Late Round Purchases
By Pete Wofford
Tis’ the season to go shopping! With the holidays fast approaching and playing winter golf at a premium, now is the time to take advantage of your computer and the hottest trend of “e-tail online marketing.” It is a time for late round shopping, where the only creature stirring is the click of a computer mouse.
The convenience of and access to online golf retail is changing the shopping habits of golfers, globally.Where 10 years ago the local golf shops relying on the hands-on “test-drive before you buy’ approach, the thought of buying golf clubs online was unheard of.
Today the success of e-Bay.com re-selling used golf clubs, and now offering closeout prices on overstocked equipment, and a half-dozen major off-course retail stores publishing online catalogs, the golf industry cannot and does not even attempt to keep up with who is selling golf online.
“The reality of tracking who is buying, and what they are selling would be endless and ever-changing,” said Tom Stine, co-founder Golf Datatech, the industry’s leading consumer research group. “Ten years ago, I don’t think we could have predicted the impact the Internet has had on golf retail, but we do know that shops and manufacturers have found success since volume of sales is up.”
Stine summarized that the competition of the $25 billion golf industry has made the green grass golf shop more customer service oriented, allowed consumers to be better educated when making big dollar decisions and even brought the handyman-working-out-of-the-garage to the market place.
So of the thousand-plus choices online, there are a few premier online golf retail stores that have established the foundation for online buying. Many of these websites are extensions of the off-course retail store, while a few more are simply warehouses sharing distribution information with original equipment manufacturers.
Now is the time to take advantage of online shopping, where the store is open 24-hours, 7-days a week, where guaranteed customer satisfaction is standard, and incentives such as free shopping or out-of-state tax breaks is saving the golf consumer time and gas-money. Listed here are a few of the top online golf shop retail outlets.
In 1975, Carl Paul and his wife Barbara, and his brother Frank Paul embarked on their first consumer retail expansion by creating The Golfsmith Store accessory catalog. In 1976, the company grossed more than $1 million. In 1980, Golfsmith established the Golf Clubmakers Association (GCA), an organization designed to support and guide the growing number of clubmakers around the world. Over the last five years, Golfsmith has further shown its commitment by providing online shopping. Golfsmith.com now features product reviews, “player rewards” frequent buyer discounts, 20-percent team discounts and many other shopper-friendly services like in-store pickup.
The online shopping experience includes personalization with Golfsmith purchases, e-card gift cards that are like credit cards online and the company’s business roots in clubmaking, all the parts, education and accessories allowing you to build your own golf clubs.
HOT ITEM: Captain Kirk’s Putter
From Golfsmith is a pop culture icon that offers unprecedented forgiveness. This fully USGA conforming, officially licensed collectible shares its looks with the classic 1960 television series Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 starship. With the highest moment of inertia the NCC-1701 is the most forgiving putter offered by Golfsmith. Most of its weight is positioned in stainless steel heel and toe weight cylinders, which gives the CNC-milled putter head its unique look—and also serve as alignment aids. The aluminum body features an advanced urethane face insert for soft, solid feel at impact. ($249; golfsmith.com)
Golf Galaxy opened its first store in 1997 and pride’s itself on being the first and only interactive golf store. With 77 stores in 29 states, each averaging 17,000-square feet in size, Golf Galaxy offers superstore selection and pricing with PGA and LPGA on-staff golf shop knowledge and service. The toll free support service allows additional access when placing orders. The retailer also sells pre-owned clubs and offers club trade-ins good toward any in-store purchase. And the affiliation with GolfWorks, and Ralph Maltby.com studios allows detailed customization of equipment, including repairs.
The holiday specials include novelty head covers, tabletop dice/golf games and apparel. The Golf Galaxy gift card is good forever, and it is redeemable online, at a retail store or used over the phone. Book a lesson here or buy personalized golf balls—the site has much more to offer beginners and scratch golfers.
HOT ITEM: SkyCaddie SG5
The hot product heading into holiday sales SkyGolf ’s SkyCaddie SG5, the newest and the company’s most advanced GPS range finder. The ultimate in simplicity, the SG5 is hand-held, lithium rechargeable battery and water–resistant case. You’ll always know how far you are from the center of the green. Even if you can’t see it. ($429.99; golfgalaxy.com)
Credit the success of eBay shopping, and the PGA of America Value Book affiliation for the million-dollar growth of 3balls.com. Basically this 10-year-old site is for used clubs with some new overstock models. Founders Leigh Bader (a PGA member) and Joe Ricci took trade-in clubs in their small Boston suburb golf shop. After too much inventory and realizing the market for old, collectable and used clubs, the golf professionals put the stockroom on eBay’s auction. Needing to put a dollar value on used clubs prompted the PGA Value Book, with which consumer’s can see the price of their garage leftovers.
To name just a few holiday deals include, Cobra’s HS9 drivers that were $480—now $140, Bridgestone’s GC Hybrid that was $150—now $80, and Ping’s G2i Craz-E putters for $89.50.With purchases of more than $100, customers receive free shipping, and one-year subscription to Golf Digest.
HOT ITEM: Titleist Iron Deal
On 3balls where used clubs come first a set of Titleist 704.CB irons in very good condition cost only $249.50, a significant savings from the original manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $896.
Clearly one of the most comprehensive golf equipment sites on the web, The Golf Warehouse is offering everything from the basics (clubs, carts, shoes and apparel) to newfangled gadgets such as range finders, all competitively priced. There are plenty of closeout specials (just click on the Hot Deals tab), but selection is the story here: all of the major brands from Callaway to Taylor Made to Ping. Product pages have crisp pictures from multiple angles and extensive features and options lists. Receive e-mail alerts about sales and specials. The site now has a 30-day playability guarantee: If you don’t like what you bought, you can return it for store credit. Not surprisingly, TGW has a whole section selling cutrate demo and returned equipment.
HOT ITEM: TaylorMade r7 460 driver
One of the limited-offer discounts seen online was the TaylorMade r7 460 driver. For example, the original manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $500, and with a few clicks of loft and shaft selection, TGW’s price comes up $224.99.
Pro Golf, Inc., on the web offers more than 40 years of off-course retail at 110 golf shops in 30 States, and in Canada, Puerto Rico and Ireland. Like other sites, the discounts, closeouts and variety of collectibles, books and videos, can prove to be a good value for the savvy shopper. Unique is the company’s Affiliate Program where you can build your own online sporting goods store and earn up to 7 percent commissions. Besides the abundance of golf choices, several links within the site can steer visitors toward the sporting good selections, such as outdoor games.
HOT ITEM: Nike SasQuatch SUMO2
Progolf.com is featuring the Nike SasQuatch SUMO2 driver on its hot list. With free shipping and “bill me later” options of credit, what was an originally suggested retail price of $479.99 is now $299.99.
Golf Around the World—which is designed by Gary Wiren, PGA Master Professional and leading authority on golf instruction, and now managed by his son, offers credibility and the most comprehensive collection of the finest golf training aids available today. Not all golf swings are alike, and the variety of training aids found here will appeal to different students. The website is not the most creative, but it is basically a catalog of the company’s 9-to-5 warehouse.
HOT ITEM: Power Swing Fan
Specials range from the $250 Stuart Appleby-endorsed sliding platform called The Leaderboard to the $55 Power Swing Fan that simply creates resistance in the full swing.