The golf industry
The golf industry is a very significant source of employment and an important contributor to the economic and social fabric of many countries. It is divided into several categories, the most obvious one being golf equipment. The economic value and major brands in this category are outlined below:
The golf apparel industry encompasses an enormous range of products, services and companies. It includes golf sweaters, shirts, shorts and trousers for men and women as well as women’s golf skirts and dresses. It also includes kids’ golf clothing as well as golf hats, caps, visors, gloves and outerwear (fleeces, vests and rainwear). Golf socks, sandals and shoes also can be included. Overall, the value of the golf apparel industry globally was estimated at over $4.25 billion in 2020 and is expected to increase by 50% during the coming decade. The major players in the industry are Adidas, Callaway, Greg Norman, Nike, Puma, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, Ping and Antigua. Others include Lacoste, J Lindberg, Hugo Boss, Galvin Green, IJP Design (Ian Poulter) and Nancy Lopez Golf. Many newer and smaller manufacturers and retailers are emerging too.
The golf bags sector includes cart bags, staff bags, carry bags, stand bags, pencil (or Sunday) bags and custom-made bags. Some of these are made from leather or exotic materials like ostrich or alligator skin. It also includes practice ball bags, holdalls and protective travel cases, covers and boxes. Along with all the mainstream golf companies, such as Callaway, Titleist, Ping, Cleveland and Taylormade, other more specialised producers include BagBoy, Bennington, Club Glove, Sun Mountain, Ojio, Belding and Datrek. Golf bags range in price from less than $100 for a lightweight carry bag to well over $500 for a full-size professional tour staff bag. There is also a good market for vintage golf bags dating back to the 1980s and earlier from companies like Hogan, Wilson, Macgregor, Spalding and Ram. These still have nostalgic value due to being associated with various iconic figures from the past and were often of superior quality compared with what is produced today.
Golf ball markers
For something that appears so simple (many players – even some of the stars – use a “lucky” coin) the golf ball markers sector is quite an active marketplace. It includes products such as customised logo ball markers with promotional names imprinted that are often given out as gifts at golf events and corporate days. There are also custom-made coin or poker chip markers, magnetic ball markers and markers that clip onto a golf glove or divot tool. Golf ball markers seldom grab the spotlight (unless a player moves one on the putting green and replaces their ball in the wrong place). But back in 1981 the inimitable Brian Barnes ran afoul of the stuffed shirts at the Scottish PGA Championship for marking his ball with a beer can on the 18th green. That didn’t go down too well with the authorities…unlike the beer. An opening in the market, perhaps?
The golf balls sector is highly competitive and innovative, and sponsorship of well-known tournament professionals is a key marketing strategy. The sector comprises dozens of new ball brands as well as used balls, range balls, colored and glow-in-the-dark balls, lake balls, eco balls and custom logo-imprinted balls that are either personalised or carry promotional messages. According to Grand View Research, the global golf ball market was worth $1.11 billion in 2017 and this was expected to rise by 2.7% per annum up to 2025. The leading brands today are Titleist, Callaway, Bridgestone, Srixon and TaylorMade. One ball, Titleist, has been a mainstay in the marketplace ever since it was first manufactured in 1935. Indeed the famous Titleist script is based on the handwriting of one of the office secretaries at the time, Helen Robinson, who was considered to have beautiful penmanship. It’s comforting that something so uniquely human can still play a key marketing role in such an intensely technologically-driven industry.
The global golf cart industry was valued at roughly $3.25 billion in 2017 and is projected to increase to more than $5.5 billion by 2027. This sector comprises standard golf carts and golf buggies as well as other more diverse types of golf utility vehicles, including golf beverage carts and single-user buggies. A notable growth area is street-legal low-speed vehicles (LSVs) which are eco-friendly and suitable for use outside the golf course environment itself. The industry encompasses wholesale and retail golf cart sales, service, finance and leasing. Custom golf cars and custom parts are another vibrant sector. Overall, gas-powered golf cars still predominate but electric golf cars are becoming more and more popular due to advances in battery technology. Solar-powered golf car usage is also increasing; these types of cars are attractive to golf cart fleet managers due to reduced re-charging costs. The main brands in the American golf cart marketplace at the present time include Club Car, EZ-GO, Yahama, Cushman, Bad Boy, Garia and Bintelli.
