Golfsmith buying Myrtle Beach area retailer Golf Dimensions from Smith family

ablondin@thesunnews.comApril 5, 2014 

The Smith family is selling its golf retail business that includes three store locations in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach to Golfsmith International, the world’s largest specialty golf retailer that opened its first Strand store last May.

JOE-FALCONE — Courtesy photo

Bobby Smith and his family members have devoted a quarter century to establishing and building the Golf Dimensions business on the Grand Strand.

They have decided 25 years is enough.

The Smith family is selling its golf retail business that includes three store locations in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach to Golfsmith International, the world’s largest specialty golf retailer that opened its first Strand store last May. The sale is expected to close Monday.

“It’s a dream come true to start a business from ground zero,” Bobby Smith said. “We were blessed, we were fortunate and we worked hard. We’ve reached that pinnacle now that we can step aside. The success we’ve had and the business we’ve built here, it has attracted the largest golf retailer in the U.S. to come in and take over and run with it. It speaks volumes to us to what we’ve accomplished.”

The sale includes a 30,000-square-foot store on U.S. 17 in North Myrtle Beach and 3,000-square-foot Callaway Performance Center custom fitting shop at the Barefoot Resort driving range. Golfsmith will lease the North Myrtle Beach store from the Smith family and assume a lease at Barefoot Resort.

An 80,000-square-foot Golf Dimensions store at George Bishop Parkway and U.S. 501 that was being used in part for storage, and an adjacent building that formerly housed a Hardee’s, sit on approximately five acres of Smith-owned land and are not part of the sale. The store is closing, and the Smiths plan to renovate the property and seek tenants.

Golfsmith International expects to close its two new stores Monday and Tuesday for a transition inventory and reopen by mid-week. It plans to remodel the large North Myrtle Beach building through the summer while remaining open to create a Golfsmith Xtreme store, similar to the one that exists at the corner of U.S. 501 and U.S. 17 in Myrtle Beach. Early October is targeted for a grand opening celebration.

“Certainly Myrtle Beach has been in our sights for awhile,” said Golfsmith International president and chief executive officer Sue Gove. “We love the market. We love Myrtle Beach. We’ve been very pleased with our store there, and the customer reaction there. … This is a great opportunity for us to get a prime location in North Myrtle Beach.”

Golfsmith International operates 161 stores in the U.S. and Canada – 105 Golfsmith locations in the U.S. and 56 Golf Town stores in Canada – and is in the midst of an aggressive expansion plan.

It opened 12 locations last year, including the 35,000-square-foot Myrtle Beach store, and expects to open eight in 2014. The North Myrtle Beach store is No. 162.

“We have a growth strategy,” Gove said.

The loss of Golf Dimensions leaves Golfsmith and PGA Tour Superstore, which has a 54,000-square-foot location in Myrtle Beach and 57,000-square-foot location in North Myrtle Beach across the street from the new Golfsmith store, as the remaining multi-store golf retail giants in the Myrtle Beach market.

“They are a significant competitor to us, and we compete with them in a number of markets,” Gove said. “But we feel we’ve got some pretty distinct differentiators. … We offer a blend of customer service and expertise we feel is unequaled.”

Golfsmith stores feature the latest custom-fitting technology and an extensive inventory of equipment and merchandise, and the company encourages customers to test products before purchasing them in an interactive hi-tech environment. The Myrtle Beach location includes a five-bay indoor driving range and five fitting studios.

Golfsmith executives have been interviewing Golf Dimensions employees and intend to retain many of them.

“We think with the combination of the folks there and folks we have at Golfsmith, we’ll be well positioned in that space,” Gove said.

Gove said Golfsmith will honor all Golf Dimensions gift cards.

“We’ll be focused on retaining those loyal customers,” said Gove, who added that Smith approached Golfsmith executives in January about a sale.

Other than being landlords over the property that housed their stores, the Smiths are unsure of their next careers or business ventures. Smith said the family has “tired of the daily grind” of operating a business that is open an average of nearly 13 hours per day, seven days a week.

“After 25 years in retail, we’re probably going to step back and chill and explore some opportunities and enjoy some family time that the business hasn’t afforded us to enjoy,” Smith said. “We’ll see what if anything else we want to do.”

Golf Dimensions has truly been a family business.

When Bobby’s father, Bob Smith, retired in 1988 from his 33-year position as a senior financial officer with a paper manufacturer in Richmond, Va., Bobby left his nine-year management job with Circuit City, suggesting they “move to Myrtle Beach and open up a retail golf store.”

The initial 6,000-square-foot store opened in Atlantic Beach in 1989, the current North Myrtle Beach store was built in 1993, the Myrtle Beach store opened in 1998 and the Smiths took over the Barefoot building in 2008 and converted it to a Callaway fitting center in 2011.

Bob Smith, who died in October 2009 at the age of 78, Bobby, 56, his wife, Mary, and stepmother, Barbara, have all had significant roles in the business. Bobby’s sons Chris, 31, and Jonathan, 29, joined the business after graduating from the University of South Carolina. Chris has a business degree and filled the void left by Bob’s death, and Jonathan has an accounting degree and relieved Barbara of financial duties.

“It has truly been a family business where everybody had responsibilities,” Smith said. “As a family we built it together and get to step back and reap the benefits of our hard work together. It’s really an exciting time for my family.”

Golf Dimensions has been a beneficent corporate community member for the Strand, supporting numerous events and charities in the area. Among its more high-profile sponsorships, it sponsored the Senior Tour Championship for seven years at nearly $100,000 per year, Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship for 15 years and National Father & Son Team Classic for three years. Smith said the family has given “millions back into the community.”

“That’s part of the reward of running a successful business is being able to help people,” he said.

Gove said Golfsmith will continue the community activism.

“We are very involved in our local communities,” Gove said. “That’s very important to us. Bobby is working closely with us to transition those [endeavors].”

With the selling of Golf Dimensions, the two competing Strand golf retail behemoths that were owned and operated by local families for decades are now owned by national corporations. Golfsmith is based in Austin, Texas.

Martin Barrier sold his Martin’s Golf & Tennis stores to PGA Tour Superstore in 2003 after 34 years in business. PGA Tour Superstore is owned and operated by Golf & Tennis Pro Shop Inc., headquartered in Roswell, Ga. The company chairman is Arthur M. Blank, the retired Home Depot co-founder and owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. The Martin’s stores were its first two locations and it now has 19 in 10 states.

Despite being in the golf business, Bobby Smith hasn’t played the game much in recent years, playing just two rounds in 2013.

“I’m looking forward to playing some golf with my sons,” he said.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284. To view Blondin’s blog, Green Reading, or Twitter page, @alanblondin, visit myrtlebeachonline.com.

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