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Last: Technology is a double-edged sword. You have such a proliferation of choices, and except for the most skilled and engaged golfers, it can be tough for the average golfer to keep up. That's why we're so bullish about club-fitting. Our research shows that a relatively small percentage of recent purchases were custom-fit, but those who were fit are playing markedly better and enjoying the game more than those who weren't.
Stine: Technology will continue to improve. Technology has been evolving every year pretty much since Gary Adams popularized the metal wood [in 1979].
Garbedian: It's a technologically innovative age, and everything gets dragged along with the high end. Even beginner sets now are better than some premium sets of only a few years ago.
Van Sickle: It's too bad that we're in a virtual golden age of technology, where equipment has never been better, yet we're working our way out of this recession.
Stine: The good news is, our numbers show that in virtually every category, sales have hit bottom and started to rise. It will simply take some time.
Van Sickle: John mentioned keeping up with the innovations. Companies roll out new products almost every 18 months. It isn't easy to keep up.
Stine: I don't think there will ever be an end to technological advancements, whether we're talking golf clubs, cars, apparel or computers. That's the way of the world. In computers 18 months is forever. People don't realize how much money the golf companies spend on R&D and how far out they're working on new products. The products they're launching this spring are things they've been working on for a couple of years.
Last: In some consumer research we did a year ago, we learned that about a third of new purchases involve a phenomenon I call Constant Shoppers. Men's shopping habits are usually different from women's, but when it comes to golf equipment, we shop like our wives. That's a tribute to the industry's improved marketing.
Garbedian: At Golfsmith, we offer a 90-90 program during the summer. Purchase a new driver, bring it back for any reason before 90 days and get 90% of your money back. It's almost like leasing the club. With programs like that and the adjustable drivers, consumers have more avenues than ever to get the right club on the first, second or even third try.