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The guide to working in a big-box golf store

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Working at a big box store is a thankless job. The pay isn’t great, the characters you meet can be difficult and every so often you are the subject of an online golf forum thread claiming you boost your monitor numbers or have committed the most heinous crime of all: not having heard of the new product that Bridgestone just submitted a patent on and will be releasing in 2016.

We understand that you are in a tough position. You’ve gotta pay those college bills and make a few bucks to take your girlfriend on a date. To you, knowing the difference between a Matrix Code 7 and the Matrix Reloaded seems inconsequential, and a “deep impact” is an asteroid movie starring Elijah Wood. You are a decent guy just trying to earn a living and we are here to help. Read the below guide to working in a big box store and you will be ready to sell clubs to anyone who walks in that door. You will be such a closer that Alec Baldwin will let you drink coffee and maybe even share with you the Glengarry leads. You will not just sell balls but you will have brass ones. Here is a step-by-step guide to the characters you will face in a big box golf store, and how to cut through their defenses:

The guy who wants what he saw on TV

How to recognize him: He hasn’t left the section of the same manufacturer for 25 minutes, except to pick up a hat of that manufacturers brand.

Obvious giveaway: He has what he wants written down.

How to sell: He probably saw Bubba Watson carry a drive 325 yards over the water of a dogleg par 5 and must have it. He probably Googled “Bubba Watson’s driver” and now thinks that a G20 with a BiMatrix is the key to booming drives. You could sell him that club, no problem. But remember, keeping a client is way easier then signing up a new one. So before you sell him that badboy whose only use for this gentlemen will be burning worms, try and do what’s right. Make sure he doesn’t storm back in two weeks asking for a refund.

Here’s what you say:

“I totally understand you want this driver, but you know what? We aren’t that busy right now, so why don’t you hit it a few times just to get acquainted with this beast? And while you’re here I’ll even grab a few others off the shelf for you to mess around with just for fun. I mean why not, right?”

Then do a friendly job of pointing out his launch and spin numbers with each driver. Throw in a casual “Wow, that one is really working for you” for whatever driver puts up the best numbers. Like we learned in Inception, planting an idea is difficult but it’s the only way to make it stick. Give it a try! It’s a lot easier then flat out telling him he’s wrong.

Click here for more discussion in the “Equipment” forum. 

The guy who knows everything about clubs

How to recognize him: He is in the store the first day a new club gets released, every time.

Obvious giveaway: “When is the Nike Covert hitting the shelves? What do you mean you haven’t heard of it, they just launched it on YouTube man!”

How to sell to him: You don’t need to tell this guy anything about clubs he doesn’t already know. The only thing lingering around this guy will do is make you the subject of a new forum thread where you are portrayed as some sort of salesman version of Forrest Gump.

This guy knows everything about clubs and shafts, so just let him be left alone to ogle the stuff on the rack. Trying to “sell” him will lose a sale faster then earning one. Here’s what you do, say:

“Hi sir, I just want to let you know that if you need anything taped up or need me to fetch a headcover for you, my name is John. I’ll be around if you need me.”

Then politely keep your distance while still being in the area. Pretend you are an undercover cop trailing a perp. Keep a couple of car lengths between you and him and don’t be too noticeable. When he is ready he will find you.

Click here for more discussion in the “Equipment” forum. 

Guy who thinks he knows everything about clubs

How to recognize him: He is hanging around the launch monitors, but everything he is saying to testers is wrong.

Obvious giveaway: He was overheard saying, “Have you tried it in X flex? X flex helps you hit it longer.”

How to sell to him: This is a tricky one. The guy who thinks he knows everything is the single toughest client you will face. He obviously needs your help, but telling him the truth can cost you a sale. These guys are among the most pigheaded and stubborn clients out there. So you face a decision: Do you try and get him to the launch monitors and put his theories to the test, or do you just go along with everything he says and make the sale?

You are probably thinking, similar to “The Guy Who Wants What He Saw on TV” that you should figure out a way to get him on a monitor, right? Sure, in a perfect world. But this guide is about you, Mr. Salesman. This is about you making some green. The best thing to do with this client is to just sell him whatever he wants. Finding out that he is wrong about things on a monitor will lead to him accusing you of messing with the settings. Either that or he’ll get so upset he’ll walk out and not buy from you out of spite. Just sell him what he wants. Don’t worry about returns or business down the road. A guy like this will find the next latest and greatest club and think THAT is what will fix everything, and then you can sell him that too.

Click here for more discussion in the “Equipment” forum. 

The expensive car, one-brand guy

How to recognize him: He pulls up in a Bentley Continental and is wearing a hat from a particular brand (let’s call it Titloast).

Obvious giveaway: “Hey kid, where are the ‘Titloast’ clubs?”

How to sell to him: This guy is probably a VP at some Fortune 500 company in the area, so he is used to being answered instantly. To him, you are the guy who works in the mailroom or the cafeteria. You are the waiter at the fancy restaurant who needs to be invisible, but still refills the wineglass whenever it gets close to empty.

First off, don’t bother trying to convince him to use the monitor or buy a different brand. This guy probably doesn’t even play good golf. The clubs are more about the image of class and excellence then about function. He can’t show up to the course to play a round with the executives at the company he’s buying and have a bag full of rusty Northwesterns, can he? Just stay fairly close, answer every question quickly and confidently and when he commits to buy, run like the wind to get him his headcovers. Remember, say please and thank you a lot and you will be golden. It is totally OK that you ignore every other customer in the store for this guy because when he buys, he buys A LOT.

Click here for more discussion in the “Equipment” forum. 

(Non-golfing) Wife with a golfer husband

How to recognize her: She looks completely lost in the store.

Obvious giveaway: Says, “Excuse me, do you work here?” Even though you are wearing a shirt with the store name on it.

How to sell to her: “A Scotty Cameron and Pro V1s? Yes we have those. Let me get them for you.”

Click here for more discussion in the “Equipment” forum. 

Wise graybeard who is obviously a +3 index

How to recognize him: You might not know him, but every big box store has a top amateur golfer working there and he will know him. They’ll have a quick chat.

Obvious giveaway: It’s not tournament season (he won’t buy a new club in July). Also, he’ll:

  1. Have a particular individual club off the rack he wants to hit. It won’t even be a particular make and model, but a particular unit of that make and model that just looks “right” at address.
  2. He’ll just waggle it,while inspecting the club closely. That will be enough

How to sell to him: This is the type of guy that you need to feel out. He will probably be immediately skeptical of any new technology you mention. This is a guy who just finished third in the State Amateur using a five-year-old driver, so he’s not going to rush to buy a new club just because it’s adjustable or has a slot or some other doo-dad on it.

This type of golfers wants something that looks good to his eye and will be completely OEM agnostic. In fact, it’s a safe bet that he owns a wedge or 2 iron that is a knock off brand and is 20 years old. So take it easy on the new terminology that OEMs are using in commercials. Talk more about how the club looks at address then about how “hot” it is. Show him some of the discounted models just so he doesn’t think you are trying to sell him the most expensive thing on the floor. The thing is, this guy actually CAN use your help because he probably knows little about the new tech or new models. You just need to be careful how you go about it.

This is the type of guy that walks out the door with the discounted Cleveland TL310 because it just looks right and he figures it will work as well as anything new. So make a few suggestions here and there. He may want to hit the club he may not. I’ve seen guys who will buy a club just because it looks right. They figure the rest out on the course.

Click here for more discussion in the “Equipment” forum. 

The obvious tour poser

How to recognize him: Is that Rickie Fowler? No it’s not, but for a second you weren’t sure.

Obvious giveaway: It’s January, the courses aren’t open and it’s snowing, but he looks like he’s on his way to a tour event and is wearing a name brand baseball hat that matches perfectly to his shirt and trousers.

How to sell to him: Answer every question he asks with:

“Yes, that is the [insert equipment/garment] that he used for the final round at Quail Hollow!”

That’s what is most important to this guy — owning what tour pros use and wear, especially if it was done in a significant tournament. Generally speaking, selling to this guy is extremely easy, so the only extra advice is that you shouldn’t stop at clubs and clothes. This guy is a prime candidate to buy a bag, rangefinder, new expensive shoes, belts, etc. You are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t show him the belt Brian Gay wore when he won at Hilton Head. You know which one, right?

Click here for more discussion in the “Equipment” forum. 

The regular guy

How to recognize him: He looks like a regular guy.

Obvious giveaway: Nothing.

How to sell to him: Juice the monitor.

Now, as they would say in Glengarry Glen Ross. I can go out there and sell….Tonight! Go and do likewise gentleman. You can thank me later.

Click here for more discussion in the “Equipment” forum. 

 

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Jeff Singer was born and still resides in Montreal, Canada. Though it is a passion for him today, he wasn't a golfer until fairly recently in life. In his younger years Jeff played collegiate basketball and football and grew up hoping to play the latter professionally. Upon joining the workforce, Jeff picked up golf and currently plays at a private course in the Montreal area while working in marketing. He has been a member of GolfWRX since 2008

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. mike

    Jan 15, 2013 at 1:35 am

    funny stuff. good read

  2. Gary Hansberger

    Nov 28, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Good stuff. Having been on both sides of this isle it’s great to see how both customers and staff relate to the extreme issues of equipment vs real performance.

  3. killerbgolfer

    Nov 26, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    The writing on Golfwrx is getting really solid. Well played sir.

  4. josh

    Nov 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    loved it!!

  5. Birdielab

    Nov 25, 2012 at 11:27 am

    This pretty much sums it up – I would include “The guy who shows up once every two weeks to try out equipment that he then buys on ebay” and “The guy who doesn’t trust anything salespeople say and thinks you are always trying to separate him from his money, even though you are actually trying to help him solve whatever problem he is there to fix”, oh and “the guy who waaaay overestimates his talent (“I hit a 9 iron about 180-185”) – not judging, but all three are a very tough sell. I worked at a big box for a few months and learned a LOT about the mentality of golfers and our equipment. I have my own opinions but that’s whats great about golf – everyone gets something different out of it.

  6. Blopar

    Nov 25, 2012 at 9:01 am

    I am the 61 y.o. + 3 index— but know this, I’m a plus 3 because I’m gaming the latest high tech stuff and I’m obsessive about fitting–that’s what keeps me on top.
    Don’t characterize everyone over 35 as out of date and ignorant about their equipment!

  7. paul

    Nov 21, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    I would be the customer that wants to know everything. keep the educational articles coming guys 🙂

  8. Flanman

    Nov 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    I like this! I work at a big box retailer, and this seems to cover all the demographics walking through our store… This is my secret, being the best salesman in the store is about honesty, professionalism and talent. Rather than “juicing the simulator”, I prefer to let the client warm up, then maybe make one or two simply suggestions in relation to maximizing their current golf swing. If I can cure a hook/ slice and correct the clients ball flight too, chances are that they will be honestly gaining some distance. They walk out with the club 9/10 times and the 1/10 that doesn’t buy the club, is leaving with a shirt/ balls/ hat whatever!!

    • nate

      Nov 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Flanman – quick question for ya. How are you measured against your peers as the ‘best’ salesman at your store?

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Courses

Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure

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My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers to many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

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Opinion & Analysis

Be Curious, Not Critical, of Tour Player Swings

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After a foul ball by a tour player, the talking heads on TV are often quick to analyze the “problem” with that swing. Fair enough, I suppose. Even the best players are human and our game has more failure than success. But I’d like to offer a different take on swings of the best players in the world.

First, let’s remember how good these guys and gals really are. If you met up with the lowest ranked player on any professional tour at a public course one day, I’ll bet that golfer would be the best golfer most of you have ever played with. You’d be telling your buddies in the 19th hole about him or her for a very long time. These players have reached a level of ball striking most people only dream about. That’s why I’m more curious than critical when it comes to a tour player’s swing. I’m not thinking about what he/she needs to do better; I’m thinking, “How do they do it so well?” In other words, I want to know how they put their successful move together. What part goes with the other parts? How did their pattern evolve? What are the compatible components of their swing?

Let’s use Jim Furyk as an example. Furyk has what we might call an “unconventional” move. It’s also a swing that has won nearly $70 million and shot 58 one day. But I’ll offer him as an example because his swing illustrates the point I’m making. From a double-overlapping grip, Furyk picks the golf club up to what might be the most vertical position one would ever see from a professional. Then in transition, he flattens the club and drops it well behind him. Now the club is so flat and inside, he has to open his body as quickly as he can to keep the club from getting “stuck.” Let’s call it an “up-and-under loop.”

Let’s take Matt Kuchar as a counter example. Kuchar’s signature hands-in, flat and very deep takeaway is pretty much the total opposite of Furyk. But he comes over that takeaway and gets the club back into a great position into impact. We’ll call that an “in-and-over” loop.

Both are two of the best and most consistent golfers in the world. Is one right and the other wrong? Of course not. They do have one thing in common, however, and it’s that they both balanced their golf swing equation.

What would happen if Kuchar did what Furyk does coming down? Well, he wouldn’t be on TV on the weekend. If he did, he’d be hitting drop kicks several inches behind. That doesn’t win The Players Championship. The point is that the Furyk downswing is incompatible with the Kuchar backswing, and vice versa, but I’m guessing they both know that.

How can this help you? My own personal belief and the basis of my teaching is this: your backswing is an option, but your downswing is a requirement. I had one student today dropping the arms and club well inside and another coming over the top, and they both felt better impact at the end of the lesson. I showed them how to balance their equation.

My job is solving swing puzzles, a new one very hour, and I’m glad it is. It would be mind-numbing boredom if I asked every golfer to do the same thing. It’s the teaching professional’s job to solve your puzzle, and I assure you that with the right guidance you can make your golf swing parts match. Are there universal truths, things that every golfer MUST do?  Yes, they are the following:

  1. Square the club face
  2. Come into the ball at a good angle
  3. Swing in the intended direction
  4. Hit the ball in the center of the face (method be damned!)

But here’s the funny part: Let Kuchar or Furyk get off base and watch every swing critic in the world blame some part of the quirkiness of their move that has led to their greatness. When players at their level get off their game, it’s generally due to poor timing or that they lost the sync/rhythm that connected their individual parts. The same holds true for all of us. We have to find the matching parts and the timing to connect them. You might not need new parts.

After all, weren’t those same parts doing the job when you shot your career low round?

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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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