High-tech club fitting, instruction and practice bays are at heart of store that bucks national trend.
Imagine stepping up to a golf ball, taking a swing and hitting into a screen that instantly displays dozens of data points about nearly every aspect of the club and ball at impact while displaying the virtual ball flight.
A fitting expert reviews the information, switches shafts, club head and lie angle until the optimum fit of swing and equipment is achieved.
Within minutes, you step outside with a new, perfectly fitted set of clubs ready for the course.
It isn’t a manufacturer’s fitting van at a professional golf tournament, but rather the “Fitting Van Experience” at PGA Tour Superstores across the country, including the newest set for its grand opening Saturday at The Strand at Town Center.
The club fitting experience, combined with the indoor instruction and practice areas, are the heart of the store, said Ryan Koury, the store’s general manager, during a preview tour this week.
It’s the 30th store in the chain led by The Home Depot co-founder and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. The company has a licensing agreement with the PGA Tour, whose branding is evident throughout the store.
PGA Tour Superstore is bucking the trend of golf big-box stores closing nationwide, and Koury attributes that to the experience offered there.
With stores ranging up to 60,000 square feet, the company’s Jacksonville location comprises 25,000 square feet, the smallest footprint in the chain.
But there still is space to stock every major brand of golf apparel, equipment and accessories across the price spectrum.
The store has a large putting green lined with well-known and high-end obscure brands of putters with various price points.
Rows of drivers range from $160 to more than $700. A display of sets of irons runs the length of a side wall. There’s even a large section for left-handers.
The store is designed, Koury said, for the comfort of beginners as well as low-handicappers.
However, it’s the experience of expert custom fitting, instruction and two practice bays that draws customers through the hundreds of racks of clothing, shoes, golf bags, clubs, balls and more to the rear of the PGA Tour Superstore.
In 2016, its stores gave about 40,000 lessons. This year, the company anticipates about 100,000 fittings and 100,000 practice sessions inside its stores.
“That gets a lot of use,” Koury said of the action center along the back wall “It’s the center of our world in these stores because that’s what we do. ... That is where we live and that is the differential for us and in the business world. We make it unique for our customers and that’s critical to our success.”
The Fitting Van Experience is a paid service, $69.99 for hour-long wedge and putter sessions; $99.99 for 90-minute drivers, irons, hybrids or 10-club gap analysis; and $249.99 for a three-hour, full bag session. It uses the Foresight GC2 Quad launch monitor technology combining video with data for thorough analysis. Instruction sessions use the same technology
Standard club fitting is a free service using Foresight GC2 (without video). Even the practice bays use the same technology, allowing golfers to view simulation and data during their sessions on side-mounted monitors.
The practice bay area is a main attraction, Koury said. Golfers receive swing feedback on an $18,000 launch monitor.
“This is one of our best values,” he said. “You pay $99 for a one-year membership and that gets you one 30-minute session daily (although additional sessions per day, if available, are allowed). This is for people who just want to come in and work on their game.” Without the annual membership, 30-minute practice sessions cost $10.
PGA Tour Superstore also offers free clinics throughout each month covering putting, chipping, power, iron play, child-focused and more.
“There are lots of options for everyone, including those who are just beginning to play,” said Koury, who has been with the company just more than three years. “We put a lot of emphasis not just on junior golf but on beginner golf. These can be intimidating buildings for some, but for us this is an experiential company. We take a lot of pride in spending time with our customers and their experience in our stores.”