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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Great Walk Through At The PGA Super Show By My Golf Spy

A Golf Junky’s insight to late January in Orlando…

While GolfSpy X has been making an annual pilgrimage to the PGA Merchandise Show for a number of years, the 2011 edition was the first of what I hope will be many trips to the biggest showcase of all things golf in the world.  Before I boarded my 3 hour flight, I spoke with several PGA Pros and Pro Shop Managers who make the trip annually.  Each of my acquaintances did his individual best to prepare me for that magnitude of what I would be walking into.  From the demo day to the merchandise floor I thought I was prepared for what would turn out to be 3 days of foot-throbbing, leg-aching, no-sleeping golf immersion.  Looking back, I suppose that I was as prepared as I possibly could have been out of the gate, but as with most  everything, the devil of things is in the details, and with the show, particularly indoors on the floor, no matter how prepared you think you are, covering the show is a mammoth undertaking.  MyGolfSpy had a plan, I had a plan, we all had plans.  The showfloor, however; can beat the best of them.  Big booths, little booths, and occasionally Natalie Gulbis make sticking to the script a difficult task.  In hindsight, all I can say for sure is that I talked to some really great people, took a lot of photos, and put in 3 of the most enjoyable, but most difficult days of work of my life.

Thanks and Accolades

Before I get dimples deep into the show itself, I’d like to say a big thank you to GolfSpy X for inviting me down, introducing me to people, and generally showing me the ropes.  Another thank you needs to be said to my wife for allowing me to leave her at home with a 4 month old so I could indulge yet another of my golf fantasies.
I also want to publicly applaud the hard work that the guys from other golf blogs and websites put in this week. There are occasionally philosophical difference between us, but I’ve got nothing but respect for the effort these guys give in order to provide complete show coverage. I’m offering the most genuine of congratulations to Tony at Hooked On Golf Blog, Rob at Sandbox8, Josh and the team at The Hackers Paradise, and the guys at GolfWRX (even if they won’t allow the mention of MyGolfSpy in their forums).  Having experienced it first hand, I can say without hesitation that the work these guys put in is nothing short of exceptional, and they should all be applauded for their unwavering dedication to providing outstanding coverage of the show for those not fortunate enough to attend.

Demo Day

There simply is no greater opportunity to see just about every piece of equipment that will be in stores for the first half of the 2011 season.  Everything about demo day, from the size of the circular driving range at Orange County Country Club, to the number of exhibitors is on a scale like I’ve never seen before.  It’s hard to picture, but imagine if you will 50+ vendors spread out over the circumference of a circular driving range large enough to accommodate everyone without the slightest risk of driving a ball into anyone else (shanks, perhaps, are a different story). Massive doesn’t begin to cover it.

We saw very little in the way of clubs we haven’t seen before, but there were some highlights worth sharing:
  • The slate finish on Callaway’s new X Series Jaws CC Wedges is as nice as I’ve ever seen on a wedge.  I’m not sure how it will hold up to wear and tear, but out of the box, it looks awesome.
  • We got our first look at the new Heavy lineup from Boccieri golf.  While I think most would agree that they’re not much to look at, the guys who hit them (including our own Manvas), have nothing but positive things to say about the performance.
  • In what would become a recurring theme for the show, all you need to know is that the party is at Cobra Puma.  Lexi Thompson mingling with attendees, a DJ, a keg, and hors d’oeuvres.  Don’t get me wrong, the clubs and apparel look great, but for those just looking for a good time, again I say it, THE PARTY IS AT COBRA PUMA!
  • While Demo Day is a great chance to literally see everything, it’s not always the best for taking pictures.  The sun causes it’s own problems, but as you’ve seen from our photos, the clubs themselves take an absolutely beating, and don’t look nearly as good as they do on the store shelves.
  • The new Nunchuck shaft.  Demo Day was our first introduction to it.  We almost didn’t believe them when they told us Jhonny Vegas won with it in his driver.  Heck, we even checked with our friends at Nike who confirmed that the shaft does in fact have a PGA Tour victory to its name.  As it turns out, the shaft is generating a lot of buzz as we overheard it being discussed in several of the booths we visited on Thursday and Friday.
  • No surprises, TaylorMade is awash in a sea of white.  We’ll leave the R11 performance evaluations for a later date, but the white clubs are an absolute pleasure to photograph.  There’s absolutely zero glare coming off the head, which obviously matters at address.  I can’t say I love it yet, but I’m coming around to the white.
  • Lots of traffic at Wilson, Mizuno, and Adams.  Good news for an under-appreciated product lines.
  • The guys at TigerShark really, really believe in their new PowerPod II driver.
  • Grips and shafts – Winn, GolfPride, Lamkin – TrueTemper, KBS, Nippon, Aldila, and more.  It’s not all about the finished product, the component guys are working hard too.
As much good as there was, there were some things I didn’t like:
  • The wind.  Constant, powerful, and generally unpleasant.
  • If PING makes a pretty club, I haven’t seen it yet.
  • The little guys who were MIA.  We’ve been huge supporters of the small companies for quite a while now, but as the expression goes, games are won by those who show up.  It was great to see the guys from Hireko, Martin from TourStriker, Nunchuck shafts, and the Boccieri team, but conspicuous by their absence at Demo Day were companies such as Scratch (they did have a booth indoors), Eidolon, and Solus.  We get that these guys don’t have TaylorMade money, but the PGA Show is the single best opportunity to get your name out there.  You’ll never win if you don’t play. Guys with shallower pockets are taking their shots – you should be to.
  • Absolutely 0 presence from Miura.  Bummer.
  • We love the Bridgestone balls.  Hell, we’d struggle to offer a better recommendation for the average golfer, but there’s not much going on with their clubs these days, and that’s too bad.

