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Why Today’s Clubs Are More Affordable Than You Think

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If you’ve read my previous ramblings pieces, you’ve probably noticed where I see myself fitting in as a writer on this site. I’ve fantasized about a career in golf, but ultimately I’m just a regular hack with a sincere passion for the game who one day thought to himself, “You know what? I’m going to give this a go. I’m going to follow a passion and see what happens.” Look at me now, riding this whole blogging roller coaster.

With that being said, I now feel like we can all be friends and I can come to you with the following confession: I originally set out to write this piece by pointing my finger at the equipment manufacturers. “Look how much these golf clubs cost!” I thought to myself. “Who do you think you are? People have real concerns like mortgages and college funds!” Then as I sat down to write with literally a blank screen, the engineer in me took over and I thought to myself, “Let’s do this the right way. Let’s collect some data so that we can make an informed, objective decision.” Below is what I found on this journey.

The first place to start was by establishing a benchmark from which to evaluate the prices of today’s golf clubs. That part didn’t take long to figure out. It’s got to be the Ping Eye 2’s. Nearly every golfer from every walk of life (myself included) had a set of Ping Eye 2 irons in the 80’s and 90’s. Heck, tons of people still game a set today. Calling it a successful set of irons would be the understatement of the century. So, I proceeded to call up Ping and make my first official contact in the industry: its internal company historian. Yes, they have one of those.

I called Ping HQ and explained that I was a writer and I was looking for information on the Ping Eye 2’s. The voice on the other end said, “You should probably talk to our company historian. Hang on, I’ll transfer you.” A very polite man picked up the phone. I introduced myself and explained that I was working on a piece for GolfWRX. We exchanged some small talk and I learned this gentleman started working as a photographer for Ping in 1986 and has been the company historian since 2005. I proceeded to ask him if he could tell me what the retail price was for Ping Eye 2’s when they were released. “Hmm,” he said. “No one’s ever really asked me that one before.” That’s when I figured I was on to something.

He rummaged around his office and found some old price books. Some of the highlights I jotted down were that the Ping Eye 2 Plus irons cost $90 per club in 1996. Ping Eye irons were $55 each in September of 1981, and in 1980, a Ping Anser would have set you back $34. He was unable to find a price book from 1982 (the year the Eye 2 was released), but we exchanged some more small talk.

“I have it in my mind that the price of that club was $65 with a steel shaft,” he said. “I feel pretty confident about that.” After some more chit chat, he offered an anecdote: “I remember not long after I started working here, they asked me to come down to the shop floor to take some pictures because they had just gotten to a point where they were making 10,000 irons a day!” This was in 1986, which was probably very close to the peak of popularity for the Eye 2’s. Everything about that conversation told me I’d found my benchmark.

OK, story time is over. WARNING: MATH CONTENT FOLLOWS!

According to the U.S. Census, the median household income in America in 1982 was $20,171. I’ll skip through the boring details (though I do have the calculations if this causes an uproar) and say that household was left with $15,733.38 in their pockets after they paid taxes (assuming they were “married filing jointly”). Now, if said median household contained a golf addict who chose to splurge on a set of Ping Eye 2’s, an eight-club set (standard 3-PW, for example) at $65 each would have cost him or her $520. This would’ve been 3.3 percent of net income at the time. If you’re not a numbers person and all this just whizzes right by your head, just remember 3.3 percent. That’s how much of annual income the average guy (or gal) in America would have had to shell out to get the best golf clubs in the world in 1982.

I feel like I need a quick side note here. Please don’t make this about taxes and/or politics. This website is not the place for that discussion. I included that data only because it’s relevant to the actual topic at hand. Stay focused.

OK, let’s fast forward to today. In 2015 (I’m using the most recent data I could find here), the median household income in the U.S. was $56,516, which came out to $48,961.10 after paying taxes (again, assuming “married filing jointly” status). As previously discussed, the Ping Eye 2 essentially set the benchmark at 3.3 percent of net income 33 years earlier. That same percentage of the median household’s net income in 2015 comes out to $1,618.20.

Kind of surprising, isn’t it? At least that’s higher than what I thought. Ultimately, what this means is that if the “average Joe” in the U.S. spent less than $1,600 on his new set of clubs in 2015 (which I’ll wager the vast majority did), it was a smaller piece of his annual income than what his father presumably spent in 1982. See? Look at me now. I basically just justified your next club purchase for you. You’re welcome. I knew we could be friends.

Most of you already know this, but here’s a quick cross section of some things that are hot today:

  • TaylorMade’s new P-790 irons were announced this week. They cost $1,299.99 for an eight piece set with steel shaft.
  • The new Mizuno MP-18 range is set to be released to the public next month will cost $150 per club, which comes out to $1,200 for a set.
  • Titleist’s 718 iron lineup was just announced this week, and it ranges in price from $999.99 (AP1) to $1299.99 (MB, CB, AP2, AP3) with steel shafts. The company’s premium T-MB irons will cost $250 per club, or $1999.99 per set.

What does that say about the really high priced jobs? Glad you asked!

  • Callaway Epic and Epic Pro Irons are priced at $250 each, so an eight-club set comes out to $2,000. This is approximately 4.1 percent of the median household’s annual income in the U.S.
  • PXG irons will set you back about $300 each, so an eight-club set would come out to $2,400. This comes out to 4.9 percent of the median household’s annual income in the U.S.

I understand this isn’t completely apples-to-apples because these are 2017 prices evaluated against a 2015 income, but it gives you a pretty good feel for where they stand.

