Before starting this article, I’d like to call out that this is the 500th all-time post on WiscoGolfAddict.com! Publishing this site since 2010, that’s one of those milestones that makes me proudly reflect on how incredibly fun and rewarding of a passion project it’s been, and I want to say thank you to you and all the hundreds of thousands of golf enthusiasts who’ve visited over the past 12-1/2 years. I’m looking forward to the next 500 and promise our content will only get better and better.
The 2023 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando:
An Industry On Fire
I think this year’s PGA Merchandise Show truly reflected the incredible momentum behind the golf industry today as over 30,000 PGA Professionals, industry leaders, executives, media members and retailers from 86 countries and more than 800 exhibitors converged on the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida for what can only be described as a pre-COVID-like event.
The majority of OEM companies returned this year including Titleist, Callaway, Ping, Mizuno, Cobra, Srixon, XXIO, Cleveland and others, and there was a renewed buzz about the great hall (the 2nd largest convention center in the US at over 2 million square feet) that’s been missing since the start of the pandemic. With the game of golf’s adoption and popularity soaring, it was wonderful to see the industry’s premiere event match its game’s level of excitement.
Attendees at this year’s Show discovered swarms of great new products as well as many of the industry’s old guards, and of course networked and socialized with tens of thousands of golf enthusiasts from across the globe.
For me, the PGA Show is the perfect annual opportunity to see industry friends and contacts, put faces to names and discover brands and products that we hope to partner with by featuring on the site and across our social media channels throughout the coming year. Being at the end of January, it’s also the perfect escape from Wisconsin during our cold Winter months and a needed jump-start for the golf season ahead.
While I’ve usually attended the Show by myself or with one of my Contributing Writers and friend, Troy Gijlohann, my wife and I decided this year to bookend the convention with an Orlando-area family vacation. We booked a 2-bedroom villa at the nearby Marriott Cypress Harbour Villas (2 miles from the convention center and an awesome vacation club resort) for the week with our 5-year-old son and now 4-year-old daughter, and I also booked a room for Troy and me at the Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando for the Tuesday and Wednesday nights of the PGA Show.
This was our kids’ first plane ride. We’ve been on a number of long road trips to Florida, South Carolina, the UP of Michigan, Brainerd Lakes in Minnesota, Gatlinburg and others with them, but this was our first time daring air transportation. They did great on the way down, though all the logistics went awry while waiting for our bags [and car seats], and especially while trying to get our Budget rental car (coupled with them totally screwing us after drop-off).
We had a fabulous family vacation and it was the perfect way to spend PGA week – we brought the kids to Disney Springs and Cirque du Soleil on Sunday (“Drawn to Life” was incredible!), then the Magic Kingdom on Monday before I had to report to the PGA Show for Tuesday and Wednesday. We then resumed the family trip with time at the zoo on Thursday, more Disney Springs on Friday morning and a flight back to the bitter cold and falling snow later that night.
As you can tell, I think the kids enjoyed our time away, as well:
Outdoor Demo Day
The PGA Show is one of my favorite annual trips, and this year’s event really surpassed expectations.
Last year’s Show was down significantly in terms of attendance and exhibitors as there was still a lot of uncertainty around COVID. None of the club manufacturers, who are honestly the life blood of this event, were there and the overall vibe suffered. It also didn’t help that the weather was abysmal – highs in the 30’s and 40’s with rain falling sideways were especially felt at the Outdoor Demo Day.
Golf needed last year’s Show to happen, though. Even as a “down year” it showed the resiliency of the industry and its collective leadership, that we’re in this together and not taking the game’s massive overall gains for granted. The 2023 Show’s tremendous success would not have happened without last year’s struggles.
This year’s weather was fortunately much improved for the Outdoor Demo Day, as were the brands on display at Orange County National Golf Center’s massive circular range. Here are just a few of my favorites:
The Main Event: The [Indoor] PGA Merchandise Show
What will immediately claw at you upon entering the exhibit hall of the OC Convention Center is the sheer magnitude of this event.
While I tried keeping my schedule clean as possible, I did have a handful of meetings that kept me confined to certain areas at certain times. That part could have gotten much worse, but even with a ton of free time I had no chance to visit every booth or even just see all the brands on my hit list.
