Head PGA Pro Peter Roberts has been at the helm at Surbiton Golf Club for 13 months and, what a journey he’s had! After starting his new role in October 2019, his first job was a new shop refit. Unfortunately, on the day the shop was finally open, it started to rain and continued "for around 4 months", says Peter. A few months later, as the weather began to improve and Surbiton's new Head Pro was getting out to meet some of the members, the UK went into lockdown. We caught up with him just as England’s second lockdown was announced.
What has it been like to start at a new club with the events of this year?
Many people have said how unlucky I’ve been with the chain of events since I joined Surbiton but we’ve actually had a pretty solid first year. I’ve had plenty of time to engage with the membership over a busy summer: the club saw a steady flow of new members and I’m hoping golf is now at the start of a 5-10 year high.
I did the starting for the January medal with a box of fruit to meet the members and see them off, which was good fun. This was a really nice way to engage with a large number of members I hadn't yet met.
We’re ahead of where we thought we would be, which is great. I had a busy time getting to know the members. I can see some real opportunities in the future with our Academy and Junior groups. We also have a lovely ladies' section in the club who are very active and huge supporters of the shop.
How did you feel when the second England lockdown was announced?
Obviously, it’s a real shame we’ve had to shut the shop again but I'm fortunate to be with a supportive club. A few days after the announcement, the General Manager called to offer up help, which is really nice. I’m new and so have been able to make an impact this year.
Like many, we had a great season in the end so these few weeks are a chance to catch up, run some reports, do some Zoom appraisals with the team and make plans for reopening. The course will benefit from a breather too.
What plans do you have this month?
You can’t take your foot off the pedal if the shop is shut. There’s a chance to encourage customers to use our services, as opposed to ordering from Amazon, or another major online retailer. We’re here. Talk to us. Don’t just sit at home – join in, stay in touch and come and see us.
The TGI newsletter gets a high open rate so this is a good way to contact members. I’m also on a couple of Whatsapp groups of 100+ people. I ran a master sweepstake last night which sold out in 10 minutes, so it works and people really enjoy taking part.
I’m on a mission to thin out some of the stock we have left. I don’t want to put anything on clearance in the Spring but if I can move some stock now, it’d be great to get cash in the bank for Winter. I know trying on clothes is an issue but we can offer Click and Collect and customers can return it if it doesn’t fit.
Can you take any business positives from the events of 2020?
From a business point of view, it's great to be able to welcome new members. You can build a relationship and I enjoy helping them improve their game and seeing them benefit from our expertise. If you don’t tell them what you do, it’s not their fault for going on Amazon for their golf clothes or equipment. We know we offer a better service than the bigger retailers and we can get the customers what they want. They just need to know what's in the shop, and how they can buy it.
XMAIL helps with new members as well as existing members because it stresses the importance of buying locally.
Quite often, as Pro’s, we don’t act on messages from customers: we’re too shy to push the sale and we need to be more proactive. If a customer mentions they need to book a lesson, make sure you fetch the diary there and then. Customers often tell us what they want out of their game and it's our job to be on hand to deliver.
Peter Roberts is Head PGA Professional at Surbiton Golf Club. Follow him on Twitter @PeteRobertsPGA