It goes without saying that the market ultimately determines a price for everything… you know, that whole supply and demand thing. Everything from golf clubs to toilet paper is ultimately worth what the customer is willing to pay. Only you can decide if you think it’s worth the premium that Callaway, PXG, Titleist and others are charging. Some companies are definitely aiming at a price point that our market has not previously seen before, but in the end, it’s the wallets of consumers who will decide if they’re off their rockers or not.

As for the vast majority of products on the market today? All things considered, they are incredibly well-priced. The product you’re getting for your money in this day and age absolutely smashes arguably the most ground-breaking set of irons of all time, especially when you factor in the overwhelming amount of custom fitting options available today. It’s a great day to be alive… and playing golf!

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Peter Schmitt does not profess to be a PGA professional or to be certified at...well...anything much in golf. Just another lifelong golfer with a passion for the game trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. Follow Peter on twitter and Instagram using the links below.

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60 Comments

60 Comments

  1. BC

    Sep 22, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Great, fun article.
    Something I did to offset the higher prices was purchased custom clubs…but only the longer irons. 5 iron – 9 iron… If purchased at the correct time, the options are more affordable for the “feel” irons like the PW, 50º, SW and 60º… and for the 4 irons, I replaced that with a driving iron… The prices are still insane, but if you can time the purchase of the “feel” irons and get them on sale or at golf shows, you can really cut down the costs. Take a year or two to get the set to where you need it. But, that gives you plenty of time to master each club. Usually takes a good 100-200 solid hits with a club before you really start to call it your own. I agree with many of the comments to not believe the hype. Get the clubs that make you play at your comfort level. Confidence is so much more important that ego. I’m in marketing… I understand what these big name companies try to do each year. 20 MORE YARDS! pbbbbt…….no. More forgiving?… yes.

  2. JR

    Sep 21, 2017 at 8:57 am

    More to the point is that these new irons that come out every year are obsolete before they’ve even hit the shops. I’ve worked in R&D and I know that truly innovative products do not come along three times a year. All the big manufacturers are doing is tinkering with the tech, throwing some jargon around to explain it and giving the aesthetics a make-over. Foam-injected clubheads, for example – they’re nothing new. I had a set of Taylor Mades in the late 80’s that featured this technology. That’s what makes this tussle with PXG all the more amusing – Taylormade were doing this stuff when Bob Parsons was still dreaming of making his own clubs.

    At the end of the day, equipment is only as good as the guy using it but if you can afford this super-expensive kit and that’s what you want to do with your cash then good luck to you. Personally, the best money I’ve ever spent on gear and the only thing I can honestly say has definitely taken shots off my score is my laser range finder. If you haven’t got one you should.

    • BC

      Sep 22, 2017 at 8:25 am

      awesome. I agree with the rangefinder! Great call.

  3. Chris

    Aug 30, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Woods are even “cheaper” than Irons today compared to before. I remember paying more than 700 dollars for a TP driver and around 550 dollars for a Callaway hawk eye Ti 3-wood on SALE.

  4. birdy

    Aug 29, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Few things to also consider…

    Technology improvements also come with a more efficient manufacturing process and reduced costs. OEM’s can now produce superior equipment at lower costs. Their profits may actually be higher even as the pace of cost of equipment hasn’t kept up with inflation or increased wages. Its not like you look at a flat screen tv and think, it should cost $6k today since wages have increased from the days when a tv used to cost 4k.

    Also, there is something call substitution in economics. If costs of golf increase to a point where an alternative activity becomes more more reasonable you may lose golfers. just because clubs are ‘cheaper’ now doesn’t mean that other suitable substitutes for golf have also increased in price.

    And what about things that we buy that have outpaced inflation. this factors into our disposable income. for example….cost of kids sports and their equipment, healthcare costs, cost of food, and college tuition.

  5. J Zilla

    Aug 28, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    I’d be kind of curious to know what percentage of golfers were buying high end clubs like Ping Eye 2’s at the time.

    In my completely uninformed opinion it seems like golfers today of all skill levels are buying expensive clubs from the top manufacturers.

    I feel like back in the 80s and before, a larger percentage of golfers would be playing cheapo full sets from the local sporting goods store or hand me downs (forget about getting fit back then!) and not typically buying high end sets like the Ping Eye 2.

    Nowadays the cheapo set doesn’t really exist. You have to buy a minimum $750 Titleist, TM, etc. (well new at least)

    I suppose as things were more hand made and there were less technological jumps or exotic materials being used, there probably wasn’t all that much difference between a premium set and a cheapo set of Spaldings or even clubs that were 20 years old.

    • Brad

      Aug 29, 2017 at 10:46 am

      I remember what a golf store owner told me about the new Ping Eye clubs when I asked him the same question in the early 1980s. He said he just sold 4 sets to a Japanese man who ships them back to Japan and sells them at triple the cost. Ping had to ration the clubs internationally while selling to the domestic market in the early days. The world is awash in USD and the Japanese were on top of the world in the 1980s.

  6. Jim

    Aug 28, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    What dennis said. (Way up top) Don’t ever buy new clubs. Buy good used ones for 1/2 the price or less.

  7. Jiminy

    Aug 28, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Who buys these clubs? Idiot gearheads so they can brag how good they feel and how much farther they hit the ball, which is all neurotic lies. And the filthy rich who don’t have to look at the ticket prices on the clubs. Everybody else is saying no or giving up on golf because it’s too expensive and too time consuming. Golf participation is plummeting and the OEMs are just skimming off the last $$$$ from what’s left in the marketplace.

