The golf industry has taken its lumps over the past decade, but one dynamic company with a creative vision is bucking the retail trend with a story of success and growth that truly stands out. Club Champion Golf has risen to become the No. 1 premium club fitter, builder and retailer of the best brands in golf including Callaway, TaylorMade, Ping, Titleist, PXG, Fujikura, Golf Pride and many more. Offering premium service and an unrivaled product selection, the company has driven average annual same store sales growth in excess of 50 percent and is planning to open a minimum of 30 stores over the next two years.
The company delivers a Tour-quality fitting experience with over 35,000 hittable head and shaft combinations. According to Club Champion CEO Joe Lee, “The results speak for themselves. Our golf club fittings produce longer, more accurate shots with nearly a 100 percent satisfaction rating for golfers of any caliber.” Unlike traditional retailers that carry inventory and face significant price pressure, golf clubs that Club Champion fits and builds for a golfer are unique. Operating with a “just in time” inventory system, inventory needs are minimal. Because their product is fitted or tailored and can’t be replicated on the internet, they don’t compete against web-based retailers on price. As a result, the company is one of the fastest growing retailers in golf with 2017 overall revenue growth near 100 percent. Founder and master club fitter, Nick Sherburne, was 16 when he joined Willowbrook, Illinois-based EJL Custom Golf, a small golf club fitting, repair and building business. An entrepreneur and passionate golfer, Sherburne enjoyed the club-building side of business. Innovations in club-fitting technology and launch monitors created a desire in him to combine the latest advances in a way that would dramatically improve a golfer’s game. By April of 2010, Sherburne had joined forces with Joe Lee and Keith Bank of KB Partners, a Chicago based venture capital firm. Lee was a former NCAA Division 1 golfer at Marquette University. A marketing and sales leader, Lee had a successful career in the technology arena and took the helm as Club Champion’s CEO while Sherburne spearheaded operations. The new team looked at the business and changed operational systems, fitting technology and putting analysis capability. They also made Club Champion studios more visually appealing. The next year was spent upgrading and optimizing the Club Champion model. By the end of January 2018, the company had 28 locations in major markets across the country with plans to add 11 more by this summer.
The company targets locations in communities with a heavy saturation of golfers. The typical store footprint is approximately 3,000 square feet and includes two fitting bays equipped with TrackMan launch monitors, a SAM PuttLab, a build shop and features an extensive equipment wall with more choices than any other retail chain.
Sherburne says, “The shaft wall, coupled with our master fitters’ knowledge, is where a lot of the magic happens.” A premium club fitter will have many more options available. At Club Champion, they offer more than 35,000 hittable head and shaft options from all the major brands, plus numerous other exotic offerings. Club Champion also stands out because they actually build clubs in-house, to exacting, unrivaled tolerances. Variables such as swing weight, length, lie and flex definitely alter performance.
The experience and know-how in combining these intricate parts together is what separates Club Champion from its competition. At Club Champion, master fitters go through more than 150 hours of training including monthly product training and testing. They must pass rigorous testing before they can be certified. As opposed to other retail locations, fitting is all that these people do. Equipment manufacturers hold back nothing with their praise for Club Champion. TaylorMade CEO David Abeles commented, “Club Champion truly is one of the most innovative club fitters in the business. They provide a consumer experience that is undeniably helpful for all golfers to play better. We couldn’t be more thrilled with our partnership with Club Champion.”
Callaway CEO Chip Brewer confirmed, “Club Champion is a fantastic consumer experience. One of the great, new age golf retailers who understands that fitting is the future in how you can benefit a golfer.” Adds Lee, “Other people sell golf clubs, we sell improvement. We not only solve golfers’ equipment problems, but we show and explain why each particular piece of equipment (shaft, head and grip) works for their unique swing.”