As popular as the game of golf has become in the United States, it’s even more so in Japan. Club membership prices can soar into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and a wide back swing is guaranteed to clip a fellow golfer in a nation with too many golfers and not enough land.
One company banking on the game’s popularity is chipshot.com, a Sunnyvale, California-based Internet source for golf equipment which announced Wednesday that it has unveiled a site dedicated to the Japanese market.
The new site will mirror the company’s U.S. site, with access to golf equipment and accessories, both brand name and custom-built by the company. The site will also offer Japanese golfers access to the company’s “PerfectFit” customization technology, which allows golfers to design and order clubs built to their specifications.
The site was unveiled Wednesday during the introduction of the revamped Lycos Japan portal. Lycos added new user interface and a number of functions to its pre-existing portal. The two will work together to drive traffic to their respective sites, according to chipshot.com.
Large and Active Market
Like others who are making the cyberspace investment in Japanese language sites, chipshot.com clearly is looking at a growing market that has, not unexpectedly, embraced the Internet like a long-lost cousin at a family reunion.
Some 20% of the Japanese, or 27 million people play golf, the company says. They spent $1.6 billion (US$) wholesale on golf equipment in 1998, according to the Japanese Finance Ministry. In addition, the Japanese Internet economy is projected to grow at a faster rate than that of the U.S. over the next five years.
Some analysts say that Japanese Internet users will quadruple by 2003 to 23 million people and online buying revenues will increase from $2 billion in 1998 to $45 billion in the same time frame.
Chipshot.com is doing a little growing of its own. Founded in 1995 by a Harvard graduate who played for his university’s golf team, the company received $3 million in venture capital funding in 1998 from Sequoia Capital, the venerable investment firm whose client list includes Yahoo!, Oracle and Cisco Systems.
The company, which says its site attracts over 400,000 visitors per month and that sales have jumped 2000% in the past year, has signed partnerships with Yahoo! and Lycos to be their premier golf merchant .