Direct-to-consumer golf clubs have changed how people buy golf clubs. Previously, golfers could only buy golf clubs in person at big box stores, niche retailers, or pro shops.
This retail business model meant that golf companies had to put a higher markup on their products, as to be able to pay the retailers (or to allow retailers to purchase wholesale and apply their own markup) leading to more expensive products for golfers.
Because you clicked this article, I’m going to assume you’re a golfer. Being a golfer, you understand that some iron sets are wayyyyyy too expensive. It’s common to see iron sets going from $1,200 to $2000 USD.
The direct to consumer model changes that.
Direct-to-consumer golf companies provide golfers with access to high-quality, affordable golf equipment for a fraction of the cost of companies selling with a retail model.
Direct-to-consumer, or DTC (also D2C, depending on who you talk to), means that companies no longer have to place large markups on products because there’s no retail middleman that needs to be paid.
Golfers get the same products for less money (sometime 50% of the price of a comparable product). Simple as that.
Golfers being golfers, however, know that we can be a picky breed. With DTC still being a new-ish thing in the golf world, some still have reservations about buying clubs, sight unseen. We’ll chat about that later.
By embracing the direct-to-consumer approach, golfers can enjoy the same quality clubs as the big, expensive brands without spending as much money.
If you’re looking to buy your first new set or looking to upgrade your clubs, let this article shed some light on the DTC side of this industry. With more information about how this industry works, you can make a better decision for you and your swing.
For the sake of transparency without being too salesy. We, Takomo Golf, the writers of this article, are a DTC golf brand. We’re a little bias naturally so we’ll keep this article educational and not about us. I promise.
The Direct-to-Consumer Business Model in the Golf Industry
DTC isn’t new. This business model, at this point, has impacted most industries in which a physical product is sold. The model, however, only rose to prominence in the golf industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, in 2023, it continues to grow with no signs of slowing—quite the opposite, in fact. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, the DTC model is expected to account for 20-25% of all golf equipment sales by 2023.
The proverbial cat is out of the bag. So how does this business model work, and why should a golfer, like your fine self, care?
By selling products directly to consumers through an online store, DTC golf brands can bypass traditional retail channels, which require the retailer to take a cut (which is why traditional golf companies apply such a markup on their products… They have more people to pay than DTC brands) and offer golf products at a fraction of the prices of traditional retailers.
In the DTC business model, (typically) products are shipped directly to customers almost immediately off the factory line.
Even when a traditional company, that runs the majority of its busines through retail channels, sells products though an online store, the online price remains competitive with its retailers as to not harm their relationships or break their contracts. All of this means that DTC companies are able to undercut the market, selling golf products for less without sacrificing the product’s quality.
How Direct-to-Consumer Golf Brands Are Changing the Game
Generally, golf is way too expensive. The price can be a big barrier for a lot of new players. Accessibility of the game is a huge area where DTC golf brands are changing the face of golf.
Like we just said above, DTC companies can sell the same-quality stuff for less by removing intermediaries that would otherwise need to be paid, thus raising the price of a product in the traditional retail model.
More affordable golf clubs means more golfers can get into the sport. Especially from the perspective of younger golfers. As newer players get better and begin to look into purchasing their first sets, $1,400 or irons or $799 for a driver is a big deterrent which could result in new players losing interest. Cut those prices in half and they may continue to play thus growing the future of the game.
The ability to sell high-quality products for significantly less than the rest of the market is clearly the number one disruptor in the business model, but there are other impacts as well.
Because more of the money from each sale of a product stays with the DTC company instead of going to retail partners, these brands can invest more in research and development, leading to innovative designs and improved performance. This is a general statement and doesn’t apply to all DTC companies.
Additionally, DTC golf brands are online first and typically invest heavily in customer support personnel and online tools which can be leveraged (or spoken to) to help you navigate their products and figure out what’s best for your game.
This point is especially important as us golfer are finicky and have needs as diverse as our swings. Golfers like to try before they buy. This is the biggest objection for people considering buying from a DTC golf brand. Most companies have people you can chat with, test sets you can order, generous return policies, and/or places you can try the products in person.
This is different for every DTC but some solution to this problem or a virtual fitting should exist.
The Rise of Direct-to-Consumer Golf Club Brands
The biggest names that kicked off the DTC model in the golf space was PXG and Ben Hogan Golf (Shuttered in Aug. 2022, RIP). PXG has since become a hybid retail and online seller, but the two companies brought this business model into prominence in the golf industry. Credit where it’s due.
Since then, some popular direct-to-consumer golf club brands have grown in the market including Takomo Golf (duh), Sub70, Haywood Golf, and New Level Golf, among others.
