The purpose of this study was to investigate preferred shopping behaviors of golfers in the state of Tennessee. While much research has been done on retail shopping behavior in general, little exists regarding shopping behavior in sport retail, and more specifically golf retail. While golfer behavior has been researched in other areas such as tourism, it has not been fully researched in the sport or retail literature. Since this segment of consumer spends millions of dollars per year, this study was conducted to fill the gap in the literature regarding this unique consumer. An online survey was distributed among a state-wide professional golf organization regarding preferred shopping and golf course attributes. Results showed a significant relationship between some variables, including brands/designers offered. This research will be helpful to golf retailers, golf merchandisers, golf marketers and managers, who sell, buy or deal with golf apparel and/or related merchandise to better tailor marketing and promotional activities and ultimately increase revenue. This paper is unique and applicable in the fact that golf has not been fully researched in the marketing or retail area.
**Key words:** golf, marketing, consumer behavior, retail
Sport and leisure have been researched in many capacities over many years. Topics encompass marketing (42), travel style (40), satisfaction (49), retail (12), behavior (72) religion (65), gender-based (38), product involvement (6), sport (74) and many others that have been analyzed to better understand this phenomena. Understanding sport and leisure and its many facets are important not only to extend retail-based research, but to present possible opportunities to uncover more about some of the still underdeveloped theories of retail and consumer behavior within this area. It has been shown that consumers will spend significant amounts of money on leisure (28). Consumer shopping behavior has been proven to be important and relevant in other industries such as the tourism industry (50, 11).
Due to the significant nature of money spent on sport and leisure by consumers, sport marketers, merchandisers and others realize the need to segment the different types of sport consumers. Some studies have addressed and studied the specialized segmentation of the sport consumer. Not only do sport consumers hold specific values and attitudes (46), but they require marketers, retailers and others to take note of their unique spending habits. Other traditional consumer behavior concepts apply to the sport consumer such as brand loyalty (8), emotional attachment (67), and brand equity (20).
#### Golf Industry
Because the sport consumer holds some of the same behavioral traits as traditional consumers, it is important to investigate the behaviors of the sport consumer in more detail. Many sports have been investigated in regard to its consumer such as the brand loyalty of baseball, wrestling (32) and football (41). To continue to investigate the sport consumer, this paper will attempt to identify golfer consumer-based behaviors. This may help all stakeholders, to include retailers, merchandisers, academics and golf managers to better understand, serve and recognize golfer segments and to determine segmentation and/or marketing strategy for applicable segments. Though this type of study has been conducted for other entities (professional golfing organizations, for example), it has not been conducted in this manner, thus adding to the small current body of literature in this area of retail study.
Participating in a sport while partaking of a leisure activity, such as a vacation, has been found to be a growing occurrence (27). Further, one activity that has received some attention is the golfing industry. Golf’s popularity continues to increase with as estimated 28.6 million participants as of 2009 (48). In fact, in 2008, golf generated approximately $76 billion in goods and services (21). Another report indicated that golfers spent $4.7 billion on equipment alone and $19.7 billion on green fees in 2002 (22). But, surprisingly, golf has been noted to be an under-researched activity (14), especially considering the impact it can make to the local and state economy. Golf travel, tourism, facility management and golf-related real estate (73) are a few of the important areas of the golf industry. It has also been estimated that the average dollar amount spent per person per golf trip was $452 with an almost 40 million golf trips taken (64). In addition, golfers spent $26.1 billion a year on golf travel (22). Research has been conducted to learn about different aspects of the sport. Topics that have been studied have included golfer’s satisfaction (53, 54) destination choice (27, 14, 34), golf course development (69) and seasonality (18). Golfing lifestyles have also been a focus of research inquiry. One study found four distinct tourist typologies within the golfing industry which were: quality-seeker, competitor, high-income and value-seeker. These typologies were chosen using many attributes and demographics such as course layout, availability of tee times, fees, income, gender and age (70). A recent article even investigated the willingness of golfers to pay for a higher environmental quality of the golf course (37). Other research has focused up on the economic impact of golf to include pricing (63, 47, 39). More specifically, several studies have been conducted that focused upon individual states and the economic impact of golf. For example, the golf industry in Florida (25), South Carolina (17), Arizona (58), Oklahoma (59) and Georgia (13) have all been studied and each revealed a significant impact to the state economy. One study indicated the economic impact of golf in Tennessee was significant. With over 200 golf courses in Tennessee, the golf industry directly employed over 5,000 people, with annual wages estimated at $97 million and a direct economic impact of over $313 million (26).