You can walk for days and not get to everything and everyone at the PGA Show. It’s an incredible cross-section of the biggest, best and most up-and-coming brands in the world of golf, and I could live and breathe it.
But what I want to talk about in this article is the creme de la creme of products and brands at the 2023 PGA Merchandise Show: Some select favorites and a few things I’m most excited to add to my golf bag and share with you over the coming year. So, without further adieu…
I’ve written previously about Bat-Caddy’s X4R and X8R models, and I loved them both. There were a couple of areas for improvement that I mentioned, though, including the battery position and wheel treads. I never liked how the battery was held in place by a velcro strap and otherwise loose on top of the frame – it allowed it to potentially detach. While that was very rarely an issue, it was one I noticed. The other great thing about the X9R: It’s new carbon stealth-designed frame is incredibly light – 11 pounds lighter than the brand’s previous X8R model at just 14.2 pounds!
The X9R also now features dual 24V motors (a significant improvement on what was already the best system in the game) that you can basically forget about ever having to replace, an upgraded battery level indicator, improved anti-tip system (again, I thought their former system was the industry’s best), improved stability, an electronic parking brake and more. This is one sweet electric caddie!
I’ve been borderline obsessed with Vessel’s golf bags since I first laid eyes on their line at the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show. After getting my first, then second and third Vessel bags, the brand has only grown on me. Their premium-level craftsmanship utilizes high-end materials, thoughtful design and constant innovation to provide an incredibly comfortable carry and the most thoughtfully designed bag on the market today.
Vessel is releasing a number of new bags this coming season, including the Sunday III, Player IV, Lux Cart 7-way, 10th anniversary Carbon Fiber X collection and even a Junior bag.
The model I’m most excited to check out is the Lux 7-way. An improvement over the Lux XV (15-way) that I already use for my carted golf experiences, the 7-way will make using a motorized cart (eg: Check out the WiscoGolfAddict electric caddy buying guide here) simpler and more easily organized.
Vessel electric caddy
Another game-changer Vessel is introducing this year is the Vessel electric caddy. The Rolls-Royce of electric caddies, it’s a stealthy and highly designed, German-engineered trolley with smooth operations, incredible ease of use and every bell and whistle currently in the marketplace at a price point of $4,950.
My all-time favorite golf shoe brand, ECCO has some beautiful new kicks coming out in 2023 including a number of upgraded classics like the C4 and S3. The black C4’s with blue highlights (below, middle) are the pair I’m most excited to add to my shoe inventory in 2023.
Troy mentioned this company in his write-up, PGA Show 2023 Recap: Exciting Products and Show Happenings, and I will reiterate how much I like their product: Margin Tees.
This is a really smart idea that was well-executed by a couple of really likable young guys, and I hope they see great success with it.
The premise: It sucks when you’re working on tee shots at the range and need to either burn through dozens of tees or constantly find the ones you’ve hit and retee them between each shot.
The Margin Tee, at $14.04 USD for the starter tee holder and tee pack package, eliminates the constant searching for used tees, bending over, potentially getting in others’ ways, reteeing and using up all your good tees before you even hit the course. I really like this product.
TecTecTec & Bored in Paradise
Troy reviewed the TecTecTec KLYR rangefinder last year, but this was my first real exposure to the brand. I really liked the look and feel of the company’s rangefinders, and Troy says they perform really well.
TecTecTec is also launching a new bluetooth speaker this coming week called the Team8, which will combine speaker functionality and audible GPS for yardages – check it out on their website, linked below:
What I was most interested in from TecTecTec’s booth, though, is their new “Bored in Paradise” line of bags.
Owning the “Bored Ape Yacht Club” NFT of Re’No printed on the outside, the new Bored in Paradise bags are thoughtfully constructed with great internal compartmentalization.
The Jungle Backpack (left in the below photo) is a daily bag for commuting while the Paradise Tote (right) is a modular one designed to fit perfectly in the basket of a golf cart. This bag has multiple compartments including a large cooler, and from the looks of it would work beautifully for a content creator like myself to have all my camera and other necessities conveniently and securely at hand.
As an aside, I’ve been interested in NFT’s and cryptocurrency for several years and have even created a number of products I’ve yet to release. Maybe in 2023. Did you know, by the way, that the average Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT sells for over $125K USD!?
