Fitting In

    Data from SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. shows that golfers in increasing numbers value custom fitting for irons and hybrids

    SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. surveyed over 2,000 UK core golfers at the end of 2013 (‘core golfers’ being those to play at least 12 times a year), and almost a quarter of them claimed to have bought a new set of irons in 2013. SMS INC. also estimates that there are 1.5 million core golfers in the UK, which would suggest that around 375,000 sets of irons could have been purchased by core golfers last year.

    The SMS INC. survey results also show that ‘Ease of use/forgiveness’ was the most important factor rated by core golfers when they are choosing a set of irons. Club professionals who have invested in a club-fitting facility should be pleased to learn that the same SMS INC. survey shows that 81 percent of the UK’s core golfers rated ‘Custom fitting options’ as either ‘important’ or ‘very important’. Slowly but surely, the custom fitting message is getting through.

    SMS INC. research found that female golfers were more likely to listen to a recommendation offered by their club professional. The survey also shows that female golfers are likely to take the weight of any club into consideration more than male golfers.

    That is to be expected, as is the news that younger golfers are more likely to be attracted by the aesthetics of an iron, and that they are also more likely to be influenced by marketing that shows tour golfers using clubs.

    Trends on tour

    SMS INC. carries out the European Tour’s Equipment Census every week, counting the clubs that every European Tour golfer is playing, which never fails to throw up thought-provoking figures. The chart below shows the average number of fairway woods, hybrid and utility irons, one and two irons, and wedges, used by European Tour golfers over the past decade, from the 2004 to 2013 seasons inclusively.

    As wedge technology has advanced, it should not surprise people in the trade to see that European Tour golfers are carrying more wedges that they used to, with the average of 3.11 wedges per bag in 2008 rising steadily to a high of 3.31 wedges per bag last year.

    The use of fairway woods has largely remained static, dropping by only 0.07 clubs over the past decade, from 1.26 fairway woods per bag in 2004, to 1.19 woods per bag last year. This decline is virtually negligible, apart from the fact that is does seem to heading downwards, albeit it at the pace of Jim Furyk on a putting green. If anything, it must be the evolution of the hybrid that is chipping into fairway wood usage, such is the versatility and distance gained from hybrids today. Indeed, as Ernie Els tells GOLF RETAILING in our exclusive interview on p26-27, he occasionally replaces his five-wood with a hybrid, particularly when he knows he is due to play in windy conditions, as he can control a lower trajectory with a hybrid more than he can with a five wood.

    In the chart below, it is hybrids and utilities that have made the most significant move over the past decade on the European Tour (excluding the rise and fall of long-handled putters), shifting from an average of 0.3 clubs per bag in 2004, up to 1.03 per golfer last year. In accordance with logical progression, the clubs losing out to hybrids and utilities are the one and two irons (and the three iron in many cases), and since the advent of hybrids, the only surprise is that European Tour use of one and two irons has not dropped more rapidly. An average of 0.46 one/two iron per bag in 2004 to 0.07 in 2013 is hardly dramatic. Perhaps it shows a reluctance to admit to a need for extra forgiveness among the tour fraternity.

    Fitting In - Graph



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    Miles is the Owner and Managing Director of Robel Media, and the award winning GOLF RETAILING Magazine. With over 25 years in the media business, Miles has a wealth of experience in magazine publishing, digital media and live events. HANDICAP - 7.2