By Matt Hombach
With nearly three decades of experience in the retail industry, Mark Van Tuyl has seen the game of golf and the equipment used to play it change dramatically.
When Van Tuyl started as a retail clerk on the floor of a golf shop in Towson in 1979, he dealt in persimmon drivers and blade irons that were one size fits all. It was hard for him to imagine a day when he would be selling high-tech drivers with graphite shafts and clubheads the size of grapefruits made from space-age composite materials.
While Van Tuyl, the general sales manager of Golf Galaxy in Towson, has seen the game evolve significantly since the late '70s, one thing hasn’t changed that much. “The No. 1 thing golfers ask us about is how they can get more distance off the tee,” he said.
“They are always looking for a few extra yards to give them that edge. The first thing we’ll do is take a look at the driver they are currently playing and see how it fits them and what kind of shape the club is in."
If the golfer’s current driver fits well and is in good condition, the team at Golf Galaxy might actually advise not to purchase that new club after all.
"A lot of times we will actually steer a golfer away from buying a new club and make the recommendation that they invest some of that money into lessons," he said.
According to Van Tuyl, how well the ball is struck off the club face is the most important part of maximizing distance. Without a repeating swing that helps the golfer hit the ball close to the sweet spot, even the most expensive driver in the store won’t help that much.
Most golfers wouldn’t think of purchasing a set of clubs without getting them custom fit, but Golf Galaxy also offers some new fitting services for putters and even golf balls.
With several certified fitters on staff, Golf Galaxy can check the lie and loft of a putter to be sure it matches up to a golfer’s measurements and specs.
”We all know that putting and the short game is the most important part of the game of golf,” said Van Tuyl. “Golfers need to make sure their putter fits them just like they do their driver and irons.”
Golf Galaxy also offers custom ball fitting, a new trend. For golfers to find out which ball is right for them, they have to hit several shots with their driver while a special monitor measures ball speed, spin rate and launch angle.
"A lot of guys come in here saying all they play is ProV1s,” said Van Tuyl. “The truth is, many of them could be playing a quality ball like a Maxfli that is lower in price, but still get the same or better results.”
Scoring Great Gifts
While Father’s Day (or “Golf Christmas,” as it is known in the retail game) is the busiest time of year at stores like Golf Galaxy, the holiday season is a close second. A gift card is always a safe bet, but almost too safe and not nearly as much fun to open on Christmas morning as a new driver.
"We coach shoppers to think of a club as a walking gift certificate,” he said of the many post-holiday returns and exchanges.
December 29, 2008