Known as the “Major of Golf Business,” this past week’s PGA Merchandise Show consisted of four activity-filled days at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, headlined by the industry’s newest and best products, trends and technology.
Nearly 40,000 industry professionals attended this year’s show with representation from 87 countries and all 50 states. Over 1,000 golf companies presented within the hall’s million square feet of demonstration, exhibition and meeting space, allowing 7,500-plus PGA Professionals and buyers to plan their 2018 shop and operational strategies.
The scale of the PGA Merchandise Show is staggering… Imagine your local golf expo – for example, the Greater Milwaukee Golf Show – then multiply it by A TON.
Exhibitors line the aisles as far as the eye can see, and throughout an entire day’s attendance I saw just two of the outer walls.
I’m sure I left plenty of gems undiscovered, but of all the great things I did see at the 65th annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, here are my top ten favorites:
1. Golf simulators
Simulators have come a long way in the past couple years! The simulator industry was well-represented by suppliers this year, including:
- Ernest Sports
- Foresight Sports
- Full Swing Simulators
- High Definition Golf
- HomeCourse Golf
- Sports Coach Simulator Ltd
My friend, Kyle, was tasked by the North Hills Golf Committee to look in to potential simulators for our club, so we did our best to stop by quite a few of the booths above.
My favorite is [I’m assuming] the most expensive option: GolfZon’s Vision system. The Vision system has a bent screen, overhead sensors, self-collecting and -teeing technologies (and you can set the height of the tee for each player, etc.), a moving swing plate and multiple surface types: Teed-up, fairway, rough and sand.
The moving swing plate / self-leveling platform is a little odd to get used to as it adjusts your stance to go along with the playing surface on-screen. We got there pretty early in the day, and I was among the day’s early leaders for the closest-to-the-pin contest: 28 feet was good for third place… For about 10 minutes.
The biggest trend in simulators this year is the addition of other sports-related games, including soccer and hockey (eg: Shoot-out mode), football (eg: Quarterback challenge), dodgeball and others.
Full Swing Golf is another brand of simulators we liked. We ran in to Tim Grogan who owns and operates Fore! Milwaukee while visiting FSG’s booth. Tim’s downtown bar and restaurant features Full Swing Golf simulators and he has nothing but great things to say about them.
Probably because of all the competition, the graphics, game play and accuracy of golf simulators have come an incredible distance. The other thing that I think is worth mentioning is the quality of the golf courses included – the graphics are unbelievable, and having the ability to play courses like Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes, Kiawah Island’s Ocean course, Wade Hampton, Prairie Dunes, Oakmont, and so many others. It’s not just the tournament courses anymore, but also the great clubs and tracks that pure golf enthusiasts dream of playing.
2. Callaway Golf full equipment line
Callaway’s equipment line saw huge advances in its driver and fairway wood lines and technology in 2017, led by their release of the Epic and its Jailbreak technology.
While 2018 looks to be another huge year for Callaway’s driver and fairway metal lines, I think we’ll also see massive improvements to their equipment offering across the board. The new Rogue line of clubs takes Callaway’s Epic technology and performance to a whole new level – and now includes irons.
Along with the clubs, Callaway now owns one of the game’s coolest clothing lines, Travis Mathew, and made significant improvements to the Callaway Chrome Soft line of Tour balls.
Just like in 2017, Callaway’s key competition in 2018 will come from TaylorMade and their new updated M-line of clubs. The M3 and M4 driver feature TaylorMade’s new Twist Face and Hammerhead technologies, which combine to purportedly lead to longer, straighter drives.
To me, players with technically sound swings see consistently longer distance and better performance with TaylorMade drivers and fairway woods. As a barely-single-digit player (currently 8.8), I’ve bought a lot of them over the years and have never been able to find consistency. Callaway and Ping woods and drivers have always performed better for my [inconsistent] game.
3. Flux Golf putters
Debuted on Tuesday at the Show, golf club designer John Bergquist’s 2-year quest to develop the perfectly rolling putter has come to fruition. The Flux putter is bi-directional and features DAR-Tech (Direction Angular Rotation) technology that eliminates backspin off the club face.
