Why consumers are moving
back to on-course retailers
BY EDDIE REID
As we embark on a new year, I thought it would be prudent to take a
breath and have a look at the shift we have seen in the U.K. golf industry from the off-course market and the Internet back to the on-course
In 2015, we saw the continuation of a trend that started about two
years ago, but last year was the first time we have been able to highlight
tangible reasons for this swing.
During the past few years, like many retail environments, we went through a period where there was
an influx of consumers dabbling with Internet sales.
However, during the past 18
months, we have seen four of the
largest online golf retailers in the
U.K. and Ireland either go into
bankruptcy or disappear from
the marketplace completely.
Fundamentally, consumers used online
retailers for price, convenience and selection.
However, these three factors have now been
rendered obsolete for the following reasons.
First, let’s take price. The reality is that the
on-course retailer in the U.K. and Ireland
has been the cheapest place to buy products for some time. That’s largely because the
PGA Professional does not want to be forced
into bargain discussions with club members.
Therefore, the pro defaults to the price he or she believes the Internet
will eventually reach, long before it actually does.
So online retailers have launched products at a more expensive price
and are then forced to bring prices down.
If you add this to the fact that the PGA Professional has the advantage of being an expert in custom fitting, we come to the second
Many of golf’s leading suppliers are now producing products so
technologically advanced that it’s almost impossible to just select a
club off the shelf or screen. They require an expert to fit the club for
the consumer to ensure the full benefit. What better expert than the
Walking into a Pro Shop today is far more than a shopping trip; it’s a
golfing experience. PGA Professionals have embraced modern technology, investing in equipment such as launch monitors to give consumers
all the statistics they need to show the improvements their purchases
will give them.
What’s more, pros have the opportunity to take things even further by
giving the consumer a quick lesson, some little tips, not to mention getting the opportunity to up-sell. Golfers are far less likely to quibble about
prices if they can see the improvements in their stats on screen.
So, as a consumer, why would you want to miss out on that experience? Why would you go through the pain of ordering something online
that is more expensive than when bought from a PGA Professional, and
that is delivered in a box so you will need to take it to the pro to have it set
up for you? Thus, taking away that third and final factor: convenience.
The important thing now is that the on-course retailer doesn’t rest
on his or her laurels and assume that, after a
few difficult years, everything is now right with
The U.K. golf market has not grown. All we’re
doing is shuffling the same consumers around
the marketplace. By giving them a better experience, the PGA pro has an advantage over his or
her off-course competitors.
But, there is a major competitor that has
more of a say in the success of the golf industry:
the weather. Mother Nature plays a huge role.
We’ll review each year and look ahead to the
next with best laid plans, but the reality is that
the golf market is at the mercy of the weather.
Some places in the U.K. had the wettest July
on record in 2015, writing off a whole month
during peak season. Not many businesses could survive that. Which
makes it even more pleasing for us, as a group of 480 PGA Professionals,
that our records show we’re 8 percent ahead of where we were in 2014.
Looking ahead to this year, I think the trend of consumers returning
to the on-course retailer will continue, and once again many brands will
continue to produce the most innovative and imaginative products we’ve
It’s also been promising to hear many strong stories of a growing inter-
est in the game, with more and more youth getting into golf.
Hopefully that interest will continue to grow, and exciting youngsters
such as Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler playing such
exhilarating golf, can only help. I feel that we are very much on the cusp
of golf becoming trendy again.
Eddie Reid is managing director of TGI Golf Partnership, a golf retail
services group owned by, and operated on behalf of, more than
480 PGA Professionals.