When the crowd favorite Bubba Watson won the prestigious Masters on April 13 for the second time in three years, it no doubt inspired countless duffers to upgrade their game as well as their gear. If you’re among the 26 million who enjoy golf and spend nearly $70 billion supporting the sport, you have plenty of shopping options. But which shops are tops?
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For a survey on sporting goods stores, readers told Consumer Reports National Research Center about nearly 7,000 experiences buying golf clubs and accessories. Respondents lauded independents and pro shops, which earned the highest possible marks for value, service, merchandise quality, and checkout ease.
Ninety-two percent of readers surveyed were highly satisfied with their experiences at these types of stores, which tend to cater to enthusiasts and earn their keep from consumers willing to pay a premium for top-quality goods and expert advice.
Large sporting goods chains such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sports Authority were often middling at best in terms of service, quality, and selection. Target, Walmart, and Kmart were below average in many key parameters.
If you’re intimidated by pro shops or don’t have an independent specialty shop close to home, consider one of these three outstanding golf chains: Edwin Watts Golf (44 stores mostly in the South), Golf Galaxy (more than 80 nationwide), and Golfsmith (around 90 stores). All earned impressive marks.
As multichannel operators, they have walk-in stores as well as extensive online inventories. They also have unbridled enthusiasm for the game. Through them you can book tee times at courses across the country, purchase tickets to tournaments, and plan a golf vacation. If you can’t get enough golf, here are some of the pluses the chains have to offer (for specifics, check out each retailer's website).
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- Custom club fitting.
- Mongramming and personalization of clubs and balls.
- Lessons from PGA pros.
- In-store greens and bays to analyze your technique.
- Club repairs.
- Equipment trade-in programs.
Edwin Watts has an especially generous return policy, a 90-day satisfaction guarantee that allows you to exchange clubs for any reason. Orders of $299 or more qualify for free return shipping.
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