Golf is a sport that has been subject to study in regard to segmentation and thus marketing strategy. Petrick (53) found that several different segments of golfers exist by examining past behavior and experience level. Differences were found, too, in perceived value, satisfaction and intention to revisit. Golfers have also been segmented by spending habits, with heavy spenders being especially transparent in their habits (60). Another recent study found that certain segments of golfers tend to pay attention to different store attributes such as cleanliness and store appearance (36). Even length of stay in regard to the golf traveler has been noted to be of significance when analyzing different segments of golfers (4). Image of the golf destination was found to be different among different golfer segments (51). Therefore, it is important to continue to study golfers and how different segments of golfers consume and behave because the shopping behavior of consumers can impact profitability and revenue of many facets of the golf retail industry.
#### Shopping attributes and involvement
The concept and theory of involvement has long been studied and analyzed in numerous areas of research and has been proven to be connected to shopping behavior. It has been found to be important in many ways to include web site design (75), persuasion (33), and product experience (5). Product involvement in such areas as leisure studies has been described even more specifically by being termed enduring involvement which is the “the central notion is that of an abiding interest in, and attachment to, a product class which is independent of purchase or other situational factors” and has been found to be linked to leisure in three main ways: enthusiasm, experience and satisfaction. Product enthusiasm connects the consumer with the leisure activity and the products associated with the activity which transcends most one-time purchases which has been the bulk of most research regarding involvement (6). Therefore, studying golfers and their enduring involvement with golf-related products and services are important. Golfers may become involved with numerous products such as equipment, facilities, shopping behaviors, particular brands or store attributes. Enduring involvement has also been correlated to participation in the activity or product (45) and has been found to have a relationship with situational involvement (57). Enduring involvement has also been studied specifically in the golf environment. It was found that enduring involvement (activity, length of participation, attraction and risk consequence) had a positive relationship with length of participation when studied with the variable of seasonality (24). In addition, involvement has been shown to have a predictive power in regard to usage of the product (52). Involvement was also found to be important in the golf environment when determining level of involvement, the psychological commitment to a brand and attitudinal characteristics (30, 31). Golf has been studied with enduring involvement with the attribute of gender. It found that women are involved with golf for different reasons than men to include purpose, leisure entitlement and status (43).
A main variable that may influence a customer of sporting activity are store attributes. Many studies have shown that store attributes such as pricing (62, 23), atmospherics (55), product/brand selection (61), quality (9), salespeople (19), convenience (16), location (15), and image (29) all influence purchase behavior in some manner. One study found that people, who are involved in a particular sport activity every day, will most likely participate in that same activity while on a vacation (7). In addition, product involvement has been positively associated with leisure in regard to sporting activities. For example, product involvement and leisure have been shown to have a relationship in such sporting activities such as biking (68), yoga (10), boating (35) basketball (1) golf (44) and skiing (2).
However, one area ripe for development in leisure study is the consumer’s involvement and shopping behavior in regard to the consumer’s chosen sport activity. Further, one leisure activity that has shown evidence of growth and importance in regard to consumer involvement and shopping behavior is golf. It is important to understand the different types of golfers and how they behave for several reasons. First, the golfer market is a significant one since golfers worldwide number in the millions. Further, within those millions, different segments exist (53). Therefore, understanding those separate segments is important to determine leisure, marketing, retailing or other business strategy. For example, different golfer segments may be segmented by frequency of play, shopping behavior or purchase behavior. Since so little is known about different golfer segments, it is important to study these golfers and learn how to better serve them. Learning more about golfer segments will encourage, increase and generate revenue which will ultimately be beneficial to the golf retail industry, golf merchandisers and golf managers.
