A month, ok – maybe two ago, we asked you to take a driver buying survey. We were looking for some insight, not only into what driver made it into your bag, but also about the other drivers you demoed, where you ultimately purchased your driver, and whether or not you were custom fitted.
While I think most of us are genuinely interested in what our peer’s play (and how much they spent on it), there’s no doubt in my mind that the manufacturers are going to be taking a close look at this one to better understand your buying habits. As always, I’ve provided my thoughts on the information you’ve provided.
More than 6700 of you completed the survey (6734 to be precise). Thanks for your feedback, and now let’s get to it.
The Basic Demographic Data
The results are consistent with our previous surveys. We’ve got ourselves a gentle little bell curve here with just a bit under 60% of our readers falling in the 6-15 range, which we can safely describe as the wheelhouse of the golf equipment industry.
Slightly disheartening though not particularly surprising. We will persevere.
Not as clean a curve as our index question, but our readers are reasonably representative of the market as a whole. It’s hard to imagine you’d find this sort of spread in many other sports.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.
The Meaty Part of the Survey
The MyGolfSpy reader is typically a gearhead, so it’s not even a little surprising that the majority of you replace your drivers every 1-3 years (with 2-3 years being the most common response). Across the entire population of golfers, 4-5 years is likely closer to the average, but what’s the fun in that?
To a degree, I suppose this speaks to pre-conceived notions or perhaps even bias. We all have brands we like and brands we don’t. Sometimes those feelings are driven by performance, sometimes by the cool factor, and sometimes seemingly for no reason at all. All of the above are likely in play here.
Callaway and TaylorMade have had a near duopoly on the driver market for more than a decade. PING has released several strong performers over the years, and Titleist has always had its audience. Basically, this all makes perfect sense.
It’s also not a shock to learn that Cobra lives in a kind of a middle ground between the industry leaders and the challenger brands.
Among those of you who selected Other, the most frequently mentioned brands were Nike and Adams. Let’s take a quiet moment to remember both.
Honma, Wishon, Air Force One, and Bobby Jones were also among the names listed.
In the parlance of Callaway Golf, we’ve got ourselves a Mongolian reversal of sorts. Among respondents, Callaway was the brand purchased most frequently, followed closely by PING and TaylorMade. It’s also noteworthy that Cobra jumped from 6.76% as a preferred brand to 11.49% as the brand purchased. Titleist was nearly level.
Among the challenger brands, a few – notably Srixon, Mizuno, and Tour Edge – while not approaching the leaders were purchased at higher rates than the responses to the previous question would lead us to expect.
This is, arguably, the most intriguing question in this survey as it speaks to the chasm between the industry’s haves and its have-nots. Any small/challenger brand will tell you that the biggest hurdle it has to clear in any club buying or demo situation is finding its way into the conversation.
If you don’t try it, you probably won’t buy it. Reworded – it’s not a lack of performance; it’s a lack of opportunity.
There a multitude of factors in play, but one can’t help but think that part of the reason why, as an example, Callaway drivers were purchased more than 25x more frequently than Wilson drivers by our readers is that Callaway is included in that initial conversation (the demo set) significantly more often.
Simply put, the overwhelming majority of you try Callaway drivers, you try TaylorMade drivers, and PING drivers, and Titleist drivers a good bit of the time as well. By the time we get to Cobra, the demo rate is dropping precipitously. The next step down to Mizuno, Srixon, and even NONE is a big one, and it significantly limits the sales opportunities for smaller brands, regardless of whether or not they can match or exceed the performance of the leaders.
A good bit of this can be traced to the obvious. You guys are gearheads, and gearheads want the new stuff. That said, I’m surprised by the relatively low percentage of you who buy used, and I suspect that number is higher in the world beyond the boundaries of MyGolfSpy.
On any story about a new club release, we get a few comments from readers who tell us they’ll wait and pick it up at a discount next year. For better or worse, the days of discounting (at least rapid discounting) are largely over. Manufacturers prefer you buy the newest models, and they’re putting considerable effort into ensuring that’s the case. The 6-month release cycle is gone, and as manufacturers have become more responsible with inventory management, slash and burn pricing has gone the way of the 907 D1. With plenty of patience, there are still good deals to be had, but generally, prices only get cut when a new model is on the way, which helps to explain why nearly 60% of you bought the latest and greatest.
