The Golf Center Has Been Your Local Headquarters for All Things Golf
for Nearly 30 Years
By Marla DeFoe
As the weather gets warmer and the grass turns greener, it’s time to start getting back outside and enjoying the beautiful weather while we can. Whether we're camping, gardening, biking, swimming, or golfing, we all yearn for the warm temperatures and the sun shining above.
One of the most popular summer pastimes in our region is golf; and the Golf Center has something for every level of golfer. I sat down with owner Brian Leach, and assistant manager, Nate Bertram of the Golf Center to learn a bit about the past, where they are now, and how they remain on the cutting edge of golf retailers.
The Golf Center first opened as a small pro shop on the site of the former driving range on the south end of Grand Forks in 1992 by a group of former schoolteachers: Bob Leach, Larry Barker, Jim Lies, and Terry Dunphy. Brian learned a lot from his dad. “I remember watching my dad put golf clubs together in the garage,” he said.
Brian wasn’t immediately interested in taking over the store from his dad and partners. After he graduated from UND, he moved away and worked in retail for about eight years. “Dad asked me to move back and manage the store in 1995,” Brian explained. In the early 2000s, Brian purchased the store with his wife, Mary. The store was located in the Columbia Mall for a few years and moved to its current location on Columbia Road in 2009.
The Golf Center has everything you can imagine to gear you up for the game: clubs, bags, balls, shoes, hand carts, and all the accessories. Brian pointed out the apparel to me, including rain gear to utilize when the weather isn’t quite golf perfect. “We strive to give our customers the tools they need to play the best they can,” he said.
Providing outstanding customer service is a top priority of Brian, Nate, and the entire team at The Golf Center. “Be nice. Be helpful. Be knowledgeable,” said Brian. “We offer the latest technology to stay on the cutting edge with golf fitting.”
As the store’s foremost golf club fitting expert, Nate takes the job seriously. “It’s my goal to get more educated every year and see how others do it.” Around eight years ago, Nate started attending golf fitting seminars twice a year. “I always come back with something new, something I didn’t know before,” he said.
This dedication to expanding club fitting knowledge has given The Golf Center quite a reputation. They have won multiple national club fitting awards, including being chosen as Golf Digest Top 100 Club Fitter. They have received the same type of recognition from all the major golf club brands, including Callaway, Ping, and Mizuno. At The Golf Center, club fitting in one of two state-of-the-art fitting bays is complimentary. You can call the store to make an appointment, but walk-ins are also welcome.
Each club fitting bay is equipped with a large screen and a launch monitor to study each golfer’s form, swing, and distance. From that data, The Golf Center can help build the perfect club for any scenario. “Club fitting is very scientific,” said Brian. “We do everything we can to get each golfer in the right club.” They can customize drivers, irons, and putters with different shafts, grips, and heads.
Listening to Nate talk about club fitting, you can tell he takes his craft very seriously. He has traveled to all the major golf brand headquarters to learn from them. “I’ve seen how others do it,” he said. “I’ve been fit by some of the best in the world, and I’ve taken what they do and put it into what I do every day.” On any given day, you can see him working with customers to equip them with the best tools to play the best game they can. He has over 25 years of experience in the retail golf business.
Whether you are a beginning golfer or a seasoned pro, The Golf Center has everything you need to hit the course looking your best, with the best equipment. They are the only retail store in the region that offers skilled club fitting staff. Brian said, “We are proud to be customer-driven and locally owned.”
The Man with the Fancy Shoes
Nate Bertram has a reputation he’s quite proud of. He’s known to most of his customers, and those in the Grand Forks region, as “the man with the fancy shoes.” He is a collector of custom-made dress shoes from all over the world, including Turkey, Milan, the Netherlands and Poland; and they are something to behold.
When he first started working at The Golf Center over 20 years ago, he helped a customer from Canada. She swore she would come see him again when she returned to Grand Forks in about six months. She told him, “I’ll just look for the man with the fancy shoes.” Nate told me that, at the time, the green ostrich shoes were the only fancy shoes he owned, so he started looking for more. She was pleased when she returned months later to find another outstanding pair of shoes on Nate’s feet.
Throughout the years, his collection has grown from that lone, green ostrich pair to a collection of nearly 300 pairs of shoes. You can check out his shoes on his Instagram account @fancyshoesadl. G
// To view the full story, check out the digital issue here
From Issue 2, 2023
Photos By: Manstrom Photography