Zack Hall

Just about every golfer wants the best equipment he or she can afford.

Conventional wisdom might be that fall and the end of the golf season is likely the best time to get the best deals on golf gear. Indeed, most of Central Oregon’s golf shops — on-course pro shops and off-course retailers alike — will need to make room for all the new goodies that golf equipment manufacturers will have on the market next spring.

But is now really the best time to buy a new driver, considering that after a few weeks it may have to spend a long winter stashed in the corner of a garage?

The short answer is, well, it can be.

“For some people, it’s a great time to buy,” says Erik Nielsen, the head golf professional at Bend Golf and Country Club. “Others, they would just as soon wait until the spring and get the products with the new technology. It depends a lot on the individual and what they are looking for.”

The golf retail game can be awfully tricky to navigate, and it has gotten increasingly complex in recent years.

Equipment manufacturers control how much a new club can sell for using restrictions on retailers such as minimum advertised pricing. In addition, manufacturers will often offer on-course pro shops credit applied to new equipment the following year for any returned unsold merchandise, negating the need for a year-end sale to reduce inventory. (The returned gear often is then sold in secondary markets, including online and overseas.)

More than that, if a piece of equipment is not being discontinued the following year, there is less incentive for retailers and manufacturers to discount that product.

Every manufacturer operates differently, too. For instance, Titleist releases a new model driver about every two years. By contrast, TaylorMade launched four new models of drivers during the past 12 months.

“It’s hard to tell what the major manufacturers are going to do anymore, because (new releases) happen so often and the new stuff is new for such a short period of time,” says Andy Heinly, a longtime area professional and the co-owner of Pro Golf of Bend.

Add it all together, and it is no given that the price of a certain golf club will drop with the seasonal temperatures.

But, Heinly adds, most shops in Central Oregon are far more likely to be reducing inventory rather than stocking shelves with new gear, which should be good for bargain hunters.

“The last thing I want to do is bring in a whole bunch of (new) stuff when the snow is ready to fly,” Heinly says.

That seems to be a nearly universal approach among Central Oregon golf shops, putting fall among the prime times for landing new equipment on the cheap, says Bruce Wattenburger, the longtime head golf professional at Juniper Golf Course in Redmond.

“The end of the season is one opportunity (to find items on sale),” Wattenburger says. “Christmastime is probably another opportunity. And then I would say another opportunity might be springtime (when new equipment is typically introduced).”

So how do you go about getting the best fall deal?

Here are a few tips from some local professionals:

• Know exactly what you want. The only way to know what driver will work for your golf swing is to hit a ball with the club, of course. That means visiting demo days or having a shop professional give you a hand. That also means that a golfer should be willing to walk away from what appears to be a good bargain if he or she is unsure of the club, Nielsen suggests.

“People will buy a club this time of year that they haven’t hit just because it’s a good deal,” Nielsen says. “Six months later they’re just not happy with it and they got a great deal on something they’re not going to use.”

• Search for demo clubs that have been used through the golf season. Those demos are often steeply discounted for those who do not mind a few dings, Heinly said.

“It’s going to be all new stuff (in spring), so we’ll sell demos and whatever we have left in inventory,” Heinly says.

• Be sure to comparison shop at this time of year, Wattenburger advises. And if you find a price you like, do not be afraid to ask a local shop to match it.

“For the most part, if you’re an educated shopper and make a reasonable offer, especially on a product that’s going to be outdated shortly, well I’ve got three or four long putters in here that I would be willing to talk to people about it,” says Wattenburger, alluding to a style of putter that will be in less demand next year when a USGA rule change that bans anchoring while putting goes into effect.

The bottom line is this: Educated shoppers tend to fare best no matter the time of year. But when the leaves begin to turn and fall, golfers just might have a better opportunity to score a deal.

— Reporter: 541-617-7868, zhall@bendbulletin.com.

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