I've got no fancy pictures today or cool review on some new club. Instead I am going to write about counterfeit golf clubs.
Fake golf clubs have always been a problem and with the growth of the internet over the last decade, that problem has grown right along with the web. I've especially noticed this because in the last year or so, I've had more and more emails contacting me asking me to verify serials, look at pictures of clubs people purchased elsewhere and simply emails telling me that they purchased from some other site and got ripped off.
We also get questions from potential customers who aren't familiar with TSG or the Japanese golf market about pricing and why they should buy from TSG. (besides the facts that we have been in business nearly 10 years and serve over 13500 hardcore golf enthusiasts worldwide.)
What I tell customers is they must do their own due diligence when it comes to purchasing online and this goes for anything not just golf clubs. I do not expect anyone to simply throw down their hard earned money without doing some research and getting all their questions answered. Purchasing the right golf clubs is not easy. Buying the wrong clubs can be tough to deal with but buying fake clubs can turn out to be a nightmare of the worst kind.
A lot of it comes down to pricing. People are obviously attracted by the rock bottom costs of fake golf clubs but that should be the first warning sign. I attribute this also to the lack of understanding or knowledge about Japanese pricing and the Japanese market. I am sure many people look at the TSG site and freak out over the prices. I am not surprised at this reaction at all and as a matter of a fact I even get emails directed at TSG saying "HOW DARE YOU PRICE YOUR CLUBS SO HIGH?!?"
To clarify, our pricing is based on Japanese retail prices and our MSRP is the suggested retail of Japanese manufacturers (we don't set the prices, they do). Japan and the US are very different markets. Golfers in Japan on average spend 5-6 times more on gear than their American friends, in part to more selection AND higher pricing. Our pricing also has to do with the strong yen which has at one point appreciated by nearly 15% over the last 2 years (edit as of 2012 it has appreciated nearly 25%). Still with all these factors we actually price below the manufacturers suggested prices and try not to increase prices even though exchange rates swing so wildly.
In Japan a $700-800 driver is the norm (I'm talking US dollars here). Higher end drivers easily cost over $1000.00 and this is nothing out of the ordinary. It's like a Big Mac from McDonald's. In some parts of the world it may be $2.00 yet in another part of the world it may be $7.00. Except we're not just talking about the same Big Mac here. We're talking also about unique and premium Japanese golf clubs many of which are only for the Japanese market. Premium materials, top quality workmanship and a very demanding consumer base all create the environment for higher pricing. It is because of this that Japan is the only country in the world that get's all the global golf club models PLUS their own JAPAN models.
So are the clubs worth their price tags? That's very subjective. Without a doubt there are those willing to pay for something unique and different and what is perceived by many as premium or higher quality materials and workmanship. Japanese market clubs aren't for everyone but there are many golf enthusiasts who think otherwise. Many are willing to pay for Made in Japan (yes many brands still are) or the hand made workmanship and cool designs and great performance that many JDM (Japan Domestic Market) clubs offer.
So back to fake and counterfeit clubs...
Hint number 1 that a buyer should pick up is that the price is TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. This has to be the biggest give away for a fake club. Many of these so called golf shops online sell drivers and irons for 15% - 20% of the suggested manufacturers retail price. TSG deals with all the biggest manufacturers in Japan and I can tell you as you probably already know, retailer and even distributor costs are MUCH higher than that. So you have these stores saying they can sell you Japanese market golf clubs for far less than the cost for a top distributor or retailer. Sounds impossible? That's because it is.
Hint number 2 is the lack of information or expertise on the products from these stores. I had one customer email me last year and say one other company (not located in Japan) was selling the Japan market R9 Forged for 185.00 for 5-PW. At this time last year, the R9 Forged had not even been announced in Japan yet. I went to the site in question and they were indeed claiming what looked like the standard cast R9 model as being forged. They even had pictures of the sand wedge and on the sole it had BOTH 58* AND SW marked... first time I had ever seen that. So not only was this site selling fake R9's they were passing them off as forged. These retailers have no knowledge of materials, design, manufacturing processes. The problem with this is that many of theses questionable retailers have gone as far as using all our product descriptions (which I should note I usually translate from Japanese to English) and even use the pictures we take.
Hint number 3 is where are these clubs coming from? One emailer just bought a set of R9 irons from a store that claimed it sold Japan market products and even claimed to be a Japanese shop... however when he received the clubs, they shipped to him from China and were indeed fakes. TSG sells Japan market products so all our products ship to you from Japan, not China, not Hong Kong, not Vietnam or Thailand. Don't get me wrong, I love these countries and have visited them all but the truth is none of these countries can get Japan market golf gear for less than 20% of the price that we or any other Japan retailer can get.
I've contemplated writing about this for a long time and I hesitated as I wasn't sure if this was opening a can of worms. I'm not saying don't buy from anyone else but TSG , as a very avid golf club enthusiast I've just simply had enough of seeing people get ripped off. The worst part of it is that there are probably many many people out there who don't even realize that the 99.00 2010 Japan market driver they bought is a fake. Counterfeits and fakes hurt everyone, the manufacturers, the customers, the retailers.
As I noted above all I say is people need to use their common sense and do their due diligence and that includes shopping from TSG. I'm always answering questions about our guarantees and the authenticity of the products we carry and I have no problems doing this as this means that potential customer is doing his homework by asking me questions and checking out TSG's rep online through other big golf sites or talking with peers and fellow golf enthusiasts. For someone who has a doubt... this is the way it should be.
So for everyone out there interested not only in Japanese market golf clubs but in buying any golf clubs online, do us all a favor, use your common sense, don't hesitate to ask questions and do all the research you can. It's your hard earned money after all.