GOLF GURU GONE
Golfers are different than other people. We have fragile psyches that require careful handling and massaging. If one or two bad shots get into our heads our confidence evaporates and our game can tank for months.
Phil Hawes knew that when he opened East Coast Golf in 1988. Over the last 23 years Phil has been a combination golf psychiatrist and consultant as well as a retailer in his store near Montgomery Mall. Phil patiently listened to thousands of suffering golfers’ tales of woe before prescribing the right set of clubs. That’s what made Phil special. All of us weekend hackers feel as if we are just one club purchase away from curing our golfing ills. Most retailers jump at the chance to sell us the newest fad driver or putter. Not Phil. He prescribed only the right, properly-fitted equipment for each customer’s game.
A few weeks ago Phil closed down East Coast Golf for good. His attentive service had enabled him to fend off challenges from the internet and the mega-stores, but when the economy turned sour in 2008, Phil could see the writing on the wall. Push came to shove this year when his lease was up and the landlord wanted a lot more rent.
When I talked to Phil last week, he told me he was not sure what his next step will be. For the time being he will continue to host his ESPN 980 Radio program, “Better Golf,” Saturday mornings at 8:00am (golf drive time, he calls it). His show has been on the air for 20 years, making it the longest-running sports show in Washington.
What happened to Phil is happening to small retailers all over the country as the marketplace and the economy change It’s economic Darwinism, but it comes with a price.
You’ll always be able to walk into a Golf Galaxy or a Golfdom and buy the latest equipment, but what you won’t get is Phil, a guy who takes the time to get to know his customers and provide them with personalized service, both Core Values.