To golfers, buying new clubs is like buying a house or a car.
It's a BIG deal. Buying new clubs costs a good chunk of cash, and will directly impact the quality of your (golf) life over the next 3-5 years.
Just like you would never buy a new car without a test drive, you most certainly shouldn't buy a new club without hitting it first. But traditionally the only way of doing so is on the range at a demo day or hitting clubs into nets at a golf retailer.
But the "try before you buy" game in golf just got a lot more interesting with a new program at GlobalGolf.com, part of Global Value Commerce: It's called U-try.
U-try could be a game-changer. Golfers pay $25 per club (up to two per order) to try the latest driver, fairway or hybrid from top manufacturers Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist, Mizuno, Cleveland, Cobra, Wilson and XXIO. If they like the club after a 14-day trial period, they keep it, and the $25 fee goes toward the purchase. If they don't, they can send the club/clubs back in the original box with the prepaid shipping label. No harm, no foul.
"You can only get so much whacking balls at a demo day or hitting balls in a net (indoors at a golf store)," said Doug Smith, the vice president of business development for Global Value Commerce. "It's fine. It worked for years, but there are shortcomings.
"But when you take it (a new driver) to your own course, and see if you can carry the bunker on the first hole or hit it over the trees on the second hole, there is nothing that can compare to that type of test drive."
Global Value Commerce can do so because they are an e-commerce company best known for selling new and used golf balls and equipment at websites such as GlobalGolf.com, 3balls.com, GolfShoesOnly.com, TaylorMadeGolfPreOwned.com and FairwayStyles.com. When you return the club after 14 days, they can resell it as used on one of their used platforms.
The other ways
Trying clubs before you buy has always come with some hurdles. Most golfers face limited options, and none of them include putting the club in play on an actual course:
Option 1: Heading to the local golf or club-fitting store. This experience was never ideal because of the inevitable hard sell you get from the salesperson. Sure you got to hit new stuff, but it still was probably a scuffed up (or taped up) demo club. Most golf stores don't have outdoor ranges, so you would be stuck banging balls into a net, never really seeing your ball flight or just how far it went. The trial (and error) was all based on trust and feel, even with a TrackMan launch monitor spitting out data. I think my swing is considerably worse indoors than out. Anybody else similarly paranoid? Businesses that specialize in club-fitting - such as ClubChampion and TrueSpec - will charge upwards of $80-$125 or more for a one-hour fitting, depending on the club.
Option 2: Attending a demo day at a store or course. Many golf courses and golf stores hold popular demo days, where one or more representatives from one or more equipment companies shows up to preach the virtues of their latest gear. For example, the Haggin Oaks Golf Expo, the nation's largest demo day, celebrated its 43rd year in April, attracting thousands of golfers to the Haggin Oaks Golf Course in Sacramento to try out new Cleveland, TaylorMade, Callaway, Mizuno, Titleist, Tour Edge, PING, Wilson, Cobra and XXIO equipment.
But, as Smith pointed out, there are shortcomings to these golf parties. What if you're busy/gone that day? How far must you drive to attend? What if the one driver/company you wanted to try isn't represented? How many swings will you actually get if the event is overrun with people? What if a horde of folks just want to hit free range balls with no intent to buy anything at all? Needless to say, you may come to a demo day with a plan, but leave without the experience, or club, you desired.
Option 3: Hoping for the private club treatment. Private club members tend to have it much easier. Their demo days are less crowded. Sometimes, the pro will let members try different clubs for sale in the shop on a range without the hassles of dealing with a sales rep or fighting the crowds of a demo day. Often times, their biggest events, such as the member guest, affords opportunities to try new clubs. If you're not a member or know somebody who is, however, you're outta luck.
"One of the things we saw in the marketplace was somewhat of a disjointed trial offering in the market," Smith said. "You had a complete lack of ability to try clubs when buying online. In the brick-and-mortar world, manufacturers have stuff in the field, but at private clubs, most golfers won't have access. For the public, it was relegated to locations where they had demo days. It can be an intimidating experience. They can be busy. They can be chaotic."
The only real way to demo clubs on the course is by renting a set of clubs. But the vast majority of courses typically only carry one brand and model (and even then, they can be outdated).
The U-try way
U-try solves a number of issues. First off, no crowds or salespeople. The club is shipped right to your door. You get to be the first one to rip the plastic off the head and hit a shot. That's a thrill for any golfer.
Second, you get to hit the club as often as you like. Take it to the range at lunch. Play a different course every day if you want. It's less like the speed-dating you get at a demo day and more of a chance to form an intimate relationship.
"A real unique part of U-try is you get to try it on your own course on your own schedule," Smith said.
Most, but not all top manufacturers are offered through U-try. Hot brands like PXG and Ping are not on the platform. Currently, only drivers, hybrids and fairway woods are available. Smith said irons could be added soon.
Every club order comes with a complimentary Arccos Golf Driver Unit. Simply attach the sensor to the club, download the Arccos App and begin collecting data on the club's performance. It tracks all sorts of statistics, such as carry distance and total shot length, that can be beneficial to the decision to buy or send back. With today's adjustable technology, you can tweak the settings and compare the new data against the previous setting. The Arccos unit, a $30 value, is yours to keep.
"Our goal is to give our customers the data to make an informed decision," Smith said.
Every new U-try club sent back to Global Value Commerce will be resold online as a used club. The company plans to spend the first year gathering data on how many golfers actually buy the clubs they test and will tweak the program as necessary.
"It has been met with a lot of open arms by consumers," Smith said. "The feedback is [the try-before-you-buy concept] has been lacking. It's long overdue."