Given the considerable amount of advertising dollars that are spent to encourage golfers to put new clubs into their bags every year, I always wonder why more corporate dollars are not spent to encourage golfers to actually buy the one device that will actually help them post lower scores: golf range finders. Golf rangefinders are typically priced between $200 and $400, about the same price range as new drivers made by Titleist, Cleveland, and TaylorMade. Is there less revenue to be made by merchandisers for selling one Bushnell Rangefinder versus one TaylorMade Driver? Probably. But good marketing campaigns can effectively change what we as consumers feel is and isn’t important.
Avid golfers are always competing with their friends to stay ahead of the curve by purchasing the latest golf equipment. How many times have members of regular foursomes used another member’s new driver and then after just three or four swings went out and bought the same exact club? It happens all the time. The entire Golf industry counts on this kind of viral marketing to sell more and more clubs. However, why don’t rangefinder manufacturers like Bushnell and Leupold employ a similar philosophy or strategy? This article compares the golf rangefinders’ impact on a golfer’s scoring average (USGA handicap) to the scoring impact that more popular golfing equipment has. It also suggests some marketing angles and hooks that manufacturers could employ to make them more mainstream:
1. Rangefinders versus the latest Driver: First of all, the driver is the most important club in the bag. I am not suggesting that it isn’t. Finding a driver that you are comfortable with is vital because hitting fairways consistently set up scoring opportunities. However, golfers don’t necessarily buy new drivers because they are unhappy with the one they have; or because they broke the one they had. They buy them because club manufacturers do such a good job convincing them that without this years’ model, you’ll be a competitive disadvantage and will not hit it as far. They infer that you shouldn’t be on the golf course in the first place without the latest technology. They make you believe that a bigger sweet spot somehow will mean less bad drives. First of all, drivers do not swing by themselves; and no matter what driver you have in your hands, only a good balanced swing will enable you to make solid contact and hit the ball straight and/or far.
What good is a driver anyway if you hit it far AND straight, but it goes through a dogleg or into a hazard? For the same cost (or less) as a new driver, a Range finder will tell you how far you are from hazards; or even how far you are from a tree that borders the left side of the fairway that could be in play should you pull your drive, etc. I think people associate rangefinders with measuring the distance to the flag only. Rangefinders can help you on every shot by providing you distances to landmarks and places you want to avoid. As someone who’s played over 500 rounds of golf in the past ten years, I am absolutely certain that avoiding aiding trouble spots and hazards off the tee will help lower your scores far more than getting more length off the tee. Bushnell and Leupold should emphasize in its’ marketing campaigns how useful rangefinders can be when used from the tee boxes of par 4’s and 5’s, and not just for flag placement on the par 3’s.
2. Rangefinders versus the latest Fad clubs: Did belly putters actually help anyone putt better? Did Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson ever win a major championship while using one? How about the ‘Alien’ Wedge from about ten years back? Did anyone ever win a championship with the ‘Alien Wedge’? ‘No’ is the answer to all of these questions, and there must be a reason for that. These guys win major championships because they are great, talented players who employ prudent golf strategy and execute great golf shots. However, belly putters, ‘Alien’ wedges, and other gimmicky clubs were hot sellers at one time. When watching tour players on TV, the focus by observers is the clubs and the clothes.
Professionals are not allowed to use rangefinders and therefore couldn’t promote them while playing a round of PGA Tour golf. But they don’t need rangefinders because their caddies know exact distances to flags, hazards, and other landmarks from everywhere on the course. And if they don’t know these distances, they pace them off during the round. If Bushnell Rangefinders paid Tiger Woods to talk about the advantages of having a caddy and that Bushnell Rangefinders are a viable alternative to caddies for distance measurement, wouldn’t Bushnell be selling more rangefinders? I think so. And back to my point, rangefinders actually help you with distance measurements and club selection, two of the biggest problems that golfers with handicaps of ten or higher struggle with.
3. Rangefinders versus Clothes and apparel: Please. I realize you need waterproof shoes with good grips, wind/rain gear to keep you dry, and some decent golf polos so that you adhere to your local golf club’s dress code. But again, do how much do these clothing items actually help you with your scoring? Well, I do suppose that wearing sneakers as opposed to wearing golf shoes could hurt your game on a wet day. However, golfers are spending $150 for Footjoys, $100 on golf rain/wind pullovers, and $100 on Greg Norman polos every day.
Why? Because, again, these brands effectively market these products versus cheaper but equally viable alternatives that can be purchased at Dick’s or Sports Authority. Why doesn’t Bushnell or Leupold leverage from this phenomenon somehow? Why not sell the rangefinders as an alternative to overpriced and un-necessary apparel that can actually help lower scores? Isn’t that what a real golfer wants anyway? If a golfer was asked which they would prefer-lowering his / her handicap by 1 stroke or having the coolest looking and most expensive Greg Norman polo; they would choose a lower handicap every time. And between golfing apparel and digital golf rangefinders, rangefinders would be the purchase that potentially will produce lower scores.
Finally, good golf rangefinders really do work. They accurately range flags, trees, and other targets from up to 1,000 yards away; and to within +/- 1 yard of your targeted objects. They are also easy to use and are small enough to be kept in your pocket. I recommend trying the Bushnell Golf Medalist or the Bushnell Tour V2. Leupold’s Gx-1 and Gx-2 models have also received very good reviews by golfers. For a step up in price and performance, the Bushnell 1500 Pinseeker with up and downslope measurement is a great instrument. And if you and your friends can live with the USGA rule infraction, I recommend it; especially for courses being played for the first time.