MESQUITE, Nev. -- Their job is one of the most difficult in golf these days, selling equipment in a challenging economy. Their own success depends on their ability to determine what the demand will be for the products they are considering stocking in 2010.
Their acumen on the subject is the reason they are here at the CasaBlanca Resort to participate in Golf Digest's annual Hot List Summit. They are among the most knowledgeable and successful golf retailers in the country and have been enlisted to help the four Hot List judges better understand how products will fit in the marketplace next year. Demand is one of four criteria on which equipment will be judged (the others are performance, innovation, and look, sound and feel).
Represented on the panel are retailers from both on and off-course facilities and both public and private: Susan Roll, owner of Carlsbad (Calif.) Golf Center; Sven Kessler, vice president of retail sales at Edwin Watts Golf in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; Leigh Bader, founder of 3balls.com and owner of Pine Oaks Golf in South Easton, Mass.; Eldon Epperly, head golf professional at Desert Mountain Properties in Scottsdale, Ariz.; Ken Morton, Jr.: general manager of the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento, Calif., and president of the Association of Golf Merchandisers; and Casey Baker, vice president of golf shop operations at Miles of Golf in Ypsilanti, Mich.
On Day 3 of the Hot List Summit, they moved to the fore and assessed a variety of issues, among them how the equipment consumer might respond in this economy. Value is obviously a consideration, they said, but what does it mean beyond simply price? Fitting them with the right clubs takes on an even greater urgency.
Distance remains a top priority, too, again stressing the importance of a proper fit. Those clinging, say, to a driver that is several years old are ripe for an epiphany should they get on a launch monitor and test their older driver against new ones.
Among the questions posed to the panel involved the selling of accuracy (clubs designed to tighten a dispersion pattern) and geometric clubhead designs that assist in delivering straight shots. They have some answers, of course, but needless to say, in this kind of economy, they are outnumbered by questions.
-- John Strege