The annual PGA Merchandise Show, which finished yesterday in Orlando after four days of mayhem, is the place to be every year if you are in the golf industry or simply an ordinary golfer wondering what this great game has to offer. Run by the PGA of America at the Orange County Convention Centre, it’s known as the “Major of Golf Business”, with more than 40,000 golf pros and fans gathered under one roof to see the latest gear and technology.
Ireland had a major presence, with 17 Irish companies or organisations on hand to try and attract visitors to our shores not to mention one intrepid inventor.
The official Ireland stand in booth 3373 featured Dromoland Castle Hotel and Country Estate, Ardglass Golf Club, Carr Golf Travel, Celtic Golf, Destinations Golf & Leisure, Dublin East Coast Golf Alliance, Golf Travel ETC, the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, the IGTOA, Killarney Park Hotel, Leisure Tours NI, Links Golf Ireland, the Muckross Park Hotel & Spa and North & West Coast Links Golf.
There were also representatives from Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, Rosapenna Golf Resort, and Swing Golf Ireland.
“It’s the Super Bowl of the golf business,” Cobra Puma chief executive Bob Philion told CNBC. “There is no other place where we can see as many accounts in these three days.”
CNBC’s “Squawk Box” featured an interview with TaylorMade-Adidas Golf CEO David Abeles, who saw the event as a window on the future. “The show is the one time during the year where the entire industry comes together, under one roof, to project on the future and where golf can go,” Abeles said.
At a time when golf is battling to reverse falling participation numbers and changing habits, innovation is crucial and there was no shortage of it on show in Florida during the week.
With golf set to feature in the Olympics for the first time since 1904 and with a slew of interesting stars at the top of the game in the shape of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, and Dustin Johnson, there’s every reason for optimism. You only had to see the reaction to Fowler’s “high-top” Puma golf boots in Abu Dhabi and San Diego recently to realise golf can gain major traction on social media if you put the right product in the hands of the right person.
The week began with Demo Day which gave attendees the chance to preview and test the newest innovations by leading golf brands in the industry as well as single entrepreneurs who know they are unlikely to become an overnight success.
Golf equipment companies showcased their newest clubs, golf balls, grips, scoring clinics, clubfitting best practices and instructional aids from wearables to apps and high-tech swing analysers.
While the industry leaders had huge, high tech exhibits and players such as Bubba Watson, David Leadbetter, Annika Sorenstam, Greg Norman, Jesper Parnevik, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, or Nancy Lopez, to name but a few, the small businessman had to make do with his salesmanship and his product.
They included Wicklow professional Enda McLoughlin whose P2 Putter Grips company now has an exclusive distributor in North America in Pro Impact Golf.
“As a golf teaching pro for 17 years, I have never in my career discovered a game changing product like the P2 putter grip,” Steve Auger, president of Pro Impact Golf, said of the distinctive fat grips used by the likes of Pádraig Harrington in the past.
“The first time I felt this revolutionary grip, I was sold, and every student and golf pro who has experienced the unique feel of the P2 grip is instantly convinced their putting will be transformed. So we are delighted P2 has chosen us to distribute throughout US and Canada.”
McLoughlin said: “It was their passion and enthusiasm for our product coupled with a clear business strategy on how they would approach the market that convinced us the team at Pro Impact Golf were the right people to bring the benefits of the P2 to golfers across North America.”
The grips were one of the week’s success stories but there were plenty of other weird and wonderful products such as the “TourSpin Club Washer” which manually cleans your sticks, or Swing Snap Golf’s “Self-V Fairway Headcovers” for those wanting to capture their swing on video on the course or range without having to lug a tripod around.
Simply put your smartphone into a holder on this fairway cover, place your golf bag at the angle you want to tape and, hey presto, press record. The latest Bushnell Tour V4/Slope Rangefinders are smaller, lighter and easier to hold than previous models but while they are pricey, you could have had some new “Champ Pivix Spikes”, as used by Jordan Spieth, for little or no money.
Popticals Foldable Sunglasses ranged from $169 (€155) to $249 (€229) while a“Full Swing S4 Simulator” would set up you back $25,000 (€23,000) (half the price of their full spec models) for the chance to play up to 93 championship courses or have a long drive contest. There was something for everyone, including those wondering what it might cost to take that dream trip to the Emerald Isle.