Stuart Smith: People prefer to schedule sessions at their convenience

BIRDIETIME FEATURED PRO: Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith is a PGA ‘AA’ Professional and Director of Coaching at ​Hilton Park Golf Club​ in Glasgow and a passionate Yorkshireman.

Stuart began playing golf at the age of thirteen (the same age as a certain Greg Norman and Lee Westwood) and by the time he’d turned eighteen he represented his home club at league level (personally undefeated in a league-winning season in the Nottinghamshire Union) and attained the credentials and position required to undertake his first role in the golf industry. Almost twenty-five years and six roles later he still posses the same passion for the game that he had as a teenager!

We hooked up with Stuart, who is known on social media as ​@GolfGuruStu​ and asked him to tell us a bit more about his life in golf.

Describe your continuing journey as a PGA Professional?

I began my career at the age of eighteen working as a Shop Assistant at a newly formed golf club in South Yorkshire which was owned by two PGA Professionals. The role entailed doing everything from Shop work to cutting greens, fairways and rough to edging and raking bunkers. It’s amazing to think how much the place has evolved over the years!

Five years on from this and after registering with the PGA as a trainee, I moved to Lee Weswood’s home club, Worksop Golf Club​, where I spent three and a half great years qualifying with Merit as a PGA Professional, before leaving to take up my first post as a Club Professional in Scotland.

I moved north in the Autumn of 2002 to serve as the Head Professional at ​Powfoot Golf Club, and Dumfries and Galloway. During my brief stint there I oversaw in excess of eighty juniors begin there golfing years via our Golf Foundation Starter Centre initiative in 2004, and designed the club’s centenary logo in 2003, which is still in use to date.

Stuart has designed the centenary logo for Powfoot Golf Club.

In the Spring of 2005 I moved onto Brunston Castle Golf Club​, South Ayrshire and resided there for a very tough and demanding period of time before leaving at Christmas 2009.

Brunston Castle Golf Club

During my time at Brunston, I got to experience several great highlights: Meeting my now wife, working with our Juniors with Tiger Woods’ first coach, Rudy Duran, and having an amazingly busy week in July 2009 when the Open Championship returned to nearby Turnberry. I met so many nice, genuine people that week including Dave Toms and the legendary caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan.

Stuart with Tiger Woods’ first coach Rudy Duran.

Six months and the birth of my daughter on, I took up the position as a PGA Teaching Professional at ​Great Western Golf​, Glasgow (formerly World of Golf). The Golf Academy and Range had great facilities with a large two-tier range and a designated short game and putting area.

As part of our commitment to introducing beginners to the game of golf I received a Recognition Award for introducing the game of golf to in excess of 1000 newcomers. That’s a lot of golfers for one man! Some of whom continue to play and still occasionally see me for assistance.

Ten months ago I left to take up my role at Hilton Park and I can safely say I’ve never looked back! I’m thankful to those responsible for appointing me and to the members for making me very welcome. Hilton has provided me with a feeling I haven’t had since my time at Worksop…… you can’t put a price on that.

Tell us a bit more about your customers and services?

Currently my biggest customer groups as a coach are women, club members and beginners too. My services include clinics, group classes, individual, quick fix sessions and programs with lessons and on-course coaching.

At Hilton Park Golf Club, clinics and group classes are proving to be very popular. Classes provide golfers the opportunity to attend coaching with a companion or playing partner or indeed the chance to meet other like-minded people of similar abilities. The content I’ve promoted so far obviously covers aspects of the game that a lot of our members can associate with and recognise as being weaknesses within their own games.

At Hilton Park Golf Club clinics and group classes are proving to be very popular.

Admittedly some golfers’ will seek one-to-one individual sessions to work on certain aspects of their game. Others commit to this form of coaching after experiencing a class environment first.

What do you consider you to be your specialty?

Good question! You’d need to ask my students to be honest. Perhaps my attention to detail in ensuring my students are as knowledgeable as possible about their golf game and making everyone comfortable on the lesson tee.

How do expect golf and golf tuition services to develop over the next 5-10 years?

I fully expect to see more demand for technology in our game not just in equipment but also in delivering tuition services. Having the provision of radar, such as TrackMan for coaching sessions speeds up the process of change and eliminates any doubt or guesswork. The options in terms of how you can help an individual improve their game is endless, so too is the list of topics you can cover in clinics and classes!

The provisions of an indoor studio with a simulator screen gives students the opportunity to have a realistic session indoors thus being able to deal with the climate in Scotland from October to March – something we’re seriously looking at for the near future so watch this space! There’s no need to use a cold driving range in Winter and by being on site we can also help drive revenue streams within the club with social events for members and non-members alike.

An indoor studio is vital in dealing with the climate in Scotland from October to March.

The use of social media to inform your audience of your services and to grow that audience along with providing ease of access to your services to the consumer online are all musts in this fast paced modern day world in which we live.

How do you see the role of digital services for your customers going forward?

I consider it to be massively important in this day and age. People are time poor and prefer to have the ease of access to purchase and schedule sessions whenever they like at their own convenience. It’s the way of the modern era and provides a more professional service to the members and non-members of our clubs alike.

What have been your experiences with online booking so far?

I’ve found Birdietime to be brilliant for my coaching business – Jimi presented me with the concept at just the right time last Autumn! This year we’ve really pushed the use of the online facility. People like the ease and simplicity of Birdietime. It also makes my role simpler in terms of maximizing my availability, creating higher occupancy rates of allocated time slots and improving my efficiency with time management – massively important with my wide ranging and demanding role!

The more lessons are sold the more regularly I receive my income, so it’s great for cash flow purposes too. The support received to date has been excellent! I’d wholly recommend it to any PGA coach.

What are your top 3 tips for a golfer looking to improve his/her game?

First of all, assess your game in terms of identifying strengths and weaknesses. Secondly, commit to improving your game and skills with the aid of a renowned coach. Finally, seek that coach out, invest in his time, invest in your own time, create a plan together, stick to the plan and persevere when the results aren’t quite going your way. Trust me, they’ll come in time!

To view Stuart’s tuition offering and to book a lesson with him, ​visit his website​.

This blog post is part of Birdietime’s Featured Pro -series. We’ve met hundreds of PGA Pros during the past couple of years, and some of them have really impressed us with their energy and professionalism. In this Birdietime Featured Pro -series, we will introduce you to some of them!