In 2005 I started my professional career in the world of golf at The Club Pelican Bay in Naples, Florida–a fresh, new face hired by John Carroll, a true golf professional legend. John is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, professionally and personally. John taught me how to be a golf professional, because I had limited knowledge about the golf business before starting my career.
After a few months working for John, who owned the pro shop merchandise, the shop purchased fifty Laser Link Quick Shot yardage range finder devices. The Laser Link Quick Shot was a device that shot a laser at a prism located on the flagstick, and displayed the total yardage from the Laser Link device to the flagstick on the green. The Laser Link was not the first-ever yardage range finder device, but proved to be the easiest to use until that point. The deal for John and the pro shop involved buying fifty Laser Link Range Finders, and getting the prisms on the flagsticks for free. Our cost was $179 for each device. The math says John dished out $9,000 for the initial order of the product and the prisms. He believed we would sell through the Laser Link devices over the six-month season.
We priced the Laser Link at $249 for retail sale in the pro shop, yielding a decent profit for the pro shop, but not obscene. The rest of the Pelican Bay golf operation team, myself included, thought John had lost his mind, because the deal was a big risk on something that had no traction with previous products. At the end of year we sold just over 200 devices. In case you’re doing the math that was a $14,000 profit for Mr. Carroll’s golf shop merchandise concession. This is one of many examples that prove with cold, hard numbers why John is a legend to many golf professionals. He saw the future, while the rest of us were all stuck in the past. We were romantics about our golf experience, and how things have always been.
So why did these devices sell so well? The biggest reason is that the device saves golfers time. John is as “old school” as they come, but as a businessman he knew not to be romantic about the past. Any product that saves a person time has value. For example, Blockbuster could have bought Netflix, but they were romantic about how their business model had made them money. They forgot about the end consumer, and what gave them value. Netflix saved the consumer time, and bye bye Blockbuster.
The Laser Link device made it unnecessary to walk around searching for yardage markers, estimating the distance to the pin, front of the green, back of the green, etc. Key factors in Laser Link’s success were its accuracy, easily read numbers, overall easeof use, and a design sized to fit well in golf cart storage compartments.
Yardage devices have helped speed up pace of play. Sure, there are misuses of the device, as in the case of golfers who walk 10-20 yards to where the tee markers are, shoot the yardage, walk back to the bag, and then walk back to the tee. They proceed like this even though they have played the hole a hundred times, and could have made one trip bringing two or three clubs and the yardage reading device to the tee. And yes, there is the occasional golfer who sits in the cart watching their playing partners hit their shots. Rather than getting the yardage while their partners hit, they waste time by then walking a few yards up to the tee, scoping the yardage, and then walking back to the cart for a club. They could have gotten the yardage from the cart when their playing partner was preparing for their shot, estimated 5 yards shorter for their shot, and had a club ready to play. Repeat these abuses over 18 holes and you get the idea of how much total time can be wasted during the course of the round.
Minus these few examples and others like them, the devices overall have saved golfers a lot of time, thus providing value. Companies that make yardage devices and styles of devices in use have grown a lot since 2005. Companies like Bushnell, Nikon, Garmin and others have launched entire golf lines to their product families. How useful are they? Golfers who have used yardage devices for a while can relate to my own experience–the few times I have forgotten my yardage device, it was like leaving my putter in the locker room. Not having the device with me during every round negatively affects my mindset as soon as I realize it is not with me on the course, because I know that I have just cost myself effort and time.
The USGA now allows yardage range finder devices for all their amateur championships. I hope the PGA Tour follows suit someday, because in the end they would be saving the viewers time…and time is money.
Every time I think of not giving a product sales rep the time for a sales call, I remember the story back in 2005 about John Carroll’s foresight and innovative approach toward improving how the game is played, not only with swing technique and skill development, but also with time-saving equipment designed to make the game more enjoyable. This all fits in nicely with my personal crusade to save time by speeding up pace of play.
Todd Elliott is the Head Golf Professional at Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island, Florida. Todd is a PGA and CMAA member. Todd is Titleist Performance Institute Level 3 Golf Certified. To contact Todd email him at email@example.com, or on Twitter @elliottgolfpro.