Spending Old School: Buying golf equipment from the Pro Shop


The shop at Man O War Golf is comprehensive. So much so that it’s where I get fit for all my club purchases. (Photo: Man O’ War Golf).

Admission: I take a little too much pride in being a contrarian. Whatever the new, popular, hot trend is, I’m almost guaranteed to scoff at it and move in the opposite direction.

To wit: I have an Amazon account and password, but Mr. Bezos doesn’t have my name or address. I think I downloaded an eBook one time and browsed for Christmas presents there once, but that’s about it.

It should surprise no one that all of my new club purchases over the past decade came from Man O’ War Golf, the place where I take lessons, pound range balls, work on my short game, test clubs, get fitted, and try to weasel free advice out of both the veteran and aspiring golf pros alike.

However, within the leagues that I compete in, I had a really hot August and September. I basically won the net competitions at two Kentucky Golf Association tournaments and two league events at Kearney Hill.

This is the modern non-resort, public course pro shop. Lots of apparel, shoes, gloves, and balls. But no clubs. And who could blame them (Photo: Cherry Blossom G.C.)

The “winnings” in these competitions are always paid in pro shop credit of the host course. For me, finishing in the money had only happened once before. That purse was worth about a box of Pro V1 balls and a logo towel.

This was different. Both of these shop credits were for roughly $150.  To someone who doesn’t buy much golf equipment and plays mostly municipal golf courses, I didn’t really know what to do with the money.

Sure, theoretically I could host 3 of my best friends to an early weekend tee time, twice, but fall and Jack Frost have arrived in earnest and great weekend weather is no longer guaranteed.  And buying a six boxes of premium golf balls that I don’t even play (no one stocks Snell golf balls) seemed like a waste of money.

It’s a goodly amount of money, but it won’t purchase a new set of irons (which is the next major golf purchase on the list) or even a current model year hybrid.  So, I decided it’s time to update my wedges. But how would that work at two pro shops that don’t carry any club inventory.

These are awesome. It had been too long, I’d forgotten what it was like to really spin a wedge (which requires grooves…that I’d worn off the old wedges).

Well, for the course in an adjacent town, I was able to do the entire order via phone and email.  For the pro shop in Lexington, I went and saw the pro in person to talk about what I wanted.  It was a simple, painless process.

It was so very different from going down to Dick’s Sporting Goods and walking out with what I kind of wanted. It was different from finding, clicking, and receiving a club I found on eBay. And it was even a different feeling than ordering a new club at my practice facility, where I’ve been custom fit for clubs and known they were going  to arrive a few days later.

These pros were busy.  They were running pro shops, trying to manage end of season play, fall maintenance, and any host of other things that crop up at a golf course.  I felt that asking “Do you have a relationship with Brand X or Brand Y?” wasn’t an insulting question, because of the dearth of any inventory on display at their shops.

It just so happened that for the two clubs I decided to purchase, one pro shop did have an account with that company.  However, for the other purchase, the pro did not have an account with that particular manufacturer, but he decided to put in an extra effort and make sure I got what I wanted, which I thought was incredibly gracious.

These folks are PGA professionals, so they knew how to take care of me.  In the end, it took only a couple of weeks for my new 50-degree gap wedge and 60-degree lob wedges to arrive.

I would have really gone to town on the University of Kentucky apparel if I wasn’t already fully stocked in that department. #GoCats #BBN #WeAreUK (Photo: University Club of Kentucky)

When I went pick the clubs up, neither purchase price used up all of my “credit” so I gladly purchased a few small accessory items (gloves, towels, etc.) to make sure I used the full amount, plus a little extra.

Each purchase ended with a mutual thanks, a firm handshake, and a little more appreciation for the green grass golf shops that used to dominate the golf merchandising market.

I understand that members of private golf and country clubs may still purchase clubs in this manner in order to throw a little patronage to their golf professional, but for the rest of us, it’s a bit remarkable that this is the manner in which most golf purchases used to be made, before the days of Golf Galaxy and the World Wide Web.

I’m not saying one is better than the other; it truly is a balancing act between efficiency and value.

The entire episode reminded me of this interview excerpt from Kurt Vonnegut from an interview with Inc. Technology magazine in 1995 that I remember from high school, which I think fairly represents my feelings on the whole ordeal:

I work at home, and if I wanted to, I could have a computer right by my bed, and I’d never have to leave it. But I use a typewriter, and afterwards I mark up the pages with a pencil. Then I call up this woman named Carol out in Woodstock and say, “Are you still doing typing?” Sure she is, and her husband is trying to track bluebirds out there and not having much luck, and so we chitchat back and forth, and I say, “OK, I’ll send you the pages.”

Then I’m going down the steps, and my wife calls up, “Where are you going?” I say, “Well, I’m going to go buy an envelope.” And she says, “You’re not a poor man. Why don’t you buy a thousand envelopes? They’ll deliver them, and you can put them in a closet.” And I say, “Hush.”

So I go down the steps here, and I go out to this newsstand across the street where they sell magazines and lottery tickets and stationery. I have to get in line because there are people buying candy and all that sort of thing, and I talk to them. The woman behind the counter has a jewel between her eyes, and when it’s my turn, I ask her if there have been any big winners lately.

I get my envelope and seal it up and go to the postal convenience center down the block at the corner of 47th Street and 2nd Avenue, where I’m secretly in love with the woman behind the counter. I keep absolutely poker-faced; I never let her know how I feel about her. One time I had my pocket picked in there and got to meet a cop and tell him about it. Anyway, I address the envelope to Carol in Woodstock. I stamp the envelope and mail it in a mailbox in front of the post office, and I go home. And I’ve had a hell of a good time. And I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.

P.S. – I love the new wedges. Totally worth the patience that the process required.

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