Through resilience and determination, American Golf has redefined the golf retail landscape  

With currently 88 stores across the UK and Ireland, American Golf is the UK & Europe’s largest golf retailer, offering a one-stop shop for all golfing needs. The business prioritizes customer experiences, priding itself on delivering best-in-class service and after-sales care regardless of whether customers visit one of its stores or order online. Its aim is to be a truly omni-channel business, that treats every customer as a VIP. 

From clubs and balls to apparel and personalized bags, American Golf offers a vast range of products from industry-leading brands. Its team of experts, many of whom are golf enthusiasts, and professionally trained advisors can assist customers in making the best decision for their application and budget. Customers can even ‘test drive’ products in the store’s state-of-the-art fitting bays.  

Practice putting green inside American Golf storeThe company’s journey to success hasn’t been plain sailing. However, throughout changes of ownership, the pandemic, and even administration in 2018, the business has shown resilience and continued to serve customers by navigating evolving consumer demands. Nigel Oddy, CEO of American Golf, joins us to share more details on the company’s evolution. 

“American Golf was originally founded back in 1978 by two brothers, who set it up from a garden shed in Warrington, England,” Nigel begins. “The brothers had visited America and were inspired by golf stores in that region. With a focus on value and discount, they opened their first discount store while creating their own brands to add a level of uniqueness to the business, which saw it grow from strength to strength.  

“Along the way, the brothers went their separate ways, and a new partnership was formed. The business continued to grow, and it was sold to Lloyds Development Capital, part of Lloyd’s Bank, in 2004, but was sold on again to Sun Capital, a private equity business based in Miami. Sun Capital prioritized growth in 2014, but their aggressive agenda combined with other market factors saw the business end up in administration in 2018.  

“We were bought out of administration by our current owners, Endless, a special situations investor based in Leeds, England,” he continues. “Then, just as we started to adjust to new ownership, the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Like every retailer, we had to adjust our strategy to cope with the consequences of closing our retail stores. As we came out of the pandemic, golf generally benefitted from people’s desire to get out in the fresh air, and we experienced elevated levels of pent-up demand.  

“Due to this demand, many golf brands, including ours, ‘got overly’ excited when it came to forward estimates and stocks ended up swamping the market. This resulted in excess stock, which saw us clearing stock at reduced prices throughout 2022 as the market returned to a more normalized state. Despite difficulties in the market, we’ve seen higher levels of golf participation since the pandemic, which has had a positive impact on our sales and profits.” 

Good, better, and best 

Having only joined American Golf at the start of 2023, Nigel influenced the company’s fresh mindset and has transformed the business by embracing its heritage. “We’ve returned the focus to American Golf’s historical values of selling value, not discount, by providing good quality golf products across multiple price points,” he explains. “By focusing on its original DNA, we’re striving to make American Golf a truly omnichannel experience and the ultimate destination for all things golf. 

“We know that our customers have different budgets, so we’ve developed a matrix of good, better, and best for every product that we sell, which provides customers with flexibility of choice. We summarize golfers into three categories; there are occasional golfers who want to look good when they visit a driving range; casual golfers who play six-to-ten times per year and want a reasonably good set of clubs and a nice golf bag; and then there are committed golfers at the top of the triangle who use premium balls and custom fit clubs. Each type of customer has their own budget and by catering to the different price points within the golf triangle, we can offer something for everyone regardless of how often someone plays or how good they are.” 

In addition to products, American Golf offers a range of services including regripping and insurance. “As we embrace our roots, we’re also adding services to our portfolio that complement our products,” Nigel confirms. “Personalization poses an interesting opportunity for us to offer customers the ability to design their own products. We’re working with a company to offer these products, whether it’s a golf bag with someone’s name on it or a selection of t-shirts with printed logos.  

“We also offer golf insurance through a separate company, and we’re in the process of entering the leisure market. As golf holidays are increasingly becoming a popular leisure activity, we’re working with a golf travel company to offer holiday packages as part of our mission to become a one-stop shop not only for clubs, balls, and tees, but for everything golf related.” 

Omnichannel retailer Outside American Golf store in the evening

Reflecting on his career in the retail industry, Nigel notes the drastic shift he’s observed in consumer habits and behaviors. “Retail is constantly evolving, and the key to overcoming the challenges of today is to stay relevant,” he states. “Retailers have no choice but to adapt to consumers, whether they order online or come into store. As e-commerce grows, we’re strengthening our own online presence while offering personalized in-store experiences to entice customers to visit us; in other words, we’re becoming a truly omnichannel provider.  

“I’ve been a C-suite member for over 12 years now; I’ve had a fantastic career and long may it continue. Through my genuine passion for retail, a trading mentality, and a focus on customer service, I’ll continue to steer American Golf in an omnichannel direction and ensure we respond to the ever-changing retail environment in a way that maintains our relevance in the industry. 

“As we continue our journey to becoming a truly omnichannel retailer, we’ll maintain our superior standards of customer service and develop a strategy that emphasizes our heritage,” Nigel concludes. “By offering add-on services as well as our top-notch products, we’ll strengthen our market share in the UK and potentially explore other geographies in the long-term.”