Of the many ways we can go about acquiring a new set of golf clubs, golfers have a wider range of direct-to-consumer club options to pick from than ever. While buying golf clubs has traditionally had a hands-on, tactile component—whether it be getting fitted or buying off the rack at a golf retailer or pro shop—that’s still an important part of the formula for some DTC equipment brands. For many, though, the biggest appeal of the direct-to-consumer club companies is that they cut out the middle man in the supply chain, typically spend less on marketing, and pass savings on to the golfer.
Of course, the most well-known equipment company to have success while embracing the DTC sales model and eschewing a golf retail presence is PXG. Now, no one who watches golf on television would suggest that PXG has shied away from marketing the way other recent brands to move into the niche have. Chances are you can hear the gruff voice of PXG founder Bob Parsons just reading this sentence, but it was marketing (and Parsons) that turned GoDaddy into a household name well over a decade ago with some racy Super Bowl commercials.
PXG’s visibility has been a positive for the brand; the company has enjoyed even greater success during the pandemic, maintaining regular contact with customers, keeping its retail channels open throughout, hiring hundreds of new employees, and even opening a number of standalone stores. During a time where some major equipment brands were impacted by supply chain issues and reduced orders, Parsons saw the opportunity for growth and loaded up on inventory, allowing the company to satisfy customer orders. Entering 2022, PXG was riding a three-year revenue growth of 138 percent, further demonstrating its DTC approach can work.
Other equipment brands have moved into the direct-to-consumer space in recent years, some even debuting during the pandemic. Here are four other DTC names to know:
Ben Hogan Golf
The Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company has a known name and a long lineage. The brand was actually founded in 1953, but pivoted in 2017 to become a DTC golf equipment provider. With no salesforce or Tour endorsers, a limited advertising and marketing budget, and no retail mark-up, the company proudly touts being able to provide clubs for 40 percent to 50 percent less than comparable equipment sold at sporting goods or off-course golf retail stores. While the sales approach has changed, CEO Scott White says the company has never deviated from Hogan’s original mission to deliver high-quality clubs with exceptional performance, building custom-crafted clubs to the specifications of each customer. Since 2017, the Ben Hogan brand has grown by at least 50 percent every year. benhogangolf.com
For Stix, the pandemic-driven golf boom has been fortuitous timing. The company got its start during the first half of 2020, offering modern, minimalistic clubs with a favorable price point intended to appeal to newcomers and former golfers getting back into the game. And during the coronavirus era, golf has seen a healthy influx of beginners and returners. As founder Gabe Coyne said, the Stix gameplan wasn’t to challenge the big-name equipment companies for market share, but to activate those who don’t typically splurge for golf clubs or hadn’t purchased for decades. Coyne saw what disruptive DTC brands like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s did in the shaving industry and saw room for a similar middle-ground approach in golf. It’s working, too, with Stix achieving 10x growth year over year in late 2021 and now even looking into some potential retail pilots outside the DTC sales model. stix.golf
Custom-building every club in Sycamore, Ill., Sub 70 has quietly built a loyal community of golfers who identify with its mission: to produce high-quality clubs while distancing itself from talk about advertising budgets, driver hype, profit margins, and multiple product launches every year. With a full line of golf clubs down to the putter, Sub 70 has established a reputation for affordable prices, excellent customer service, and even earned accolades from one of the industry’s leading equipment review websites. Founder Jason Hiliand, looking to bring back an old-school feeling of pride, quality, and shared joy, still custom-builds artful irons, milled putters, and more with his team of professional fitters and assemblers. Sub 70 also introduced an apparel line in 2021 and is opening a new fitting facility this year at its headquarters outside Chicago. golfsub70.com
New Level founder and CEO Eric Burch first started building clubs for himself and his friends as a teenager before becoming a professional club fitter and truly diving into his passion for golf equipment. The next level came in 2018, when he started New Level to produce equipment at a fraction of the cost of big brands. The company is introducing five new iron models this year that cater to a variety of ability levels, with a cost of just $120 and up per club for completely customized equipment—this despite the price increases seen across the industry. Like some of the other DTC brands, New Level has been experiencing positive momentum, most recently a 44 percent sales increase from 2020 to 2021, and just extended a professional partnership with PGA Tour Champions success story Steven Alker. newlevelgolf.com
Would you be interested in trying a direct-to-consumer golf equipment brand?