I won’t belabour the obvious other than to say it was good to be back at last week’s 70th PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., after missing the past two years because of the pandemic.
Being back inside the Orange County Convention Center last week reminded me how much I love the energy and environment of the world’s largest business-to-business golf trade event and, despite how good video conferencing platforms have become, why those platforms will never replace the face-to-face interaction of attending the show in person.
Boots on the ground, as we like to say in journalism.
For me, this year’s edition will always be referred to as ‘The Comeback.’ A gathering of 30,000 attendees and 800 golf companies once again defined the resiliency of the industry, especially in the face of radical disruption or economic calamity.
“The energy on the PGA Show floor was fantastic,” said Seth Waugh, PGA of America CEO. “I grew up on a trading floor (the New York Stock Exchange) and this reminds me of the energy and enthusiasm of a busy trading day. It is reflective of the (golf) industry, basically booming. We played defence for a couple of years during the pandemic but we’re on the verge of being all the way back now. If the PGA is a barometer, 2023 is going to be a great year for golf.”
Here is my PGA Show post game scorecard from last week in Orlando.
Top 5 PGA Show themes
1) Golf industry reunited and it feels so good
Returning to an in-person event confirmed something many of us have known all along: the PGA Show is golf’s ultimate networking event. It’s the perfect time and place to celebrate an $84-billion-a-year industry.
“An expansive mix of companies combined with strong participation across the international golf business community at this year’s PGA Show created an industry reunion unlike any other in recent years,” said Marc Simon, PGA Golf Exhibitions vice-president. “The in-person connections and vibrant business on the show floor resulted in an optimistic outlook that has momentum to drive the golf industry to new heights in 2023.”
Foot traffic was down at Demo Day but it was bustling on the show floor. As for the overall mood, it felt upbeat, promising and hopeful among exhibitors, attendees, allied golf associations and organizations alike.
An entire industry reuniting never felt so good.
2) Year of the driver
An argument can be made that every year is a driver year but this upcoming golf season is more than that.
The confluence of technology, innovation, materials advancements, speed enhancements and sexiness in the playing position from all manufacturers this season is crazy. This was my 24th PGA Show and I’ve never seen anything like it.
Callaway Paradym, PING G430, Titleist TSRs, Mizuno ST-X and ST-Z 230, Cobra Aerojet and Srixon ZX MK II join non-PGA Show attendees TaylorMade Stealth 2.0, Wilson Dynapower and PXG 0311 Gen5 and 0211 to make this year one for the ages in the Big Dog category.
For consumers in the market for a new driver the stars have all aligned.
3) Simulators and launch monitors moving in
For years the majority of floor space at the PGA Show was taken up by original equipment manufacturers like PING, Callaway, Cobra and Titleist. Those companies still dominate but an increasing number of simulator and launch monitor companies are occupying more of those square feet than ever before.
No less than two dozen major brands were on hand showcasing new technology applications amid a spectrum of varying price points.
Everything from personal launch monitors like the new Rapsodo MLM2 Pro all the way up to products from Foresight, TrackMan, FlightScope, Full Swing and Golfzon have turned these products into their own category at the show.
There’s also a growing segment of this technology being devoted strictly to putting.
4) Power cart competition
The power cart big three of E-Z-Go, Club Car and Yamaha are starting to face an influx of competition much like Ford, Chrysler and General Motors did in the 1980s and early 1990s.
A large area of the PGA Show floor could easily have passed for a Detroit or Paris Auto Show. Several fledgling power cart manufacturers all looking to grab a slice of the power cart pie created quite a buzz among attendees.
Canada’s DSG Global, Evolution Electric Vehicles, INNODESIGN, Star EV, Kandi, 14 STX Scooters and PilotCar, an autonomous self-driving golf cart, brought an array of souped-up vehicles loaded with technology and innovation to Orlando. What’s intriguing in the wake of Covid and the continuing issue of pace-of-play was a growing segment of new single rider power carts including DSG Global’s new SR-1 and INNODESIGN’s INNO-F1.
