Last year I was a PGA Tour virgin. And I’ll admit the show kind wasn’t a tender lover. It is big and bold – full of endless meetings and discussion on MOI, color patterns, shaft options, shoe styles and the industry in general. It is also likely the only place where you can run into a guy hocking a shirt designed to connect your arms to your golf swing and turn around and bump into Nick Faldo. It is weird and occasionally wonderful, and always interesting.
This year I came with a more refined agenda. I didn’t want to fill my calendar with meetings – though that still happened. Instead I wanted to find some time to wander, to experience some of the corners of the show I didn’t get to last year.
Inevitably you end up running into people you know, which makes it harder to get from one point of the massive show to another without seeming impolite. Nonetheless, I managed more than 20 interviews over two days, some for stories I’m working on and others for a new consumer publication I’m helping launch with the PGA of Canada. Some have told me they didn’t find this year’s show as compelling as is past years. They might be right. Regardless, here are some of my highlights:
Edel Golf: David Edel created the boutique Texas firm after working as a teaching pro. The company’s gear is without question the most visually appealing and highly personalized you’re going to find anywhere. Want a wedge that looks like the back is dripping blood? Edel’s crew can do it. Want a fully customized putter with your initials stamped on it? Edel can do it. Nick Faldo, who recently left TaylorMade after his deal with the company expired, has come on board Edel. He’s taken a part ownership in the company and is now promoting its clubs, including his own line of gear under the Edel brand. Want a set of Faldo clubs? The ones they showed me at the merch show were just over $5,500, but the company insists pricing is coming down. In Canada, Golf Lab has just signed on to distribute Edel through green grass.
Covert: I didn’t see Nike on the main floor of the show — it seemed hidden compared to its rivals — but the Swoosh company did have a big presence at demo day. The company’s booth was packed when I took my first swings with its new Covert driver, which famously sports a swoosh on the crown. It seemed interesting enough to me – though I hit it after not having struck a ball in a few weeks and while avoiding the swings of other golfers in the cramped space Nike offered. There’s no denying its appeal – people were lined up in droves to hit it.
Bifurcation: TaylorMade CEO Mark King ranted to SCOREGolf’s Rick Young about bifurcation, a story that has captured a lot of attention. I only got a few minutes with King – I’ll hopefully spend some more time with him in a couple of weeks when I visit the Kingdom, TaylorMade’s facility in Carlsbad – but he sad bifurcation was already here. The USGA and other governing bodies shouldn’t be limiting equipment – instead they should be encouraging golfers to play whatever keeps them in the game. Sure his goal is to reward shareholders and sell more gear – but he only does that if there’s more golfers. King is pragmatic, but I also think he’s right.
Long shots:Aromatherapy endorsed by the PGA Tour’s Mark Wilson. A guy wearing a solar-powered hat. A bike that will carry your clubs while you ride on the
course. An endless series of golf balls in different colors. All of these things could be seen in the new products section of the PGA Show, always an interesting place to visit. The most compelling part of the new products section isn’t the strange things some think golfers might want, but the people who dream them up. They are thrilled when a reporter comes by and always are ready with their elevator pitch. You’ve got to love their initiative and entrepreneurial spirit, even if you won’t see most of them ever again. However, I did find one interesting product that initially seemed crazy to me — it is called the Golf Swing Shirt. It looks basically like an elephant’s trunk coming out of a polyester shirt — but I tried it on and its message of connectivity made sense. They’d have to clear the range before I’d practice with it, but their booth was busy and they’ve inked a deal with Padraig Harrington.
Minimalist shoes: True Linkswear started the trend and now everyone wants a piece. The show saw Titleist launch its M-Project shoe, a minimalist golf shoe worn by Hunter Mahan. Ecco and Adidas also had their version of the shoe on the market. Rob Rigg, the founder of True Linkswear, says the trend bodes well for his upstart company – it demonstrates it is more than a fad and is likely here to stay.
Tomorrow: Tom Doak’s Renaissance Cup at Streamsong Golf Club
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