Life as a club professional

By Anthony Barkley
NZPGA Professional

Often when I am asked what I do and I say I am a professional golfer the response is often interesting. Generally I need to clarify that I am just a club professional not a playing professional and certainly there is a huge difference in what we do and what we earn. Why we become club professionals is varied. Myself, I wanted to play for a living, wasn’t good enough to be honest, then I wanted to coach full time but opportunities are rare in NZ for this so the idea of becoming a club professional grew on me and here I am today. We generally do it for the love of the game and to essentially make a hobby into a living. I know I had a lot of help when younger so there is also an element of giving back in what I do. But the golf business is changing so we have to change with it.
I think you have to be a certain kind of person to become a club pro. Certainly you need to like meeting people as in our roles you do get to meet all sorts of different characters. In my role here at Rotorua we do get to meet lots of International visitors which are great and we take pride in trying to make their experience as memorable as possible. One of the first important roles is to be the face of any club when people come to play golf. Often we are responsible for first impressions of the club as the shop will be where people gravitate to first.
Another role we need to do is provide a facility to help players with their golf. Coaching is obviously important but it’s also the need to have a well stocked golf shop where we can provide an expert service in club fitting and club advice. It’s actually an area I love as when I get a client not one is the same so it makes you think and create a set suitable for that person. Technology has been a great help these days and for us the indoor Golf Studio is fantastic. As a club professional we do however rely on a certain amount of loyalty from our members in the shop which is becoming more and more difficult these days with larger chains marketing budgets much higher than ours. I must say that people should not be fooled as prices are normally the same (sometimes cheaper) from your local pro in regards to current product.
Has online sales affected our business?
I think if you looked at business 10+ years ago when online sales were pretty much nonexistent pro shops used to be more profitable. I remember being told that a yearly sale weekend used to turnover close to $100000. Now a sale doesn’t grab people as people are so used to seeing sales. The internet has certainly opened or made it easier to find golf gear and if you don’t have a good site you will miss out basically although actual sales in golf online are not that high yet. We have an online site that as I write is being re-worked that will offer online golf sales from Drivers to ball markers which will be great but how much will it help us? Time will tell.
Certainly owning a golf shop has its challenges. We now have to compete with some chain stores, mark ups (how much we make) is not as high as people think and we do have to work some long hours (myself I average 50-60 per week). This is not to make you feel sorry for us as most club pro’s don’t mind working hard and we just have to. It’s the nature of the business and it’s a business where survival is the goal. This industry is tough so certainly if there is anyone out there thinking we are making a killing please re-think.
Here is an area that I have been asked many times. Some people over the years have been convinced that all the golf gear is in on consignment. I wish that was the case as these days all product you see in a shop has to be bought.
I guess these are some of the more challenging areas of being a club professional. But it’s not all negative as being able to help people is a big one for me. Forming relationships with members and guests is great and trying to help a club to be better is interesting. Developing players such as juniors and beginners is very rewarding when you see them learn to love the game. I guess one of the negative aspects is for me is not playing
So I hope this article helps you understand what being a club pro is like. Understand it’s not all roses and chocolates (although many pro’s do end up eating too many of them) but most of the time is very enjoyable.
Please jump onto my online sales site, you may find something you need.

Sarah HeadComment