Imagine you’re at your local out-of-town retail park. All the usual brands are there selling DIY goods, electricals, furniture, carpets, food and clothing. Your every need is catered for and you can park really close. But what about golf shopping? Wouldn’t it be great to have a golf shop the size of your local B&Q where you can browse for anything from a new set of irons to a PuttBANDIT ball marker? So last week I visited a huge golf shop in California, USA to see the future of golf retail.
A golf shop the size of a driving range
PGA Tour Superstores have been popping up with increasing frequency in retail parks across the USA for the past few years, responding to the recent growth of golf. PGA Tour-branded stores are run by the Blank Family, the American retail empire that started the big-box DIY store, Home Depot, the US version of B&Q.
There are currently 55 PGA Tour superstores in 21 states, with 3 more coming soon. Golfers have been known to camp out and line up for hours before new store openings just to be the first inside. These stores are massive retail sheds covering tens of thousands of square feet and all full of golf stuff, plus a bit of tennis. Suddenly, going shopping feels like fun.
Having spent 2 weeks visiting family and friends in California, my return flight was from San Francisco. I had a few hours to kill before check-in so I drove south to the Palo Alto PGA Tour Superstore to check it out and see where we might see PuttBANDIT ball markers on display in the future. It’s the USA. Thinking big is compulsory.
The inside story
The edges of the store are occupied by rows of fitting bays from all the major brands where you can meet with a store fitter, hit balls, and have launch monitors measure every datapoint needed to part you from your money in exchange for a new set of clubs. But you can’t leave yet.
You’re going to need a bag, putter, balls, tees, gloves, head covers and some new shoes, clothes and a cap to look the part. The rest of the store is designed to help you buy them all, and there’s so much choice. They even have a 20-foot double-sided aisle devoted to hundreds of types of tee pegs. Thousands of them. Tee Canyon.
So many putters
Naturally I made my way to the huge putting green, 2,000 square feet of stimp rating 12 green carpet, fenced in by pickets of hundreds of new putters just asking to be tested and tried out. And so I did – for about an hour.
My favourite was a heavy matte black wide blade putter with a super fat grip. I couldn’t miss with it. And then I saw the price and quickly put it back on the rack before I got more emotionally committed or scratched it and was then made to pay $600? Wow! I can miss that anytime.
Having shifted gear to look for bargains, it was great to see that the PGA had lent their brand to a value line of clothes and accessories at reasonable prices and very welcome in a sport that can be very expensive. I immediately snapped up a handful of golf gloves priced under $7. Bargain!
Two hours after I had entered the store, I left with my purchases and a bag much lighter from not having a $600 black putter inside it. I was tempted to go back.
Is bigger better?
A massive golf store is a simple enough concept, but size isn’t everything. I’d love them to go even further and create a truly amazing golf experience. They certainly have the floor space.
How about pay and play video driving and gaming bays, perhaps tricky sloped putting and chipping greens, an in-store lesson theatre with a schedule of visiting pros, an on-site coffee shop and a sports bar for the grown-ups, and a golf soft play area for children. A tie-in with Topgolf range locations wouldn’t be a bad idea either. But in the meantime, perhaps an aisle full of PuttBANDIT ball markers? You have to think big in America.
Paul Hart is a co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT ball marker and enthusiastic golf improver trying not to buy an expensive new putter.
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