2014 PGA Show – Hits & Misses

PGAShow2014The annual PGA Merchandise Show showcases thousands of golf products every year for 40,000 industry insiders. We try to see everything but it’s almost impossible in the amount of time we have. After all, the Orange County Convention Center has over 22 acres of space under roof! Days go by fast when you are in a huge show like this. After three long days at the Orange County Convention Center, I was able to make a list of the hits and misses for this year’s show.

2014 PGA Show Hits

  • Golfboard – Winner of the “Best New Product” award for 2014, the golfboard is a cross between a surfboard, skateboard and golf cart. Instead of sitting in a boring golf cart or walking, you can surf the turf on the golfboard! While the price is still too high for most individuals, the plan is to offer the golfboard at golf courses for rent as an alternative to the traditional golf cart. Personally, I can’t wait to try it out!
  • Bridgestone True Balance Putters – Rejecting the recent counterbalanced putter trend, Bridgestone Golf has gone the in opposite direction by creating a counter-counterbalanced putter. By combining a super light EVA grip and a graphite shaft that weighs only about 35 grams, they’ve moved the balance point of this putter to less than 5 inches from the sole. This helps the golfer feel the putter head swing, and helps to naturally square the putter at impact. True Balance Putters hit the market in March 2014.
  • Wolsey Apparel – The hottest new apparel brand in golf is actually one of the oldest. Established in 1755, Wolsey has been making high quality clothing in the UK for over 250 years. In the 1930s, Wolsey became a leader in sports clothing, and in the 70s they had several high-profile golf pros in their stable like Peter Alliss, David Feherty and multiple major champion Tony Jacklin. Today, Wolsey combines modern materials & technical performance with classic styling to offer one of the best looking collections at the show. Having fashion icon Johan Lindeberg as a brand ambassador also helps.
  • Ernest Sports ES14 – A few short years ago, buying a $35,000 launch monitor was something only high-end club fitters and touring pros could afford, and they required a hard wire connection to a laptop and AC power. Not exactly convenient. The technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in just a few years, and now Ernest Sports has the ES14 launch monitor. It is battery operated, portable and connects wirelessly via bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet. The unit measures only 8.25″ x 5.5″ x 1.85″, so it’s easy to bring with you to the range, and you can see all the tracking data right on your phone. It gives you club speed, launch angle, ball speed, smash factor, spin rate and carry distance. Oh yeah, and when the ES14 hits the market later this year, it will cost less than $500.
  • PutterWheel – This cool little training device looks like a golf ball with a slice taken off on each side, or what you might get if a golf ball and hockey puck had a baby. It functions in three ways. First, it helps with alignment by giving you a straight line on each side to use as aids to get on target. Second, when hit with a poor stroke it wobbles off line, giving you instant feedback. Third, it helps you position your eyes directly over the ball with red lines on the sides. Simply change your position until the red color disappears, and you know your eyes are directly over the ball. Also included in the package is a template to draw two lines on your golf ball to simulate the putterwheel on the course.

2014 PGA Show Misses

  • Cleveland Golf/Srixon – Cleveland & Srixon are one of the largest and most well known equipment manufacturers in golf, and I’ve always been a fan of their products, but they didn’t even show up for the PGA Show, choosing only to come to the outdoor PGA Demo Day. While it certainly costs a lot of money to attend a trade show every year, it’s disappointing to me that they didn’t make an appearance. As fas as I know, they were the only major equipment manufacturer to miss the show.
  • Tees – Every year we see several companies that make some kind of tee that promises more distance or accuracy. STOP! During the golf swing, the ball is in contact with the club for just under half a millisecond, or about 0.0004 seconds. By the time the club reaches the tee, the ball is already on its way. Don’t try to tell me your ugly plastic peg is going to help me hit it further. Nobody believes you.
  • Innovation – I alluded to this in a recent article. Golf’s governing bodies have limited innovation in equipment with the rules they have imposed that specify the maximum size, spring effect and length of drivers, and groove dimensions and sharpness for wedges. The golf ball is also tightly regulated for distance. These rules have stifled club makers, and advancements in technology have stalled as a result. There aren’t any earth-shattering new products to report about this year. I asked several industry representatives why they aren’t producing non-conforming clubs for everyday golfers to use, and they all seemed to duck my questions or change the subject.
  • Attendance – While I don’t have any concrete numbers, my observations tell me that overall attendance was down this year. With courses still closing and more and more people leaving the game, the industry is hurting. Some convention floor space usually occupied by companies is being replaced by meeting areas and food concessions. Companies that used to have a presence on the floor now move into meeting rooms off the show floor. They say they did it because it is quieter, but we know the cost savings is also a huge factor. Perhaps the most telling is the fact that several local hotels had rooms available mid-week and golf courses had ample tee times available on the weekend, which has never been the case in past years.

More Products to Watch in 2014

  • Swing analyzers – There are several companies making personal swing analyzers, such as SwingByte, SwingSmart and Zepp. Each product has its advantages over the rest, and they are all priced in the $149 range, making them very affordable. This technology will only improve over the next few years, so keep your eyes on these three companies.
  • TraceGolf – Taking the next logical step from the swing analyzers and doppler radar launch monitors, TraceGolf is working on a smart golf ball for driving ranges. Turning a normal practice tee into an interactive experience, TraceGolf balls will provide distance, direction and accuracy data for every shot. Still in the early phases, watch for this technology to change the way we practice.
  • Volvik Golf Balls – You may never have heard of them, but Volvik has been making golf balls for over 30 years. They claim to be the #1 colored ball on tour, and have signed several players on the PGA, Web.com, Champions, LPGA and Symetra Tours as player ambassadors. I’ve been testing the Volvik Vista iv ball, and it is very much on par with the Titleist ProV1x, Srixon Z-Star XV, Callaway Hex Black and Bridgestone B330. It comes in 5 colors to suit everyone’s tastes.
  • Nexbelt – Already popular on the professional tours, Nexbelt is changing the way you look at belts. Improving on the old fashioned belt and buckle design, they have created a belt with no holes. Instead they use a unique ratcheting system that allows the wearer to make quarter-inch adjustments for a perfect fit. Each belt comes out of the box ready to fit waist sizes from 30″-50″. You simply cut the end of the belt for the proper fit, and slide it on. You can even change buckles.

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