  8. dennis

    Aug 28, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    I have to laugh every time I hear any type of golf associated person discuss the price of clubs and try to justify it. I worked for a golf shop for 3 years. I became a Callaway VIP and bought a set of Apex clubs for a great price. When I moved I stopped working altogether and after a few years decided it was time for new sticks. I coukd not believe the prices…………average of $900 for a set of 8 steel irons. I sold my Callaways on Craigs List, bought heads, shafts and grip components, and built my own “custom” clubs. I compared them with my old Callaways and the only difference was I hit my custom made clubs a bit longer (loft increase issue I am sure) and straighter. Now, pricing as follows:

    Head $15.00
    shaft $9.00
    grip $6.00

    Total cost per club = $30.00 each, or $240.00 for 8.

    No way can anyone justify overhead of $660.00.

    • Ron

      Aug 28, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      The extra you’re paying for is the ridiculous player contracts

  9. Shanks Happen

    Aug 28, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Let’s be honest. They are charging that much for a set of irons or a driver because they can. The guys who demand to get the newest will buy it. The guys who either don’t want to or can’t pay for it now will wait 6-8 months and get it for $50-250 less. All of this is factored in. For all the “new” technology in clubs, the tooling methods and (for the most part) materials remain the same. At this point, the biggest part of the cost of a golf club is marketing and over-padding to make money on the club in 6-8 months when you drop the price or drop a new club on us.

  10. Peter Schmitt

    Aug 28, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Thanks for the comments, folks. I expected this to gather some of the reactions seen here. I will agree with many of you in that there are many different ways to go about calculating this and tons of factors to consider. However, no one would’ve wanted to read a PhD thesis (myself included). It is interesting food for thought, however, which is why I thought it worth sharing. Cheers!

  11. Tom54

    Aug 28, 2017 at 9:22 am

    There have always been pricy clubs. I recall paying $750 for some Ping eye 2 beryllium model in the mid-80’s which was a lot. Even in early 90’s I was a huge Nick Faldo fan and had to have a set of Mizuno mp-29’s. Those were $1000. Also the early model of Snake Eye wedges were $200 which is more than a current Vokey wedge which are the best out there. I even recall getting a Taylormade 425 tp driver which retailed for $799. Some models have stayed relatively expensive and some have sort of stayed within reason. It is still exciting to see new clubs coming out Everyone has an idea what they are willing to spend. Look in any bag at your average course and you will truly see it all.

  12. John Krug

    Aug 28, 2017 at 8:34 am

    Can we have an article on the increasing cost to join a Trump golf club?

    • Peter Schmitt

      Aug 28, 2017 at 11:17 am

      I am in no way saying I am the standard by which all others should be measured in this department, but I am a former Marine, and therefore not a complete wimp. Having said that, I’m not touching that one with a 10-foot pole haha!!!!

  13. Steve S

    Aug 28, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Interesting article. As a fellow ME I appreciate the approach and expected the criticism of that approach. You could have used a much more complicated analysis and probably come up with a similar answer. For me the cost component that is not usually considered the additional cost of doing business today. Advertising and marketing costs are a greater percentage of most businesses today along with human resources costs. These were much lower as a percentage of your business in the 1980’s. I still won’t buy a brand new set of irons because the technology really doesn’t have that big of an effect on my game. 10 year old irons are about the same as current models as far as results with my swing speed. I do see a difference if I go back to a 20 year old set, however.

    So if you can have the discipline to buy a new set every 10 years your really only spending the equivalent of 2-3 rounds of golf a year on clubs.

    • Michael

      Aug 28, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      I’m a retired professional engineer and I still play a decent game with my green dot, +1″ Ping Zing 2’s, and the only thing I do to them is change the grips. I laugh at my playing buddies struggling with their new clubs and assuring us they have to get used to them.
      I know my game and can control my clubs for consistent results. I don’t need an extra phantom 12 yards costing me $2000 and bragging rights with my new play toys. I play and perform; and not showing up with brand new toys to impress and intimidate. Men can revert into childhood with new toys.

  14. Rich Douglas

    Aug 27, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    Adjusted for inflation, something that cost $520 in 1982 would cost about $1350 today. A set of Ping G irons costs $700 today, and a set of Ping G400s are $900. So, a vastly superior club at a remarkably lower cost. Nice.

  15. Ken Y.

    Aug 27, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    I don’t think affordability is simply just a % of median income. Although that may be the way manufacturers price their products. You have to consider the costs of necessities. You obviously have your food, water, and shelter, but I doubt mobile phones and internet were common household expenses; which I would argue is a necessity in modern society. And speaking of shelter, how much is the average rent now vs. 80s? Basically, the point I’m trying to make is that people now have greater income, but a smaller discretionary budget. Thus, making golf clubs seem much more expensive even though it may track closely with inflation and median income. The article is a good start, but I think it’s only scratching the surface and too early to say “all things considered.” I don’t know if I’m right, but just my guess.

  16. Mike

    Aug 27, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    $56,516 median income per household? You must split that number.
    Husband’s income = $30,000. Wife’s income = $26,000. Get the picture?
    Millennials will not justify buying such expensive sport equipment and then get dinged for another $50+ for one round of golf taking 5 hours (30 minutes playing and 4.5 hours standing around and gossiping and complaining about slow play). Besides, the wife will not permit such a purchase where she and the kids gets nothing from it.
    Non-athletic millennials prefer to play video games, watch TV and playing Texas Holdem Poker and sitting on their butts. Get the picture?
    Golf is dying from self-inflicted wounds and economic reality.

