The 1990's offered unprecedented levels of revenue and growth to the golf industry. From the late 1980's through the end of 2000 the golf industry benefited from the convergence of three unique phenomenons. The ingredients leading to significant growth in new golf practice facilities and the size and scope of facilities during the 1990's were:
-A Great Economy
-Technological Advancements in Golf Equipment
The nineties turned out to be a great time economically. The proliferation of dot-com companies, the strength of the stock market, and the amount of disposable income many folks enjoyed created a cash rich environment. The golf industry benefited greatly from this free-spending era.
Tiger Woods provided an excitement never seen in the golf industry ever. Yes, we grew up watching Arnie and then Jack dethroning Arnie, but the excitement generated by Tiger was unprecedented. Many people who never thought about golf as a legitimate participatory sport considered the possibility. Many tried for the first time to hit a golf ball. Golf could be for anyone. Ranges saw many new faces on the tee line. Instead of coming out for recreation only, many people used ranges to take the plunge into the game of golf. Practice, group and private lessons, first excursions to golf courses with your instructor resulted in a ranges bottom line growing to new extremes.
For golfers the technological advancements of the nineties were truly awesome. Golf actually became easier for the common person. Clubs became easier to hit and the love affair with distance (fueled in great part by Tiger) became cemented in our psyche. From over-sized metal woods to cavity-backed perimeter weighted irons and next best thing in putters. The changes came fast and furious. Club designers and manufacturers were putting out new designs annually. Golf club marketing reached new heights in creativeness and sheer volume. Golfers were replacing clubs at a record pace. Before the nineties clubs were replaced every eight to nine years. Through the nineties, this number declined by three quarters. Buying more than one driver in a year made sense to many. Putters were dispatched to the basement without any remorse after one or two bad rounds. We were convinced that technology would solve all of our problems. A few visionary retailers and manufacturers decided to break the mold and offer golf equipment traditionally reserved for sale at “green grass facilities” to the common person at sporting goods stores. Dick’s Clothing and Sporting Goods pushed hard for the right to sell the best equipment. Additionally, Dicks realized the value of having PGA pros on staff to fit and sell clubs. Once again, the paradigm was broken. Now PGA pros could retain their certification away from a “green grass facility.” Major manufacturers got the marketing right. We all knew we needed whatever was the newest wedge, putter, utility wood, custom-made clubs, etc, etc.
Ranges benefited from prolific sales in several ways. First, those ranges prepared to plunge into retail, custom fitting and custom club-making were able to capitalize on the excitement and energy in the industry. Second, people practiced more. They had new clubs and had to get used to them. They wanted to try new clubs. Finally, many people just wanted to try golf because of the Tiger-mania. Ranges became the natural place for people to try hitting the ball and taking some lessons.