Scientific studies show Bergquist’s new design to be one of the three most consistently rolling putters ever created. The 10-gram face inset was replaced with a 30-gram tungsten one that not only allows for both left- and right-handed strokes but also redistributes for a more consistent putt even when struck off-center.
Plus, it’s a beautiful looking product at a price point just below that of Titleist’s Scotty Cameron line, Callaway’s Toulon line, and other premium level flat sticks.
4. Arccos Golf
Having recently added Arccos to my own golfing arsenal, I was excited to spend time with their Marketing Manager, Coleman. More to come soon.
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Continuing to innovate in the golf shoe industry, ECCO’s 2018 line is headlined by the new Biom Hybrid 3 and S-Force lines of shoes.
The Biom Hybrid is a shoe I have come to love over the years, and this season’s version features several huge technological leaps. Three distinct zones make up the new Tri-Fi bottom of the Biom Hybrid 3, as shown below:
The addition of Gore-Tex and a third year of waterproof warranty make the Biom Hybrid 3’s unchanged $200 suggested retail a mystery that golfers will happily accept. The shoe still uses a yak leather exterior that is five times more durable than cow leather, allowing ECCO to present a thinner and lighter frame. Chemically bonded linings mean no stitching or gluing and leads to superior durability.
Wider feet? No worries there, either. The standard vs. wide width option is built in to ECCO’s shoe technology – for a wider sole, simply remove the liner. ECCO builds comfort in to the shoe, not its accessories.
Maker of the best Staff bags in golf, Vessel’s brand awareness has soared recently with the success of their biggest proponent, Jordan Spieth.
Vessel’s golf bags ooze with class and feature top-notch leather and highly durable bindings. While the layman may not be overly aware of Vessel’s offering, more than 70 PGA and LPGA players sport their equipment.
Vessel’s bags are actually more affordable than I’d expected, too. While a standard Staff bag will run you around $450, they have both cart and stand options in the $250-350 range.
For more on Vessel Bags, visit my reviews of the Player and Lux series bags:
- WiscoGolfAddict review: Vessel Player Series Stand Bag
- WiscoGolfAddict product review: Vessel Lux XV Series Cart Bag
7. Seamus Golf
My favorite golf brand shows off some of their amazing hand-crafted wares including club head covers, hand-forged ball markers and memorabilia, hand-made putters, Sunday bags and more.
But my favorite newly released product from Seamus: The Feel Player golf shoes. A review of these is already in the works.
8. Straight Down apparel
My favorite clothing brand I’d never heard of, Straight Down started as an outdoors company and is emerging in the golf industry with classic design and beautiful feeling textiles.
Enough of the shirts and bottoms I saw in their exibit made me say, “Oooh, yeah I’d wear that” to award them this mention.
Beautiful leather golf goods, especially including classic vintage golf bags and totes. Another brand I had not heard of but really enjoyed.
10. International Uniform tournament signs
It seems simple, but adding one of these to our inventory at North Hills Country Club should add a classy touch to prestigious tournaments like the Club Championship, North Hills Cup and Green Coat finals.
*BONUS* YourLeaderboard & the Bronze Trophy Guy
The first time we saw him, it didn’t register that this oversized bronze trophy was an actual person. Then he started moving around.
At one point, Kyle and I found ourselves by the Golf Channel production stage as Matt Ginella, Damon Hack, Cara Banks and the rest of the crew were filming. Kyle had no interest in being on TV, so he walked off. I enjoy seeing the process, though, so I stuck around to watch their interview with the walking statue.
My buddy and WiscoGolfAddict equipment reviewer John Ziemer sent me this screen capture:
Wednesday at the PGA Merchandise Show was a great day and such a cool opportunity to see all the newest and greatest product to look for this upcoming golf season.
It was also great to meet and see a lot of other people in the golf and media industry, including my friends Brian Weis (GolfTrips.com, GolfWisconsin, etc.), Glen Turk (Midwest Golf Magazine), Chuck Garbedian (Garbedian on Golf), Sean Ogle (Breaking 80) and a lot of the great Marketing and Communications professionals I’ve worked with over the years.
I can’t imagine the logistics that go in to making an event like this a success, but Sherry Major and the PGA Worldwide media team pulls it all off without a hitch. Easily the most impressive conference I’ve ever attended, the PGA Merchandise Show is an event I would love to make a more regular part of my golf off-season routine.