The Akron area has a new player in the golf merchandising market.

Golfsmith, a national retailer, is holding its grand opening today at 3737 W. Market St. in Fairlawn. The location is the former Sears Hardware store next to Pier 1 Imports. (Sears Hardware has relocated west of its old store.)

It is the fifth store in Ohio and the first for Akron.

“Our stores are really a playground for golfers,” said Golfsmith Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Zoellner in a telephone interview from the retailer’s headquarters in Austin, Texas. “We’ve been the pioneer as it pertains to bringing technology to the store and experiential simulators where golfers can try out any equipment before they buy it.”

The 21,000-square-foot store features four custom fitting studios, an approximately 500-square-foot putting green and a variety of brands. There are about 25 employees. Customers can take individualized golf lessons from pros with Golf Tec, a separate company with two lesson bays within the Golfsmith stores, said Fairlawn store manager Rick Evans.

“Ohio has been a great market for us,” said Zoellner. “Ohio in general and Akron in particular are underserved as it pertains to off-course golf retail. It’s a great opportunity as we continue to grow.”

Brian Brantley of Wadsworth was visiting the new Golfsmith store for the third time on Wednesday since it had its unofficial opening a few weeks ago.

Brantley was already familiar with the Golfsmith stores, having been to many in North Carolina and Atlanta. He said he also drove to visit the other stores in Ohio often.

“I used to commute to the Beachwood store,” he said.

Brantley said he likes that all of the equipment in the store isn’t locked up and is available to try out.

Garry Steffe was in Akron visiting a friend from Margate, Fla., when they stopped by the new store. Steffe said he was also familiar with Golfsmith, having built many of his own clubs.

“We’ll be coming back tomorrow for the sales,” he said.

Zoellner said Golfsmith is the nation’s largest golf retailer. There are 150 stores nationwide, in addition to the company’s catalog business.

Asked to compare Golfsmith with national sporting goods retailers or pro shops at golf courses, Zoellner said the stores have “the right gear and breadth and depth of selection.”

Golfsmith also offers what it calls its Fair-Way, which includes a low-price guarantee and return for store credit for up to 30 days if customers don’t like the product they purchased and have already used it. The stores sell used equipment and accept used equipment for trades.

The store is celebrating its grand opening with giveaways, free clinics and demonstrations through Saturday.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.