What’s long and straight and worth $400 million?

Your starter for 10: What’s long and straight and worth $400 million?

No, not Greg Norman.

Nor Tiger Woods’ driving (not now anyway).

The answer is…drum roll please…the golf shaft industry.
$400 million a year, in fact.

Now if you got that one right, your bonus question is easy: What’s the most prestigious domain name in the golf shaft industry?

GolfShafts.com, of course.

But here’s a tricky one: Which one of these companies actually owns GolfShafts.com?
Aerotech, Aldila, Apollo, Enzo, FST, Fujikura, Gradura, Graphite Design, Harrison, Hireko, KBS, Matrix, Mitsubishi Rayon, Nippon Shaft, Oban, Paderson, Project X, Rifle, Talamonti, True Temper, or UST Mamiya?

The answer is…none of them. Which I find amazing.

So who does own this great domain name – a name that defines an entire industry? Well, it was created in December, 1998, but the owner’s name is private, so it’s not obvious who’s behind it. But if you visit the site at GolfShafts.com (I won’t link to it because you can’t back out of it), what you find is a company called Zig Zag Golf, selling a putter with a zig-zag shaft. It seems the inventor suffered from sore wrists and wanted to see if he could make a shaft that could be used by golfers with wrist pain due to arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or broken bones. The Zig Zag putter was the result, priced at $189 on the website.

So in reality, here’s a domain name – the gateway to the entire golf shaft industry – that’s being used to sell a putter! And one in such low demand that I could only find one for sale second-hand on eBay.

A sleeping giant? Absolutely.

So why isn’t GolfShafts.com already an industry portal? Say a paid directory of golf shaft manufacturers and related golf component retailers?

Or a specialised ecommerce store, perhaps one actually owned by a custom club-making company like Golfworks or Golfsmith? A self-explanatory domain name to draw in the first-time visitors and an easy-to-remember name for them to come back to…

Is there money in shafts? You would think so. Annual golf shaft production is 63 million shafts per year (240,000 shafts/day), and top-of-the-range shafts cost several hundred dollars each. The Aldila Rogue Limited Edition graphite wood shaft costs $600. The Graphite Design Tour AD MT graphite wood shaft costs $380. The Fujikura Motore Speeder 665 graphite wood shaft costs $275. And the champion of them all, the Matrix – Ozik TP6HDe graphite wood shaft – to give it its full name – costs $1000. Sell fifty or a hundred of those and the domain name is free for ever more.

And back to my original question: why doesn’t a shaft manufacturer like Aldila, Matrix, Fujikura, or Graphite Design actually own this domain? Some of these companies have annual marketing budgets in the millions of dollars, and as brands, they need to spend a fortune in advertising and by way of endorsement contracts to Tour players to promote the brand. By contrast, someone typing in “golfshafts.com” in their browser out of curiosity or clicking on a link that directly matches what they’re looking for is the cheapest customer of all to acquire. And while owning a generic domain name like this one would not stop a shaft company from wanting to build “perceived value” (i.e. $$$) into its products by using exotic names and page after page of technical gobbledegook, what could be better than at the end of every promotional piece to throw in the phrase “..or visit our website at GolfShafts.com”? That little sound-bite alone is worth quite a lot of money right there.

The shaft is the engine of the golf club. Millions of shafts are used each year by golf equipment manufacturers,  and tens of thousands of golfers love tinkering with clubs and changing shafts because the fascination with what might happen “if I just change this shaft for that” will never go away.

And one more thing; it doesn’t matter how the industry changes, from hickory to steel, aluminium, graphite, or whatever other exotic materials are in the pipeline, because this name covers them all.

GolfShafts.com is dormant right now but in the right hands it could be like a little oil well, pumping out cash day after day for very little effort.