Yes, we've been championing the cause for clubfitting and clubfitters as the game's most important technology. We believe the real opportunity for average golfers to fundamentally change their performance comes from a properly fit set of clubs, not from somethng they borrowed from their neighbors or got a deal on off of ebay.
It's where golfers should focus their attention, too, says Eric Hogge, Head Professional and Director of Club Fitting at the PGA Center for Golf Learning & Performance at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Fla., a Golf Digest 100 Best Clubfitters facility.
"Sure, I think it's possible for average golfers to get better through fitting," Hogge says. "But if we are actually going to move the needle on the average handicap level, I think it's mandatory. Fitting is more important for the average player than it is for the tour player."
But there's one entity that might find fitting even more vital: the industry itself. You need look no farther than Golfsmith's conference call Wednesday on 2010 fiscal year earnings.
As retail sales have languished over the last two years, and more and more fitting technology has become widely available, the one untapped area of growth for the game is getting average golfers to see the benefits of properly fit clubs. It's clear the industry sees fitting as a crucial way to drive sales.
In the Golfsmith call, Martin Hanaka, chairman and CEO, was particularly keen on his company's fitting initiative through its "get custom fit and play better guarantee."
"We know with our trained people if we can get our hands on you, we can get you fit into the right club, and we're so confident that if you don't play better, we'll give you full credit," Tanaka said. "That's really resonated, and our club-fitting business was up 32 percent last year. We think that will continue this year. We want to do 5000 more fittings.
"When we fit you, we get you in the right club and generally you will spend more, you will play better, you will remember us, you'll come back and you will recommend us. So there's a whole cycle of service that's related to this fitting initiative." Listen to full comments here.
Beyond the retail store level, though, fitting has merit for companies on an individual basis, too. Bridgestone, for one, touts its Golf Ball-Fitting Challenge as instrumental in improving its market share.
In a recent press release, the company cites figures from golf retail research group Golf Datatech that show a 50 percent increase in its market share in on-course and off-course dollar share since the program began in 2008, largely because of increased distribution that grew from Ball-Fitting demo events. The company expects to conduct its 100,00th individual ball-fitting sometime next month.
Fitting just makes better business sense, says Hogge. "Fitting is the only thing that touches every revenue stream in your business. It can lead to more equipment and merchandise sales, it can lead to instruction, it can lead to more rounds, and it can even lead to a couple more hot dogs at the turn."