The business of golf – The golf club market opens up

By Alan Prescott
May 6, 2021

Links to previous articles:

“The business of golf – It takes a village”

The business of golf – ” . . . another professional . . . came from Brooklyn. His name was Wiffey Cox”

The business of golf – “When your golf game is good, your business is bad.”

“The business of golf – The evening school of golf”

“The business of golf – “It took 7 nights of sleeping in his car”

“The business of golf – Professional jealousy

The business of golf – Golf equipment was changing dramatically”


“Even though, at that time, there was little difference between store brands and professional models, (remember just cosmetic differences), that was about to change.”

In my last article, I mentioned that the “monopoly” that the PGA Golf Professionals had, as far as the ability to set “Professional Golf Equipment”, that was manufactured by major golf club companies. It was very difficult for sporting goods stores to procure professional golf clubs. This closed relationship was supported by those manufacturers in an “unwritten” agreement. However, this agreement was quickly coming to an end. The “bubble” was about to burst.

Perhaps, a basic sales principle was the cause for this change. The consumer also had a part in this business transition. Remember, your options at that point were two-fold. One either purchased golf equipment from an on-course PGA Golf Professional or your purchased clubs from a sporting good store. The days of affordable “custom golf clubs” hadn’t happened yet. When the price of a “professional” set of golf clubs became very pricey, golfers approached their local sporting goods stores and asked why they couldn’t buy professional clubs there.

The answer reached the ears of the top manufacturers of the manufacturers of professional golf clubs. Most of these companies supplied both markets. They made sets of golf clubs to BOTH sporting goods stores as well as golf course professionals. Some of the models just had different cosmetic appearances while others had higher quality components containing state-of-the-art technology. The reputation of professional golf clubs being of better quality was espoused by club professionals. Even though, at that time, there was little difference between store brands and professional models, (remember just cosmetic differences), that was about to change.

There were a number of business entrepreneurs, who happened to own sporting goods stores, and others who were looking to cash in on the expanding golf equipment market. These people weren’t involved in the golf business and remained rather disinterested in it until they saw the figures that were steadily increasing as were the profits of those golf equipment companies. With the difference in the prices and the renewed stagnation of golf club sales of professional golf equipment at golf course pro shops, those entrepreneurs also noticed that there was another marketing opportunity. Why not sell professional golf equipment, formerly monopolized by on-course PGA professionals, to sporting goods stores?

The PGA Golf Professionals resisted and tried to boycott golf equipment companies who tried to sell pro-line golf clubs to sporting goods stores. There were, a few golf course professionals who opened off-course stores and supplied these stores with pro-line golf equipment that they purchased through their golf course pro shop accounts. Another rule of sale for golf companies to supply pro-line golf equipment was to also supply golf course owners who didn’t hire a PGA Professional for their courses. These owners, in turn, opened off-course retail /discount shops and were able to supply those stores with pro-line golf equipment through their golf course accounts.

With this turn of events, the “Pro Only” clubs, that were available exclusively to on-course PGA Professionals, were now not an exclusive to the PGA. The right to sell was further changed to include owners of “Open Air Facilities”. There were other changes to the golf club market. What other moves were made by golf club manufacturers, who didn’t care who purchased their golf clubs? Did patents on golf clubheads matter anymore? In addition, there was about to be a HUGE change in the way the golfing public perceived the quality of their clubs. The price wars heated up and the word “custom” began to change the buying habits of golfers. How about the manufacturers term “MAP” pricing?

In my next article, all of the above questions will be answered. How did this evolution affect John. In 1977, there were two significant events that would change his focus and prepare him for graduation from the “School of the Business of Golf”. The good thing, in spite of one big setback, was John’s ability to adapt to both change and adapt in the face of adversity.

I am Alan Prescott and I can be reached for your comments, questions, and suggestions at [email protected]

Please be safe and stay healthy.

Editor’s Note: Alan Prescott reached out to us after reading a recent article on the Fernandina Beach Golf Course. His articles are being well received by golfers and non-golfers. We thank Alan for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.

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