Where Golfers Shop. Online, Obviously.


Golf equipment companies have a problem. They know golfers shop online, but they don’t want to sell directly to those shoppers, because if they do, the retailers who carry their products will stop carrying their products.

So instead, golf equipment companies try to show up in Google searches by creating content designed to be very useful to the searcher. They write informational articles about how to play better golf, and they publish them on touristy websites like LocalGolfer.com or GolfAndCourse.com that get high ratings from search engines.

The articles are informative and well-written–the kind of thing you wouldn’t mind reading on your lunch break–but every so often there is an aside like “Now let’s take a look at some of the best woods on the market today.” And it is a list of six or seven models of wood, with each model accompanied by a link straight back to the manufacturer’s site, where you can buy one for yourself.

The world’s top golfers have gone online to sell their used clubs and make a bit of money. The website 2ndswing.com isn’t your average eBay. It’s the world’s largest online retailer of used golf clubs. The site has more than 25,000 clubs for sale and is the only such website to be authorized by the PGA Tour Superstore as a place to sell equipment.

The company began when its founder, Jeff Haynes, realized he could set up an online store at a low cost and use his connections in the golfing community to bring in business. “I had been in the retail business for 20 years,” said Haynes, who was the general manager at Golf Galaxy before starting 2ndswing in 2000. “I knew that if I had product and people, I could do this.”

The Minnesota-based business has doubled its revenue every year since 2003, when it moved into new headquarters (and added a putting green). In 2005 it had $9.5 million in sales; last year it hit $21 million. Haynes says he expects 2ndswing to reach $30 million this year and to go public within three years.

Golf is a sport of concentration and intense focus. It demands patience and perfection. When you visit Golfsmith, you’ll find the best products at the most attractive prices. We’re an authorized dealer for all major manufacturers, and our online store is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A lot of people like to shop online, but they don’t want to make purchases unless they know that someone will be there to answer their questions. Golfsmith’s award-winning Web site is supported by eight customer service centers across the country. At Golfsmith, you’ll find items that are not available in local stores because we have access to more than 150,000 products from every golf manufacturer in the world.

Our goal is to deliver what you need on time, when you need it, with no hassles or complications. That’s why we offer a price-match guarantee on any item sold by another retailer. And if for some reason you aren’t satisfied with your purchase, we’ll give you back your money – no questions asked.

That’s what makes us America’s No 1 golf retailer: our dedication to service and satisfaction guaranteed!

Golf Magazine is for people who play golf. No surprise there. But in addition to that simple fact, there’s another reason Golf Magazine is so popular.

Golf Magazine readers are affluent – their median income is $86,000 a year, and they are on average worth over $1 million each. That means Golf Magazine can charge advertisers quite a bit to reach these readers – a one-page ad costs $130,000.

To put that in perspective, The New Yorker has a circulation of nearly a million people per week. A one-page ad costs just under $100,000. So Golf Magazine, with a circulation of less than half of The New Yorker’s, can charge more than twice as much for the same amount of space in the magazine because its readers are richer than The New Yorker’s.

Cash-strapped publishers everywhere would love to be able to do what Golf Magazine does: reach an affluent audience and get paid well for it. But how can you reach those readers unless you have a physical book? Well, Golf loves its readers so much it wants to make sure they don’t have to go anywhere else for their golf needs. And so Golf has invested in an e-commerce business!

Golf sells golf equipment and

Golfers will buy anything that promises to make their game better. So the Internet, with its endless supply of “snake oil,” should be a gold mine for the golf industry. But it isn’t–at least not yet.

The Internet is great at bringing buyers and sellers together; it’s lousy at helping them close the deal. The problem is trust. You don’t have to be a golfer to know that the golf industry is rife with scammers peddling snake oil. If you’re looking for clubs or a putter, how do you know you can trust the seller? And if you’re selling clubs or a putter, how do you prove you can be trusted?

One way to build trust is with a reputation system like eBay’s (EBAY). But what if you don’t have enough history? Or what if you want to sell something before you’ve bought anything? Or what if your product doesn’t lend itself to auction?

All of which explains why the Web’s best-known golf store isn’t on eBay but on Amazon (AMZN). A company called Golfsmith built its business in brick-and-mortar stores and now sells more than $100 million worth of golf equipment online each year.

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The golf business is a collection of little businesses, each with its own peculiarities. It isn’t like the clothing business or the electronics business. There are public companies that sell golf equipment, but they aren’t big enough to define the industry; Nike (NKE) and Callaway Golf (ELY) have a combined market value of only $26 billion. The biggest golf retailer in the U.S. is Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS), at $6 billion.

The golf business is also more fragmented than most other sports businesses. Even though there are more golfers than tennis players, for example, there’s no equivalent of Tennis Warehouse, an independent store that sells nothing but tennis gear and had $112 million in sales last year. Think about it: If you’re not sure what type of tennis racket to buy, you’d probably go to Tennis Warehouse to read their reviews and compare prices before you buy. But if you’re not sure what type of golf club to buy, where do you go?

At least for now, most people still buy clubs by going to a pro shop or a sporting goods store and hitting several different models on a driving range until they find one they seem to like hitting best. That’s not really buying online; it’s

Golf equipment, apparel and accessories can be purchased online — just about every golf website offers items for sale. I would estimate that more than 90% of the online purchases are made from three websites: Amazon, Golfsmith, and eBay.

There are many factors that influence a consumer’s decision on where to buy golf equipment and apparel. Convenience is one factor. A golf store is often only located within a reasonable driving distance for those who live in large cities or metro areas. A consumer in a remote area can find it difficult to locate a suitable golf store. For those who live near one of the big three golf retailers (Golfsmith, Edwin Watts or PGA Tour Superstore), they might have convenient access to products but limited selection. For example, Edwin Watts was long known as “the Callaway store” because they carried very few brands other than Callaway. But now that they carry most major brands, it may not matter if you can’t test-drive a club before purchasing it.

Another factor is price. Websites offer some of the best deals on new and used products. Sometimes they offer free shipping (or at least discounted shipping) which makes their pricing even more competitive with traditional stores.

Many consumers shop online because they can find


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