Few things are more beautiful to a golfer than the fairways of Augusta National and the sound the ball makes when it hits the bottom of the cup. It’s spring. The courses are open. Golf is in the air. Unfortunately, so are the scams.
Golf is not a cheap sport. So in a bad economy, what is a budget-conscious golf-lover to do? Buy used balls? Only play at twilight? What if you need new clubs? Turning to the Internet to buy discounted clubs has become an answer for many. At Sitejabber, we have seen a substantial up-tick in the number of reviews of online golf stores. Sadly, the lion’s share of reviews tell unhappy stories of people losing money on counterfeit clubs sold by unauthorized dealers.
In 2003 Time Magazine published a report on the Chinese market for replica golf clubs. Eight years later, the market seems to have grown. Before you try to save a couple bucks on what you believe to be a new Titleist 910D2 driver that will shave 4 strokes off your handicap, keep these telltale signs of a golf club scam in mind:
Legit golf clubs don’t ship from China
Rule number one, as we’ve learned from the many reviews we’ve seen: avoid buying golf clubs and balls that ship from Asia, namely China, Hong Kong or Taiwan. These places are notorious for counterfeit factories, as reported by Golf.com, which cheat thousands of consumers and cost our industries approximately $6.5 billion a year. This is not without irony as many golf clubs are made in Asia, but the danger of counterfeits from Asia remains real nonetheless. The Sitejabber community has flagged a number of sites selling fakes clubs including: Edangolf.com, Golfclubs365.com, and Ordergolfonline.com.
√ Our advice: Validate a website’s reliability before making a purchase. Checking Sitejabber is a great place to start. Even if there aren’t reviews of the site you want, you can ask the community to evaluate the site for you. In addition, you can also check out the location of the website by looking up its domain registration. If the registration information is kept private, be wary. Also, scan the site’s “about us” page–be on the lookout for poor grammar or other signs that the site might be not be a professionally run business. And of course, check for accurate contact information including the phone number and physical address. Contact the business using phone and email. Ask them specific questions regarding the products you’re looking at, including serial numbers. If there isn’t any contact information, that’s a huge red flag. Lastly, make sure that you can pay with a major credit card, because if you cannot it might be impossible for you to get your money back if something goes wrong.
Amazing deals are amazing rip-offs
That old adage, “if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is” also goes for golf clubs. The price for a set of new Ping irons is well-established online, so it’s unrealistic to be able to pay significantly less. However, it’s not impossible to get a deal. But it is important to only use reliable sources.
√ Our advice: Sitejabber community member and avid golfer Frank C. advises in a review: “You’re better off NOT buying golf equipment on the internet, but if you do be sure to buy from the big guys like GolfSmith.com, GolfGalaxy.com or DicksSportingGoods.com. They all have CLEARANCE areas where you can find some interesting deals on all sorts of golf equipment and accessories. Most of the prices are all competitive so don’t get burned trying to save a few bucks.”
The eBay scam
The biggest case of fraud at eBay has surprisingly been one related to golf clubs. In 2010, courts sentenced to prison the ringleader of an elaborate scam ring that brought in roughly $3 million over the course of five years. Though this made headlines across the golfing world, one can bet that this kind of scam continues to be perpetrated by lesser connected individuals and businesses. It would behoove any avid golfer to make sure to take the necessary precautions when buying on eBay.
√ Our advice: My Golf Spy has provided a friendly 10-point checklist for those who are buying off of eBay. The site suggests checking serial numbers with the manufacturers, asking for close-up photos and doing visual comparisons of them against authentic clubs, being wary of folks selling full sets (which is less common), and playing close attention to sellers’ ratings.
A final bit of advice
When in doubt about any website selling the gear you’re eyeing, do two things:
- Research the website. Check for reviews by other consumers who may have had good or bad experiences with the site.
- Give the manufacturer a call to inquire about whether the website you’d like to buy from is in fact an authorized dealer. If the manufacturer says no or has no idea what the website is, you can bet that it’s a counterfeiting plant.
If you’ve been scammed by a golf site, help other golfers out by reporting the scam site or bad business.
Sitejabber is a consumer protection service which helps people avoid fraudulent websites and find good sites. You can use Sitejabber to review, complain about and report fraud on websites, as well as research unfamiliar sites. Sitejabber is made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation and was named a Top 100 Website of 2010 by PC magazine.