Stay out of the rough with these 2 golf stocks


When CNBC’s Jim Cramer first recommended Callaway Golf and Dick’s Sporting Goods as ways to invest around golf a little over a year ago, he wasn’t entirely sure where the industry would go.

“At the time, the conventional wisdom held that golf was dead, but I thought we were seeing some green shoots and there might be a few smart ways for you to make money with it,” the “Mad Money” host said.

So, to see if his recommendations held any weight, Cramer checked in on the golf cohort, starting with Callaway, the maker of all things golf and the largest “pure play” in the industry.

Though its shares are up 25 percent since Cramer’s recommendation, investors who bought shares of Callaway had to have guts to stick out the ride.

Right after Cramer first recommended the stock, shares of Callaway fell to the single digits before reporting a strong quarter and soaring back.

Several quarters after that proved disappointing, but since the stock fell below $10 a share in February, it has, once again, made a healthy comeback.

Cramer attributed Callaway’s recent strength in part to the company’s acquisitions of golf accessory player OGIO and men’s sportswear line TravisMathew.

Callaway has been taking market share and introducing new, high-end products, lifting the company to the No. 1 spot in woods and irons sales and the No. 2 spot in golf ball sales.

“I think this is an example of why it’s better to be lucky than good, because both Nike and Adidas bailed on the golf equipment business, removing a huge amount of competition. It’s easy to win when Nike decides to forfeit the game,” Cramer said.

Right now, Callaway’s stock is fairly expensive, trading at 29 times next year’s earnings estimates. Because the third and fourth quarters tend to be leaner for golf companies, Cramer suggested investors think about buying the stock on weakness heading into 2018, which will bring several major, earnings-boosting product launches.

But “if Callaway was a nice winner, as long as you were patient, … [Dick’s Sporting Goods] was a hideous loser,” Cramer admitted. “I thought it might be a collateral way to play the strength in golf thanks to Golf Galaxy, its subsidiary, but I was mistaken.”

Since Sports Authority’s bankruptcy threw a lasting wrench into the athletic retail sector, Dick’s and its competitors have been showing signs of secular decline.

That makes the stock of Dick’s, which has shed a whopping 50 percent of its value since Cramer recommended it as a golf play, far too dangerous for the “Mad Money” host to even approach.

Instead, Cramer offered investors a low-risk way to play the golf industry: EPR Properties, a real estate investment trust that owns a slew of entertainment-oriented properties, including many TopGolf driving ranges. With a 5.8 percent yield, Cramer said it was his favorite of the group.

“The bottom line: Did I blow it when I tried to call a turn in the golf business late last year? Nah, golf’s definitely doing better than many people thought it would be not that long ago,” Cramer concluded. “But I did make a mistake in my stock selection — I should’ve stuck with just Callaway as the best way to get some golf exposure and left awful Dick’s Sporting Goods out of it. I got it wrong. For now, I think Callaway could have some upside long-term, but I’d wait for it to come down before I’d pull the trigger. And if you want a sleep-at-night golf stock? Please just pick up some EPR.”

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