  17. AceW7Iron

    Aug 27, 2017 at 8:22 am

    IMO…The tool itself can only carry so much value to the golfer and over a certain price point for a player to game overly expensive equipment is just to show others you can afford it (much like owning a new Tesla)
    Ive been out gunned by partners playing A GGB Warbird driver,irons produced in 1977 and a bullseye putter. My point? Equipment has a set value to each and every player out there and there are not many that see value in a $2000 set of irons when they can play just as well with a $300 set.

    One other thing…Everything else has gone up in price since those Ping Zings and some things more than others. Think housing…In 1996 you probably had more expendable income because shelter was more affordable. In todays market you will fork out a greater % of your income on the “necessities” which in reality leaves “less” for golf equipment. Why do you think Dicks,Golf Galaxy and the now defunct Golf Smith are/were struggling to stay afloat?

    • Rich Douglas

      Aug 27, 2017 at 10:30 pm

      Actually, the opposite is true. Take food. A few decades ago, the average family spent 25% of its disposable income on food. That is now down to 10%.

    • ROY

      Aug 28, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      Dicks,Golf Galaxy and the now defunct Golf Smith – the internet

  18. Mat

    Aug 27, 2017 at 6:05 am

    Hey Schmittie,

    Just a suggestion… stop being so patronising.

  19. Woody

    Aug 26, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    This article confirms what I’ve been saying for years, golf is an expensive sport. This is from hand crafted wood clubs to what we have now. It always will be, get over it. I don’t have a lot of money, but pinch pennies in a lot of areas in my life to play. thank god I live in America which affords the middle class the ability to play.

    • birdy

      Aug 28, 2017 at 9:32 am

      Few things to also consider…

      Technology improvements also come with a more efficient manufacturing process and reduced costs. OEM’s can now produce superior equipment at lower costs. Their profits may actually be higher even as the pace of cost of equipment hasn’t kept up with inflation or increased wages. Its not like you look at a flat screen tv and think, it should cost $6k today since wages have increased from the days when a tv used to cost 4k.

      Also, there is something call substitution in economics. If costs of golf increase to a point where an alternative activity becomes more more reasonable you may lose golfers. just because clubs are ‘cheaper’ now doesn’t mean that other suitable substitutes for golf have also increased in price.

      And what about things that we buy that have outpaced inflation. this factors into our disposable income. for example….cost of kids sports and their equipment, healthcare costs, cost of food, and college tuition.

  20. ADIDAG

    Aug 26, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    Did you say golf(works) or golf w.r.x.
    when you called Ping….
    I just gotta know

  21. ADIDAG

    Aug 26, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    This is some bull schmitt

  22. Bert

    Aug 26, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Let’s see move manufacturing to China, Taiwan, and assembly in Mexico and you increase your profits. Since it’s so much better to manufacture off shore, perhaps the prices should have actually gone down.

    • Caroline

      Aug 27, 2017 at 12:22 am

      Add to that the fact the casting process is much more efficient now, and the specs for clubs are basically in every companies computer..just move the weight a bit, put in different pieces of plastic every year, cut the groves a bit different each year….may as well just give in and come back out with the Eye 2 because irons have NEVER really got any better…if it cost $10 to make an Eye 2 iron the first year they could have that down to $5 dollars now.

      • Rich Douglas

        Aug 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm

        Costs do NOT determine prices. Market forces do. Costs determine PROFITS.

        • Bert

          Aug 28, 2017 at 8:29 am

          Good Point – as well as greed. Remember the price points for clubs are “fixed” by the manufactures; that’s why retailers cannot compete, they must sell at the price “fixed” by the big boys.

  23. Lim E Cheik

    Aug 26, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    You can thank the Chinese for the reasonable pricing.

  24. Adam Crawford

    Aug 26, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    That’s was fun read. Definitely puts a different perspective on the idea that equipment is expensive. Well done, Peter!

    • !!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Aug 26, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      I’m about to buy some 718 AP2’s and was slightly disheartened by the price hike, but I’ll use this article to keep the wifey from getting to upset lol.

      Like every article written on here there will be people picking apart every scenario, but I enjoyed it. And for the guys saying moving production over seas, and then complaining price points ect., yes moving club making over seas is cheaper for OEM’s and then us, but if they didn’t i imagine clubs here would be way more expensive. Also it’s all done basically by machines for the most part, so whether they’re cast/forged here or there, the product would be basically the same. Whether you pay someone $20 an hour here, or $5 an hour there the product would basically be the same. OEM’s want to make money, we want to spend the least amount for the best equipment, we can’t have it both ways.

      Great article because it was different than the typical articles here. I hope there’s more like it to come.

  25. Shane

    Aug 26, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    1200-2000 plus for irons is nuts, especially since the ole trusty Eye2s can be had for next to nothing and still perform as good as anything out there. Do not and am not trying to start a debate or argument of any sorts either, too many good deals to be had as long as you know what works for ones self. New is nice but not at today’s prices!!

    • Rich Douglas

      Aug 27, 2017 at 10:39 pm

      I used to feel that way, but there have been a few significant improvements since the Eye2.

      Perimeter weighting in forged irons is an improvement. So is the use of multiple materials and welding instead of being limited to either casting or forging one metal. Softer metals than 17-4 steel are now used in casting. Perimeter weighting is more radical, increasing MOI. Moving weight ports as the heads change throughout the set improve launch angles. Slots in the top, bottom, and sides to increase COR (for more distance). All this and more for a cheaper (adjusted for inflation) price? Brilliant!

