PGA professional Billy Watson is at the cutting edge of golf’s technology boom
Passionate about his ongoing education as a PGA professional, Billy Watson is part of a new wave in Australia’s golf industry, people who are determined to transform the traditional offering of a golf coach.
After completing his PGA Associateship in 2021, Watson, who currently works as the head teaching professional at Sydney’s Long Reef Golf Club, was thrilled to have the opportunity to start work in an industry that was booming in the wake of the pandemic.
“There’s no doubt that period has been great for golf, as so many people got into it,” Watson says. “So, coming into the industry as a PGA professional at that time, it was pretty clear to me that my goal should be to keep all of these new golfers – be they young kids or older people – in the game for life.
“For me as a coach, that is simply a process of picking apart different parts of a player’s game and working out where there is room for improvement.”
To aid that process and to elevate his offering as a coach, Watson sought further education opportunities. Certified with the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI), TrackMan University and abreast of all the PGA’s Accreditation and Continuing Education programs, he was hungry for more.
Seeking a chance to expand his thinking and round his perspective, he decided to complete a coach certification course with ‘Circles’. A digital shot-data platform, Circles is designed to give coaches greater insights into the performance of their players and help develop targeted practice plans. Designed to drive precision and effectiveness for both the coach and the player, Watson is effusive in his praise, both for the platform and the process of upskilling.
“I spent two days doing the certification,” he recalls. “There was an introduction to the program. We went through the data categories and even learnt how PGA Tour players use Circles. The big thing for me was how we can use it to help players peak when it is important – understanding they can’t be at full peak year-round.”
That high-level insight is particularly relevant for Watson as a coach, as he works with ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia players James Grierson and Jay McKenzie.
“Now with an in-depth understanding of the platform, I have all the data on what my players are doing on the course, and it is my job as a coach to analyse that, work out where they are good and where they might be lacking.”
This process of staying at the cutting edge of industry trends is something that Watson is particularly proud of. He says it is especially relevant for golf coaches responsible for guiding the game’s next generation.
“The best coaches continue to educate and upskill themselves,” he says. “The more knowledge you have, the better for the student and ultimately that’s all I care about. I’m still very young in the industry, I don’t take that lightly. I want to continue to learn and grow and spend more time with the other professionals in the game.”
It is that process of bettering the student that has driven Watson’s other passion in recent months. At the age of just 23, he, along with five other partners, opened Strokes Gained Studios at Brookvale in northern Sydney. An innovative, all-in-one golf facility, Watson is proud to combine the most advanced in golf performance technology with a purpose-built physical training centre to offer a one-stop-shop for golfers looking to realise their potential.
“Whether it’s through technique or skill instruction, personal training or physio, we feel like we are that one-stop shop to either prolong your career or to help you towards your specific goals and get better,” Watson explains. “The whole team here is TPI-qualified, has an interest in golf and a real passion to help people improve.”
Combining TrackMan simulators, SAM Putt Lab and Capto Precision Putting, Watson and his team have left no stone unturned in providing golfers the resources they need to succeed.
“You look at the best players in the world and they have a swing coach, a personal trainer, a dietitian, a sport psychologist – so we know that in order to perform, you need to be as well-rounded as possible,” he says. “So that all-encompassing approach to your game is what we are trying to offer.”
Evidently, they are scratching an itch, having registered more than 50 members in their first three months and signing deals with clubs in the local area to extend their innovative offering to more golfers than ever.
“We’ve definitely got a winning formula at Strokes Gained,” Watson says with a smile. “Whether we are helping professional golfers or everyday players, seeing them get better is our long-term goal.”
As he enjoys the process of running his own business, Watson has come to realise the appetite that currently exists for golf’s alternative formats and is confident the industry is heading in the right direction by embracing them.
“It’s great to see the game moving away from just being played in traditional formats,” he says. “It’s only going to get more people into golf; all the indoor centres are awesome, interactive and attracting a new demographic.
“We also need to remember that because we are so time-poor, people want things instantly and this new approach means they can go there and get their golf fix, rather than relying on spending a long time away from family.”
More broadly, Watson believes PGA professionals have the chance to utilise indoor golf facilities to offer a welcoming introduction to the game to ensure a positive first experience for more golfers than ever before.
“A soft introduction is an important thing – getting people involved in the first instance,” Watson says. “Understanding all of these innovations and changes, ultimately our role as PGA members is to continue to give a good experience.”
• More information on Billy Watson and Strokes Gained Studios is available at https://strokesgainedstudio.com.au/. You can find your nearest PGA professional, accredited to help you in all aspects of your game, using the updated Find a PGA Pro platform at: https://pga.org.au/find-a-pga-pro/