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Buyer's Market

Here's one upside to a struggling economy: thanks to favorable pricing and greater options, there has never been a better time to buy golf equipment

golf clubs

Golf manufacturers are all scrambling to slash prices in an effort to entice buyers.

April 24, 2009

A week ago Callaway Golf, the largest publicly traded company deriving its earnings exclusively from golf business, announced that its first quarter earnings would likely fall well below Wall Street estimates.

This should be taken as good news.

For golf consumers, that is.

The challenging economy has left golf companies scrambling, prompting an unprecedented opportunity for golfers looking to upgrade their gear. Looking at research provided by golf marketplace tracker Golf Datatech, the average selling price of a metal wood today is dramatically less than it was in 2005. Back then, the average driver selling price was $280.91, but today that number is 25 percent lower at $210.60. Certainly, those numbers are fueled by the ramp up in driver innovations and product lifecycles that seem to have been cut in half. The economy hasn't helped, of course.

It's a trend Callaway's President and CEO George Fellows acknowledged in a statement last week. "Global economic conditions have proven to be more severe than initially anticipated," he said. "These conditions have resulted in a more aggressive pricing environment in the United States and some international markets and a continued shift by consumers to lower price point products, which have also adversely affected the Company's gross margins."

The first quarter has seen a rush of deals and discounts that are enticing on two important fronts. First, the prices are remarkable, ranging from one-dollar or free fairway wood with driver purchase offers in recent weeks to giveaways of shoes and one-third and one-half off close-out specials on drivers barely a year old. More importantly, however, those deals aren't for retreads, knockoffs or failed designs. Rather, with more clubs available today that can be neatly custom tuned to your specific needs (and in some cases adjusted to suit your mood on a daily basis), there has never been a situation in the game's history where so much technology has become so readily available at such prices.

"I don't remember a time when the consumer has been in a better position to procure golf or the tools you use to play it," says Leigh Bader, a golf retail veteran for nearly 30 years and the visionary with partner Joe Ricci behind Joe & Leigh's Discount Pro Shop and Pine Oaks Golf Course, as well as the online retail outlet 3balls.com. "The recent conversation in things like the Hot List has been about how good all the new stuff is. Well, now you can buy all those things at great deals.

"We were talking internally just this morning that there are so many deals it's getting hard to communicate them all to the customer. It sounds kind of funny, but we've legitimately had these conversations for the last two weeks."

A shopping list of current deals includes the following:

• Callaway is offering a matching fairway wood for $1 with every purchase of a new Big Bertha Diablo, FT-9 or FT-iQ driver. All three drivers were Gold selections in the 2009 Hot List. Callaway also will deal a free X-Forged wedge with the purchase of the new X-22, X-22 Tour or X-Forged iron set.

• TaylorMade is enticing sales of its current Burner and r7 Limited drivers, both of which earned Hot List Gold designations in 2009, with a free pair of golf shoes.

• The Adams Speedline driver, also a 2009 Hot List Gold selection, also comes with a buy one, get a free fairway wood promotion.

• A $500 purchase of Cleveland Golf products will get you two round trip airline tickets.

• Nike not only has cut the price of last year's SQ Sumo 2 5900 driver in half, it will throw in a matching SQ fairway wood, too.

• Tour Edge and its sister brand Exotics are each offering free fairway woods or free putters with the purchase of a new driver.

• Several companies have dramatically reduced irons that were introduced in the last year, while others have reissued older irons at prices 30 or 40 percent less than similarly constructed new models of irons. Examples include Ping's G5 irons, which are available for less than $400 or about more than a third the cost of the current G10 irons. Also, there's Callaway's X-18R irons, issued in the marketplace earlier this year at a price of $400. Though slightly altered and less technologically sophisticated than the original X-18, the design essentially competes directly with the company's new X-22 iron, which retails for $700.

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