Bored in Paradise bags are available for preorder on its separate website (separate brands but same owner) and expect to ship this June:
Meridian made some big moves in the past year right here in Southeast Wisconsin, including recently moving their corporate offices and manufacturing from Germantown to a significantly larger location in Brookfield. At the company’s core is a high-quality line of putters with unique colors, top-of-the-line materials and limited edition runs – all at a price point that’s affordable for most hard core golf enthusiasts.
We’re looking forward to visiting Ryan and the team at Meridian soon and providing a lot more on this local brand, but until then if you’re in the market for a new putter then check them out on Instagram and their website.
Another Milwaukee-area brand, Caliber Golf is interesting to me in the way that it’s different yet would be so familiar for so many of my golf buddies who grew up playing hockey. I’d love to see one of these on my friend, Ross’s, $2,200 Scotty Cameron Tour model!
Bald Head Blues
Probably my favorite new shirt that I’ve tried in the past year was from Bald Head Blues. This North Carolina-based company makes incredibly comfortable, classically stylish golf polos and apparel that resonate well with me as “Clothing for Coasting.” While their clothes are awesome, I also genuinely enjoy the laidback Carolinas style of the brand and its owner Claude Pope.
Another of the brands I’ve always been slightly obsessed with is Seamus Golf. I got my first Seamus products back in 2015 when I started accessorizing my bag with custom headcovers. My appreciation for the quality and design of those headcovers led me to ordering a number of accessories over the years, my all-time favorite pair of golf shoes (the old Seamus Feel Player moccasin-style kicks many of you have seen and teased me about), a Fescue Sunday bag (that was a wedding present from my loving wife), at least a dozen hand-forged ball markers, the coolest divot repair tool the world has ever seen, one of my go-to hoodies, headcovers and bottle sleeves for the groomsmen in my wedding… You get it, I love Seamus!
One of my favorite things Seamus does is limited edition, museum-quality (literally) runs, and their most recent of these is a very cool one: The hand-forged driver crank. Beautifully crafted, I don’t think I’d actually use it on my new PXG 0311 Gen 5 driver, but I will absolutely display it, love it and show it off to everyone!
Lie + Loft
Lie + Loft has great vibes. Not sure what else to say about the company, but they have that “It” factor that attracts eyes. Maybe it’s the authenticity of the company’s leadership combined with great subjects and minimalist design. Whatever it is, it’s an awesome company and if you’re looking to get golf artwork anytime soon I’d start with them.
Maybe the best way to describe the buzz about Loft + Lie is by the people who’d hang out by their booth. I was excited to see my old friend Clark Willard, for example, who is the Assistant Pro at The Lido at Sand Valley and was recently featured in The Golfer’s Journal’s “Clark’s Revival” short film. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, here’s the link on YouTube:
I was also able to catch up at their booth with Rob Collins, Principal Designer for King-Collins Golf Course Design. We’d been in touch a bit over the past year since WiscoGolfAddict Contributing Writer Gregg Thompson posted his review of the recently debuted Landmand Golf Club in Homer, Nebraska, and it was fun talking with him and hearing his thoughts on golf course architecture, current and future trends. What a great and engaging guy!
If your golf course doesn’t already offer Links Drinks, change that. Having released several new canned cocktails over the past year, Links Drinks is the brainchild of former PGA Merchandise Show leader Fred Evanko. Evanko, a long-time golf media industry member, and his wife Denise started Links Drinks in 2018 and are already in 19 states. The Transfusion is their biggest seller – a delicious concoction of vodka, ginger ale and concord grape juice – and is my personal favorite in the line.
I still haven’t had the opportunity to actually try on anything from Redvanly, but I hear it’s great and I love the look of their gear. I also really enjoy their people who so graciously hosted us for a night at Top Golf at the Show. Troy did several reviews on their gear last year, and I’m hoping to check some out this season, as well.
You can definitely tell this is a brand with a lot of big-time momentum right now!
I’ve had a lot of conversations with these folks over the past year, and it was great putting faces to names with the team at Proud 90. These are really fun-loving guys who make great old fashioneds as well as energetic, well-made golf apparel. If you haven’t checked out their polos yet, and you like to add a little flair to your golf wardrobe, give them a shot!
