Saturday, April 21, 2018

Hitting Balls




“Hitting Balls” is an important part of the game not discussed as often as rounds and scores. It is something that anyone who considers themselves a golfer finds time for, in some cases regularly, but at the least occasionally. Deliberate practice is key to improving your game; warming up before a round is for most imperative and many balls are hit by golfers just looking to relax. Whether this activity is to practice for an upcoming round or to attempt to groove your swing you probably have a local course where you play in addition to a local range where you practice and they are not necessarily the same facility. They are by choice however where you feel most comfortable with these activities. The point of this entry is that anything that makes “hitting balls” more satisfying and enjoyable is good for and important to the growth of the game.



Power Tee provides an automated, calibrated, practical mode of accessibility to the ball and a markedly favorable surface to hit it from in a system that makes practice more relaxing. There are many other features and benefits important enough to be presented in subsequent and separate entries, but the one making a big first impression on me was -  it is more fun than “hitting balls” without it. Everyone in the industry spends a lot of time and money studying, talking and writing about bringing new people to the game. My granddaughter is an incredibly smart, slim, athletic nine year old whose only exposure to golf was a few trips to TopGolf. She is interested in creating a good swing as long as it’s fun and she loves Power Tee.

I met Martin Wyeth, the CEO and Chief Engineer of Power Tee through a mutual friend, Greg Lecker and was assured by Greg this was the practice system of the future. I am excited to share some of my conversation with Martin about the origins and business plan for Power Tee.

Martin, tell us what Power Tee means to you and how you came to develop it.

Power Tee is a never-ending pursuit of engineering excellence. It was developed as a training aid that would allow the golfer to get to grips with their swing and to learn the game faster.  My favorite analogy is to think of yourself as a race car team manager on practice day; you send the car out and time 10 laps.  When you bring the car into the pit lane you would never change the driver, tires, engine settings, airfoils and suspension before your next run. If you did you would have no idea on why the car was faster or slower, leaving you in the dark as to what is working for or against you.  Golfers teeing up a new ball change stance, grip posture and alignment between shots, both inadvertently and through lack of ability/knowledge/discipline/distraction or routine.

One of the most rewarding side effects of Power Tee is the way it facilitates golf practice for disabled and elderly golfers, we have helped a number of golfers in their 90's to keep hitting balls, a host of veterans use our equipment as Power Tee is being taken up at more and more military golf facilities. Nothing is better than seeing how children react to the ball popping up and having a whack at it, often you have to pry them away from what now has become fun.

As you progress in the game of golf, and particularly when you start, you lose the feeling and setup between swings due to teeing the ball up, Power Tee is there remove the need for this distraction.  It is a remarkably powerful tool for helping golfers get into position.  As golfers improve, Power Tee allows them to focus on one part of their swing or setup and experiment with it.  It’s a lot of fun to stay in position and experiment with your right hand for example, open it and the ball goes left, close it and the ball goes right.  As you experiment you can feel how each change effects your swing and the ball flight.  For warming up you can start with a quarter swing until you find the perfect contact and then lengthen your swing steadily while focusing on plane and contact.  The drills and feedback available are only limited by your imagination.  Once you are focused and hitting the ball well, you can repeat perfectly and be 100% sure that the ball flight is a function of your swing, not a poor lie, dirty ball or a compensation for an uneven stance.

Power Tee offers a repeatable environment for practice (REP), this means that you learn with every swing, whatever the the ball does is a function of how you swung the club, not an environmental change that snuck into your practice session. We've all been hitting the ball well in practice on a poor grass tee line, gaining confidence swinging out and then from nowhere a weak fade comes out of what felt like a great swing, confidence drops a notch and you wonder what you did wrong. This never happens on Power Tee, good swing gets good result, poor ball flight means you need to fix something. Jim Furyk and Ben Hogan are/were famous for never practicing from a poor lie. Jack Nicklaus himself teed up every ball on the practice range when preparing for competition.



My first experience “hitting balls” on Power Tee was that it was much more than a good mat that fed the next ball and I want to explore all the features and benefits in future entries but what are the key plusses in your mind?