The big box retailer is still on top, and that number is likely higher across the entire golf population. It’s also positive to see off-course shops as well as green grass getting your business. eBay is, I suppose, about what you’d expect, while direct from the manufacturer sales continue to rise.
We’ve basically flatlined across the entire price spectrum. The dip at $551-$600 is likely attributable to the reality that $500-$550 gets you into a stock (or no-charge upgrade) build from one of the major manufacturers, but the extra $50-$100 isn’t enough to get you into a premium/exotic shaft upgrade. It’s the dead zone. I would have expected a more significant spike between $450 and $550 given that’s where most new drivers are currently priced. Are there secret deals we don’t know about?
A question for those of you who spent less than $250, what did you buy and where did you buy it? For the more than 7% of you who spent more than $600, same question.
As we’re beginning to touch on in our Shaft University series, there’s plenty of misinformation and confusion around the golf shaft, so I wanted to get a better idea of what golfers are buying along with a general sense of what our readers believe to be the role of the shaft in the fitting equation. Given how much still gets purchased off-the-rack, and how much of custom fitting is more accurately described as fit from stock, we’d expect that the majority of you would have stock shafts in your drivers.
It’s also not particularly eye-opening that the next most significant chunk is comprised of no-upcharge alternatives. I suppose the aftermarket exotic option accounting for 21+% is interesting. As you’ll see, this number isn’t far off from the percentage of you who were custom fitted somewhere like Cool Clubs or Club Champion. Those fittings tend to be the most intensive, and while exotic shafts aren’t always the recommendation, they are places that generally seek to find the best possible fit for golfers.
Again, this one was about trying to gauge perceptions of the relative importance of the shaft in the fitting equation. I’m sure that even within the industry itself there isn’t universal agreement, though I think the majority would say that, by some degree, the head is more important than the shaft. What’s interesting, I suppose, is that among those who don’t see head and shaft as equal contributors, more respondents believe the shaft matters more than the head. This was true for both the slightly more and the significantly more options.
As I said, I don’t think there’s universal agreement here, but I’d be shocked if anyone on the R&D side, or even the fitting side, would argue that the shaft matters significantly more than the head. You probably wouldn’t find much support for the idea that the shaft matters even a little bit more than the head. The analogy I’ve heard most often is that of a big knob and a small tuning knob. In these scenarios, the head is always the big knob – it’s the part of the equation that allows you to affect the most change, whereas the shaft is more of a fine-tuning knob that allows for smaller adjustments.
A straightforward question that, in addition to giving us an idea of what percentage of our golfers got fitted for drivers, also allowed us to fork things out and focus a bit more on those of you who did.
It’s satisfying to see that a majority of you were, to some degree, fitted for your driver.
These next few questions for shown only to respondents who told us they were fitted for their drivers. It’s absolutely awesome that the highest percentage of you worked with a specialty fitter like Cool Clubs, Club Champion, or TrueSpec (presumably among others). Among the rest, big box and off-course were the next most common selections. While in most cases, these locations don’t have quite the same capabilities as the high-end guys, it’s a hell of a good start.
Demo days accounted for a significantly smaller percentage of your fitting experiences than I would have thought, while HQ fittings happen at a bit higher rate than I would have guessed.
This is sometimes a hotly debated question in fitting circles. As is typically the case we these types of things, each scenario has advantages and disadvantages. Outdoors, you have the benefit of seeing the full flight, and with iron fittings, you get a truer sense of turf interaction. You also bring weather into play and have to adjust for the reality that something as simple as the wind can impact how a golfer swings.
Indoors takes weather out of the equation, and most simulation software does an excellent job of representing ball flight. There are sometimes situations where golfers feel overly confined, and that can impact how they swing.
My feeling is that both environments are suitable for fitting. What’s often overlooked, and significantly more important is that the ball used during your fitting is either the ball you play or something similar. If you play a 4-piece, urethane, tour ball, what sense is there in getting fit with beat-to-hell range balls?
My, we’ve come a long way in a relatively short time. Some form of launch monitor was used in all but 3.32% of fittings. It’s not particularly surprising to see Trackman as the most widely used here. It has an established track record, most OEMs own a fleet of them, and the cost structure is such that once you have one, moving to a different platform is cost-prohibitive.