Similarly to Proud 90, this is a team we’ve been working with for a while now and I loved the opportunity to chat with them about their new product line as well as future direction. BlueTees is a great, up-and-coming golf brand with feature-rich products including rangefinders, portable speakers and more.
Okay, just one more rangefinder brand in this article, I promise!
Precision Pro is the brand I’ve been gaming over the past season – the NX10 Slope, in fact – and I’ve been extremely impressed with its build, speed and accuracy. Jonah and their team started the company in 2013 to provide a high-end rangefinder option without having to spend $500-plus on Bushnell, and to this day they’ve continued to push the envelope with innovative units that remain affordable for the weekend warrior.
Most of my favorite experiences at this year’s PGA Show revolved around spending time with people I enjoy or admire. Here are just a few of those…
“Bonus golf” is awesome, and we had a great night at Top Golf with our friends from Redvanly, along with a number of golf professionals from clubs who are clients of Redvanly’s. One of those professionals was Andrew Krugler from Stevens Point Country Club, who I’d recently published a course review on and had a blast chatting with about their phenomenal, recently redesigned Golden Age property.
I was also pretty well dialed in, hitting just about every target. Unfortunately for me, my shots were being traced under someone else’s name so when Rick Shiels took over our hitting bay when we finished at 8:00 he wasn’t impressed by the performance of Paul Seifert ahead of them. Ha.
Rick was fun to run into and chat with briefly, and so was Fat Perez from Rob Does Sports. I also had the opportunity to talk with Mikko Manerus, CEO & Co-Founder of Golf GameBook who is currently sponsoring friend of the show Patrick Koenig’s newest quest to break the world record for golf courses played in a year on his 2023 RGV Tour. As of his most recent update on January 31, he’s already at 42 courses played with 408 to go.
I played a number of rounds with Patrick a couple years ago while he was traveling Wisconsin as the WSGA Intern, and I’m happy to report he’s as awesome a person as he is a social media follow. If you’re not already following his current adventure, check it out on Instagram and Twitter. I’m already excited to play my next round with him at The Lido while he’s passing through Wisconsin later this season.
Pirate’s Cove Mini-Golf with the guys from Stewart Golf
Troy and I got together with the owner of Stewart Golf, Mark Stewart, and his Marketing Executive, Luke Cummins, this past Summer for a round of golf at The Club at Lac La Belle here in Southeast Wisconsin. It’s my favorite place to bring out-of-town golf enthusiasts, and it was a perfect spot for our 2 vs. 2 match last June that pitted Mark and me against Troy and Luke.
All was square following 18 holes so we had to settle things on The Flatstick, La Belle’s massive Craig Haltom-designed practice putting green with some of the wildest undulations you’ll find anywhere. After I made a 40-footer for the win, it was decided we’d need a rematch in Orlando, leading us to Pirate’s Cove.
Unfortunately, my putting game didn’t translate well to the clowns’ mouths and windmills as Mark and I lost handily, I believe 3 & 2 (my memory may have gotten a little hazy that night!).
Make sure to check out Stewart’s new website, by the way, which since the PGA Show now features their new logo, branding and tagline: “Change how the world plays golf.” This electric caddy thing is here to stay, and if you haven’t invested in one yet then make sure to check out my Electric Caddies Buying Guide. As I say in there, if you’re looking for my best recommendation on a follow caddy, Stewart’s Q Follow and X10 have the world’s best follow technology.
One of my favorite meet-ups at this year’s Show was an impromptu happy hour hang with Noe, Dare and Darius from Vibez Golf Club, and Caitlin Moyer who writes for the Wisconsin State Golf Association (WSGA). It was about a year ago that Caitlin’s article on Wisconsin’s Top Content Creators (linked) was published by Wisconsin Golfer Magazine featuring Vibez, WiscoGolfAddict and a handful of other content creators from the state of Wisconsin.
Jason John Jahnke, who edited and was Director of Photography for the “Clark’s Revival” film shared above, by the way, was also featured in this article.
The PGA Merchandise Show is the ultimate way to connect with golf enthusiasts from around the world, and for me it’s the number one way to get myself really fired up for the upcoming season – not that I need much prodding, but man it’s a great event.
Were you at the PGA Merchandise Show this year? If so, what was your favorite part and a few of the products and brands you enjoyed most? Leave a comment below and let me know!
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