Power Tee does so much good, it is hard to list everything, probably the best attribute is its ability to engage children.  It’s the iPad generation, like it or not.  Putting kids on a chewed-up grass tee line is ridiculous.  They are not interested and are unlikely to hit any/many good shots, this gives rise to no fun and a real challenge to have the child bond with the game. With Power Tee, the ball is there at the right height.  If the club head goes over the top the kid leans forward, out of the toe the kid steps in and before you know it “whack” a fun and rewarding result, then guess what, the child can repeat the shot because they don’t have to fiddle around teeing up a new ball.  Now that is fun and as a result, kids actually want to hit balls on Power Tee.  Not rocket science just common sense.

The website makes the point the product is well placed and assimilated in the United Kingdom and you received an innovation award from the Queen - that had to be pretty special.

I cannot believe we did it, one of the Queens first jobs on coronation was to allow Winston Churchill permission to form a government of the UK, she has had an unrivaled view of the last 50 plus years and is a great person.  My wife and I were invited to Buckingham Palace and introduced personally to the Queen.  She was a gracious host and we met a good number of her extended family also.  It is a lifetime memory and I owe my invention Power Tee for it.



The system obviously improves the efficiency and appearance of any driving range but what are the other markets for Power Tee?

Power Tee is great wherever balls get hit, in most country clubs for example the turf gets so heavily used that it is rarely in good condition and in the afternoons members are hitting out of sandy dirt.  This is really bad for the golfer who tends to shift their weight left and pick the club up too steeply to try and trap the ball to get good contact, consequently the ranges tend to be chronically under utilized in the afternoons and early evenings when members would most like to come and hit some balls.  I don’t bother taking my children to the range in the afternoon as they are not interested.

The club that has an in-door training facility and prides itself on having the best teaching staff and the latest technology to enhance the teaching experience should have Power Tee.

Driving ranges typically see a 25-50% increase in ball revenue as well as an increase in patrons and more frequent visits from regulars. There is typically growth also in the interest of ladies, juniors, seniors and beginners to practice more often.

Jim Furyk, Jason Duffner, Mitchel Spearman and a host of other keen golfers have Power Tee units at home so they can set up and hit a few dozen balls efficiently every day to stay connected with their swing.  Having one at home improves front 9 scores for weekend players as they don’t lose the feel during the week and it only takes 10 minutes to hit 50 balls.


What are the selling points you would make to inspire interest and/or offset the expense of installing Power Tee to a club looking to provide the optimum teaching, practice and warm-up experience to its members and guests, but does not realize a direct revenue from its practice area?

A few decades ago clubs used to charge for balls. This revenue stream has become a service to members that enhances the experience of play and the image of the club. Power Tee is the next logical addition to that service, particularly for the key groups of ladies, seniors, juniors and disabled that most clubs have identified as important to their growth. It is somewhat ironic that pay and play golfers are getting Power Tee when high paying members of private clubs are not especially since everything about the ambience of the range experience is enhanced. The lesson is so much more about grooving the swing and less about the lie or bending over to tee up the ball. The efficiency of the 20 minute warm-up is incredibly increased and of course practice becomes more enjoyable.

Without detailing a proposal, which would vary as to facility, how would one contact you for presentation, negotiation, installation and maintenance information?

Call us at 877-769-3781 or email me: martin@powertee.com. We will detail the ins and outs of vending Power Tee and send you a proposal.



Power Tee is the best “hitting balls” experience I’ve ever had. This is particularly true when I contrast it to concrete veneered mats and divot chopped turf where you feel as though you are practicing hitting bad lies and will be fortunate to not ruin your clubs or sprain a wrist. As I referenced in the intro, the game, especially for anyone just beginning to get involved, needs to be fun if the interest is to be sustained. Power Tee is fun. To the avid golfer, who sees not practicing as sacrilegious and only an effectively grooved swing as acceptable, Power Tee provides the best environment to develop to that level.  Driving ranges should sell more balls and more often to a wider range of customers with Power Tee as their hitting system. Clubs that spend tens of thousands of dollars providing practice facilities with indoor bays and world class instructors should add a few more dollars to the budget and have this system as part of those amenities to provide an optimum experience.