Recent estimates place the value of the global golf equipment industry at around $6.5 billion, with the golf clubs sector accounting for almost half of that. Demand for new and used clubs for men, women and kids including drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, wedges, putters and full sets is expected to grow by about 2% per annum between now and 2025. Although the United States accounts for more than half the market, the increasing popularity of the game in Continental Europe and especially in the Asia-Pacific region is helping to drive this demand. Increased incomes in the Asian middle-classes along with intense competition between both online and bricks-and-mortar retailers – leading to greater affordability of equipment – is a key component in this rising demand. The major golf club brands are Callaway, Titleist, Taylormade, Cobra, Ping, Mizuno, PXG, Wilson, Cleveland, Srixon and Bridgestone. Other important names include Miura, Honma, Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Slazenger, Dunlop, Tommy Armour and MacGregor. For putters, Scotty Cameron (part of the Titleist stable of companies) dominates the market, but other notable brands include Odyssey, Bettinardi, Tour Edge and Axis 1.
The global golf gloves market was estimated to be worth more than $300 million in 2019 and is projected to grow by more than 3% per annum over the next several years. The sector offers gloves for men, women and kids and comprises two main types, namely Cabretta leather gloves and gloves made from synthetic materials. There are also various types of rain gloves and winter or cold-weather gloves and mittens. Recently, innovations such as GPS and Bluetooth-enabled gloves have appeared on the market; these allow players’ shot distances to be measured. Popular golf glove brands include Titleist, Etonic, FootJoy, Srixon, Callaway, Taylormade, Mizuno, Bridgestone, Ray Cook, Cobra, Zero Frictio and Bender.
Globally, the golf grip industry was valued at more than $500 million in 2019 and is expected to grow by more than 2% per annum to reach about $625 million by the end of this decade. Whereas in the past grips were made of leather, nowadays they are made of rubber, or dual-type compounds incorporating cloth for better traction in wet weather. Grips come in various sizes, ranging from the thinner kids’ and ladies’ grips through standard men’s grip sizes, and all the way up to midsize and oversize (or jumbo) grips. Interestingly, some companies are now offering stitched grips in exotic materials such as kangaroo skin, which is a throwback to the past. Other companies make arthritic grips designed to reduce shock at impact. Clear golf grips and reverse-taper grips are other recent innovations. The major players in the golf grip industry include Golf Pride, which has been the market leader for decades, Lamkin, Winn, Avon, Royal, Tacki-Mac, Kelmac and Iomic. The grips found on clubs made by industry equipment leaders such as Callaway, Ping, Titleist, Mizuno and Taylormade are often re-branded grips from one of these specialised grip manufacturers. The putter grip market is served by a number of popular brands, notably SuperStroke. In addition to grips, many club fitting companies supply golf grip replacement kits, grip solvents, grip tape, knives and other tools for to allow for home grip replacement.
The golf shafts industry is highly competitive, technologically-driven and innovative. Current estimates place the value of the golf shaft market globally at about $650 million per annum and this is expected to rise to more than $750 million over the next decade. For hundreds of years golf was played with hickory shafts but nowadays shafts come in a variety of materials, including steel, graphite and titanium. Different weights, stiffness options and bend-points are available for drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons and putters. Players with fast swing speeds require stiff, low-torque shafts to retain control of the golf ball whereas clubs for women and kids typically have softer, more flexible shafts to help get the ball airborne. Major brands include True Temper, Aldila, Aerotech, Fujikura and Grafalloy. Other brands such as KBS, Nippon Shaft, Graphite Design, Project X, Mitsubishi, Matrix and Harrison are also popular. Many golfers, particularly professionals, low-handicap amateurs and players who compete in long driving events, experiment by changing shafts themselves. Components companies facilitate this by providing custom shafts, shaft extractors, shafting beads, epoxy, grips and grip solvents.
Golf shoes are an essential piece of golf equipment because they allow players to retain grip and stability while taking full advantage of ground forces in striking the ball. The golf shoe sector accounts for between 20-25% of the overall $6 billion+ golf equipment market. This covers spiked and spikeless shoes, as well as sandals, for men, women and kids. Major companies in the golf footwear market include Adidas, FootJoy, Nike, Puma, Oakley, ECCO and Callaway. Shoes by Dexter, Etonic, Skechers and Under Armour are highly regarded also. Some golfers prefer a more traditional look than the typical “athletic shoe” style that has come to dominate the market recently, and there are smaller companies who offer such styling. For an even more distinctive look, golfers can find shoes made from exotic materials including lizard and alligator skin.
Golf tees are part of every golfer’s equipment, though they seldom make the headlines. Tees are generally made of plastic or wood, with tough rubber or polyurethane tees being used in driving ranges. Due to environmental concerns there has been a trend away from plastic tees towards wooden tees and other biodegradable materials such as bamboo. A major service provided by golf tee suppliers is custom logo-imprinted tees. These can be personalized with golfers’ names or printed with promotional messages and used as gifts or giveaways at golf events.
In addition to these categories, several others including golf course architecture and construction, golf travel, golf property, golf instruction and greenkeeping provide substantial employment and generate enormous revenues as well.