How do you decide which golf club to buy?
What qualities do you look for when buying a new golf club? Golf's original equipment manufacturers (OEM) will advertise improved distance, greater accuracy or unmatched feel any chance they get. But do golfers really base their purchases on these key phrases?
I've played golf for most of my life and can safely say that I've never bought a single piece of equipment because of what was promised in an ad. I'm fully aware of what clubs are supposed to hit the ball further or which balls are supposed to spin more, sure. However those promises are nothing more than words on paper or on a screen until I see the results for myself. Most golfers think that way, right? RIGHT?
I honestly didn't know the answer to this question. So I asked Twitter.
What is the top determining factor you use when purchasing golf clubs?
— Adam Fonseca (@AdamJFonseca) April 23, 2015
As usual, you guys did not disappoint.
@AdamJFonseca this ought to be a lively conversation. If performance was top of list, then $500.00 sets of irons wouldn't sell.
— Kelly Crumpler (@h2cgolf) April 23, 2015
@AdamJFonseca My process of elimination before buying my new AP2s... make, look, feel (weight), reviews...
— Cheers Heavy (@CheersHeavy) April 23, 2015
— Doug (@IIIWoodD) April 23, 2015
@AdamJFonseca if I like looking down at it. If something about it bugs me then I can't hit it.
— andrew rodriguez (@Arod2886) April 23, 2015
While your responses included a variety of different golf club qualities, there was one theme that came up more often than the others: "performance." The classic catch-all term that encapsulates a wide range of different qualities. Surely how far a driver can hit a golf ball is included in how the club "performs." The same can be said for a club's accuracy, durability, workability, and anything you'd find on a Trackman or ball launch monitor. So what do we mean by performance? I couldn't let Twitter off that easily, so I asked for an operational definition of performance. I received many replies, all of which are summed up well in this tweet:
That's a pretty damn good definition if you ask me. However, if performance consists of three (or more) specific key metrics, that leaves a lot of room for failure for any new golf club. Does that mean a club that measures well in distance but poorly in accuracy won't be bought? I'm not so sure. Distance is king, baby!
Golf OEMs must lose hours of sleep trying to find the perfect balance of everything a golfer might consider before making a purchase. How do they keep all of those plates spinning?
"Our research tells us that the [three] most important factors in the final purchase decision are: feel when hitting, distance, and launch monitor results," says Dave Neville, Sr. Director of Marketing at Callaway Golf. "Obviously these are critical when we are both designing and then marketing our products. We really encourage players to get fit because we know our products will perform on the launch monitor and in the hitting bays.
"We do a lot of consumer research, we also have done over 25 “Callaway Roadshows” around the country this Spring where we gather feedback from our top fitters and retailers. We use all of that data and feedback to tailor our marketing message."
Gathering the voice of the customer is critical in the early stages of product development. When a customer's first impression of a product is validated by data -- such as Trackman numbers -- purchases are made more on fact and less on a hunch. This is why you test drive cars, try on clothes and pound golf clubs during demo days.
But what about at the individual level, even when comparing one similar golfer to the next? My friends at Srixon Golf offered this tidbit:
Srixon makes products that target different performance characteristics to help players get better. With that said, our belief is that the player ability helps define the attributes that are important to best fit their game.
For example, if we are fitting a low handicap player with a high swing speed, control and feel might be the most important attributes in his or her Journey to lower scores. But if the low handicap player is deficient in club head speed, distance might be the highest attribute on their priority list. Therefore, Srixon takes a very holistic approach and balances these key attributes to deliver products that will help players shot lower scores independent of handicap or ability level. (Chris Beck, brand manager)
Whatever a golfer's reason for buying a new golf club, one thing is for certain: the purchase is a highly personal decision based on factors specific to that golfer. Keep that in mind the next time you see an ad for the 'next big thing;' it might not be for you.