PGA professional Neil Clutterbuck’s off-course retail businesses are far-removed from the hustle of his former life as a golf club head professional but he says the switch from on-course to off-course retail has definitely been worth it.
His two golf shops – Peter Toyne Clubhouse Golf in Geelong and Golf Clothing Depot in Braeside, Melbourne – are performing well after three-and-a-half years and two years respectively.
Clutterbuck gave up a “great job” as golf operations manager at The National Golf Club to realising his dream of owning his own business.
Still, he has no regrets.
“This is something I have had in the back of my mind since I started my traineeship at Yarra Yarra in 2001,” he said.
“It was something I wanted to do to find out the differences between being on-course and off-course and although it’s been an eye-opener it’s been beneficial.
“I’m doing what I always wanted to do and have no one to blame if it doesn’t work.”
After completing his traineeship, Clutterbuck was the club professional at Mansfield GC for four years and spent a further two years at Bacchus Marsh.
He also managed a driving range at Melton before taking on the enviable role as golf operations manager at The National Golf Club.
“I had a great job at The National, but I have always wanted to work for myself in off-course retail,” he said.
His golfing expertise and knowledge means he is easily able to answer people’s questions about the game of golf and the vast array of products now available to golfers.
“There is no doubt there is a state of confusion with a lot of golfers because there is so much information about equipment,” he said.
“So, being able to provide good quality gear and knowledge about golf clubs, clothing, different fabrics, performance wear – especially for Melbourne’s four seasons – is one of our advantages.
“At Peter Toyne Clubhouse Golf in Geelong we do everything from golf clubs, club-fitting, lessons to soft goods like golf bags, balls, gloves, clothing and shoes.
“We have an indoor simulator where we do our club-fitting and lessons and we are about to add another two bays.”
The Golf Clothing Depot in Braeside is currently going through a transition from specifically in clothing to a traditional golf shop where golfers can purchase clubs, balls, bags, shoes and other paraphernalia.
However, quality clothing will be the main focus.
The staff at Peter Toyne Clubhouse Golf and Golf Clothing Depot work hard to build good relationships with customers.
“The biggest key to good customer service is having the correct staff and allowing them to do their job really well,” he said. “I’m only as good as my staff.
“I have a great team of experienced people, who are caring and when it comes to customers, and knowledgeable when it comes to product.”
One of the keys to being successful in off-course retail is being able to read people, and Clutterbuck picked up the skill under the guidance of Brian Simpson at Victoria Golf Club.
Clutterbuck started his traineeship at Yarra Yarra but finished it at Victoria GC.
“Brian would say some customers don’t need much engagement so leave them alone,” he explained.
“Then there are those customers who want engagement, but it’s up to you to make dialogue with them and make them feel comfortable.
“Then there are customers who simply want your advice.
“So you have to be able to read people and work out which category they fit in because it’s no good bothering someone who doesn’t want any dialogue and it’s no good ignoring someone who wants your advice.
“You have to have the skill set to be able to decipher what each customer wants and if you can do that you will be awesome at sales.
“At Peter Toyne Clubhouse Golf in Geelong and Golf Clothing Depot in Braeside we provide that service and more.”