Posted on December 06, 2016
Yesterday, I painted a bleak picture of the golf industry. Some blame the ball and many blame rising costs but, no one sees the blatant dismissal and disrespect of the common golfer the entire industry shares. A coincidental example of this is, “Our goal is to make last year’s product look old,” a claim by a senior level member of one of the large companies in golf during a product launch. This line of thought is exactly why the industry is on the Highway to Hell.
The State of Golf: The Solution
If you’re expecting a 10 part solution to the problem in golf, you don’t know BestGrips. We’re all about simple and effective solutions and the medicine for golf is exactly that. It’s possibly anti-climatic after yesterday, but the answer to the golf industry’s problem is for the golfer to do nothing. No matter what we do, the industry is heading towards great change with or without a magical solution. Want to speed this revolution up? Our pocketbooks are keeping the old guard in charge and the quickest way to force a change is boycotting the “best ever” driver, the “longest ever” irons and gimmick putters of 2017.
Despite overwhelming evidence that the current business strategies behind most of the large golf OEM’s cannot succeed, they continue to double down. The golfing world has left these in the past. Pro endorsements no longer move the needle (with only a few exceptions), multiple tier distribution is archaic with the internet, and independent research is too cheap and available to push marketing lies like “10 yards more.” These stale ideas are simply out of life. Before, when large parent companies could afford to bankroll the golf industry’s refusal to evolve, the system survived. With those parents ready to move one, and a general lack of money to burn, the end is finally nigh.
A Return to the Cottage
A long time ago, golf was exclusively a cottage industry. Craftsmen made clubs to order for the discerning golfer and catalogue-order boxed sets were available for the golfer on a budget. At some point, though, golfers dumped the hand crafted clubs in favor of cheaper to make, mass-produced clubs with no precision. Just look at the industry today. Even the modern equivalent of hand crafted clubs rely on the same components used to make off the rack clubs. The most expensive component of the club, the head, is the same whether purchased off the rack or from a fitter.
While the major manufacturers find this acceptable and can somehow blend premium and off the rack with brute marketing, small companies are popping up and filling the gaps. An extremely young start-up just exploded into the marketplace and made tsunami level waves. While they still cling to the old pay for play concepts and certainly have a hefty marketing budget, their success leaves a large weakness in the wall major OEM’s rely on to keep new competition out-of-the-way. We may never return completely to the old cottage ways in golf, but the current way of companies selling budget equipment for premium prices is on the way out.
What About Affordability?
The fear of boutiques and small handcrafted companies taking over brings up the understandable fear of high prices and unaffordable gear. Before I assuage those fears, though, I ask, just how affordable is golf equipment today? A product form a major manufacturer today discounted in six months, closed out after a year, and completely discontinued in two. Compare this to a boutique company like Edel Golf, T.P. Mills or BestGrips. Sure, we come out with new products on a regular basis, but we do it without a toxic turnover rate of discontinued products only released to artificially pump up sales. Remember the big product announcement I referred to in the opening? “Our goal is to make last year’s product look old,” is not the quote you want to read about the latest $500 driver.
Steps You Can Take
This year, if you want to “save” the game we love. Go back to its roots. Find yourself a reliable club fitter, or take up the art of club fitting on your own, stick with a set of clubs fit to your swing, then go out and enjoy the game we love. Find some nice course in your area run by folks that love golf and give them your support. At the end of the day, the golf industry exists to compliment the game of golf. Along the way, that ideal may have been lost, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever.
This wraps up our take on what’s wrong with golf and how to fix it, but is not the conclusion to our State of Golf saga. BestGrips has believed since 2003, long before the concept of an e-commerce golf site was fathomed, that the internet would lead to a revolution in how golfers purchased equipment and give small boutiques a fighting chance against the big-bow world, be it retailer or manufacturer. If anything, the last 5 years have solidified this view as not only possible, but the way the golf industry is heading. Tomorrow, I will lay out a roadmap for creating a sustainable boutique in the golf business based on my experiences over the last decade in golf. BestGrips’s journey was far from easy, but it makes for one hell of a story and provides a lot of useful info for anyone wanting to follow the american dream and start their own golf business, or take their current business into this new and exciting era of golf.
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