A big player is entering the Twin Cities golf market, looking to grab a share of a Minnesota golf scene that notched a rebound last season after languishing for years.
Leveraging a licensing agreement with the sport’s dominant professional organization, PGA Tour Superstore on Saturday debuts a 41,000-square-foot operation in a former Sports Authority in Minnetonka, touted as the largest specialty golf shop in the Twin Cities.
The superstore offers more than 20 brands of clubs and accessories, a 1,500-square-foot putting green, a dozen practice and simulation bays and a PGA-trained pro to give lessons. The store is banking on its inventory and interactive sections to bring in golfers year-round.
“We’re excited to get to Minnesota. Based on all the research we’ve done, we know it’s a hotbed for golf,” said Dick Sullivan, CEO of Georgia-based PGA Tour Superstore, which has 26 stores in 13 states.
Minnesota saw the nation’s third-biggest increase in rounds of golf played last year. Golf outings in the state increased by 15 percent last year, compared with a 1 percent rise nationwide, according to PGA estimates. The Ryder Cup competition, which will bring the top professionals from Europe and the U.S. to Chaska’s Hazeltine National Golf Club in September, could help continue that momentum.
Still, the golf business is far from its glory days. Retailers saw a 10 percent decline in spending on golf supplies between 2005 and 2011, when spending totaled $5.6 billion, according to a World Golf Foundation-commissioned report..
“It’s never going to be the ’90s again,” said Warren Ryan, communications director for the Minnesota Golf Association. “I don’t think interest or the number of golfers will ever be in the same place as we saw in that decade.”
Golf’s decline has chipped away at retailers. Dick’s Sporting Goods bet big on the sport in 2007, snapping up Eden Prairie-based Golf Galaxy for $226 million. Dick’s added stores but in recent years has closed more than a dozen Golf Galaxy operations, and it laid off 400 people in its golf division two years ago. Golf Galaxy maintains four stores in Minnesota, including one in Bloomington.
Golfsmith, an Austin, Texas-based retailer that rode the ’90s golf boom to national expansion, was acquired in 2012 by Canadian rival Golf Town. It has three stores in the Twin Cities area.
Minneapolis-based 2nd Swing Golf operates one of its two Twin Cities stores just a half-mile away from the PGA Tour Superstore. 2nd Swing, which also has a store in Arizona, has built a niche buying and selling used clubs, which brings in value-savvy golfers.
2nd Swing President Russ Higgins said favorable weather has helped boost business of late. “We’re building on some positive momentum,” he said. “And because of that trend, you’re seeing some positive trends on the retail side as well.”
Even though it’s a competitor, Higgins sees an upside to PGA Tour Superstore’s arrival.
“They’ll create a lot of excitement for the local market,” he said. “And that’s only going to have a positive impact for the game itself.”
PGA Tour Superstore aims to appeal to newbies as well as advanced golfers. In addition to sales and training, it offers custom services, like club fittings for $50. And while business peaks in summer, it expects its practice bays to be a big draw year-round.
“In the colder markets like New York, Chicago and Denver, we actually hand out restaurant buzzers at the practice bays, where people are lined up in the wintertime because they want to hit golf balls,” said Sullivan of PGA Superstore.