Thursday, April 12, 2018

Another Look at Open to Buy and Count and Fill


I am often asked about “Open To Buy” both as a retail tool and as a software investment. Typically, during my presentation on “How to Create a Buy Plan” I’ll have someone make the comment that the thought process and homework that I’m suggesting that will determine operative inventory levels and needed turns is very logical but not needed because they have OTB. Buy plans and OTB do not determine the same aspects of retail procurement. Buy plans are defined by space and fixturing. They determine capacities and apply seasonality to turns - by definition, OTB is only meaningful based on a solid plan.  


THE OPEN TO BUY FORMULA:

Planned sales + Planned Markdowns + Planned End of Month Inventory – Planned Beginning of Month Inventory = Open to Buy at Retail

Prudent inventory control is obviously critical to ensuring that there is adequate stock on hand to produce the amount of sales that hopefully can be generated. The above formula can be used as a guideline as to how to replenish that number of units and/or dollars but does not pretend to establish what those levels should be.



Being over-inventoried in total units or dollars or owning the wrong type of inventory will determine markdowns and limit cash flow but is only realized by comparing it to what is healthy and then buying or not according to the formula, or more to the point common sense.

Being under bought will create missed sales opportunities but can only be properly avoided if the Planned part of the above formula is based on solid principles and an analysis and understanding of the shop’s sale history, space and fixturing.

My point is that most shops would certainly be better run using an OTB formula and plan as a guideline as to the coming month’s inventory needs but only once the proper Opening Inventory Level (OIL) is determined, realized and adjusted according to peaks and valleys during the course of the season. The magic push-button formula is the simplest of math that is probably best calculated by hand and then adjusted according to tournament schedules, special orders, off-price opportunities, fast-selling items, mark up variations and count-and-fill categories. Also most pro shops think through they’re buying as a seasonal activity based on number of turns as opposed to a monthly decision based on what usually manifests itself as partial needs.



Another concept that is tossed around in the industry but rarely understood and properly utilized is that of count-and-fill. The phrase immediately brings to mind the maintenance of the proverbial solid shirt program but redefining and instituting its new meaning across all pertinent categories can lower inventories and insure against loss of sales more effectively than open-to-buy reports.

There are many important categories where par levels can be set conservatively and count and filled often so as to reduce needless inventory but have full size runs of adequate selection when needed. Gloves, balls, shoes, socks, peds, rainwear, basic shorts and of course solid shirts are just a few of these categories with solid shirts worthy of an updated look.

A typical solid shirt program five years ago was three shelves in a wall unit with 8-9 skus or colors of a Fairway and Greene lisle or perhaps a Polo pique folded in stacks of six shirts each with one medium, two large, two x-large and one xx-large. The par level included back up if the business demanded. Par levels are best determined using the two-week rule. Keep on hand all sizes per sku in the number of pieces per size that may be sold in a two week period. Most shirt companies that have sold you on the idea of using their in-stock capabilities will fill in between 7-10 working days, which makes two week’s worth of inventory a good working plan. Someone of course needs to take ownership of the program, understand its significance and call the partner vendor with a fill-in once a week.



Five years later a few things have changed. Solid shirts are still of major importance and now include performance or polyester shirts as a category which are best displayed hung on a four way or perhaps shoulder-out by color on a bar in a wall. There are also actually fewer vendors willing to make the financial commitment to in-stock inventories of basic product.

Many facilities are using the solid shirt category as the key ingredient in an effort to build their own brand with private labeling and add significant margin to these sales. Full Turn Direct has developed an in-stock program of mercerized Supima cotton that includes basic feed stripes as well as solid shirts and has done away with any complicated rules about fill-ins. You can call in whatever you need, have it embroidered and shipped ASAP and be proud that your highest margin shirt in the shop is not being offered down the street since it is your label and it is made of the finest cotton on the planet.