#### Conceptual Framework
Based on the existing literature and the lack of it in regard to combination of the variables given of store attributes, involvement and golf, an exploratory conceptual framework is offered. The following conceptual framework is posited to attempt to explain how sporting activities, such as golf, may be impacted based on involvement, specific store attributes and the patronage/re-patronage of products that may be associated with golf. This model begins by suggesting that the golf consumer’s involvement commences with a golf product or service. Thus, after becoming involved with the sport, the consumer will engage and become further involved with golf-related attributes. These attributes may be such items as the golf course itself (design, condition), the facility (pro shop, practice) staff and facility product offerings such as apparel, hard goods or availability of lessons. Because of a golfer’s proven connection with the different attributes of golfing products/services, patronage is likely to occur. Further, since golfers have been proven to be psychologically connected to a brand, it is suggested that this involvement with the golf-related attributes of the product or service, will transcend into usage or patronage of the product or service.
#### Research Objectives
While attempting to develop a business strategy for a golf retailer, golf course or destination, many variables, such as store image, cleanliness of the store, friendliness of the salespeople, frequency of play, course design or course location, must be considered. Just as any traditional retail establishment utilizes segmentation techniques to tailor their marketing to a particular target market, golf retailers and destinations in Tennessee may also like to use these techniques. Through all golf literature, little research exists regarding the analysis of golfer shopping behavior and consumption patterns. Therefore, the purposes of this study are to:
* Segment the golfing population in Tennessee to categorize golfers by shopping behavior characteristics and preferred golf course attributes.
* Present a competitive advantage strategy for golf courses regarding golfers’ shopping behavior and preferred golf course attributes in Tennessee.
* Assess the potential benefit to the relevant stakeholders of promoting golfing based on shopping behavior and preferred golf course attributes in Tennessee.
The data were collected via an online survey as distributed by a statewide golf association in Tennessee on behalf of the researchers. The online survey was adapted from a tested and valid survey (70). The survey was pre-tested before distribution to a convenient sample of male and female golfers of all ages and resulted in no refinements.
The online survey was sent to every registered member of the golf association in the state of Tennessee. Approximately 15,000 surveys were distributed with 1,123 returned, yielding a return rate of 7.5%. Each golfer who completed the survey was given the opportunity at the end of the online survey to register for one of two $100 Visa gift cards. The participants were asked to give an email address where they could be reached if they were randomly chosen the winner. However, to maintain anonymity, the email address was given to the golf association, where the participant was then contacted by the association and not the researcher. The winners were chosen randomly using Research Randomizer (56). The data collection lasted six weeks with one reminder email sent from the golf association at the halfway point.
The questions were divided into three major sections including shopping behavior characteristics, preferred golf course attributes and demographic information. The first section asked participants, in ordinal scale format, how important particular attributes were when shopping for golf apparel and merchandise. Attributes questioned were store’s physical design and appearance, overall positive store image and reputation, and offers some type of “experience” beyond just shopping and others. Other shopping behavior questions asked about the participant’s preferred location to shop for golf merchandise and how much they spend on golf clothing and golf footwear. The second major section of the online survey consisted of preferred golf course attributes. Again, the participant was asked, in ordinal scale format, how important certain golf course/destination attributes were to them, personally. Some of the attributes on the online survey were course design, location, type of facility, discounts available and many others. Other questions were then asked regarding golf behaviors such as with whom the participant plays most often, average score, golf trips taken per year and others. The final section of the survey asked basic demographic information such as gender, age, income and zip code.
Demographic information was collected from 305 survey participants (due to an online survey glitch, not all participants were provided with the demographic questions). The responding participants were 88% male. The most common age range as well as the median was 50 to 59 (32%). For the 272 who reported their annual household income, the most common response was 37% indicating an income over $200,000 followed by 35% indicating it was $100,000-$199,999. The income result is reflective of other studies (71, 66) and may accurately represent the population in this study.
Due to the exploratory nature of this research, it was important to begin with frequency analysis of the behavioral questions which were survey questions one through twelve. The first question asked about ten attributes regarding shopping behavior of the participant. Knowledgeable salespeople were ranked the most important attribute followed by brands/designers offered. (Table 1.)
Question two asked the respondent to state where they mainly purchase golf merchandise. Pro shops and golf specialty stores were the main choices for purchasing golf-related merchandise. (See Table 2.)
Questions three and four asked how much the participant spends per year on golf apparel and footwear. The results showed that forty six percent (46%) of respondents spend over $250 per year on golfing apparel. Almost thirty-three percent of respondents (32.8%) answered that they spend between $101 – $150 on footwear yearly.
