Across the country, fewer people are picking up the game of golf. The same cannot be said in Sioux Falls.
Area businesses specializing in the sport are seeing an increase in customers, and new golf programs are teeing off.
In addition to giving all eight of its locations a facelift, Austad’s Golf is also teeing off on two new stores this year–one in Sioux Falls, the other in Rapid City.
“It’s been phenomenal to see so many younger people pick up the game, particularly young girls,” President & COO Ryan Austad said.
Ryan Austad’s grandfather started the golf business in Sioux Falls in 1963.
“He started it out of the trunk of his car. He was an insurance salesman but kept getting fired. He decided to sell golf clubs, and the world’s first golf catalog was born,” Ryan said.
Since then, a lot has changed, but Austad’s has continued to score more customers. Not all of their competitors have been able to win the retail game though. In fact, 85 percent of the independent golf retailers in the country have gone out of business over the last decade.
“The world of golf is not growing. The pie is not getting larger,” Austad said.
However, Austad believes the opposite is happening in KELOLAND because of new events and programs, including the Sanford International. The PGA Tour Champions event teed off last year and will continue in Sioux Falls at least through 2022.
“There’s no question that it opens the eyes to the sport and the fact that Sioux Falls, even though we’re in the north, can have a vibrant golf community,” Sanford International Tournament Director Greg Conrad said.
Sanford is also building a golf-entertainment facility. Great Shots will include a heated interactive driving range, a restaurant and the Sanford POWER Golf Academy. It will open at the Sanford Sports Complex around Thanksgiving.
“When I’m out traveling, whether it be teaching or meeting with other guys in the golf business, I tell them about all of the stuff happening in Sioux Falls. Quite honestly a lot of times they don’t believe me because we are a little bit of an anomaly in terms of what’s happening in golf. Golf is a little bit stagnant,” Sanford POWER Golf Academy Golf Director Todd Kolb said.
Kolb is the director of golf at the Sanford POWER Golf Academy, which launched in August.
“Right now, we’re upwards of 60 to 65 kids in our program. By the time of mid-summer, we’ll be pushing close to 100,” Kolb said.
Kolb believes golf has a solid swing in KELOLAND because it’s cheaper to play at many courses here than in other areas of the country.
“Then also it’s just a good climate for golf, not weather climate, but from a business climate. The city is growing. It has good income levels that support the type of game. It’s the right place at the right time,” Kolb said.
Still, Austad says the golf industry has to think of unique ways to win over more fans. The company has started focusing more on personalization, from your initials on your club to custom fitting.
“I remember when I was in high school working in the stores to custom fit someone you would give them a golf club, they would hit it into a net and wiggle it a little bit and say, ‘Does that feel like the right one?’ Today you go into a fitting studio, and you’re going to see 20 different data points,” Austad said.
Data that Austad hopes keeps golfers devoted to the sport and this locally-owned business swinging for generations to come.
This year’s Sanford International is September 16 – 22nd at the Minnehaha Country Club.
You can find out more details here.