Now’s the part where I ruffle some feathers. It is my opinion that in an outdoor environment, both radar-based (Trackman and FlightScope) and camera-based systems (Foresight/Skytrak) are excellent. If you don’t fully trust the algorithms camera-based systems use and want to make a case for radar, I can understand that. I’ll take accurate head data and with that reliable head speed and smash factor measurements, and we can call it a push.
If you’re indoors, I believe camera-based systems are superior. We can save the debate for another day, but a quick Google search should satisfy your curiosity.
Ultimately, good fitters focus on consistency across several metrics, so in that respect, it’s not always paramount that the numbers be accurate to the decimal. With a competent fitter and a quality piece of hardware, a proper fitting can be had in nearly any environment.
Among a population of readers who consistently tell me that drivers (and golf clubs in general) are too damn expensive, only 2.12% of you said cost was the primary factor in your buying decision. Obviously, that’s not to say cost isn’t a factor, it definitely is. But as far as it being your primary consideration, only brand name factored less. That’s also interesting given how lightly demoed clubs from the challenger brands was reported to be.
I’m reading between the lines here, but I suspect cost isn’t as significant a factor as it’s made out to be, while brand name may be more of a factor than some are letting on. Even if you didn’t explicitly buy for the brand name, the numbers suggest clubs are being ignored because of the brand name.
I’m hoping it’s because we have a more educated reader, but there may also be a disconnect between what’s listed as the primary reason for buying (forgiveness/consistency) and what golfers typically buy (distance). While it’s certainly more relevant to our iron tests, some manufacturers have told us that they don’t feel we properly weight for distance because their studies show it is the primary driving factor in the purchasing decision. You guys rated it 3rd, and I really want to believe you.
Hopefully, we are all getting smarter. While it ranked 4th out of 7 choices, I love that 7.52% of you bought because of a Stokes Gained projection and/or the idea that the new driver would help you shoot lower scores.
For respondents who weren’t custom fitted, we asked why not. My response to your responses (from left to right):
Wrong. Way wrong. I get it. I definitely get it. Fair enough.
Among the Other responses, the most common responses were things like “I knew my specs from my last fitting,” “it’s too expensive,” and “I’m going to get fit next time.”
Nothing earth-shattering here. The majority of drivers sold are between 9° and 10.5°, with 10s and 10.5s slightly more popular than the equivalent 9s. We’ve got a loose bell curve with the 8s being only slightly more popular than the 12s. The 11° and 11.5° are less commonly purchased, but that’s easily traced to the fact that very few brands produce those lofts. The same is true for sub-8°, and extremely high lofted drivers.
It’s perhaps worth mentioning that, not long ago, the majority of manufacturers vanity lofted their drivers. They intentionally produced drivers with more than stated loft because off-the-rack buyers would habitually buy less loft than they needed. As mass properties (the internal weighting of the club) have changed (improved) and the percentage of golfers who get fit for clubs has increased, the trend is starting to move the other direction. Some manufacturers are now producing parts with actual lofts below the stated spec. The goal is to design a driver where the real loft provides the expected trajectory for the golfer accustomed to playing a given stated loft.
Should it really be that complicated? Probably not. Fortunately, for those who get fit, none of this stated vs. actual spec stuff is overly important.
We probably should have broken this down a bit differently so that we could draw an absolute conclusion. My bad. What we can say is that the highest percentage of drivers you bought are between 44.5″ and 45″, though I’d reasonably expect that balancing out off-the-rack and full custom experiences, 45″ is likely close to the real average.
The majority of off-the-rack offerings are between 45.5″ and 45.75″. Keep in mind those are the stated lengths, and it’s far from unheard of for manufacturers to add another 1/4″ to 1/2″ to gain a distance advantage in the hitting bay. That type of nonsense has trickled down throughout the industry as nearly everyone has increased shaft length over the past few years to remain relevant in a world where the buying decision is often decided by a launch monitor distance battle and accuracy is, at most, a secondary concern.
Custom fitters are more likely to fit golfers into shorter shafts (44.5″ or less) as they typically increase control.
I suppose you could argue that when all the talk about bias, the need for custom fitting, and golfers buying for the right reasons, the only thing that should matter is that you’re happy with your purchase. To that end, it’s a good thing that 70.58% are extremely happy with your most recent purchases, and another 26.74% of you are at least somewhat satisfied.
We’d certainly love to hear from all of you about what you like about your most recent purchase, what you don’t like, and what you’ll do differently next time.