Question five was formatted much the same as question one. However, the main focus of this question asked not about shopping attributes, but golf course attributes and how important those attributes were when choosing where to play. The question asked about sixteen different attributes as shown in Table 3 which indicated course conditions and speed of play were ranked the highest.
The remaining behavioral questions (6-12) asked about particular behaviors of the golfers in regard to different specific important golfer attributes. Table 4 shows the most popular answer for each question which indicated the respondents tend to play with friends, play 8 or more times per month, mostly in Tennessee and at the same course.
Several of the survey questions were examined further to see if they were related. First, average score was examined in relationship to how much was spent on golf-related clothing and footwear. Both were significantly associated, with those having better scores spending more as shown in Table 5 and Table 6.
Question 10 (score) was also associated with responses to Question 5 (Please mark how important the following items would be when deciding where to play golf in Tennessee: course design). Those with better scores reported that course design was more important than other participants as shown in Table 7.
Fourth, Question 10 (score) was associated with Question 1 (When deciding on a place to shop for golf apparel and merchandise, how important are each of the following factors: well-known brands or designer products are offered). Those with better scores thought brands and designers offered were more important. (See Table 8).
Finally, Question 3 (How much do you spend in an average year for golf clothing?) was associated with Question 1 (When deciding on a place to shop for golf apparel and merchandise, how important are each of the following factors: well-known brands or designer products are offered). Those participants that spent $201 or more on golf clothing were more likely to indicate brands or designs offered were important or very important than were other participants.
#### Table 1
Responses to Ten Ordinal Scale Statements Regarding Shopping Behavior Attributes
When deciding on a place to shop for golf apparel and merchandise, how important are each of the following factors?
|Store’s physical design and appearance||65 (6)||509 (45)||392 (35)||112 (10)||45 (4)||4|
|Well-known brands or designer products are offered||393 (35)||548 (49)||112 (10)||40 (4)||30 (3)||4|
|Store specializes in golf products only||150 (13)||382 (34)||395 (35)||157 (14)||33 (3)||3|
|Neatness and cleanliness of the store interior||317 (28)||636 (57)||126 (11)||15 (1)||22 (2)||4|
|Overall positive store image and reputation||298 (27)||682 (61)||104 (9)||19 (2)||19 (2)||4|
|Accessibility and parking||163 (15)||574 (51)||311 (28)||52 (5)||18 (2)||4|
|Days and hours open for shopping||175 (16)||611 (55)||262 (24)||40 (4)||25 (2)||4|
|Offers some type of ‘experience’ beyond just shopping||125 (11)||340 (30)||375 (34)||201 (18)||78 (7)||3|
|Attitude and enthusiasm of salespeople||321 (29)||555 (50)||177 (16)||36 (3)||27 (2)||4|
|Knowledgeable salespeople||549 (49)||444 (40)||69 (6)||19 (2)||31 (3)||4|
Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors
#### Table 2
Responses to Statements Regarding Where Participants Shop for Golf Merchandise
|General sporting goods store||25|
|Golf specialty store||37|
#### Table 3
Responses to Sixteen Ordinal Scale Statements Regarding Golf Course Attributes
|Condition of fairway and greens||623 (56)||462 (41)||14 (1)||3 (3)||21 (2)||5|
|Course ambience||157 (14)||742 (66)||193 (17)||19 (2)||12 (1)||4|
|Course design||228 (20)||700 (62)||162 (14)||23 (2)||11 (1)||4|
|Price/Fees||283 (25)||542 (48)||233 (21)||43 (4)||20 (2)||4|
|Practice facility||133 (12)||464 (41)||397 (35)||99 (9)||28 (3)||4|
|Speed of play||397 (35)||559 (50)||131 (12)||19 (2)||17 (2)||4|
|Tee time availability||306 (27)||649 (58)||130 (12)||11 (1)||20 (2)||4|
|Location||229 (21)||625 (56)||217 (20)||27 (2)||16 (1)||4|
|Type of facility (municipal, resort, etc.)||82 (7)||342 (31)||530 (48)||105 (10)||51 (5)||3|
|Staff (salespeople, golf pros)||99 (9)||452 (41)||412 (37)||122 (11)||31 (3)||4|
