Commentary

Golf World Bawls Over Scarcity Of Costco Ball

If you shop at Costco, you know the frustration of not being able to find an item that was stacked to the trusses only the week before. And if you know any golfers, you know how particular they can be about their clubs, balls and the exact cadence of the spell they use before taking a putt. Put the two phenomena together and you have the situation that’s inflicting duffers nationwide: They’ve fallen in love with Kirkland-branded golf balls but Costco can’t get enough of them made to keep them on the shelves.

Did I mention that they’re cheap?

“It all started when consumer golf Web site MyGolfSpy.com tested the Kirkland Signature brand of golf balls against the top-selling Titleist Pro V1. The results were pretty surprising,” writes Grant Suneson for Newsy. “‘Our test results show that the Kirkland Signature was 9 yards longer, has less driver spin and has better wedge spin,’ the MyGolfSpy.com video says.”

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That reveal was back in early November. By Dec. 6, MyGolfSpy’s Tony Covey was reporting that its test had “raised product awareness. So much so, Costco is struggling to keep the balls in stock online.”

And he also offered a mini-economics lesson about the four-piece urethane cover golf ball that claims to offer legitimate tour-level performance on its packaging. 

“If it’s so good, why is it so cheap?” a horsey subhed asks. “Costco can sell for significantly less than conventional ball producers because its business model is built on retail margins of 15% (excluding membership fees). Most anyone running a brick & mortar retail business, or even a direct to consumer business, will tell you that those margins are so thin, they border on insane,” Covey responds.

Well, the balls evidently came and went a few times over the course of the holiday shopping season. They were “sold in stores and online for a devilish $15 per dozen in a two-dozen package — three different times,” according to a Golf News Net report.

On Dec. 21, just as would-be Santas were growing anxious, Golf Digest’s Joel Beall wrote: “Remember the Costco-made golf balls, a $15 product that was drawing comparisons to Titleist's Pro V1? The ball was so popular that the superstore ran out almost immediately. The good news is the in-house Kirkland ball was back on shelves December 20.”

Phew.

“The bad news? The ball is out of stock again. And this time, it was only accessible for two hours,” he continued.

The Wall Street Journal’s Brian Costa takes an in-depth look at the causes-and-effects of “golf’s version of ‘Two-Buck Chuck’” in a widely cited piece published online yesterday. And here’s the really bad news his reporting turned up:

“The balls were made at a factory in South Korea by a company called Nassau Golf, which also manufactures balls for TaylorMade, one of the major equipment manufacturers. According to Nassau officials, the company had an excess supply that it sold to Costco through a third-party trader. But that supply appears to have been exhausted by overwhelming demand.”

And, he reports, they may not be back. Ever.

“We don’t have a certain amount that we promise to deliver to Costco,” said Shim Kwang-Suk, executive director at Nassau’s ball plant in Korea. “We produce other products first and deliver to Costco if we have products left.”

Some other classic economic factors have contributed to the buying frenzy.

“Costco is no longer offering these balls for sale,” a commenter — self-dubbed “Out of Luck” — wrote under the AOL Finance repost of the Newsy story wrote last night.

“Maybe not at your store,” Golf Maniac replied early this morning. “I bought 30 boxes of them yesterday and have already sold 25 of them online. They had about 50 boxes left after I bought mine so going back today to buy whatever they have left.”

Packages are broken up and opening bids vary on eBay, as always, but you can get a “double dozen 24 balls” on a “buy it now” deal for $238. At least as of 07:24:05 ET.

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