PGA Professionals Emma and Gary Booth have been managing Winchester Golf Academy since it opened in 2015. They wanted to create a golf facility that was extremely welcoming. Emma talks about how they have made the business a success whilst they juggle the normal constraints of family life with two small children.
Q. How did you become a PGA Professional?
A. I’ve played golf since I was 5 when I was introduced to it by my Dad. I ended up playing county golf and used to help out with Cheshire Junior Girls. I’ve been a PGA Professional for 10 years and completed my training through long distance learning when I was based at Royal Winchester Golf Club.
Q. What’s different about Winchester Golf Academy?
A. When Gary and I opened the Golf Academy with the owners in 2015, we wanted to create a golf facility that was extremely welcoming. With that in mind, the bistro is central to this philosophy. A lot of people will come and use this facility even though they have never played golf before, they become comfortable in a golf environment and for many this is the start of their journey into golf.
We keep prices competitive and offer different ways for people to come and use our facilities, from formal 1 to 1 coaching to weekly roll ups and pay and play. Toptracer has brought a very social aspect and party feel to the Academy as well.
It’s important for us that golf is seen as an activity that everyone can do, and we just want people to enjoy the game. We’re not necessarily looking to get people on a pathway to local golf club membership, we just want them to play golf.
We cater for all ages starting with Pop Tots for 3 year old plus, junior roll ups and the Golf Passport, all the way to our adult lessons and special Toptracer events.
Q. How has Toptracer impacted the Academy?
A. Toptracer is very much seen as a form of entertainment by our customers, something that is for all the family. We have regular roll ups and events using Toptracer. We also now have people employed as “Rangers” to make sure that everyone knows how to use the technology. We’re proud to say that more of our customers have signed up to the Toptracer app than any other venue!
Toptracer has definitely produced a customer pathway from where they have used the technology, then we provide tuition to improve their game. We also have Toptracer Clubs and our very popular champagne Wednesdays.
When it comes to Toptracer we are still discovering and creating new ways to encourage golfers to compete and interact with it. We are currently hosting a men and women’s long drive competition, with a final hosted by World Long Drive Champion Joe Miller!
We are also looking to start hosting weekly practice social clubs, where golfers can meet other golfers from the area and practice set tasks using Toptracer.
Q. When it comes to promoting the Academy, what has worked well for you?
A. We obviously get a lot of business via word of mouth but a real success area for us is our Facebook page which has proved a real driver to get people through the door. Gary is the brains behind our social media, he is a real natural in front of the camera and has produced some really great video content that has gone way beyond the Winchester area.
We also make sure that we work with local media and what’s on outlets to make sure that we reach as many people as possible
We had nearly 100,000 balls hit at the Academy in the second week in March, which I think may be a new record!
Q. What’s the main difference you find between coaching men and women?
A. The main difference I have found is that women always prefer to be coached in a group environment where they can be with or make new friends.
Q. How do you and Gary find running a business as well as having two young children?
A. Winchester Golf Academy is very much a family affair, with the owners and their children playing integral roles within the business. I took a reasonably short maternity leave with both children, around 5 months, so I was back coaching quite quickly. With both Gary and I being PGA Professionals, it can often feel a bit like a juggling act. We split the childcare about 60/40 and very much have a co-parenting approach, so it often means that we pass each other as one of us heads in to work and the other home to look after the children.
The dynamic of the modern family is definitely something that the PGA needs to take into consideration if it wants to encourage more women to become PGA Professionals.
Q. What’s are your plans for this year?
A. I don’t want to give much away but we’re looking forward to hopefully working on a project which will encourage more people into golf. Showing people that playing golf is more achievable than they may have realised. It should work really well to document it on social media, so watch this space.
I’m excited to see the changes in golf, seeing more women coming in and playing and making the sport more inclusive.
Q. What’s the best advice you could give other PGA Professionals?
A. I’d say that they should make sure that they enjoy what they’re doing. That will then reflect in the way that they coach.
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