The Loop

The Sound of Silence

October 19, 2011

There was a strange silence in our meeting room at the Wigwam Golf Resort and Spayesterday. It was day one of our meetings with the retailer panel at the annual Hot List Summit, and no one was talking. Why? Simple. After four-plus hours of uninterrupted, lively discussion about all elements of the golf marketplace, it was time to eat lunch.[#image: /photos/55ad74a8b01eefe207f6aed1]|||Thumbnail image for TuesHtList1.gif|||

That's about the only thing that stopped this group of industry veterans and proven observers of the golf retail space from sharing the knowledge that we believe makes the Golf Digest Hot List a trusted, thorough analysis of the game's most intriguing products.

It's trusted because we feel an obligation to our readers to examine every resource possible to best understand the merits of one new product over another. As a team our six retailers easily combine for more than 150 years of experience in the golf industry. In short, they have seen and/or done nearly everything the business of golf has offered up. If you're looking to find the pulse of the golf consumer, this group lives it every day. You learn something new from this group every time one of them speaks, whether it be the latest trends in resale values of used clubs and how that paints a pretty fair picture in the strength of a brand, or how few golfers still are being custom fit for a driver (even for the most avid golfers the data suggests it's still barely half who've been fit). They'll show us how the market for $400 drivers is in the midst of an unexpected resurgence, even in a tough economy, but they'll also reference changing labor attitudes in China and what that might mean for price structures for the near and foreseeable future. And, oh by the way, if you're wondering what the status might be for the traditional 3-iron through pitching wedge set of clubs, you might want to swing by the Museum of Natural History's exhibit detailing the current whereabouts of the sea mink, the Eastern Elk and the Tacoma pocket gopher.

While Ken Morton Jr. at Haggin Oaks is quick to report that 90 percent of the iron sets sold at his facilities are custom fit orders, the group concurred that a quarter to a third of all premium iron sets being sold today start with the 5-iron.

We're often asked why we would cover the retail space in such precise detail when Demand is just five percent of a product's total score in the voting on the Hot List by our judges. Simple: We want to know everything possible before we get into our judges' deliberations. This group has answers. And we're listening. Even to the silence.

--Mike Stachura