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March 1, 2013

Numbers Hint at Value of Gear-Fitting Services

Survey answers show frequent range users feel general enthusiasm for tech clubfitting – but most need encouragement to get active

As you proceed along, managing your green-grass practice center, it may be time for a glance over the fence. In its early stages is a competing tier of golf studio-style installations, dedicated to clubfitting and game-improvement through gear upgrades. Found at off-course locations in high-traffic areas, these studios may spread rapidly or they may remain an afterthought.

Starting in the Chicago suburbs and originally known as EJL Golf, the six-location Club Champion fitting boutique has expanded to new markets in Atlanta, Houston and Philadelphia. A similar operation – in terms of the expertise and machinery it touts to consumers – is Pure Performance Golf Labs. If anything, Pure Performance may be winning the technology “arms race” against Club Champion, and also against a shopping-center stalwart like GolfTEC. Keeping a focus on teaching, coaching and practice, GolfTEC tends to back-burner the gear aspect of its operation.

Either way, the off-course fitting studio concept makes basic sense, given current technology and even social media. Connecting through websites like Golfwrx.com, Hacker’s Paradise and GearEffectGolf.com, an unseen swarm of “gearhead” golfers provides the buzz that new fitting enterprises draw momentum from. Even more relevant to this business model is all the data and feedback that can be gathered by a fitting pro indoors – whether or not the indoor session is enough to base major decisions on.

As you think about what’s needed in order to keep equipment-savvy golfers on your range for their fitting sessions, a dose of baseline research is available to study. It comes from our most in-depth GRAA survey of frequent range users – the kind of golfers who, by rights, would consider themselves decent candidates for highest-tech clubfitting. In their survey answers, we saw a mindset that is open to game improvement extras but undecided as to which is most valuable.

Asked to rate the importance of several gear-oriented services, surveytakers provided answers that would be mildly frustrating to anyone hoping for magic bullet-type answers. On a scale of 5 (Very important) down to 1 (Not important) they were assessing the presence of: PGA Professionals on staff or on-site; Clubfitting services; Opportunity to demo or purchase clubs; Launch monitor or electronic swing analysis; and, Club repair services. There were top scores given out in fairly uniform fashion to these hypothetical services – other than “PGA Professional on-site,” which earned highest-priority marks from 21 percent. The other four services earned that rating from between 16 and 18 percent of respondents.

Taking a look at bottom-priority evaluations–marked by a score of 1, there is almost a mirror effect. The five services were given a lowest-relevance designation by segments ranging from 14 to 17 percent of the survey group. In between, at the relevance ranking of 4, 3 and 2, again there was considerable uniformity of answers. In part this may be explained by self-identification answers respondents gave – answers that showed the group to be self-sufficient in the sense of practicing diligently but not inclined to take many lessons. What you can take away from this part of the report is a story of potential: A full 48 percent said it was Important or Very Important that the range they patronize offer “the ability to demo or purchase clubs.” In order to take the next step, and get some new gear in their hands for possible purchase, these golfers perhaps need the techno-sizzle that is spreading through the marketplace in new and traditional ways.