Corporate Headquarters: Willowbrook, Illinois
Joseph L. Lee, Co-Founder and CEO
Nick Sherburne, Co-Founder, Master Fitter
Keith D. Bank, Co-Founder
Adam Levy, CEO
Michael Glienke, VP of Sales
Pat Duncan, VP of Marketing
Jon Reepmeyer, Chief Financial Officer
Founded in 2012, Club Champion went from a regional three-studio fitting business to a leader in the golf fitting industry with over 100 locations in every major golf market across the U.S. and Canada with plans to continue its expansion both in the U.S and internationally.
There are now fitting studios in over 40 U.S. states, offering golfers access to more than 60 brands and over 65,000 hittable head and shaft combinations.
Club Champion conducts more than 100,000 tour-quality fitting experiences annually and converts more than 75% of those into club sales for customers. A typical studio footprint is approximately 3,000 square feet, with two to four fitters, and features a minimum of two fitting bays equipped with Trackman launch monitors as well as a SAM PuttLab, a build shop and an extensive equipment wall.
Club Champion studios carry all the leading golf club, shaft and grip manufacturers in the industry, and are able to build and test clubs in real-time. Its locations are equipped with advanced analysis technology, along with highly trained certified fitters and builders who must complete an extensive training program. Services include club fitting and building, repair services, and personalization, as well as the hosting of corporate and personal entertainment events.
The Chicago-based company was launched from a venture called EJL Custom Golf, which was created by Nick Sherburne. A two-decade veteran of the golf club-fitting business, Sherburne teamed with Joe Lee (now Club Champion’s Chairman) and Keith Bank (co-founder), who have helped fund and run one of the game’s most upwardly-mobile businesses.
“When we started, like 1% of golfers realized the importance of fitting. Even in the 2000s, it was still small, I’d bet under 10%. Now, it’s still only somewhere around 50% believe in custom fitting,” Sherburne said. “It was always affordable, people just thought it wasn’t affordable. They didn’t understand all the options. I see it growing to one day where 80% of the population that plays golf has a custom-fitted golf club. The manufacturers are really pushing it that way.”
Club Champion offers a number of fitting options to match a golfer needs and budget. A full-bag fitting typically takes about 3 ½ hours and runs $400, but golfers can also get fittings for irons, the driver, wedges or the putter. When it comes to the various club heads, shafts and grips, customers now have more than 65,000 hittable combinations to try.
“We want to educate the consumer about what they have in their bag, how optimized it is, and what optimal is. And then we’ll let them decide what to do from there,” Sherburne said. “Instead of having it be more of a transactional sale as it always has been in the past, let’s have it be an informative, experiential kind of thing where people can truly see the benefit making the investment in playing better golf instead just making an investment in a new driver that gives them five or 10 yards.”
As a club-builder utilizing various components, Club Champion doesn’t carry a significant inventory and is able to limit overhead more than traditional retailers. Additionally, because their equipment is fitted to each consumer, they don’t compete with web-based retailers on price.
The company’s significant success has led to the opening of over eighty stores over the last six years without much sign of slowing down any time soon. This rapid expansion included the purchase of Tour Experience Golf which marked Club Champion’s first international expansion, along with acquisitions in the U.K. and Australia.
“We’re taking the calculated risks needed to come out a stronger, ever more dominant player in this space,” Sherburne said. “Our job is all about upgrades — equipment upgrades, score upgrades, confidence upgrades — so we’re applying our trusted methodology to our own brand. Measure, enhance, outperform expectations.”
Club Champion’s growth and offerings have put the company at the forefront of the fitting and premium club sales business. It’s success demonstrates how the industry’s education on the benefits of club fitting continues to have a notable impact.
As an increasing number of retailers focus on e-commerce rather than brick and mortar stores to focus on e-commerce, Club Champion has flipped the script and has specific plans for future growth.
Looking ahead, competitors in the golf retail space will try to emulate Club Champion’s success and continue to put forth more experiential opportunities. But Club Champion is particularly well-positioned to differentiate what “custom fitting” is. Thanks to its different layers and diagnostic tools, the company is capability of being able to offer anything from general fittings to tour-level experiences.
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