    • birdy

      Aug 28, 2017 at 9:41 am

      i lol every time someone says the eye2s perform as well as any of the new stuff on the market.

  26. chris franklin

    Aug 26, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    An article based on false premises.
    The prices quoted for Eye 2’s would have been Ping’s suggested retail price,check back in old golfing magazines and in golf shop adverts ‘ring for quote’ was the norm.
    Almost nobody paid suggested retail.
    The real nitty-gritty is how ridiculously high prices are asked for clubs that are mass produced in Chinese factories with no craftsmanship and mediocre quality,the EOM get away with it because perceptions of quality have changed enormously over the last few decades and the fact that your clubs look crap after one season is irrelevant because a new model from your favourite maker will soon be on the market.
    There are massive profits being made from clubs and associated products like clothing and shoes,polyester shirts are ‘in’ because cotton is now expensive,plastic/nylon shoes are ‘in’ because making proper leather shoes requires an element of skill rather than a cheap sewing machine and a tube of epoxy.
    If you want to produce something eye-opening then work out what a current Ping iron head would cost to produce,cost of a shaft and grip and add a bowl of rice and compare with what they want for the finished product.

    • Mat

      Aug 27, 2017 at 6:01 am

      Racist much?

    • Rich Douglas

      Aug 27, 2017 at 10:48 pm

      A bowl of rice? Really? That’s your take on overseas manufacturing? Your assertions about quality are incredibly baseless as well, but the rice bowl comment is the winner (loser) by far.

      As for “massive profits,” the market determines prices which, after deducting costs, determines profits. If people didn’t pay those prices, then golf equipment companies would have to either (a) lower prices to meet demand or (b) go out of business.

      Adjusted for inflation, golf clubs are much cheaper than they were in the 1980s. And companies are struggling. Retailers like Golfsmith are disappearing. Nike got out of golf clubs and balls. Later this year, adidas will dump TM. (To a private equity firm, so watch out for TM!) All of this belies your view that fat-cat golf equipment companies are raking it in and abusing the consumer.

      I’m sure there is a community college near you that offers Macroeconomics 101. I’m sure you can even buy the textbook used if you’re concerned about publishers gouging you….

      • Bert

        Aug 28, 2017 at 7:10 pm

        So why can’t I use my 10% off coupon to purchase Ping, TaylorMade, or Titleist?

      • Bert

        Aug 28, 2017 at 7:52 pm

        Try using your 10% off coupon on a set of Pin, TaylorMade or Titleist clubs.

  27. Alfriday

    Aug 26, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    The relative price of irons may not have changed much since 1984. What has changed?

    The Ping Eye 2 clubs were made from 1984 to 1990. They were replaced by the 2+, which were manufactured from 1990 to 1998. If a golfer kept up with the latest and greatest, the player would buy two sets of clubs in 14 years.

  28. Rob L

    Aug 26, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    My new BFF!

  29. Michael Pasvantis

    Aug 26, 2017 at 11:39 am

    What’s most interesting when it comes to irons is how few iron shots we actually hit over the course of 18 holes. Ever since I’ve gotten my game golf system I’ve been tracking stats and club performance etc. What I started doing was taking a closer look at what shots I hit throughout the round. In a typical round where I shoot between 80-84 I usually only hit about 10-13 real actual full iron shots (4-Pw) not counting short chips/pitches hit with my PW and many times, depending on course and situations, I will not hit 1 or 2 of my irons at all. Putts were obviously the most coming in at 30-34 per round, 14 shots with my driver, then my irons at 10-13 followed by short chips and pitches and fairway wood/hybrid shots. Seems like a lot of money to drop on a part of your game that statistically doesn’t account for as much as we think.

    • Jack

      Aug 28, 2017 at 3:01 am

      I agree with that. People say the driver costs a lot while you don’t hit it often, and I’d say it’s the second most used club you got. Well unless you miss every green and have to chip every time. Then the wedges come in to play a lot. But just because there are so many irons people assume you use it more. But then, you don’t use the irons more than 10-13 times? Are some PAR 3’s really long or some approach shots really long or short?

  30. TigerMom

    Aug 26, 2017 at 11:20 am

    From an inflationary standpoint, $520 in 1982 would have grown to $1317 in 2017. Seems like not much has changed from that perspective. http://www.in2013dollars.com/1982-dollars-in-2017?amount=520

    • Mat

      Aug 27, 2017 at 6:03 am

      That’s finally the number I was looking for. All of this tax business was garbage.

  31. Boo Strongly

    Aug 26, 2017 at 10:38 am

    This is what happens when someone who doesn’t understand Economic principles tries to write an article about Economics.

  32. Gdyfbd

    Aug 26, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Can’t argue with the math, but they seen to have taken a big leap forward in cost recently, drivers also, sure there were expensive drivers 10 years ago but now a base model like an m2 is really expensive

    • Davewn

      Aug 26, 2017 at 11:56 am

      The original, “Ruger Titanium” Great Big Bertha retailed for $500 in the mid 90’s and was impossible to keep in stock. Aside from loft, Callaway’s crappy, one size fits some, stock ultralight shaft was the only option. That translates to roughly $800 in today’s money, FWIW.

      • Melo

        Aug 26, 2017 at 9:40 pm

        Except that the GBB was an enormous upgrade over any and every driver before it. If you had a driver right now that was clearly head and shoulders above everything else, people would be lining up to buy it at 799.