These brands offer a wide range of golf clubs, including drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, and wedges, catering to various skill levels, preferences, specs, etc.
Clubs isn’t the only niche in the golf space to be impacted by DTC. Name the product and there’s a slough of brands making awesome, high quality products that range in price, styles, specificatations, etc. The golf apparel niche is likely the most DTC saturated but you probably kew that, didn’t you? You’re probably wearing a Full Wedge shirt right now, aren’t you?
Anyway, the point is there are DTC golf brands across the industry, across product niches, across price points and specs. If you’re in the market for anything, the local PGA superstore isn’t your only option. Take a look online and find something that matches your style, needs, and taste.
How to Choose the Best Direct-to-Consumer Golf Clubs for you
Where we’re Takomo and we know a lot about clubs, let’s keep this conversation focused on clubs.
Here are some considerations when you’re searching for the best DTC golf clubs for your needs.
When selecting the best golf clubs for your game, consider the following:
Skill level: Choose clubs designed for your specific skill level to maximize performance and improve your game. Be honest about your needs and common problems. Do you need to hit a short, thin forged iron if you’re typically scoring in the low 90s? Probably not. Do you, the scratch golfer, need more precision in the scoring irons but struggle to control longer irons? Consider a combo set.
Club fitting: Many DTC golf brands offer custom club fitting services, ensuring your clubs are tailored to your swing and body measurements. This personalized approach helps you get the most out of your golf clubs. If the company doesn’t offer some level of in-person or virtual fitting, consider getting professionally fit, write down your specs (height, lie angle, etc.) and give these specifications to the brand of your choosing. Most offer all the customization you’d need to get a club in your spec.
Material and construction: Look for high-quality materials and construction, such as forged or cast clubheads and premium shaft options. Quality materials and construction can significantly impact the performance and durability of your clubs. Look for brands that offer third-party shaft and grip options. This is usually a hallmark of a brand the values working with premium components.
Customer reviews and industry sources: Read customer reviews and consult industry sources like MyGolfSpy, GolfWRX, and/or YouTube reviews to gauge the performance and quality of the clubs you're considering. These resources can offer valuable insights into the real-world performance of the clubs.
Comparing Direct-to-Consumer Golf Clubs with Traditional Brands
Direct-to-consumer golf clubs have the ability to offer comparable quality and performance to leading golf club brands but at more competitive prices. Take note of the word “specifically,” in that sentence.
While DTC as a business model can deliver premium products at below-market prices, it’s just a business model and nothing more. Quality (like many things) differs greatly from company to company in the DTC golf space. If you’re vetting a DTC company versus another, default to reviews, your needs, and what’s within your budget.
As a side note: be wary of dropshippers. While the golf club space is relatively dropshipper-free (though not devoid of them) the golf industry is full of them. Dropshipping is when someone launches a e-commerce store and sells a mass produced item with their brand on it, the manufacturer of this mass produced item handles the creation and logistics of these products. These businesses are to be avoided, especially in the context of golf clubs, due to lack of innovation and technology, lack of quality control and accountability, lack of transparency in logistics, and lack of customer support or return policies. If you’ve never heard of the brand before, the product looks like something you’ve seen on the market, there’s nothing on social media or third-party review websites about them, it’s best to avoid this brand until you can do more research.
By purchasing from trusted DTC golf club brands, you can access a wide range of quality products with small price tags than the traditional brands. A general rule is that for the majority of product from transitional brands, there’s a trusted DTC brand making an equivalent product for 50-70% the price. This isn’t necessarily true in the driver department.
When comparing DTC golf clubs with traditional brands, consider factors like material quality, construction, design, and customization options but above all else consider your needs and budget.
DTC Golf and the Environment
The growth of direct-to-consumer model is disrupting the golf industry, forcing traditional manufacturers and retailers to adapt. This shift may result in more competitive pricing, faster innovation, improved customer service, and a wider range of products across the industry, regardless of business model.
Additionally, DTC golf clubs can offer environmental benefits by eliminating the need for brick-and-mortar retail spaces, and reducing avoidable packaging and transportation requirements. This more environmentally friendly approach aligns with the growing consumer demand for environmentally responsible products and services.
TLDR: Let’s wrap it up
- The direct-to-consumer business model is a business model, nothing more.
- Some DTC golf club brands make products that meet the quality of the large golf industry players
- There are ways to try a DTC golf brands products before you buy, typically.
- DTC model helps companies charge less money for the same quality products.
- Your needs matter most when selecting a golf club. Consider your swing, budget, and specs.