did, indeed, spend more money during the course of that year than any three other members. Gwyl treated everyone that way and consequently had a very loyal following. Even though he did not give big discounts or carry a huge inventory and his shop wasn’t easily accessible, customers came from far and wide to buy equipment and take lessons from him simply because of his attitude and honesty. He had built an excellent reputation and was financially the most successful golf pro in the area. I think Mark Twain summed it up best when he said, “Always do right… that will gratify some people and astonish the rest!” That sums up how Gwyl ran his pro shop.
The Pro Shop is your Golfing HQ
While the hard goods and repairs have unfortunately disappeared from many clubs, the great pro shop is not only the place to buy balls and book tee times. It’s your golfing HQ. The place to have a chat about the weekend’s events, grab a coffee and ask a question about your swing. Take a few stabs on the green carpet with a new putter from the rack or discover how the latest high-tech driver feels in your hands with a few waggles.
While waiting for a guest or passing thunder shower, you should sink down into one of the comfy chairs in the corner and read a newspaper or one of the golf instruction books on the table with a lazy eye on the weather channel on the flat screen TV. The great golf shop should be like the kitchen at a party, the place where people feel comfortable lingering. Browse the logoed shirts, try on some sun-glasses and pick out a new pair of shoes for the season.
While today’s big box stores offer a kid-in-a-candy-store feeling, they lack the intimacy and service of your local pro shop. I remember as a kid in the 1970s, the British PGA running a promotion which declared: “People Who Know Buy from Their Pro.” It’s something I have always tried to do.
Andrew Wood is an author and CEO of Legendary Marketing, a Tampa/Orlando-based ad agency. He is the world’s leading expert on golf, resort, destination and real estate marketing although his successes go far beyond these core industries. Author of over 40 books including; Confessions of a Golf Pro, Desperately Seeking Members, The Golf Marketing Bible, The Hotel and Resort Marketing Bible and Legendary Advice. Andrew has spoken to thousands of audiences worldwide and was the top ranked speaker at 97.7% of the events where he spoke on sales, marketing, entrepreneurship or leadership. A pioneer in Internet marketing his creative talent, out of the box ideas and copywriting skills are at the core of his expertise. Regarded as one of the top marketing minds in the world for his ability to craft a winning strategy, generate leads and increase income!