        • Shortside

          Aug 28, 2017 at 8:59 am

          That’s a fact Jack!. Another fact. TM Supersteel Burner irons MSRP in 1999 was $720 for 3-PW w/steel shaft. 2017 M2 is $799.

    • Mat

      Aug 27, 2017 at 6:06 am

      They were behind the curve during the Great Recession. Now margins are normal.

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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Opinion & Analysis

Oh, To Be An (Oregon) Duck

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A few weeks ago I flew into Eugene, Oregon on a mission. I’d come to work with one my students who is a member of the Duck’s varsity golf team. I had never been further south than Seattle or further north than Monterey, so this part of the world was new to me.

What I did know was that the Bandon Dunes area had become a destination for some of the greatest golf in the world, rivaling other famed resorts around the country. The resort is just outside the quaint town of Bandon, which is a good two-hour drive from Eugene. The resort’s four courses — Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails, Pacific Dunes, and Old McDonald — each have their own personality, but at the same time they have one thing in common: the four architects that designed them took full advantage of the natural topography, deftly weaving holes in and out along the Oregon coastline.

I was looking forward to playing two of the courses before leaving: Pacific Dunes and Old McDonald. You may find this hard to believe, but those two rounds would be my first and second of the year after a busy summer season on the lesson tee. And for that very reason, I had no expectations other than to make a few pars and enjoy the scenery.

After retrieving my luggage from the turnstile, I made my way toward the exit with luggage in tow. My rental car was just across the street in an open-air lot and as I pushed through the airport doors, I was greeted by a gust of wind and a spray of rain. “Welcome to Eugene,” I thought to myself.

The sudden burst reminded me of playing in Scotland, where the rain gives way to sun only on occasion. I surmised that the weather in the Eugene would be similar. “Don’t forget your rain suit,” a fellow professional reminded me when I told him about my trip. As it turned out, that was good advice. He had been there before around the same time of year. “You’ll be lucky if you get one good day out of three,” he said.

As I drove through the area to my hotel, what struck me the most were the large hills that commanded the landscape and the thick white clouds that seemed to cling to them like giant cotton balls.  I found a comfortable hotel just outside Eugene in the small but quaint town of Cottage Grove. In charitable terms, you could characterize my hotel as “a tribute to the past.”

I woke up at 6 a.m. the next morning, dressed and made my way downstairs to the lobby. The rain had continued through the night and as I prepared to leave the hotel,  it started to come down even harder. I stood in the lobby, waiting, while listening to the rain drops pounding on the roof,  a steady beat at first, then rising and falling like a conga drum.

I’d agreed to meet my student at 10 a.m. for a practice session and then he was slated to play nine holes with the team later in the afternoon. Based on the weather, I was concerned that the day might be a total rain-out. What I didn’t know at the time was that the school has a portable canopy that allowed the team, rain or shine, to practice on natural grass. I ran to my car ducking rain drops. The forecast called for a chance of sun in the afternoon. And this time the weather man was  right.

That afternoon I was invited to watch my student and the rest of Casey Martin’s boys play a quick nine holes at Eugene Country Club, the team’s home course. The layout is one of the most unusual that I’ve ever seen with giant trees bordering every fairway. The tips seemed to stretch up and up into the sky, piecing the low-hanging clouds above, as if they were marshmallows on a stick.

The Ducks have fielded a strong team the past two years, winning the NCAA Division 1 Championship in 2016 and then finishing second this year. A good deal of credit for that accomplishment goes to Casey Martin, who has coached the Ducks since 2006. For those who are too young to remember, Casey Martian was a teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford University. He later competed on the Nike Tour. Casey earned his PGA Tour card in 1999 by finishing 14th on the Nike Tour, but his earnings through the 2000 season were not enough for him to retain his card, relegating him to once again to playing on the development tour. He played sporadically up through 2006. The following year, Casey assumed the job of Head Coach, which brought him back to his native Eugene.

In earlier years, Martin’s play career as a professional was hindered by the fact that he could not play 18 holes without a golf cart due to a birth defect in his right leg. The PGA Tour Board ruled against his use of a cart, maintaining that the physical act of walking was considered an integral part of the competition. Believing that he was in the right, Casey filed a suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. His case made its way to the Supreme Court where he won. As for his competitive record, by his own admonition, he is disappointed that he didn’t play better as a professional. A primary focus of his coaching then, as he conceded, is to teach his players not to make the same mistakes he did in his own career. What struck me as unique was the passion and intensity with which he coached. I would venture that it’s the same level of intensity that he brought to the golf course when he competed.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a closed-door, defensive-team practice at Duke University with Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) on the floor. He had divided the team into two groups with one at either end of the court competing against each other. His legs straddled the center line as if he were Colossus with his head swiveling back and forth as if on a stick. The impression was that he saw everything and be never missed anything. And then when he saw a player make a mistake, he would blow his whistle sharply. The players would immediately stop moving as if they were frozen in place. And then, in peg-leg style, he would hobble across the floor favoring one leg over the other. He was clearly in need of a hip replacement at the time.

I’ve had both of my hips replaced, so I could easily imagine the pain that he was experiencing as he peg-legged it from the center of the court to either end. I suspected that he had decided that surgery would have to wait. The season was just a few weeks away, and given that his team was largely composed of freshman, he could not afford to miss a day. Casey Martin doesn’t blow a whistle, nor does he run a defense practice, but as he climbs out of his cart, deftly working his way to a vantage point where he can see his players from every angle, I’m reminded of the halting walk of Coach K.

