A bad motorcycle accident changed Tim Elliott’s life, sending him down a new road toward owning his own business. After almost losing a leg and unable to return to work as part of the Walmart management team, the once-athletic Elliott immersed himself in the study of golf and golf equipment. It was the only sport he thought he would ever be able to play again.
“I read Golf Digest and all the others from cover to cover,” he said. “I requested catalogs from all the companies that advertised in the magazines.” And, wearing a leg brace and using crutches to get to his ball, Elliott began to play golf again. During this time, he also went through several schools to learn the ins and outs of club building and repair.
Nine months into his year-long recovery and still not cleared physically to return to Walmart, Elliott decided to open a small golf shop in Harlingen. Using his savings and relying on his retail management experience with Woolworth and Walmart, he put together a business plan for Elliott’s Custom Golf and leased a 400-square-foot space in the H&H Golf Carts location.
“If I opened the doors and treated my customers the way I would want to be treated I knew I would be okay,” Elliott said. “Although there was major competition, I felt the community needed a golf retailer that would genuinely respect the needs of the customer. This was never about the quick buck.”
Three years later, in 1991, he moved Elliott’s Custom Golf to El Mercado shopping center, later moving to a larger unit in the same center. Operating out of that same space today, the shop specializes in custom-fitted clubs, club repairs, and used and new equipment sales. As a measure of his success, Elliott continues to service a solid and loyal clientele as most other independent golf shops in the Rio Grande Valley were unable to stay open.
“In the 80s and 90s custom golf clubs were huge,” he said. “I knew we could build a set of irons cheaper than the big companies. It was essentially the same club but we were about half the price. But over the years the bigger manufacturers started doing more custom work and began to push the little guys aside. You have very few club makers anymore. That niche doesn’t exist like it used to anymore.”
Elliott still makes clubs fitted in his shop, matching the clubs to the golfer’s size, swing and preferences. He also repairs clubs, often replacing club heads, shafts and grips. He sells golf clubs, bags, balls, gloves and other accessories.
He attributes his success to developing relationships with his customers, and doing the right thing for them. “Whatever is in the best interest of the golfer, that’s what we try to do. My philosophy from day one was to sell the customer what he needed and not what was on my rack. Over time I have learned this was the right thing to have done. We have built our business one person at a time.”
As Winter Texan season approaches, Elliott is looking forward to renewing old friendships with returning customers who are a vital part of his store traffic. “Even though we have a good local base, we wouldn’t be able to exist without the Winter Texans,” he said.
Elliott also stays busy with other endeavors. His wife operates a vending machine business and he often finds himself helping her out after hours. A member of the Sunrise Rotary Club, he organizes its annual charity golf tournament. But he still makes time to play a game he loves. “I try to get out once a week,” he said. “I don’t play that good but I enjoy going out there.”