Selling a rain-suit and immediately calling in an order for its replacement should be SOP. I go to clubs that own size-runs of 6 to 8 different gloves. I’ve never heard an argument for more than two that made any sense to me. Owning 40 pair of shorts at the end of June but being out of 36 and 38 is the same as being out of business – the open-to-buy report however may not provide for this fill-in.



Count-and-fill categories properly merchandised and maintaining all other areas of the shop as they need to be re-merchandised and reloaded is a function of open-to-buy that is not explained by the formula or its reports. All aspects of retail are relative to the shop, its space and personnel but I would not invest in OTB software unless my shop was grossing at least 1.5 million/year. I would however make every effort to understand the concept as the valuable guideline and tool that it is.


The principles involved in determining the Opening Inventory Level (OIL) mentioned above and the importance of creating par levels for the proper categories of goods so as to establish the correct planned inventories are developed in the “Merchandise Buy plan Guide”. The importance of basing these planned numbers on the principle of space and an understanding of a healthy turn is the reason I wrote this guide.



Saturday, March 17, 2018

Culture





Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends
                                                                               - Walt Disney


The culture of a golf facility is the quality that arises from a concern for service, protocol, and atmosphere. Creating a Culture takes vision, passion and total commitment. It is the sum of attitude, education, enthusiasm and language that distinguishes one facility from another and that is precisely why it is worth the effort.

Cascata GC


There are many unique competitive differentiators in the golf industry. Buyers worry about green grass only distribution. They produce private label product to build their own brand and make their selection of goods exclusive. Clubs move to “Mill River” and modifications of same to produce pricing structures to inspire customer and member loyalty but the hardest and most meaningful competitive advantage for golf facilities to duplicate is to create an organization that consists of highly engaged associates who are totally focused on the customer. All definitions of culture point out the development of the intellect and the resulting enlightenment from training and education. Hopefully this manual will help to educate and inspire you and your staff to become such an excellent organization and rise above your peers.

Everyone has been to clubs where the atmosphere was decidedly negative. The staff walk around with a scowl and members spend an inordinate amount of time venting. It’s hard to determine in such an atmosphere what came first, the grumpy members or frustrated staff but placing the blame wouldn’t make the culture any more pleasant.

It seems in this case that a Leader with a totally rejuvenated outlook or a new Leader is needed. More to the point, someone needs to stand back a little and reevaluate the culture because once the course is built, the business plan and marketing put in place, the superintendent hired and the fertilizer and sand purchased the two variables that most shop owners/managers and/or head pros control are the merchandising and the culture.


Revere GC


Or consider the course where players arrive anticipating a pleasant, enjoyable round of golf with friends to encounter staff telling them at the bag drop where they can and can’t park, at the counter they only take coupons on Tuesdays and don’t take American Express. The starter hands them a list of do’s and don’ts and the marshal stops by a number of times to inform them how they are doing with time. Of course, everyone is just doing their job and none of these individual incidents is necessarily a problem, but cumulatively the rules and the attitude with which they are delivered has the group convinced by the turn that they won’t be hanging around after the round, they won’t be buying anything in the shop to remind them of the experience. In fact, next month when they take a day off for golf they are going back to that course that had the water in the cooler on the cart and everyone including the maintenance staff wanted to know if they were enjoying the day and was there anything they could do for them – the “country club for a day” atmosphere.

Conversely, I had the pleasure a few years ago of being part of the team that opened a high-end club in North Carolina. My position on the team was two-fold. I was there to quarterback the opening of the shop and my other role was that of head cheerleader at the training session. We had the luxury of three full days to indoctrinate the staff about the culture the Leader envisioned and everyone’s role in its execution because we were able to organize it two weeks before the Grand Opening.

We invited the Footjoy and Zero Restriction reps to give product knowledge seminars about their products and they were both outstanding; going through all the features, benefits and buzzwords needed to intelligently talk to people about footwear and outerwear both as apparel and equipment. The question and answer afterwards was more of a discussion with the staff about how to fit people, how to sell the tough customers, how their respective companies were thrilled to be working with them and how unique this session was in what in both cases were long careers.

