Getting on the green

Full-service shop aims to capture business of West County golfers

Carol and Mike Merrill ripped one down the fairway when they opened Pro Golf of Vancouver in the Hazel Dell Towne Center in August. The couple left "corporate America" more than a year ago when plans for the shop began to materialize. The Merrills are "golf fanatics," said Mike Merrill, but they hadn’t planned on making it a living. When the Towne Center development started to pop up near their home, they first saw an opportunity to build a business centered on something they were passionate about. Besides being close to home, the Merrills said growth anticipated for the Interstate 5 corridor and a large population of high-income residents in the area make the Hazel Dell location an attractive site.

Pro Golf offers a full line of major golf brands, including equipment and apparel for men and women at its 5,500 square-foot shop. In addition, the store has a repair shop and boasts the "only full-on golf simulator in the county," said Merrill.

Merrill said customers like having the ability to test clubs on the simulator. Many come in favoring one brand, but end up purchasing another when comparing them on the simulator, he said.

Customers can rent time on the simulator to play any of its 17 featured courses for $30 per hour. Lessons are also offered by two certified Pro Golf employees, including PGA Professional Jerry Olson. Lessons, taught on-site utilizing the simulator, are $60 per hour and include video review.

"We are trying to be the absolute go-to place for all things golf related," said Merrill.

The Merrills hope the mix of products and services increases traffic flow.

Carol Merrill said particular attention was paid to increasing the selection of products for women, which she said tends to be ignored in other stores.

Sales have been slow in the beginning, said the Merrills, due to the timing of their opening. With the initial opening in August, they came online near the end of the season. The big selling season for the golf industry is in the spring, when new products are released and tournaments start appearing on television. June, with Father’s Day, is a strong month, they said. But they are expecting a good holiday season.

"Next year will be the test," said Mike Merrill.

Pro Golf has five full- and part-time employees, and Merrill said the shop is fully stocked. Mike Merrill is a native Clark County resident, and Carol Merrill is originally from Hawaii, which accounts for the "aloha motif" they included in the interior design of the shop.

The Merrills are heavily marketing the repair shop, lessons and simulator as areas for customer growth.

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