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September 2004

Snainton Golf Centre

John Hinchliffe describes the transformation of a loss-making business into a successful golf and retail centre.

John Hinchliffe qualified as a golf professional in 1995 at the age of 23

After searching for a qualified position in the UK his parents told him of a driving range for sale near them in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The range which was originally called Hazel Hall had been developed by local farmer David Simpson in 1990.

Hazel Hall Driving Range had suffered from a severe lack of investment and when John took over the freehold business the annual turnover was a mere £13,000. After a year of trading the turnover had only increased to £32,000 so a major decision had to be made. Either cut his losses and sell up, or rebuild the range which meant installing even the most basic supplies such as water and electricity. John decided on the latter, building work began and Snainton Golf Centre was born.

The big change for John from the old driving range was the introduction of a shop selling ‘top end’ golf equipment. John says, “The pro’s in my area did not seem to sell much top brand golf equipment and those who did mostly sold at recommended retail price. I saw an opening and because I was teaching beginners and intermediate golfers alike, they trusted me to sell them good equipment and give value for money. Even when beginners joined a golf club they would still come back to Snainton Golf Centre to buy equipment or have a lesson.”

In 2001 John boosted his teaching facilities by introducing GASP systems and lesson takings quickly rose. “I kept the teaching facility as busy as I could because I knew by doing that I was helping sales in the shop, so much so that planning permission was granted to add 10 more bays and increase the shop size to 1,000sq.ft.”

This was all well and good but John knew he was lacking the one major facility a golf range needs – floodlights. In 1999 he had plans turned down to introduce floodlighting and saw this as a major loss of potential revenue. After meeting with the planning committee once again they confirmed that there would be no chance of erecting floodlights at the driving range.

However, John came across a loophole in the planning system. There is a law called Temporary Permitted Development which states that as long as all the fittings for the floodlights are portable, there is nothing the planning committee can do. So special stands were built which slid onto the bay dividers and held the floodlights in place – and the planners had no objection.

With the growth of Snainton Golf Centre so evident in the area, a local golf club (Kirkbymoorside Golf Club) approached John to become their club professional on a ‘satellite’ basis. John was happy to take on this role and placed Manager Andy Hampson to run the pro shop and both the club and John have found the arrangement works very well with members buying their equipment locally at very competitive prices. Club Captain Chris Pickles said, “The arrangement with Snainton Golf Centre has worked very well for the Club because our previous pro found it very difficult to buy quantities of golf equipment at the right prices, the members are delighted.”

In May 2003 John employed PGA professional Peter Myers as a full time teaching pro. “The place was so busy I had to make a decision to carry on teaching myself or to develop the shop further. I felt my heart was in retailing so Peter came from Ganton Golf Club to run the teaching side. It has proven to be a good move and lessons are on the increase because of Peter’s availability at most times during the week.”

With John now able to focus on the shop and range the business has developed further with an online store run by his wife Bev and national advertising in Today’s Golfer.

2004 has brought even further development and the shop will soon be extended to 3000sq.ft. and a coffee lounge will be introduced which will hopefully be the last big spend! So what does the future hold for John?

“I am always looking at other business opportunities outside of Snainton and would


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