With Golf Mired In A Trap, Dick's Lays Off Its Pros

Dick's Sporting Goods yesterday yelled out a loud “fore!” for the trajectory of its golf business by laying off 400 to 500 — accounts differ — of the pros who gave its stores a touch of country-club élan and presumably kept the dotcom wolves at bay.

“Dick's aimed to have one PGA professional at every store to better differentiate the experience from online retailers that try to undercut brick-and-mortar stores,” writes ESPN.com's Darren Rovell, who broke the story that the company had fired “all of the PGA professionals” in its 560 stores.

“But the economy, the downturn in participation, the decline of Tiger Woods and too many products flooding the market cut into Dick's bottom line so much that the company seems to be giving up on winning the golf equipment business,” Rovell writes.

“A spokeswoman for the PGA of America said more than 400 of its members who were employed as golf instructors at Dick's were notified Tuesday that they would be laid off,” reports the Wall Street Journal's Sara Germano. “The organization, which counts more than 28,000 members overall, said it would offer career counseling and employment services to its affected members.”

“It’s tragic,” Will Mann, program director of the Coastal Carolina University PGA Golf Management Program and past president of PGA of America, tells Alan Blondin of the Myrtle Beach [S.C.] Sun News. “They were the largest single employer of PGA professionals in the country, that’s why it was so stunning.”

“Nobody saw it coming. It just happened,” Chris Ingram, who had been the pro at the Dick’s store at Coastal Grand Mall in Myrtle Beach, which boasts “over 70 championship golf courses in the area,” tells Blondin. “There are a lot of unemployed PGA pros today. I feel awful for the pros today across the country.”

In a May 20 news release announcing disappointing first-quarter results in its golf (and hunting) categories, chairman and CEO Edward W. Stack said the company had been expecting “some further headwinds and only modest improvement” for golf after its  “challenging” year-earlier performance. “But instead we saw a continued significant decline,” he pointed out.

Same store sales in the company’s 79 Golf Galaxy stores — a specialty chain it acquired in 2007 — decreased 10.4% and the company said it expected “the continuation of negative trends and challenges in the golf business” in the second quarter.

“We are selling drivers in our stores this spring for $99 that were $299 approximately 21 months ago,” Stack said in a conference call following the earnings report, reports Business Insider’s David M. Brooks. 

The sport itself is mired in a bog, it seems.

“An annual survey by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association earlier this year revealed the fifth consecutive drop in the number of U.S. individuals who reported playing golf on a course at least once, down 2.5% over the year before,” reports the WSJ's Germano.

Not only are more courses closing every year than are opening, TV ratings are dropping precipitously.

“Rory McIlroy’s British Open victory resulted in Sunday ratings being down 28% from last year’s win by Phil Mickelson,” reports Matt Yoder in AwfulAnnouncing.com. And “the Players Championship in May won by Martin Kaymer saw its worst rating in 15 years.”

In a July 19 piece. Time’s Brad Tuttle writes that even the return of Tiger Woods to the PGA Tour in the British Open after nearly a year’s layoff wasn’t likely to “be enough to blast the sport out of its current hole.”

Tuttle elaborates on five reasons for the decline:

  • People are too damn busy. (Tuttle quotes the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay, a new dad: “It is more likely I will become the next prime minister of Belgium than it is that I will find 4½ hours on a weekend to go play golf.”)
  • It’s elitist and too expensive.      
  • It’s just not cool.
  • It’s too difficult.
  • Tiger Woods. (A combination of his well-publicized infidelity, bad play and injuries have burst the Tiger bubble.)

Indeed, “most observers and industry executives agree that the bubble has officially burst” for golf itself, reports Bryant Gumbel on a “Real Sports” segment about the decline last night.

“Every macro-indicator that we’ve been looking at for the past 20 years, rounds played, number of minorities playing, women coming into the game, all of these things that we’ve tracked, says that there’s less people playing. And the ones that are playing are playing less frequently,” says Mark King, president of club and equipment manufacturer TaylorMade.

“Somewhere in America these days, a golf course closes every 48 hours,” a voiceover tells us. One solution?

Get rid of the stuffy dress codes, says King.

Blue jeans replacing red slacks on the golf course? What is this world coming to?

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3 comments about "With Golf Mired In A Trap, Dick's Lays Off Its Pros".
  1. Bill Sinnott from D L Ryan Companies , July 23, 2014 at 8:35 a.m.
    The ironic thing is that golf has traditionally been a sport for retirees ( they have the time) and there is a surge in Boomers retiring. So it should be doing well. Given the ads we see on golf broadcasts ( financial service, luxury cars and travel) it would seem that these folks are the viewers as well. One " fix" could possibly be turning the 6500 + yard " championship" courses into Par 3 and shorter executive courses. It would give older folks who don't hit the long shots some satisfaction while preserving the social benefits of golf. And the round could be played in 2.5 or so hours . One other benefit, in the west at least, is that the smaller courses don't require as much water as the big ones.
  2. Kevin Horne from Lairig Marketing , July 23, 2014 at 5:56 p.m.
    boy, everyone skipped right over that "economy" moose on the table as a major cause, eh?
  3. Jill Livingstone from NA , July 24, 2014 at 1:12 p.m.
    I'm 70, play once a week and love the game, been watching for years. How could anyone have missed what both Bill & Kevin have written?? Of course Par 3s are an answer, of course the economy is the "moose" in the room AND now my own suggestions: Less manicuring, less pesticides, less herbicides -- more links-type golf and a water restriction so that us-green-types don't feel guilty. I assure you clothing has nothing to do with it. Everyone owns a pair of shorts that are not made of denim (too hot to play golf in anyway). More clubs for rent at a decent price, more price points (1/2 off on less busy days -- could be a definite schedule or could be spur of the moment). A program for the local kids -- could be First Tee but it doesn't have to be (make sure a bus goes to the course -- make sure there are a couple of clubs for each child). With 26 million kids living in poverty, golf (the game not the men and women who play) must reach out in innovative ways to find the people that Tiger and Nota and Sergio and Ricky and Ian drew in because they are role models and help these new kids become familiar with golf if not great golfers themselves. 26 million kids are looking for a game -- it could be golf.