Joel Saunders has been the head professional at Verulam GC for the last seven years and in that time his launch monitor and indoor studio have become a vital component to the growth of his business. Dan Owen from Golf Retailing caught up with him to find out why it’s become so important.
Why did you choose to have an indoor studio?
I’ve always been passionate about custom fitting. When I was an assistant to the previous Pro, I would do all the fittings. After a couple years in my current role I put a proposal in to the golf club and they supported me supported with that. I’ve got a really good-sized indoor studio, which has allowed me to focus heavily on custom fitting and I stock all the major brands.
I get a lot of customers from around the area, not just my members. And I get a lot of repeat business as people upgrade over the years and remember the level of service they received.
It has also massively helped our coaching business as it means we very rarely ever have to cancel a lesson due to the weather and can coach all year around.
How has your set up evolved?
I started with the GC2 when I was fitting outside. I added the HMT attachment to it after a year and that was a huge upgrade. Around a year ago I upgraded to the GCQuad, and then added the putting software. This has really helped me with putter fittings which are becoming increasingly popular.
I’m a member of Foremost and Foresight are an approved supplier. I’ve always bought them on a payment plan. The money goes out each month, I don’t really notice it, however I do notice the increased business I’ve had from having each generation of launch monitor.
How does the GCQuad get used?
All my coaching and club fitting is done in the studio. Being able to coach all year round with no threat of cancellations has been a game changer as a business.
On top of that it is in constant use in fittings. When I’m not in here one of my assistants will be coaching in here, plus we also hire it out to our members for practice sessions, and I had 20 people sign up for practice memberships over the winter months which is a great added revenue stream. It’s in use six to seven hours a day, and on a Saturday I won’t leave the studio from 8AM until 6PM. It is vital to my business.
How has it helped you as a coach and fitter?
It’s helped me understand more about the golf swing. I’m still always learning about the golf swing, and it’s amazing how such small changes can improve your numbers so much. Small changes that may have not been detectable to the naked eye are exposed by using the launch monitor to coach on.
For custom fitting strike location is a real help. When you combine that with the fitting matrixes the equipment brands offer, you can really help improve every golfer, whatever their standard.
What would be your advice to anyone without a studio / simulator?
Get one! There are cheaper options out there that will help, especially for coaching. That’s better than nothing. But I’d say invest in a GCQuad. Get a payment plan, spread the cost out over five years, and away you go. I’ve worked out two sets of irons per month covers the cost of my GCQuad, which is nothing, and it helps me generate as so much business.
What made you choose foresight over other options?
Over the years I’ve used radar systems on indoor fittings, and they have given me numbers that aren’t right. Certain shots hit on certain parts of the face can trick them into giving the wrong readings.
A GCQuad is much better to use indoors, I’ve always found it to give solid accurate numbers every time.
Where would your business be without a studio?
My custom fitting revenue has doubled since having the studio. And I already had a nice business when I was lugging the launch monitors to the range on the back of a buggy. Without a launch monitor I’d struggle to make any money fitting clubs. I’d be selling Mars Bars! Coaching would become much more problematic with inclement weather. And it’s not as professional. It has quickly become the standard to have a launch monitor and Social Media has really reinforced that with the likes of Mark Crossfield and Rick Shiels doing what they do. I find it hard to imagine because a launch monitor has been so vital to the business I’ve built.