The Apparel Situation is Crazy

You thought there was a ton of competition on the equipment side of things, you should check out the way the apparel side of the business operates.  Whether it’s paranoia, insanity, or a reaction to reality, one of the very first things I learned is that just about everyone is afraid someone else is going to steal their designs.  The level of fear generates an unhealthy suspicion of  anyone with a camera.  Two companies (StraightDown and Life is Good) actually prohibited me from shooting in their booths (although both were more than happy to let me look around).  Life is Good actually requested that I delete the files.  StraightDown was very polite about things, and didn’t specifically request I delete anything I had previously taken.  It’s kind of a shame because, in its market segment, the StraightDown stuff was the nicest I saw.  I wish I could have shown you more of it.
Even apparel titans Nike and Under Armour carefully checked my credentials.  A quick conversation (and a bit of name dropping) is all it took at Nike.  At Under Armour I had to do a bit more talking, but I was eventually permitted to take a few shots.
As far as my personal favorites are concerned:
  • Nike, TMAG, and Cobra Puma all have impressive lineups.  For the traditionalist, TMAG is probably your best built to build an entire wardrobe with, especially if you go right from work to the golf course.  If you prefer a younger, slightly less conservative approach, Cobra Puma collection is very cool.  I’d be happy to wear any of it, or all of it.
  • In the non-equipment manufacturer space  I’m torn between J Lindberg & Sligo.  Though very different, I like both collections, and was thrilled that no one staffing either booth seemed too concerned about my camera. I’d give the edge on belts to Lindberg.  Concerns that my butt might not fit into J. Lindberg’s skinny pants aside, everything else is a push.
  • If you’ve got the money, and a job that demands it, Peter Millar’s stuff is top notch.  It’s sophisticated, but not stuffy.
  • Truelinks absolutely killed it the shoe department.  Their booth was absolutely trashed (people trying on shoes) both days I was there , but judging by the traffic (and having tried their product myself), it’s pretty clear that they’ve got a winner on their hands…or feet.
  •’s stuff is awesome.  I’d feel strange as the only guy on my course wearing knickers, but if I could get a couple of buddies to buy in, I’d be all over their stuff.
Other apparel related notes from the show:
  • Callaway had it’s own fashion runway thing going on.  While crowds gathered in droves to watch (largely for the free stuff their models tossed to the crowd), the clothes themselves don’t offer much in the way of flash. Despite the catwalk antics, the collection itself feels all business; suitable for the office, but not much fun.
  • Pukka headwear apparently gets robbed blind every year.  From what I gather, it’s the unofficial free hat store of the PGA Show.
  • I won’t mention any names, but before the show a designer reached out to MyGolfSpy to see if we’d be interested in wearing their lineup at the show.  We didn’t end up doing it, but it made it all the more comical when I tried to check out their 2011 collection and was told showings were by appointment only.  I need an appointment to snap a few photos of some shirts?  For me, it was a bit of unappreciated pretense from a company that otherwise bills itself as progressive, but hey…nice Ping Pong table.

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