Michigan Golf Show 2012

I got out today to the Michigan golf show at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan (to which I serendipitously drove in the Cadillac CTS I borrowed this weekend from the Suburban Collection Cadillac dealer). The show is an annual event, and is billed as the largest of its kind.

The Michigan Golf show is a consumer show, and thus is nothing like what I’ve seen of the big PGA show in Orlando. The focus is not on manufacturers’ new products, but on things for your average golfer to buy and enjoy. The show had some five hundred exhibitors spread out over an enormous exhibit room. The booths fall into five broad categories: retailers/pro shops; local courses doing promotions; out-of-town travel bureaus; golf related services; and random not-really-related-to-golf businesses.

The biggest names in retailers were Rock Bottom Golf, King Par, Ken’s Discount Golf, Maple Hill Golf, and Boyne Country Sports. These all had huge layouts encompassing the space of twenty, forty or more of the regular booths. If one of the regular booths is 8×10, then the Maple Hill exhibit was likely 7,000 square feet by itself. There were lots of other retailers shoved into much smaller spaces.

The gear sold was for the most part, last year’s (or older) stock, sold at pretty irresistible prices. New, but one- or two-seasons outdated woods were selling for as low as $39. Name brand drivers could be had for $50. Apparel was in abundance, and if your feet or body come in odd sizes, you could get a complete outfit for the price of taking the family to McDonald’s. Standard sizes were somewhat more scarce, but you still could find a bargain. I was tempted by a couple of really nice looking Nike shirts, but realized that Mrs. GolfBlogger would kill me if I added any more to my closet, so I passed.

And if used golf balls were on your list, your need be completely sated. Experienced golf ball retailers were there in force, some selling potato sacks full of orbs.

Collectively, the retailers and pro shops comprised the world’s largest golf outlet store.

Scores of local (southeastern Michigan) courses were present. All had show specials—coupons for discount rounds—and most were holding drawings for free rounds that could be entered for the price of your email address. With so many local golfers present this likely is their biggest marketing opportunity. Out-of-town courses had similar offerings. In addition to resorts in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, there were travel bureaus from the Gulf Coast, Florida, Nevada, and other golf meccas. Interestingly, one booth was dedicated to marketing golf vacations in the Czech Republic. In truth, those courses looked beautiful.

Savvy show-goers had labels printed out with their name, address, phone and email so they could simply stick them on the entry blanks. I forgot to make some, despite vowing last year to do so. By the end of the day, I had a minor case of writer’s cramp.

The best of the exhibits had the course’s Pro or manager on hand to talk about the property. Far too many, however, were “staffed” by young blonde girls with varying degrees of décolleté. There was even one exhibitor there whom I overheard telling a friend “I don’t need a fancy sign. I’ve got girls.” The problem with these girls is that they could recite the speil, but often couldn’t answer any questions, such as “does your course allow walking.” The answer I generally received in response to that one was “you get a cart with this price.”

In terms of marketing I’m not sure that the girls were as effective as the thought of a free round of golf.

I collected quite a few coupons from courses within a few hours drive of GolfBlogger World Headquarters and entered drawings for courses for courses I likely will never get to. I won a free round at Longaberger in Ohio. I just might stop there on my way to or from Morgantown this summer. 

An interesting, and growing category of golf service is based on the Groupon sales model. Like Goupon, these offer limited time deals for rounds of golf, golf services or golf products (most typically rounds). If enough people commit to buy, the deal goes “live,” your card is billed and you receive an email coupon (or in some cases, a product is shipped). I first encountered this a couple of years ago with Group Golfer,  a Michigan based company with which I have had good experiences. This year, I counted five companies offering similar business models. The sites seem mostly to be distinguished by the mix of courses on their roster. I gave them all my business card and asked them to email additional material, so I’ll let you know more about these as I learn about them.

Another interesting golf “service” is the Bogey Golf Tour, offered by Todd and Michelle Grondin. This weekender’s “Tour” offers eight competitive events in the Southeastern Michigan, and in the Ontario cities of Windsor, London, and Kitchener/Waterloo. Players are flighted by handicap and participating in four events gets you invited to the TPC of Michigan for a season ending event. It’s $60 to sign up for the tour, with additional individual fees to pay for each event you enter. Some nominal prize money is available for the winners of various events and flights. I’m pretty sure that you can participate in this and retain amateur status as long as the total winnings don’t exceed $750 for the series.

I came away from the show with two shopping bags of printed materials (the bags were thoughtfully provided by the Suburban Collection and Turtle Casino. It’ll take me a couple of hours to sort through the material tomorrow and organize all the coupons. Then I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the next few days, hoping that I win a round or two.

I’ve put up a few more photos of the golf show here.

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