Zen Green Stage Case Study, John McDonald Golf, South Wales, UK
Who are you and what is your business?
My business is John McDonald Golf (www.johnmcdonaldgolf.com), and I am the PGA Head Professional at Llantrisant and Pontyclun Golf Club, ten miles west of Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. We are just 40 minutes to the English border, easily reachable via the M4 motorway and the Severn Bridge.
I was previously a senior teaching pro at The Celtic Manor Resort, venue for The Ryder Cup 2010, and I am a former Academy Coach at Wales Golf. I also have a BSc Honours degree in Applied Sports Science.
I am perceived as quite a specialist golf coach, with a particularly good track record with elite junior golfers.
We have definitely seen a shift in the average golfer’s mentality over the last few years. More people now seek specialist coaching, rather than general help with their game.
Who are your typical customers?
Whether elite juniors and adult golfers, or regular club golf enthusiasts, my customers tend to be heavily-invested in their game, both emotionally and financially.
They want to improve, and are prepared to pay to achieve this.
They are increasingly aware of Tour putting coaches such as Phil Kenyon. I tell my customers all the time that Phil Kenyon uses the Zen Green Stage, and this has a positive effect on them.
Why did you choose Zen Green Stage?
I first came across it on a visit to Phil Kenyon’s Putting Solutions academy at Formby Hall. Phil was extremely complimentary about it, and told me about the Tour players he had coached on it. I also tried Phil’s ZGS for myself, and could immediately see the benefits.
Knowing that Phil coaches some of the best golfers in the world on his Zen Green Stage, it was fascinating to see its versatility up close when I was at Putting Solutions with him. I had already started to think about getting one, but seeing Phil and the team put the Green Stage through its paces gave me added impetus.
I saw how the Green Stage has become integral to the Phil’s putting studio at Formby Hall. It’s the ideal environment for a coach to capture your putting data, and putting lessons on it are both exciting and very realistic, whether you are a beginner or a global superstar.
I recognised that it creates a very lifelike environment, as opposed to the flat putting surfaces upon which almost all of the world’s indoor putting studios rely.
Were there any installation challenges?
Not really, it was all straightforward. The room we converted was previously a storage area with a small putting mat on the floor. It was quite an unattractive room.
We plastered, painted and insulated the room, and added extra power sockets.
The actual installation of our 16ft Green Stage was completed by Zen in half a day.
What effect has Zen Green Stage had on your business?
We have become known as the premier putting coaching facility in Wales, and well into the South West of England. We are currently in discussion with the County Union about becoming the winter training base for their Elite squad.
We have seen a large increase in putter fittings. We charge a fee for these, and the combination of the Zen Green Stage with SAM PuttLab gives us the perfect setup to choose the perfect putter for a customer.
Putter fittings often naturally become putting lessons, and we have seen a very large increase in our putting lessons sales. Before the Zen Green Stage, 90% of our lessons were based on full swing. After installing the Stage, it is 60% full swing, 40% putting, and more recently – in summer 2019 – it has been closer to 50/50.Also we have had a major increase in new customers coming to the academy. They travel to us from miles around, attracted by the reputation of the Zen Green Stage. The word-of-mouth effect has been very strong about it.
Our customer demographic has shifted towards the serious, regular golfer (as opposed to casual, occasional players).
Customers are now travelling further to come and see us.
I also feel far more comfortable now, giving a putting lesson. We now have the right tools for the job.
I can only see our business growing, and a lot of this is attributable to the presence of the Zen Green Stage.
How do you use the Zen Green Stage?
100% for putting, and we use it with SAM Puttlab. The Puttlab adds to the Zen Green Stage experience significantly, and helps us to justify the expenditure on the Stage.
We currently coach Staysure Tour competitors on the Zen Green Stage, plus many Pros from other Tours such as the EuroPro Tour and the Jamega Tour.
Our goal is to create the ultimate junior golf academy which will become the go-to destination in South Wales for young golfers looking to maximise their talent.
Having the Zen Green Stage at the heart of our setup enables us to deliver putting coaching to the highest-possible standard – in fact, to the same standard as Tour putting coaches such as Phil Kenyon, who uses the Green Stage to coach Major-winners.
How are you deriving a ROI on your Zen Green Stage investment?
Putter sales are already 100% up on last year. We are still learning how to maximise its effect, but we are clearly making more cash from golf coaching.
I also predict that the presence of the Zen Green Stage will reduce the drop-off in coaching revenue which we normally see over the winter.
The Zen Green Stage is a long-term investment which will grow our reputation, and help us to build awareness of our golf academy business.
What have golfers said about the Zen Green Stage, after using it?
Zen Green Stage is most popular with the better golfers.
I think that people’s reactions are best summed-up by one of our leading young pupils, Ashlie Howard-Hobbs – who is a county-level player. She said:
“The Zen Green Stage is like a flying carpet. I’ve never seen anything quite as high-tech in a golf studio before. I usually don’t like indoor putting practice, but on the Zen Green Stage you really feel like you’re outside on an actual green. With its variable slopes, which you can set anywhere between subtle or extreme, it makes you think harder about what you are doing. Plus the grass on the Green Stage is like a really closely-mown, tour-style putting surface – much better than the usual indoor putting turf. Can it help me to become a better putter? 100% yes.”
You’re based at a golf club. How has the presence of the Zen Green Stage affected your relationship with the Club?
I would say that its presence has grown the reputation of the whole golf club in a phenomenal way.
Would you recommend Zen Green Stage to others?
Yes definitely. We are over the moon that we invested in the Zen Green Stage.
It injects Tour golf magic into our academy, and it has raised our profile significantly.
It is an unbelievable tool which makes putting practice much more realistic.
Our challenge now is to market the Zen Green Stage better – both by spreading our geographic reach, and also by better explaining the benefits it brings to the golfer.
The Zen Green Stage is an unbelievable tool which makes coaching golf so much more realistic. It is truly all-encompassing if you are looking to improve your putting, and it is attracting golfers from many miles around to our academy.