I have just come back from a tour around my local golf store. It is run by a couple of really nice people, has plenty of stuff, both new and used and they generally let me play around as much as I want. In other words, it is a great place to spend an hour or two. As much as I love it here, looking at the golf equipment price of everything from drivers to putters does put even the biggest golfing addict off!
How Much Does Golf Equipment Really Cost?
I am currently playing around with putters and as I was trying out the various offerings from Ping (nice), Odyssey (also nice) and the rest, an older gentleman came into the store looking for a driver. One of the owners of the store stepped in to help him out. The potential buyer was basically an average older golfer. He was perhaps 60, didn’t hit it as far as he used to and was fighting a slice. He was an average sort of height and build and wasn’t looking for anything in particular.
The owner who is, as I said, a really good (and very honest) guy, said that, where possible, they prefer to get him on a monitor to find out what would really work for him rather than just guessing. The customer said he really wasn’t too bothered about perfect fit, didn’t have the time etc. The owner then asked him about budget to which the buyer replied around 200 euros (so maybe 220 dollars.)
At this point, the owner tactfully said that he really wasn’t going to find anything new at that price point. He gave him the prices of the entry point drivers for various brands (300-350) and said that the latest offerings were all going to be upwards of 500. He did find something for this particular golfer from the used section and gave him a really good deal on it and it fit within his budget.
The thing that stuck with me however, is just how expensive golf equipment has become. As a rough estimate, a new bag of clubs would probably cost (in £/£/euros) maybe 500 for a driver, another 400 for a fairway and hybrid, 1200 for an iron set, 300 for a couple of wedges and 250 for a putter. Add in a bag, gloves and balls and this set is costing probably over 3000!
This isn’t a one off high end set either. If you want to get Miura or Honma you can probably double that easily. Or if you prefer a Scotty Cameron putter to something more run-of-the-mill, you can double the price of the putter too.
Why is Golf So Expensive?
There are obviously differences between manufacturers but the prices are actually pretty similar. If you get a set of Mizuno irons or Pings, the difference isn’t going to be noticeable. The overall cost from all manufacturers has been heading skywards for a few years now and doesn’t seem to be stopping.
I am, of course, not saying that these clubs (or any others) are necessarily overpriced. Simply put, 200 dollars for a tube of steel with a rubber grip and a mass-produced clubhead is crazy when you think about it. I do understand that there is more to it than that. Companies need to pay for their research and development, for example. The money that they pay to tour pros on their staff which gives them media visibility also needs to come from somewhere. I am just questioning what effect all this really has on the game as a whole.
It is important to factor in the effect that the recent situation in terms of COVID and global unrest has had on production and export too. Materials have become scarce and this drives prices up. My golf shop told me that there are delays of months from some manufacturers for certain shafts and grips.
Ultimately though, I just can’t see how any of this makes sense. I rarely buy new clubs anymore. Mainly, this is because I enjoy the classic club more than the more recent offerings, but I also just can’t see the value in buying new. I understand that some golfers want the latest and greatest straight in their bag after seeing McIlroy hitting it on TV, but the rest of us know it doesn’t make sense, surely? I appreciate the work that the advertising departments put in, but the difference between this year’s model and last year’s (or 2/3/5 years ago) is incremental at best.
Second Hand Golf Equipment Price
This would say that buying second hand makes sense. If last year’s driver costs 300 instead of 600 or one from 4 years ago costs 150, really this makes more sense. However, what would be the consequences of this on the golf industry? Honestly, I don’t know. I would like to think that it might drive prices down, but maybe the opposite is true. It might just put some companies out of the equipment business altogether.
I also don’t think that these companies are making a huge profit off higher prices. The most obvious example would be Nike leaving the equipment industry a few years ago. Nike equipment, especially the irons, was fantastic. The only possible reason why they would stop selling it was because it wasn’t making them any money.
At some point, it feels like the whole model of the golf club industry has become broken. Prices are heading off the scale, marketing is more and more extreme (speed foam, anyone?) and profits don’t seem to be there for the companies either.
For a game that has always struggled to encourage the common man( woman/child) to play, this can’t be the right way forward. I don’t know exactly what the next step will be, but I can’t help feeling like we are looking at some sort of major change in the industry if the game is to remain sustainable and not just for a golfing elite.