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I was first introduced to golf by a neighbor in Liverpool, England in 1972. After borrowing and renting clubs for a few months I took the plunge. My first clubs were a full set of used Ralph Moffitt’s (not a glamorous name I accept, but he was a former Ryder Cup player and winner twice on Tour) which I bought from an old guy, using money my grandfather had left me. They cost £72 (US$187 back then) which today would mean around £1000 (US$2,200 plus at 1972 exchange rate or $1,320 at today’s rate). But those clubs got me from an 18 handicap to 2 in 18 months so they were clearly adequate! But golf was expensive in the 1970’s both for equipment and green fees.
Many Clubs had waiting lists and the condition of courses left much to be desired. Any aspiring junior was limited to restricted tee times at private clubs, if they were lucky enough to be a child of a member, and a lack of competition. Public courses offered hope.
Fast forward to 2019 and I see posts on Facebook and articles laying the blame for supposed falling numbers on the cost of entry into golf. Certainly Club memberships are falling and that’s because people now want choice and flexibility and it’s not the elite sport it once was. Embrace it. It’s a real opportunity. But these posts are generally by those in the industry seeking a scapegoat and quoting prices of the higher end clubs, apparel, shoes etc.. and cost of playing higher end courses as the norm.
This is a red herring. Don’t get sucked into this negativity.
I could express how appalled I am at the cost of hotel accommodation, quoting the Ritz Carlton, but the fact remains I can find a nice comfortable bed in a hotel of equal tranquillity, likely in the same area for a fraction of the price. Similarly I could express outrage at the cost of a Hugo Boss shirt but this is irrelevant when cheaper and more than adequate (often almost identical) alternatives exist. It’s called choice.
Now if the excellent marketing of the leading golf brands creates such desire, so be it. But this is the not the golf market. This is brands within the industry of which there are many. Today there’s a huge range of perfectly adequate equipment at prices affordable to anyone looking to take up golf and of course in the case of apparel there’s absolutely no need to have “golf” brands when sweaters, polo shirts and shorts or trousers can be bought anywhere at lower prices.
I don’t want to get into branded clubs, but all the deals are out there. Competition is strong both in respect of price and quality. There are starter half sets that are perfect for getting children into golf (in fact you only need one or two clubs to start with). These can even be purchased at WalMart and Costco.
There has never been a greater focus on kids in golf than there is now. Summer camps; kids lessons; companies like US Kids, Golphin in UK and Lynx Golf recognizing the hardware opportunity, plus junior Tours for all levels of ability providing healthy competition.
It’s the potential that children present to grow the game that resulted in PlaneSWING launching our junior model called PlayNSWING (Play & Swing) at a price that encourages instructors to order multiple units and to have parents involved at home in their child’s golfing development.
As for adult equipment, there are brands out there that are half the price of the big boys and equally good, if not better in quality and suitability.
So what about playing? Well to start you can find a field; buy a cheap net for home; hit the range. It doesn’t have to be a multi-tiered entertainment facility. Range golf is cheap and a great way to socialize, learn and decide whether or not golf is for you or your child.
Access to golf courses has never been easier or better value with GolfNow in the US, 2 fore 1 deals in the UK and an abundance of discounts by public and proprietary clubs as they compete for business. And I don’t believe Australia is any different.