Dominance continues for power cart’s big three but after what I saw last week, they might want to keep one eye in the rear-view mirror.
5) Prints, patterns and pops of colour
Back in 2018 golf’s apparel manufacturers started pushing prints and patterns with pops of colour to freshen up what had been a stale sea of solids and stripes.
Not much has changed six years later.
Prints and patterns with bold new colourways and accents once again dominated the PGA Show’s fashion area. What has changed is how prints and patterns have transitioned to bottoms, golf hoodies, layering pieces and outerwear.
Levelwear, PUMA and FootJoy were just three of several apparel brands that stood out on the show floor with prints, patterns and pops of colour.
PGA Show by the numbers
Number of countries represented: 86
Companies/exhibitors represented: 800
Hard goods/equipment companies: 500
Apparel & accessory companies: 300
New companies/exhibitors represented: 250
PGA professionals represented: 7,000
Media attendees: 800
Equipment Test Center: 44 hitting bays, 3,750 square-feet of putting green
Square footage of Orange County Convention Center: One million
Number of miles of show aisles: Eight miles
Data provided by PGA Golf Exhibitions
Celebrity appearances: Brooke Henderson, Matt Fitzpatrick, Dennis Quaid, Tom Watson, Ernie Els, Justin Leonard, Davis Love III, Brad Faxon, Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Stacy Lewis, Butch Harmon, Jim Furyk, Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang, Annika Sorenstam, Zach Johnson, Johnny Damon, Blair O’Neal
My Top 10 PGA Show products (in no particular order)
Titleist Pro V1/Pro V1x golf balls
Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor 2 Pro
Mizuno ST-X 230/ST-Z 230 drivers
Cobra KING CB irons
Scotty Cameron Super Select putters
FootJoy HyperFlex/HyperFlex Carbon shoes
ECCO Biom C4 golf shoe
** DSG Global SR1 Single Rider power cart
Callaway Paradym driver
PING G430 driver
My next 30 PGA Show products (in no particular order)
**Biion Chelsea Waterproof Golf Boot
Galvin Green Harry and Holly Rain Parka’s
Cobra AeroJet driver
Mizuno RB Tour/RB Tour X golf balls
**Pik’r Range Robot
Power Tee synthetic range station
**Levelwear Highlite Hooded Pullover
PUMA Ignite Elevate shoe
Srixon Z-Star, Z-Star XV, Z-Star Diamond golf balls
FootJoy StaSof 2023 glove
Golf Forever training aid
Tour Putt putting analyzer
**Red Rooster ‘Rain Rooster’ gloves
Putt Out Devil practice putting ball
Bushnell Wingman Mini GPS speaker
FootJoy Thermo Series outerwear
Sacks Parente putters
SuperStroke Zenergy putter grips
Logan Golf combination cart-bag
Full Swing Kit personal launch monitor
Links Drinks Transfusion canned cocktail
MacGregor MT-86 irons
Well Green Next Level Training Green
G-Fore Gallivanter golf shoes
LA Golf putters
Srixon ZX Mk II irons
PING Hoofer golf bag
FootJoy Premiere Series shoes
Callaway Paradym irons
**Denotes Canadian product
Favourite PGA Show week interviews:
Sasho Mackenzie, The Stack
Scotty Cameron, Scotty Cameron Putters
Justin Leonard, Golf Forever
Chris Lindner/Chris Tobias, FootJoy
John K. Solheim, PING
PGA Show ‘Best New Product’ Award Winners (as selected by a panel of PGA professionals and golf buyers)
Dotty Green Golf rangefinder
PuttLink smart ball
PGA Show Inventors Spotlight award winners (as selected by experts from the United Inventors Association)
Best Marketing: Mach One golf balls
Best Innovation: Vippy Golf height adjustable tees
Pinnacle Award – Best in Show: Paradax Golf all-in-one cartbag