There is something else that these two man share in common — an intense desire to win. They settle for nothing less than great. And when you look into their eyes, you can see that there is an intensity that burns from within that is vastly different from the man on the street.

As you might remember, I was scheduled to play a round on Pacific Dunes and another on Old McDonald. The two courses are both spectacular layouts with ocean views. And the weather… I drew two perfect days, defying the odds my friend had laid down. It was sunny and 65 degrees with just a hint of wind. How did I play? Let’s just say that I made a few pars. What I found was that striking the ball well is no guarantee that you will score low on these courses. The green complexes are diabolical. The best advice I can give you is to throw you scorecard away. You’ll enjoy yourself more.

The next morning, I was on an early morning flight back to Minneapolis only to discover that we were experiencing Indian Summer with temperatures 20 degrees warmer than usual. But as Minnesotans, we all know what is waiting for us just around the corner.

I’ll leave you with this thought. After watching Casey Martin and the players on his team play and practice, I’m sure of one thing. And that’s when next year’s NCAA Championship comes around, Casey Martin will have all of his Ducks in a row.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Kids Are Alright: Spike in Junior Golf Participation a Good Sign for Game’s Future

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This week, eight 10-player All-Star teams representing regions from across the country will converge upon Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., to compete in the 6th PGA Junior League Championship.

The teams – New Hampshire (Northeast), California (West), Georgia (Southeast), Ohio (Mideast), Illinois (Midwest), New Jersey (Mid-Atlantic), Arkansas (Mississippi Valley), and Texas (Southwest) – will be divided into two divisions where they will face off in round-robin, 9-hole matches using a two-person, scramble format of play. Teams are captained by PGA/LPGA Professionals.

Since the PGA of America launched PGA Junior League in 2012, participation has skyrocketed from about 1,800 players the first year to a record-setting 42,000 boys and girls age 13 and under participating on 3,400 teams across the country this year.

“Junior golf is a key priority of the PGA of America and we recognize that increasing youth participation in the game is essential to the future of our industry and sport,” said Suzy Whaley, PGA of America Vice President and PGA Director of Instruction at Suzy Whaley Golf in Connecticut.

“PGA Jr. League is a fun and welcoming opportunity for boys and girls of all backgrounds and skill levels to learn, play, and love golf under the expert instruction and guidance of PGA and LPGA Professionals. It’s team-oriented and kids wear numbered jerseys. It’s transforming traditional junior golf and the numbers prove it.”

Whaley believes the team concept and scramble format are major factors in PGA Jr. League’s rapid growth over the last five years. In fact, she says, the program is re-shaping the golf industry’s view of the way junior golf is typically learned and played.

“Other youth sports have been utilizing the team format for years and it’s a natural fit for golf,” said Whaley, who has taken three teams to the Jr. League Championships. “The scramble format provides for a low-pressure environment. We’ve created a team atmosphere that has broad appeal. Parents and kids enjoy being a part of the community that PGA/LPGA Professional Captains create. In this team setting, older, more experienced players mentor the younger, beginner golfers. There’s no pressure on any one player, and it’s great to see kids pull for one another versus the individual focus generally associated with golf.”

“It is a program that creates a family-centered atmosphere that encourages mom, dad, brothers, sisters, and grandparents to become involved, as well. During PGA Jr. League matches, the parents are part of the match keeping score, posting photos on social media and encouraging all players. PGA Jr. League grows lifetime interest in the game across multiple generations.”

Matthew Doyle of the Connecticut team gathers for a photo with team captain, Suzy Whaley during session three for the 2016 PGA jr. League Golf Championship presented by National Rental Car held at Grayhawk Golf Club on November 20, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Traci Edwards/PGA of America)

Fourteen-year-old Cullen Laberge from Farmington, Conn., is a student in the Suzy Whaley Golf program and has competed at the PGA Jr. League Championships for Team Connecticut. Laberge has been playing for four years and says his Jr. League experience really sparked his interest in the game and his desire to become a better player and ultimately a golf teacher one day.

“It has taught me so much about golf, while keeping it fun and interesting,” Laberge said. “The thing I enjoy the most is playing competitive golf without the stress that tournament golf can sometimes bring. No matter age or skill level, Jr. League keeps it fun and no matter how a player is playing there is another player to pick them up. That national championship was the best experience of my life. It was like I was playing on the PGA Tour. I loved the amazing competition; those players were good.”

And it’s not just golf’s executives and Jr. League participants who have taken notice of the program’s growth and the ultimate importance that growth represents for the future of the game. PGA and LPGA professionals including Rory McIlroy, Ricky Fowler, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie have all joined as ambassadors for the program.

“I want to do everything I can to be a positive influence on kids who are interested in the game and serving as an ambassador for PGA Jr. League is a great fit,” said Wie. “There are so many lessons that kids can learn and that adults can reinforce through the game of golf – good sportsmanship, honesty, integrity, work ethic. Golf can help you learn how to react when things don’t go your way which I think is a really important skill to have in life.”

“Golf can definitely mirror life. You can work incredibly hard and still fall short, but how do you bounce back? How do you overcome a mistake or a bad break and still succeed? It’s important for kids to grow up with a good work ethic and the right attitude to face challenges. Golf is a great game to teach those lessons.”

Copyright Picture : Mark Pain / IMG (www.markpain.com)

Wie says the more inclusive and welcoming the golf community in general can be, the better.

