The business of golf – Opening golf shops located on and off the course

By Alan Prescott
May 27, 2021

In my last article, John had learned about the manufacture of golf clubs, studied in Newark, Ohio with some of the movers and shakers in the manufacture of custom golf clubs. In this part of education, John studied from several of the best in the golf club assembly business. There was a great deal to learn about how and why the parts and materials, which are used affect the way they perform.

John was on the road selling golf equipment, clothes, and supplies from September of 1974 through November of 1976. He had noticed that off-course golf shops were opening all over Upstate New York, and, that major golf equipment companies were beginning to dominate in the sales of the majority of golf clubs. The major manufacturers had seen their sales decline at golf courses and were also motivated by greed. Off-course shops, which were owned and operated by well-heeled businessmen were given great deals and extended terms. The Titlist Golf Company (Acushnet Golf Company) purchased a golf club manufacturing facility in Escondido, California, The Spalding Golf Company introduced its “Executive” golf club, one of the most popular golf clubs in the history of golf sales. John wanted to learn the retail aspect of golf club sales.

His next move was to open a golf shop as a “test market” with a PGA Club Professional in the mall in Clifton Park, New York. The test market lasted 3 months and then John bought out his “partner” and moved his operation to his hometown of Great Neck, New York. His first location was in a store with no heat, as the building was under renovation. He heated it with 2 Kerosene heaters. It was wildly successful, and because of that, he leased another building in a very good location, just up the road from his “heatless” shop. Eventually, he opened a second shop in Albany, New York and a third shop at a local driving range. His upstate New York shop was opened on November 19, 1977. John’s father was his sponsor in Great Neck and was the first off-course shop in the area with an indoor practice facility.

However, John’s Albany store was to be a surprise. On Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1977 at 9:16am, John’s father Ken died from a massive heart attack. John’s Thanksgiving gift to his father was to be the surprise of his new Albany golf shop. In the next few months, John, his mother, and one longtime employee worked in Ken’s shoe store on 7th Avenue in Manhattan, New York until Ken’s business could be sold. John closed his hometown store and moved up to run his Albany store.

The net few years seemed to pass quickly. John’s business thrived and, in 1980, John became the head golf professional at the Western Turnpike Golf Club, in Guilderland, New York. The golf course was 27 holes and had over 50 golf leagues and a golf pavilion for outings and special events. John was now the #1 seller of golf clubs in the Capital District. The owner of the golf course was a self-made multi-millionaire named Art Satowski. When John noticed Art working at all aspects of the golf course, he wanted to run his own golf course.

For John, it was magical. He had worked at so many aspects of the golf business of golf, from his introduction to the game of golf, which was followed by this learning at the “Evening School of Golf”. After that, John enrolled in the “School of the Business of Golf”, where he learned about the theory and assembly of golf clubs, about how PGA Golf Professionals sell clubs, about the emergence of off-course golf shops and the manufacture of “custom clubs”. John also learned about how to custom-fit golf clubs and how to fit those clubs to the individual golfers of all physical abilities and/or disabilities. To complete his second-to-last course, he opened his own off-course golf shops and served at four golf courses as either head golf professional or teaching golf professional.

In my next article, John takes on the most difficult course, that of a Golf Course Superintendent. How would he perform from the most difficult job in the golf business? It was the only course that he had left in order to earn his “Masters Degree in the School of the Business of Golf”. The Golf Course Superintendent position is the most important position in golf. Without a golf course in good condition, players’ enjoyment of golf is limited and there can be no room for expansion of the game, as well as its existence, are severely challenged.

Please join me for John’s final journey. It shows John’s true grit and comes with many challenges.

I am Alan Prescott and I can be reached by email at [email protected] Your comments and suggestions are welcomed and anonymous.

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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