|Availability of lessons or clinics||21 (2)||78 (7)||415 (37)||373 (34)||226 (20)||3|
|If you are a member of the course or not||159 (14)||281 (25)||393 (36)||185 (17)||89 (8)||3|
|Availability of GPS system on course or cart||33 (3)||147 (13)||416 (37)||292 (26)||227 (20)||3|
|Choice to walk or ride||165 (15)||335 (30)||394 (35)||134 (12)||84 (8)||3|
|Discounts available (such as TPGA PassKey or GolfNow.com)||55 (5)||261 (23)||477 (43)||202 (18)||119 (11)||3|
|Pro shop merchandise||21 (2)||213 (19)||513 (46)||223 (20)||144 (13)||3|
Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors
#### Table 4
Responses to Statements Regarding Golfer Behavior Attributes
|Golfer attribute||Most popular answer||Percentage of most popular answer|
|Who the golfer plays with the most||Friends||84|
|How many rounds played per month||8 and over||53|
|How many played in Tennessee||Most||71|
|How many played at the same course||Most||69|
|Average 18 hole score||7-12 over par||39|
|Golf trips taken per year (overnight)||0-2||61|
|People in residence who play golf||1||50|
#### Table 5
Relationship Between Score and Amount Spent on Clothing
Score and amount spent on clothing
|0-49||50-100||101-150 f(%)||151-200||201-249||Over 250|
|Par to 6 over||1 (.5)||9 (4)||21 (10)||32 (15)||27 (13)||123 (58)|
|7 to 12||3 (.7)||29 (7)||42 (10)||81 (19)||73 (17)||197 (46)|
|13 to 18||3 (.9)||26 (8)||44 (14)||70 (22)||47 (15)||129 (40)|
|19 or above||0 (0)||13 (9)||26 (17)||31 (21)||24 (16)||57 (38)|
Chi-square = 27.929; p = .022
Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors
#### Table 6
Relationship Between Score and Amount Spent on Footwear
Score and amount spent on footwear
|0-49||50-100||101-150 f(%)||151-200||201-249||Over 250|
|Par to 6 over||7 (3)||33 (16)||60 (28)||37 (17)||44 (21)||32 (15)|
|7 to 12||20 (5)||86 (20)||147 (34)||100 (23)||50 (12)||25 (6)|
|13 to 18||28 (9)||83 (26)||113 (35)||61 (19)||17 (5)||17 (5)|
|19 or above||10 (7)||50 (33)||47 (31)||25 (16)||13 (9)||7 (5)|
Chi-square = 79.542; p = .000
Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors
#### Table 7
Relationship Between Score and Course Design
Score and course design
|Par to 6 over||2(.9)||2 (.9)||21 (10)||130 (61)||58 (27)|
|7 to 12||3 (.7)||8 (2)||49 (11)||273 (64)||96 (22)|
|13 to 18||4 (1)||9 (3)||55 (17)||199 (62)||52 (16)|
|19 or above||2 (1)||4 (3)||37 (24)||92 (61)||17 (11)|
Chi-square = 36.070; p = .000
Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors
#### Table 8
Relationship Between Score and Brands/Designers Offered
Score and brands/designers offered
|Par to 6 over||6 (3)||3 (1)||12 (6)||83 (39)||109 (51)|
|7 to 12||12 (3)||15 (4)||34 (8)||212 (50)||155 (36)|
|13 to 18||9 (3)||12 (4)||40 (13)||164 (51)||94 (30)|
|19 or above||3 (2)||9 (6)||26 (17)||86 (57)||28 (18)|
Chi-square = 58.700; p = .000
Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors
#### Table 9
Relationship Between Amount Spent on Clothing and Brand/Designers Offered
Amount spent on clothing and brands/designers offered
|0-49||0 (0)||3 (38)||1 (13)||0 (0)||4 (50)|
|50-100||3 (4)||4 (5)||15 (20)||40 (52)||15 (20)|
|101-150||3 (2)||9 (7)||25 (19)||73 (55)||24 (18)|
|151-200||8 (4)||7 (3)||22 (10)||104 (49)||72 (34)|
|201-249||5 (3)||6 (4)||19 (11)||76 (44)||65 (38)|
|Over 250||10 (2)||11 (2)||29 (6)||252 (49)||213 (41)|
Chi-square = 92.079; p = .000
Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors
#### Figure 1
#### Conclusion and Applications in Sport
There are several articles that have investigated the game of golf. Some have emphasized golf’s economic contributions on a regional or state level. Other research attempted to study the tourism and travel behaviors of golfers. However, this article has provided an overview of shopping behaviors of golfers specifically to the state of Tennessee. In addition, it has also attempted to identify golfer preferred shopping attributes, present possible competitive advantages and assess potential benefits to stakeholders in relation to golf course attributes in Tennessee. This research begins to identify shopping behaviors of golfers to aid in the attempt to better market to golfers and provide the golfing consumer with desired products and services.