“Especially as a young female, I have experienced plenty of times where I did not feel welcome or felt like I had to prove myself more than the guys did,” Wie said. “Golf is a game that should be available to everyone and I think it’s important to make it accessible to kids whether they are a future tour pro or a future 20-handicapper.”

The folks over at the USGA know a thing or two about growing the game and making it more accessible and they should, they’ve been doing it since the association’s founding in 1894.

The inaugural three USGA championships – the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1895 – did not have age limits, each simply aiming to identify the champion golfer. In 1948, the USGA held the first United States Junior Amateur solely open to players under the age of 18 and just one year later the association conducted the first United States Girls’ Junior Championship.

In addition to helping fund The First Tee, LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championships, the USGA recently introduced its “For the Good of the Game” grant program to promote a more welcoming and accessible game at the local level with millions of dollars offered to local communities to build programs.

“The greatest misperception is accessibility,” says Beth Major, Director of Community Outreach at the USGA. “Two-thirds of all golf courses in America are open to the public. Kids and parents still believe it is a country club sport and we need to change that.”

Founded in 2013 as a joint initiative between the USGA, the Masters Tournament, and the PGA of America, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free nationwide junior golf competition for boys and girls ages 7-15 aimed at growing the game. Participants who advance through local, sub-regional and regional qualifying earn a place in the National Finals, which is conducted the Sunday before The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Drive, Chip and Putt qualifying is offered in all 50 states and participation in the event has increased each year.

“We have a great partnership with our friends at the PGA of America and the Masters Tournament,” Major said. “Our leaders realized that by pooling our resources at the national level while activating at the local level, we could quickly scale the program and get more kids involved.”

“Going into our sixth year, it is amazing to see how far the program has grown and the entry point we’ve created together to keep our youth engaged. We look forward to continuing to evolve the program to welcome more youth to the sport.”

The USGA, in partnership with the LPGA, the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America, and the PGA TOUR, founded The First Tee in 1997 specifically to answer the call for diversity and inclusion. The program has welcomed millions of new players to the game in the past 20 years by focusing not only on teaching golf skills but life and social skills such as etiquette, honesty, respect, confidence and responsibility.

Founded in 1989, the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program is aimed at girls ages 6-17 and has played a critical role in not only welcoming girls and women to the game, but perhaps equally importantly keeping them in the game.

“Statistics continually show us that the social aspects of the game drive girls and women to play golf,” Major said. “That sense of camaraderie and building friends greatly outweighs their need to compete at the entry level. LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, quite simply, has made it fun and cool for girls to play – and play together. And the results are astounding. We have traced more than 100 girls who started in an LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program that played in a USGA championship last year. They have not only introduced the game to girls and young women, they kept them in the game, and that is very exciting and inspiring.”

One company is tackling growth of the game from another angle – the equipment side.

Since its very beginning back in 1997, U.S. Kids Golf has been focused on its mission, “To help kids have fun learning the lifelong game of golf and to encourage family interaction that builds lasting memories.

To that end, the company began developing youth clubs starting out with just three sizes and one product line initially.

“Over time, through watching youth golfers, we came to realize that we were not serving them as well as we would like,” said Dan Van Horn, U.S. Kids Golf founder. “Looking at how the best players in the world – LPGA and PGA Tour – are fit for clubs, we discovered the proportion of their drive length to height was from 60-70 percent. From that we created what we term the ‘2/3 solution.’ Simply put, for every 3 inches a player grows, we offer a set that has a driver that is 2 inches longer.”

Importantly, it is not just the length of the clubs that increase as the player grows but also the overall club weight, grip size and shaft stiffness. At the same time, the loft on woods decreases providing additional distance.

“One of the key benefits of correctly fit clubs that are lightweight is the ability for players to learn a correct and powerful swing at a young age,” Van Horn said. “Clubs that are too long and/or heavy slows the golf swing itself and creates bad habits that are difficult to change later in life.”

Beyond the importance of young golfers needing properly fit equipment, Van Horn believes strongly in the need for juniors to compete in tournament play to facilitate aspirational goals and to measure progress. Going hand in hand with this is proper instruction from coaches who understand how young players learn and develop.

“After a few years of producing equipment, we realized more needed to be done to serve our market so we formed a nonprofit foundation,” Van Horn said. “Immediately we created our World Championship in 2000 so that young golfers would have an aspirational goal, much like the Little League World Series is to baseball players. We also realized that golf professionals and coaches lacked an organized incentive-based learning program to truly engage players in the game so we created one that same year.”

A longtime proponent of having players play from appropriate yardages, U.S. Kids Golf developed the Longleaf Tee System which uses a mathematical formula to “scale” any golf course for up to eight different tee locations per hole so all players have options based upon how far they carry the ball with a driver. Yardages start at 3,200 yards for 18 holes and increase up to Tour distances of 7,400 yards.

“What we need is a focus by all golf facilities and coaches to provide quality, enjoyable experiences to our youth,” Van Horn said. “This means incorporating game-based learning with a measurable, learning program so that players and their parents know how they are progressing. And, of course, shorter tees need to be available so we can get kids on a ‘field’ that fits them like other sports. There’s no question it can be done.”

The National Golf Foundation’s annual report for 2016 revealed that participation in junior golf programs remained steady at 2.9 million likely due in part to the success of the programs mentioned above and others just like them. Importantly, the number of female junior golfers has increased to a third of all participants and the number of non-Caucasion players has risen to a quarter, four times what it was a couple of decades ago.

While time will ultimately judge whether these programs and offerings serve not only to retain current players but continue to attract new ones, the state of junior golf in the country appears strong and on the right track for now. 

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