I spoke about shirts and the appropriate product knowledge involved with the different brands and fabrications. Since it was October, I finished up the session with a football analogy. We had just had three days of training camp, obviously opening day was coming right up and if everyone played their position the way we had been describing it we would win the members and their guests as fans. We could think of ourselves as going to the playoffs if, in a few months, people were talking about the warm, friendly atmosphere at the great new Tom Fazio golf course - they were. We could consider ourselves as getting to the Super Bowl if and when we were nationally recognized as a place you need to play - they have been.

This was a fulfilling opportunity for me but one that can be duplicated anywhere there is a Leader with a desire to take their level of service up a few notches, to raise the bar for their staff and create as a result a more meaningful culture.


Tobacco Road GC


Customers/members need to plan a day of golf anticipating an environment that appreciates their business and where there is camaraderie with the staff as well as their foursome. They need to feel it is fun to hang out a bit at the 19th hole and by the end of the day they want a memento from the shop that will remind them of the experience and tell others that see them wearing the logo what a great place they thought it was to spend a day. They need to be made more than satisfied and they need to view your facility and its culture as their provider of choice.

This may seem obvious and a “goes without saying” description that everyone in the industry agrees is the experience they provide, however the execution does not always follow the hype. As Tony Robbins points out often and in many different ways “There are no decisions really made until there is action.” When it comes to making it a reality, enthusiasm tends to give way to confusion.

In Summary – Culture is a work in progress:

• Management must make the decision to proactively create customer loyalty and to measure the success of these efforts by the customer’s feedback.

• Management needs to institute an orientation program that involves more than a tour of the facility and a primer on keying a sale. It needs to indoctrinate, as soon as an employee is hired, the facility’s principles of customer service and its vision for the future.

• Management needs to establish policies that are customer-friendly and do away with any rigid guidelines.

• Management needs to educate and empower employees to make their facility and culture the best in the area.

• Management needs to institute the “ten foot rule” that all golf staff within ten feet of a customer will look them in the eye, greet them and ask if they need any assistance.

More specific actions:

Establish at the season’s first staff meeting that this season’s primary goal is to be perceived by everyone who plays here as the most customer friendly place to play.

Provide every player a 4x6 preprinted index card that thanks them for spending the day and asks for feedback on their experience.

Have weekly staff meetings and ask at each what was the most customer friendly thing that happened since last week’s meeting.

Set bi-annual evaluations with each staff member to discuss their contribution to the culture.

Make the “ten foot rule” second nature by mentioning it often. It is a practice now employed by almost every industry.

Challenge all employees on a regular basis to submit ideas for service efforts successfully employed elsewhere and not necessarily by other golf facilities.


Bearspaw CC


This is the first chapter of “The Winning Golf Culture” which has been well received by all who have purchased it and made required staff reading at many facilities. The rest of the table of contents is as follows:

Table of Contents


The Culture


The Leader

The WOW Factor

The Intimacy Factor

Salesmanship is Service
a. Pre-servicing
b. Shop Salesmanship
c. Follow Up

Hire to the Culture

The Result

Blog Entries
a. Pump up the staff for the new season
b. Gentlemen’s (and Ladies’) Night
c. The Nordstrom Touch
d. Phil Owenby on “Cutting Edge Service”


I like telling service stories at staff meetings. Here is one I like to tell.

I went to pick up Mike Pifer to go to an Oriole game. He said we were early and would I wait while he got a quick haircut. I’m sitting in the front of the salon, flipping through a magazine, while Mike is getting his 67 hairs cut and the owner of the shop makes himself known and asks if I’d like a glass of wine while I wait. I thanked him and said that would be great. He asked me if I liked red or white.

A year later almost to the day. Mike and I are going to our annual Oriole game with Mike Healy and Phil Owenby, we have seats behind home plate, but Mike needs a quick haircut. I’m sitting waiting and the owner comes over, shakes hands and says “Red right?”