To succeed today, pro shops must be all-purpose, with appeal that goes beyond what’s on the shelves.
Pro shops, whether they’re golf-focused or geared to other sports or activities, must offer more than just new clubs or racquets. Members and guests now expect specialty shops at club and resort properties to be one-stop outlets not only for everything from equipment and apparel, but also as a place for advice on improving your game and to find camaraderie among fellow players.
“The pro shop is really an enhancement to membership; it’s an amenity,” says Tom Apple, Master Golf Professional at Country Club of the Rockies in Edwards, Colo.
|SUMMING IT UP
Designing a shop that meets members’ and guests’ expectations now requires providing a well-rounded shopping experience in a thoughtfully designed space. Two key starting points are location, and flow.
For example, the pro shop at Country Club of the Rockies was designed to encourage customer traffic via easy access from the main entrance of the clubhouse. Additionally, windows throughout the shop offer clear views of the 9th and 18th greens, along with the 1st and 10th tees, so the staff can know what’s happening both within the shop and on the course.
“Some golf shops are tucked away in a corner, and the staff inside has no idea what’s going on out on the course,” says Apple. “We have a good visual of what is going on in the immediate area, plus it helps to set the ambiance of the shop.”
The shop’s layout was also designed to increase traffic. Besides having to walk past the shop when entering the clubhouse, members who want to check in for golf also have to walk through the shop, to register at a counter that’s strategically located in the back.
The check-in counter itself sets the shop’s aesthetic tone. Impulse items, such as golf balls and gloves, are prominently displayed in a three-sided glass display case. And during a clubhouse renovation five years ago, the pro shop replaced the cherry wood countertop with granite. “The members noticed the change, and it has really enhanced the appearance of the counter,” says Apple.
Another secret to the shop’s success is a wide selection of golf apparel that extends beyond traditional golf wear. “We do a lot of our buying for the shop beyond the traditional golf [sources],” says Apple. “We go to Los Angeles to buy a lot of our apparel, which is more fashion-focused. We carry a lot of après golfwear that people can wear off the golf course, as well.”
Through this approach, the Country Club of the Rockies’ shop stands out among other golf stores in the area, making it popular with both members and nonmembers alike. Despite the fact that it is part of a private club, the pro shop is open to the public, and about 30-35% of its patrons are nonmembers.
As additional design touches, custom-built cherry wood shelving and nesting tables are set up on the floor between the shop’s two entrances. Mannequins, built-in waterfalls, hanging racks and a glass-enclosed display unit are also put to effective use. Displays are changed several times a week to keep things fresh, and the club’s merchandise manager often adds a customized touch, with plants and greenery that complement the natural surroundings.
“We are up in the mountains and there are a lot of cottonwoods, evergreens and aspens,” Apple explains. “We use some of those in our displays, to bring our surroundings inside the golf shop.”
Giving a pro shop a personality all its own requires creativity from both a merchandising and design perspective. When the pro shop at Windham (N.Y.) Country Club underwent a recent renovation, the goal was to improve the flow and warm up the space.
As part of these changes, the men’s section is now located near the entrance, while the women’s section sits near the back of the shop. “We know women will look around and walk through the area,” says Brian Lowe, PGA, Director of Golf.
In fact, the shop has become known for its large selection of women’s items, clothing and accessories—a change prompted after the shop’s management realized that the sell-through on women’s items was about 70%. Meanwhile, more impulse items were added to appeal to the male clientele.
The shop uses whimsical antique furniture to display its merchandise; for example, vintage wooden tea carts display ties and glassware. The shop also stands out by carrying unique merchandise, including glassware and ties from golf courses around the country that have become popular gift items. “These products are our biggest success story,” says Lowe. “Not many shops in the country are doing this. Some pros have their own collections, but we take it a bit further by offering these items to our customers.”
One challenge for many clubs’ pro shops—especially those not geared to golf—is how to display a lot of merchandise within a small footprint. To deal with this challenge, the 1,000-sq.-ft. tennis pro shop at River Bend Golf & Country Club in Great Falls, Va., recently underwent a major renovation that not only updated its tired look, but also improved the flow and layout of the available space.
“We carry about $12,000 worth of merchandise in a small space, so we needed to improve our layout,” says Jeff English, USPTA, Director of Tennis.
Prior to the renovation, the shop was crowded, with merchandise displayed on slat walls, metal floor racks and accessory trees. The new layout has a more open design, with all of the merchandise now on the walls, in pinewood cabinetry. The apparel hangs in the cabinetry, and displays are changed weekly.
“The majority of the clothing is stacked sideways—shoulder pointing out,” says English. “This allows us to fit a lot more merchandise. Our old design was overcrowded. Everything was front-facing, so it was difficult for people to look through a rack. With the side design, it’s like looking in your closet.”
All of the apparel is hung on hangers, rather than folded on nesting tables. “Unlike golf shops that carry cotton clothes and sweaters, we carry more of the dry-fit and microfiber materials, which don’t lend themselves very well to folding,” English explains.
With merchandise lining the walls, the center of the shop now offers members a cozy gathering area with contemporary, custom-made chairs, a flat-screen television and a coffee station. The pro shop manager adds fresh flowers and candles to enhance the area’s welcoming vibe. “Our members like to come into the shop, watch the tennis channel, and have a cup of coffee,” says English.
Incorporating an inviting social space into the shop’s design was a top priority for English. But he knew that the space must be functional, too. “We made templates for the size of the chairs, and had people walk around and make sure they could get through the shop easily,” he explains. “We put a lot of thought, and feedback, into the initial design.”
The new pro shop design at River Bend also allows the staff to be more visible and accessible. “We wanted members to see the front desk when they walked in,” says English. “That helps to showcase our best asset: our friendly staff.”
In the previous layout, the tennis attendant sat behind a large desk, and members often didn’t even know if anyone was on duty. The new granite-topped desk has a cut-out that allows members to easily see the attendant—and at the same time, lets the attendant make immediate contact with the customers.
The new desk was also designed to function better; it not only has more counter space, but there are also drawers and pullouts within the desk, to store computers and electrical components.
The new shop also has a more modern, sporty style. A new chandelier gives the space a warm glow, while new carpeting, track lighting and paint give the space a fresh, lively feel.
All of the improvements have paid off; since opening in May 2011, the new tennis pro shop at River Bend has seen almost a 20% increase in revenue from the same period last year.
Thoughtfully planned storage areas are an important piece of any pro shop’s design. “Behind-the-scenes areas must not only be well-designed, but also well-organized,” says Jeff English, Director of Tennis at River Bend Golf & Country Club in Great Falls, Va. “You need to be able to get in and out quickly, to get what you need when you need to help a customer. That way, you’re not searching around in nine million places.”
During a recent renovation, River Bend also added storage shelving along the walls of its shop. And to reduce clutter, shoes were moved out of the main shop and into open wooden shelving in the back office.
Here are some other clubs’ approaches to improving storage while also making inventory more accessible when needed: