Like all retail businesses, golf shops haven't been immune to Amazon's far-reaching influence. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor) You can find pretty much anything golf-related on (Courtesy of The 2018 Amazon Impact Report by Golf Datatech showed that golfers were more likely to purchase golf balls, gloves and shoes online than golf clubs, which serious golfers prefer to be fitted for as well as hold and touch before buying. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor)

Survey says Amazon has significantly impacted golf consumers' buying habits, but maybe that's okay

To say Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, has affected brick and mortar retail business would be an understatement. More and more people are shopping from the convenience of their own home, avoiding traffic, crowds and waits at malls and department stores. Best of all, it just arrives, sometimes the same day, at your front door.

And if you're one of 50 million Amazon Prime members – and that membership includes online streaming of videos and movies – you get free shipping on many of these products.

So it would come as no surprise, of course, that golf hasn't been immune to this effect. When GolfSmith filed for bankruptcy in 2016, it was a huge wake-up call that even the most trusted, longstanding stores aren't safe.

But how much are golfers going to Amazon for their products? To answer this, Golf Datatech, the leading independent research firm for consumer, trade and retail golf trends, conducted a survey to find out. The results confirm that retailers are going to have to continue to adapt and innovate to stay competitive if they're going to maintain profit shares and loyalty from golf customers.

The study

"Amazon is the most disruptive force on America's retail environment today," said John Krzynowek, one of two partners who founded Golf Datatech, LLC in 1995. "On the one hand, Amazon provides the consumer with an easy to use, frictionless platform that easily and efficiently delivers products to their doorstep in one click. On the other hand, Amazon unsettles long established relationships, often negatively impacting the brick and mortar retailers of the world. This is not just an issue for the golf business, but something that impacts almost every retail category."

The 2018 Amazon Impact Report analyzes attitudes and opinions of 1,200 serious golfers about their overall shopping experience, as well as their perceptions of Amazon as a retailer of golf equipment and apparel. The analysis is based upon data collected in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Most importantly, this investigation asked whether Amazon is having the same effect in the golf retail sector that it has had on so many other consumer product categories.

The short answer: It is.

What the study found out is that 42 percent of those surveyed had bought a golf product of some sort from Amazon in the past 12 months, and they intended to buy golf products in the future.

Also revealed was that the no. 1 reason golfers bought from Amazon wasn't price; it was convenience, which is no different than consumers of most other products (Although I have found some very good deals on items like electronic cords and household items that were far cheaper than buying them in actual stores).

The survey also showed what types of golf products golfers were buying online, and it was mostly consumables like golf balls, shoes and apparel. They were less likely to buy clubs because serious golfers nowadays want to be able to get a custom fitting or at least demo or feel the clubs. Sure, some golfers might go to a demo day, not buy the club there, and then look to Amazon for a deal, but those seem to be the exception more than the rule.

How brick-and-mortar stores can fight back

Both Krzynowek and his co-founding partner, Tom Stine, are Amazon Prime members themselves and use Amazon like most consumers. These trends, though, "don't necessarily ring to the doom of brick and mortar golf stores," Stine said.

"Nothing is better than personal service," he added. "Nothing is better than going into a store, any store, and being greeted by a real person, a person to show you what you are interested in, and someone you feel like is an expert at this, or at least is very knowledgeable and can help with your selection."

Of course, many golf retailers and companies already have their own online business, which certainly helps, but will probably never match Amazon's reach when it comes to convenience and sophisticated algorithms.

Physical golf retailers can take heart in other examples, though. For instance, while the idea traditional bookstores seemed destined for the graveyard, that's doesn't seem to be true anymore. Regular bookstores appear to be making a comeback in recent years.

"It's because the booksellers adapted, and gave the customers another reason to go into the bookstores," Stine said.

In New York, for example, the number of Indie bookstores has been increasing since 2009, and one of the reasons, is that they have become social places, offering interesting conversation and an atmosphere for like-minds to become a community.

So what can golf learn from this?

First off, golf stores have to be interesting, and maybe even entertaining. PGA Tour Superstores, for example, do so much more than sell balls, clubs and shirts. Not only can you demo equipment there, but you can get lessons and even take part in simulator competitions, which are especially attractive in the offseason when golf courses might be closed.

Most importantly, golf stores, whether they be green grass or off-course, have to offer outstanding customer service. Sales people need to take a real interest in their customers. Best they can, they need to establish relationships with them. Ask them about their game – or their lives for that matter -- and learn to read how much they want to share with you. At the very least, sales reps need to appear vested in their customers game. Those partnerships are difficult to establish online.

How is all this going to unfold? To help answer the question, Golf Datatech plans to continue surveying on this topic, conducting a new study in the next 12-18 months. It should give some answers on trends. Maybe golfers use Amazon more, maybe not.

"I think this movie has just started," Stine said. "We're barely into the first 30 minutes of the movie. And we're just going to have to see how it plays out."

Are you among the many golfers buying their golf products from Amazon instead of golf shops, or do you still prefer purchasing items in-person? Let us know in the comments.

Jan 15, 2018

Join the conversation

Post a comment 

Carl Young's avatar
Carl Young wrote at 2018-01-20 19:26:12+00:00:

I want to talk to a human for anything that needs to fit...clothes, shoes, clubs, etc. I suppose I could buy golf balls from Amazon, but then I would lose my excuse to go into Golf Galaxy or Dick's to browse the clothes, shoes, clubs, etc. Can't get tips from Amazon. Plus, Amazon doesn't support my community by paying local taxes or hiring local people. There is more to life than simple price.

Chris S 's avatar
Chris S wrote at 2018-01-20 15:09:38+00:00:

Love the pga store by me. Great people and service! Don’t see me buying anything from amazon anytime soon.

Andy M's avatar
Andy M wrote at 2018-01-19 23:28:31+00:00:

I just visited a PGA superstore in NJ not one sales person asked me if I required help or what I was looking for. There was four sales aka pga professionals watching one guy demo clubs. If I am going to be ignored I will shop and buy my equipment on Amazon. That was the down fall of GolfSmith poor customer service unless you wanted to buy really expensive equipment.

Jose A.Sierra's avatar
Jose A.Sierra wrote at 2018-01-20 18:19:05+00:00:

Yup it’s like the customer is interrupting the sales staff. I was at Dick’s the other had to HUNT for a sales person. I got a great deal on a pair of shoes ( paid 22.00 down from 45 originally 74.00) but other than the surprise deal easier to buy online. If your lucky to get someone they’re rushing you.

jan g's avatar
jan g wrote at 2018-01-19 17:33:48+00:00:

I live close to a Golf Galaxy and they have all my golfing needs

Kenny 's avatar
Kenny wrote at 2018-01-19 15:55:45+00:00:

I only live five minutes from Golf Galaxy, so if I am in the market for any golf products I usually just drive there. However that’s not to say I haven’t bought tees or other accessories from Amazon. I must admit I enjoy the experience of just going into a golf shop and see the latest in clubs, apparel and shoes. There’s something about holding the product and seeing how each piece is different from another.

davi1955's avatar
davi1955 wrote at 2018-01-19 15:05:18+00:00:

I think what killed Golf Smith and Golf Galaxy was the lack of well informed salespeople trying to sell expensive golf equipment to beginning golfers to make a commission on a sale. It is very obvious to experienced buyers when someone is not knowledgeable about the products they are trying to sell. To buy equipment online from anywhere is risky. It is best to find a seller who will guarantee products in case you are not satisfied with quality, condition, or performance. Buyer Beware!!

John 's avatar
John wrote at 2018-01-19 15:04:07+00:00:

No question i go to a golf store either to buy or just soak up the envirinment would only buy balls or accessories on line being in the golf environment is half the fun especially in winter

Bob 's avatar
Bob wrote at 2018-01-19 14:36:56+00:00:

I still like to go to a store to service my equipment, grips, shafts install, shoes, try new clubs, etc. Small things like balls, tees, even clothes can be bought on line.

mikemnf's avatar
mikemnf wrote at 2018-01-19 14:09:50+00:00:

It would be interesting to see how many of the online buyers actually shopped the stores first to see and feel the product before making a purchase. I can see repeat purchase items such as golf balls and even repeat purchases of a certain brand of shirt that you are familiar with their sizing and quality, but to see clubs, bags, carts etc. II am betting research is done ahead of time.

Tim 's avatar
Tim wrote at 2018-01-19 06:42:25+00:00:

Golf shops. The only item I can imagine buying on Amazon is if they were the only retailer carrying certain balls.

Mitchell's avatar
Mitchell wrote at 2018-01-19 02:09:53+00:00:

I buy locally, not sure what I'm getting online. When i purchase locally, including at pro shops on trips,I'm supporting the business and the community. If I buy online the money leaves my economic community.

Tampa Goose's avatar
Tampa Goose wrote at 2018-01-19 01:10:51+00:00:

Since my clubs are 1.5 up and 1 1/4” longer I never buy clubs online. Occasionally I will buy golf balls online if I run across a great price. Really can’t imagine punching anything other than a golf bag, balls or shoes online. If I’m spending hundreds of dollars on a club I want to check it out first. Amazon would not be my first choice to purchase golf equipment. It does make me mad when I can buy something cheaper at a store website than at the store.

Paul Johnson's avatar
Paul Johnson wrote at 2018-01-19 00:37:08+00:00:

Amazon Prime member but never buy golf equipment from them. I've rarely found great prices on golf from Amazon. Have favorite online stores like Budget Golf for clothing and add on balls and other items to get free shipping. While I don't buy clubs very often, I buy mint used clubs in my lie and length from 3Balls or Global and save a bundle. Buy small stuff like gloves from my pro shop and balls from WalMart.

Mark ira's avatar
Mark ira wrote at 2018-01-19 00:25:25+00:00:

I buy from Amazon or other online retailers as their pricing is far superior to local stores. I can demo gear locally but almost always find what I am looking for on line . The only real exception is when stores like Dick’s run a sale on balls where I can get good ones for $.50-.60 each... I only lose them anyway.. lol

D. MacLennan 's avatar
D. MacLennan wrote at 2018-01-19 00:04:04+00:00: still the only place to go.Especially for balls.

Test out your choice of club then go to the Rock to copair.

J Langston 's avatar
J Langston wrote at 2018-01-18 23:58:56+00:00:

I do buy golf merchandise from Amazon. And I found that when I go to a sporting goods store, generally the person working the golf section knows little about the game and is seldom engaging!

Stanley scott's avatar
Stanley scott wrote at 2018-01-18 23:55:09+00:00:

It's just alot cheaper on Amazon. I feel like some people are afraid to answer truthful. I can't remember the last time I paid 70.00 for a Callaway shirt oh the last time I was in a brick and mortar store. I get no customer service now day at most businesses so why give them my business. I have not purchased and golf items from any store scence 2013 and will continue to support Amazon and other online stores. So in finishing give me a reason to come back the only reason is lower prices. Just so I am not accused of hiding behind the computer. Happy online customer from Tampa

art's avatar
art wrote at 2018-01-18 23:50:18+00:00:

Golf equipment has become too expensive. I now have to wait another 1-2 years longer to purchase new equipment than I did 10 years ago. Yet I can afford this more so than I could have 10 years ago. Golf balls, seriously, $49 for a dozen, please. $200+for shoes. No more. I got to online and other places where this is discounted or used.

David Morrison's avatar
David Morrison wrote at 2018-01-18 23:40:51+00:00:

Golf equipment prices have increased by leaps and bounds with the start of this season. I wait at least a year to two years to buy clubs. I never buy shoes until they are deeply discounted. Balls have not had the same jump as equipment but have gone up. There is no way that a putter justifies a $300 price tag. There are plenty of trade-ins available. I buy wherever the price is most reasonable.

dhaab's avatar
dhaab wrote at 2018-01-18 23:30:42+00:00:

Amazon didn't put GolfSmith out of business. I live in Chicago and GolfSmith and Golf Galaxy both closed their stores within 2 years of the PGA Superstore opening two locations in the suburbs. The author of this article works for the PGA so he's probably hesitant to blame them.

Vic's avatar
Vic wrote at 2018-01-18 23:27:57+00:00:

I buy from both places. However, why would most golfers pay $80 for a golf shirt in a pro shop when they can get a similar one on Amazon or EBay for half that?

Donald J. Brey's avatar
Donald J. Brey wrote at 2018-01-18 23:25:17+00:00:

I like to purchase in store. I use Amazon but have never purchased golf equipment or supplies there. I like going to Dicks or PGA Tour Superstore to browse the merchandise. I occasionally purchase stuff from & pick up at the local store which is very convenient for me. Plus Dicks is always having sales & keeps in touch with me via email. They do a good job with their marketing efforts & the golf people in the store are really friendly & knowledgeable.

Howard's avatar
Howard wrote at 2018-01-18 23:21:38+00:00:

Both. I purchase end of line deep discounted products from on line resellers ( not Amazon), try demo clubs at my home course pro shop or demos at other courses, then look for better prices on line. But I also support my home club’s pro shop sales events. If I have to wait for seasons end sales to save $300+ on a driver or $200+ on a fairway wood I can wait. I’m not that good ( hcp 14) to have to pay top dollar.

Greg's avatar
Greg wrote at 2018-01-18 23:11:05+00:00:

I buy from all kind of places but have never bought Golf products from Amazon.

Ron's avatar
Ron wrote at 2018-01-18 23:03:35+00:00:

50 % of my Golf spend is done online and 30% at club/course and balance at a Golf store.

Bill's avatar
Bill wrote at 2018-01-18 23:00:43+00:00:

Other than Amazon,which i purchase from frequently, Rock Bottom Golf has terrific deals, especially in their open box returns

Ollie's avatar
Ollie wrote at 2018-01-18 23:00:16+00:00:

Buy in a store. So you can see what you are getting. In Golf you need to try it before buying

David's avatar
David wrote at 2018-01-18 22:57:50+00:00:

I buy in store and on line

Bob Falk's avatar
Bob Falk wrote at 2018-01-18 22:41:33+00:00:

Go to brick and mortar store then buy from amazon. Better prices and great return policy especially if your prime member.

Balls and shoes much less expensive on amazon. I bought all new m2 irons and metal woods from amazon. Handicap has dropped from 17 to 12. Brick and mortar hires almost minimum wage staff. You get what you pay for.

Leo Hazell's avatar
Leo Hazell wrote at 2018-01-18 22:57:16+00:00:

Very true.

Christopher Byrd's avatar
Christopher Byrd wrote at 2018-01-18 22:41:29+00:00:

We bought a chipping net for the boys at Christmas but other than that I don't recall ever buying my golf stuff from Amazon. While I don't always like dealing with the traffic and people, I still like to see and feel what I'm buying so I know it's fitted appropriately. I'd much rather do that than deal with repacking, dropping off the package and then having to deal with automated systems to get my $ back. Not to mention at that point I'd still have to go to a store to get what I wanted instead of hitting golf balls somewhere.

~ j ~'s avatar
~ j ~ wrote at 2018-01-18 22:34:51+00:00:

Sorry, I rarely make a purchase in a store anymore. I've found all my clubs on eBay for 1/3 of the cost of brick 'n mortar stores. Brand new clubs being auctioned daily. My driver and iron set would retail at$1500 off the shelf, I paid $600 for them total (NEW). I wear the same size and brand of shoes, no need to try them on anymore, order a new pair on-line when I need them for 60% of the instore price.

Sure, the stores are fun to browse through but let's face it, you can buy clubs, shoes, balls, etc at much better prices on-line. EXAMPLE: My buddy wanted to match his 3w to his aeroburner black 5w. In-store sticker price for aeroburner 3w, $149.99. eBay price, $59.99. He'll have his club by tomorrow, from eBay.

LUKE's avatar
LUKE wrote at 2018-01-18 22:29:08+00:00:


Andrew 's avatar
Andrew wrote at 2018-01-18 22:27:56+00:00:

I buy some

Dennis's avatar
Dennis wrote at 2018-01-18 22:27:45+00:00:

I prefer to shop with the pros! Old school

Shari's avatar
Shari wrote at 2018-01-16 20:49:54+00:00:

I prefer the in store experience. I cannot buy shoes or golf gloves without first trying them on. I like the human contact. It's just fun to browse around and see what's new.

GMD's avatar
GMD wrote at 2018-01-16 19:54:18+00:00:

I would never buy clubs from Amazon unless I knew and had been fitted for something specific and Amazon had it...however, Ive seen some very good prices on golf shoes, etc. (although some have been higher thinly own pro shop) I would compare shoe pricing, gps equipment etc at Amazon vs. club pro shop, other got stores like Golf Galaxy or PGA Tour Superstore.

Timbo 's avatar
Timbo wrote at 2018-01-16 18:51:38+00:00:

Alan E. I was sorry to see GolfSmith close it’s doors

that was my favorite place to shop. I like the fact that you could buy every thing you needed to play golf, plus buy parts to assemble your own clubs.

I live in Tulsa Oklahoma I use to shop at the GolfSmith in Plano TX. Off highway 75, now I see they opened a PGA Super store, I still think GOLFSMITH was the best

Alan E's avatar
Alan E wrote at 2018-01-16 17:56:39+00:00:

I am a Golfsmith trained clubmaker. Although I don't build component clubs anymore, I do re-gripping and occasional shaft repair and replacement, I buy all supplies online, some from Amazon, others through bargain golf websites. As for my own clubs, some websites and Amazon retailers offer super bargain new clubs that are 2 or 3 year old models, (Recently bought a new pro-line driver for $70 that originally retailed for $350, fairway metal for $40/originally $150.) Worth taking a chance on even if you haven't hit them. I know how to customize for my game. As for brick-and-mortar - buy shoes at a store unless you know how the brand/style fits you.

Dan Greer's avatar
Dan Greer wrote at 2018-01-16 17:47:34+00:00:

I would never buy a club from Amazon. As a matter of fact I never buy anything golf related on Amazon. I like going to my local Golf Town to see what they have other than the fact that their service sucks. You can hardly find anyone to help you. I see 2 or 3 guys all standing around talking to each other but won't come over to see if you need any help or to let you know that they are available if you do need them. My Store is in St Catharines Ontario. Hope they are not all like that. That is the one thing that will kill their business and drive more people to Amazon.

Bill's avatar
Bill wrote at 2018-01-18 23:06:28+00:00:

Golf Galaxy in Massachusetts is the same way, no one offers help, and they are not that knowledgable anyway

Larry M's avatar
Larry M wrote at 2018-01-16 17:37:03+00:00:

I like to go to a golf store when I am purchasing

Golf clubs. I want to be able to try out the club I am looking for. Hopefully the sales rep at the store knows what he is talking about and can help me in my selection.Thesame goes for golf shoes. Other items such as golf balls, shirts& shorts I don't mind buying those online.

Bob K.'s avatar
Bob K. wrote at 2018-01-16 17:09:48+00:00:

Still prefer golf shops, especially for clubs, shoes, clothing, grips etc. I like to see, touch and feel these items, and try them on. And swing or putt with the clubs.

About the only golf related items I may purchase on line would be golf balls, “tees”, and maybe gloves.

Related Links

Mike Bailey

Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.