Memo to Pro Shops

When was the last time you were excited to make a purchase at a golf course? What, no interest in being overcharged for sleeves of balls, gatorades and last year’s golf shirts? I’m guessing you didn’t buy your last set of irons from the pro shop either. Exactly when and why did this business model go so wrong?

I will have to check the Harvard Business Review for the exact origin, but it is clear that too many pro shops still utilize the same business model employed by airport kiosks. Like every other weary traveller, I do in fact end up paying for a $9 coffee at the airport Starbucks (and cursing them) but I will do everything in my power not to buy a $17 sleeve of golf balls from a clubhouse. Honestly, why do pro shops think they can so blatantly screw us over? Perhaps it’s because that is what they have been doing since the beginning of time and they are now just plain lazy merchandisers.

This is the business model Pro Shops are copying

This is the business model Pro Shops are copying

Here is a hint: try acting like a company that wants to help its customers and actually promote return business. I know, crazy right? So what is the solution? This would be my plan.

1) Don’t put your Club logo on everything:

Remember back in the day when you played a fancy golf course and felt obligated to buy a shirt from the clubhouse as proof of your conquest? Making it a double win was the fact that a logo golf shirt was an acceptable and fashionable option. Well, my friends, that Members Only ship has sailed. The problem is that nobody sent the memo to golf course clubhouses.

Clearly there are some exceptions to this rule and courses steeped in history or featured on TV can somewhat get a pass on this issue. However, for the other 99% of golf courses, please realize that you cannot expect to simply take an adidas, Nike or TaylorMade shirt, throw a logo on it, mark it up 30% and watch it fly off the shelves. It’s just not gonna happen. Aside from the fact that most shirts sold in pro shops can be purchased online for a lot less (and we know it), we are no longer particularly interested in being your personal billboard.

Oh sure, I will definitely want to buy one of these.


2) Sell more designer and lesser know brands

In the days before the inter-web and big box stores it probably made sense to offer just the big brands. Now, however, people have wide exposure to these products and have little reason to purchase them at a pro shop (especially at premium prices). The solution, therefore, is to sell high end brands with lesser name recognition. The advantage of this approach is twofold. 1) When customers scan the apparel racks they will actually notice the shirts because they will be unique and unlike what they see in Golf Galaxy and 2) they will not have a mental price comparison. Now, maybe pro shops will have a fighting chance to get me to drop a few extra bucks because they have provided me with a unique buying experience.

While I have seen some movement in this area with higher end shops selling the likes of Peter Millar and Travis Mathew, there is still opportunity to go even deeper with companies like Lyle & Scott, QED Style, Cross Golf, In Fiamme, Sligo and Criquet just to name a few.

3) Sell commodity items at fair market value.

Everyone knows how much a sleeve of balls or a golf glove costs, so why are you squeezing me? I would love to support my local club and buy all of my balls, tees and gloves there, but not if they are marked up 40%. Bottom line, charge a fair price and you will make it up in volume, I promise.

Ok, I dozen Pro V 1's, that will be $18 sir.

Ok, one dozen Top Flights, that will be $35.

This goes for prices on drinks too. $3.50 for a Gatorade is a joke and I will continue to buy them on my way to the course until you stop this nonsense. Again, I am happy to give you my business, but let’s be fair about it. Oh, and don’t go checking my bag because I definitely do NOT have a 12 pack hidden in the side pocket.

4) Get rid of all of the equipment

In all of your life have you ever known anyone to buy a putter or driver from a clubhouse? If so, were they drunk? Sure, if you offer fitting then by all means have equipment, but if you are simply providing me a way to kill time while you spend ten minutes ringing me up, take the putters away and make room for something useful.

Definitely buying some of these.

Definitely buying some of these.


5) Go back to dumb registers

Yea, I know corporate wants to know where every single penny was spent so the cool guys in accounting can make big spreadsheets, but it honestly takes 4 minutes to ring up a hotdog, chips and a beer. I have watched the guys push no less than 15 buttons to complete this task. How about this for an idea: $2 plus $5 = $7. Let me pay and be on my way to the 10th tee?

And finally . . .

6) Be friendly

First off, there are lots of golf courses that have nailed this (and we love you). For the others, I understand that you are only making $8 an hour behind the counter, and that sucks, but don’t take it out on me. Look, we just showed up for a 5 hour day of glory and a respite from our equally shitty job, so why not help us get this thing started and show some teeth. Smile, tell us to have a great day, maybe throw in a small bucket for us. We will tell everyone we know how awesome the staff is and we will come back!

Bonus Tip: Throw in small bucket for foursomes

I know courses make money on range balls and that is fine. But, if you are a high-end course, why are you jacking me another $5 for a small bucket? One of two things happen here: 1) one guy gets stuck getting balls for everyone to share, or 2) everyone cheaps out and takes breakfast balls instead. Look, we just want to hit 7 balls each. It will help speed of play to not have us suck so bad for the first few holes, and really, can you spare a dime brother? We will love you forever.

Written by Adam Staelin
Founder and Editor of Three Guys Golf. I am always on the lookout for new and innovative products for the discerning golfer. I play about a 100 rounds a year (but don't tell my boss).