Golf courses, golf pro shops, golf associations, such as the Association of Golf Merchandisers (3) and retail stores must develop strategies to better market to Tennessee residents (and other states and regions) who play golf. In the current study, several implications exist that may help golf managers, buyers and others who manage or sell golf products and services. First, it was found that knowledgeable salespeople were the most important attribute for a facility. Therefore, it may be important for managers to focus upon intense training of employees in regard to products and services offered. Since golf is typically a seasonal sport, employees may also be only hired for seasonal employment. This may be a problem since the employee may come and go faster than the management could train the employee. However, by training before heavy playing times, and continually training full-time staff (pros, greenskeepers, etc.), the staff can remain current in all golf trends. The second most important attribute, which was brands/designers offered could imply that the facility should research as to which brands are the most desired and/or to possibly increase brand choice. According to this survey, many golfers spend a considerable amount of money on golfing merchandise per year (almost half spent over $250 annually on apparel alone). Additionally, the literature and this study show that many golfers have a high income. Therefore, the opportunity to spend in the pro shop, where this survey reveals is where most golfers shop, has the potential to be a source of high revenue. Typically, local pro shops are small in square footage, therefore making every inch of floor space crucial. Thus, being aware of which brands are current (those seen in golfing magazines, what players are wearing on television, etc.) should be of utmost importance to managers, buyers, etc. It should be noted that the significant relationship between the amount spent on apparel/footwear and score, indicated that better scorers are willing to spend more than other players. Therefore, the manager/staff should be aware of their better scoring players and focus on them specifically by offering special promotions in which they most likely will participate.
Another important implication from this study emphasizes the importance of what attributes of a course to promote and market. According to results of this survey, course conditions and speed of play were ranked the highest in regard to course attributes. Therefore, any promotions in Tennessee should focus upon these attributes by emphasizing exemplary course conditions and course rules surrounding speed of play. Further, it was found that better scorers thought course design was most important on choosing where to play golf in Tennessee. By promoting course design (course designer, yardage, etc.) to better scoring golfers, revenue may be increased by attracting those golfers to the course. All of these strategies are highly tailored and personalized. However, these strategies adhere to current marketing trends of tailoring promotional activities to specific customers.
It is important to recognize how golfers behave in regard to shopping behaviors. Acknowledging and targeting these shoppers help managers know how to better manage their dollars in regard to marketing, determining product assortment or addition/deletion of services. Next, knowing what golfers buy is crucial to produce effective and profitable outcomes. In addition, managers should know what attributes golfers shop for when they shop for golfing goods and services. Lastly, identifying where golfers shop for merchandise and services is important for allocation and effective use of monies and resources. Knowing as much as possible about their customers will help in the construction of segmentation, targeting and customer service strategies.
It may be useful to replicate this study on a national level. One limitation of this study is that the sample did not encompass every golfer in Tennessee. However, golf is continuing to grow as a sport, a recreational activity and as tourism destinations (4). Therefore, golf is being recognized as a significant source of economic impact and revenue for local communities, states and regions. Further, additional research is needed to help retailers and other golf stakeholders not only in Tennessee, but other areas, to successfully market and sell golf products and services to potential and current consumers.
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### Corresponding Author
Kelly Price, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Marketing
East Tennessee State University
Department of Management and Marketing
P.O. Box 70625
Johnson City, TN 37614
Kelly is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at East Tennessee State University. Her research consists of issues related to golf and consumer behavior. Her professional experience includes twelve years of retail management including golf management, buying and marketing.