A couple of months ago, we asked you take our Driver Satisfaction Survey. The objective was simple. We wanted to understand if buyers of some brands were more satisfied than those who bought others. It’s a simple but not unimportant metric. Sure, distance, forgiveness and optimizing the numbers on a launch monitor screen are all good things but there’s probably no better predictor of a repeat customer than satisfaction with a previous purchase.

All told, nearly 9,500 (9,470 to be precise) of you took the survey. Here’s what you told us.

The Demo Experience

We’ve discussed this before but it’s worth hammering home a few observations.

  • Golfers will typically try two to four drivers before purchasing a new one.
  • Three is the most common number of drivers sampled during the buying process.
  • Almost 18 percent of you report buying without demoing a single club. Whoa!

Top Demoed Brands

With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the brands that you tried before buying.

  • TaylorMade and Callaway dominate.
  • PING does OK.
  • Titleist and COBRA are in the conversation 30 to 40 percent of the time.

Not to imply the market leaders aren’t making great products but, by some measure, the deck is stacked. Most golfers try three drivers and more often than not, Callaway and TaylorMade are two-thirds of that equation.

At the risk of stating what surely must be obvious, many smaller brands simply aren’t given the opportunity to create happy customers.

What You Bought

Knowing what we know about who is in the demo conversation, we would expect conversation rates to be higher for the bigger brands. Here’s what you bought most recently.

  • Among our readers, Callaway, PING and TaylorMade are all pretty close.
  • TaylorMade is the current No. 1 in the marketplace.
  • After the top three, it’s a sizeable to dip to Titleist and COBRA before falling off into single digits.

Driver Satisfaction

Now that we understand what you bought, it’s time to move on to the meat of the survey. Ultimately, while what you bought is important, this survey was about understanding how satisfied you are with your purchase.

To arrive at those answers, we asked a series of questions.

First, we asked about the extent to which your driver has met your expectations. To keep charts clean, we’ve limited the display to driver brands purchased most often.

  • Titleist topped the chart for meeting or exceeding expectations.
  • Srixon was a strong leader when meeting expectations is combined with mostly meeting expectations.
  • The industry leaders were all above 90 percent combined.
  • Tour Edge and Cleveland owners were most likely to say that their purchases failed to live up to expectations.

When we asked in what way drivers failed to meet expectations, accuracy, distance and forgiveness were listed frequently but the most common complaint is simply that the performance gains don’t justify the cost.

Go figure.

If it’s been five years since your last purchase, you might get some benefit but much less than that, and, well … take two big steps up the fairway (hopefully you’re in the fairway) and tell me if you play enough holes to make it worth $500.

If You Had It To Do All Over Again …

Next, we asked how likely you’d be to buy the same driver. Those of you who commented with something along the lines of “well, it would depend on what I was fitted for” aside, here’s what you told us.

  • Titleist led among those of you who said you’d absolutely buy the same driver.
  • PING and PXG were second and third respectively among golfers who said they’d absolutely buy the same driver.
  • XXIO and Mizuno were popular choices among the “probably” crowd.

Overall Satisfaction

Finally, we asked the classic Net Promoter Score Question: How likely are you to recommend your driver to a friend or colleague?

  • By this measure , PING is the No. 1 brand in Driver Satisfaction.
  • Titleist is second with XXIO a close third.
  • It’s notable that market leaders TaylorMade and Callaway aren’t among the leaders in satisfaction but as we look deeper into the results, there’s a likely explanation.

Fitting

As we dug through the results, it became clear to us that while brand certainly matters, there are other factors that contribute to consumer satisfaction. Many of the most interesting insights can be found around fitting.

Were You Fitted?

Early in the survey, we asked about the level of fitting associated with your purchase.

  • 29.21% say “no fitting, bought without trying.” They presumably are a mix of online shoppers and guys who walk into a shop and say, “I want this one,” hand over a credit card and leave.
  • 28% demoed but didn’t go through a fitting. DIYers if you will.
  • 43% report getting fitted.

Next, we look at your driver purchases based on your level of fitting.

  • The highest percentage of golfers who bought without trying the driver first purchased TaylorMade or Callaway drivers.
  • Among golfers who demoed clubs but didn’t go through a fitting, PING buyers increase just a tick more than TaylorMade and Callaway.
  • Across the first two groups, Titleist hovers around eight percent, the lowest of the big brands.
  • When we look at golfers who report being fitted, PING remains above TaylorMade and Callaway while Titleist jumps by seven percentage points.

Circling back to our question about drivers meeting (or not meeting) expectations, there are a few additional insights to be gleaned.

  • Golfers who were fitted for their drivers are more likely to say it met or exceeded expectations.
  • The likelihood of purchasing the same driver again is roughly the same for golfers who demoed and golfers who bought without trying.
  • Golfers who went through a fitting process are significantly more likely to purchase the same club again.
  • Finally, looking again at Net Promoter Score, golfers who get fitted are significantly more likely to recommend their drivers than those who didn’t.

Does the Fitting Location Matter?

As much as we promote fitting, we also know that not all fitting is equal. With that in mind, we decided to take a closer look at what role fitting location may play in golfer satisfaction.

First, we needed to know where golfers got fitted.

  • Off-course pro shops still lead.
  • Our “Other” responses were heavy with GolfTec and 2nd Swing so we’ll be sure to include them in future fitting questions.
  • Big Box was next followed by the major custom fitting chains.

To get a sense of your satisfaction with your fitting experiences, we asked how likely you would be to recommend your fitting locations. (Note: We’ve limited the results to only those locations which were listed more than 30 times.)

  • Golfers who get fitted at manufacturer-owned facilities are most satisfied.
  • Cool Clubs leads among custom fitting locations while True Spec and on-course aren’t far behind.
  • Club Champion is an outlier among custom-fitting chains.

Respondents who were fitted at Club Champion locations were less likely to recommend it and there were significantly more detractors. I’d love to dig into this more to understand the reasons behind lower satisfaction levels. Anecdotally, friends who have visited Club Champion have specifically mentioned heavy upselling leaving a bad taste.

Brand Bias

Out of curiosity, we took an aside from fitting to look at brand bias.

  • Big Box and off-course purchases skewed slightly towards PING (28%).
  • Nearly 60 percent of manufacturer facility fittings were conducted at Titleist and PXG locations.
  • True Spec customers were more likely to buy TaylorMade—five percentage points more than Callaway and quite a bit more than PING and Titleist.
  • Club Champion was reasonably well-balanced between the Big 4.
  • While the sample size is smaller, Cool Club buyers bought significantly more Titleist drivers, followed by Callaway.

Lastly, based on fitting location, we looked at how likely golfers were to buy same driver again.

  • Golfers fit at OEM facilities were the most likely to be the same driver. This suggests the experience matters.
  • Cool Clubs and on-course buyers were next most likely to buy the same thing.
  • Satisfaction rates for True spec, Club Champion and Big Box locations were similar.
  • When placed alongside the previous satisfaction question, one interpretation of the results is that Club Champion buyers are satisfied with the result but not necessarily the experience.

Other Insights

Here are a few other interesting nuggets from the survey.

  • Scratch golfers demo the fewest clubs of any handicap group but most likely to be satisfied.
  • As handicap increases, satisfaction decreases.
  • Sixty-five percent of fittings were done indoors. However, outdoor fittings have higher satisfaction rates.
  • Golfers who spend the most money (more than $1,000) are most likely to be satisfied, though only marginally more so than those who spend $700 to $750.
  • Satisfaction levels are roughly the same between $400 and $600.
  • Only when the purchase price dips below $350 do satisfaction levels decline appreciably.