The U.S. Open was a hot topic in sports circles recently, but golf stocks are a bit less popular on Wall Street. Though stars such as Phil...
NEW YORK — The U.S. Open was a hot topic in sports circles recently, but golf stocks are a bit less popular on Wall Street. Though stars such as Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh have earned millions from the game, publicly traded golf companies and their shareholders have had a much tougher time making a profit.
Like many industries, the business of golf has gone through a cycle over the last several years, surging through the 1990s and declining after the bubble burst. Many companies that rushed to market over the past decade have been delisted from the major indexes, and with the number of core golfers flat and a decline in the number of rounds played, the survivors have faced hard times, as well.
“There’s a lot of money going around and being spent in golf, but the investors in these companies are really not benefiting from that,” said Brent Wilsey, president of Wilsey Asset Management in San Diego. “I’m always looking for companies with good revenues, low expenses, low debt, and that are increasing shareholder value by doing things like buying back shares … and you won’t see any golf stocks in our portfolios.”
Eye-popping greens fees might make you think that real-estate investment trusts would be a good way to make money in golf, but maintaining those beautifully manicured courses leads to substantial overhead costs. Golf Trust of America, which once operated 47 courses, has been in liquidation mode since 2001. Its stock, which strode past $35 in 1998, now trades around $1.60 on the American Stock Exchange.
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The options in equipment makers are more varied, but not necessarily more appealing. Adams Golf went public to great fanfare in 1998, and saw its stock price surge to nearly $20 before nearly going out of business; its shares now trade over the counter for about $1.50.
TaylorMade-adidas Golf, a producer of metal drivers and irons, putters and balls, is a subsidiary of Adidas-Salomon, which trades in Germany, and therefore might be hard for U.S. investors to buy. Nike Inc. is also making some inroads, but golf is not a huge part of its business.
The biggest player in golf equipment is Acushnet, a top maker of balls, clubs, gloves and shoes through the Titleist, Pinnacle, Cobra and FootJoy brands. Acushnet is but one division of the holding company Fortune Brands Inc., which produces everything from Jim Beam bourbon to Moen faucets and Master Lock padlocks.
One company focused exclusively on the fairway is top club-maker Callaway Golf, well known for its Big Bertha driver — named for a German WWI cannon. It makes premium clubs and high-end golf balls and licenses its name for accessories and clothes. After going public in 1992, Callaway’s share price soared to almost $40 in 1997, as golf enjoyed renewed popularity following Woods’ stunning victory at the Masters in his first year as a professional player. Now, however, Callaway’s share prices hovers around $15.