An excellent golf course is measured by many considerations – the condition of the greens, the total yardage, toughness of the course, and how well it is maintained. There is also another consideration – access to a top-notch golf shop.
Jon Gates, the owner of the golf shop at Pretty Lake Golf Club in Plymouth, brings years of experience and award-winning operations to the club. He and his wife Patty moved to Marshall County in 2020 when Gates bought the shop. The operation of pro shops has been his career focus for 46 years.
“I’ve been doing this all my life,” Gates says.
Gates grew up playing at a semi-private club in Michigan. He went to Eastern Michigan University (EMU) on a golf scholarship. Playing on the golf team for four years, he served as team captain in 1980, was named to the All-Mid-American Conference, and was named EMU’s Most Valuable Golfer in 1980. He was inducted into the college’s E-Club Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.
After graduation in 1983, he turned PGA professional.
In his career, his shops have earned national recognition. His pro shops have been included in the 100 Best Golf Shops six times by Golf Digest publications. He made the 100 Best Golf Shops director’s list three times in his career. He also won three Michigan Sectional Merchandiser of the Year awards and the Indiana Merchant of the Year for public and private clubs.
Criteria for these awards included merchandising plans, visuals, and add-ons offered in the shop.
Golfers today have access to more product selection than in the past, Gates says. Golf shops need to keep up with the industry.
“Forty years ago, there were maybe 10 different companies that supplied merchandise,” he says. “Now there might be 50 or more.”
Customers are also being more price conscious. There are limited big-box stores, so the local pro shop is often their only option for golf equipment and accessories. Gates also notes that the formality of golf has loosened up. Players are more casual about the game today than in the past. Younger players bring their own perspective.
Gates says it is important to tune into what attracts younger players to golf. They are the sport’s future, he says. That includes how players are drawn to the course, the type of attire to offer in the shop and the way the sport markets the game to the younger generations.
The way Gates approaches running a pro shop is by creating a place that people want to visit. He stocks products that sell, designs attention-getting displays and prices products to fit the budgets of the shop’s customer base. He is doing these things at Pretty Lake, creating a one-stop shop for golfers.
The shop offers gift boxes and gift wrapping, free club fitting, special orders, shipping and reasonable prices. Although it’s smaller than some of the golf shops he previously managed, Gates says he pays attention to what’s trending in the sport and to what his customers request.
There are essentials that every golf shop needs to keep in stock. These essentials are clubs, balls, tees and other equipment. A good shop should also have a selection of clothing including shoes, shirts and pants.
Gates and his wife have settled into the slower pace of Marshall County after making the move from Detroit. The new lifestyle is very laid back compared with what he is used to. He likes that there are no traffic jams, the cost of living is lower, and its vibe is casual. It is quite different from the hustle and bustle of Detroit, he says.
The shop is located next to the clubhouse at Pretty Lake. It is open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Hours vary by season based on the number of daylight hours. Find the shop at 10055 Pretty Lake Trail in Plymouth. For more information, call 574-935-3705, visit prettylakegolf.com, or find the shop on Facebook.