For the golf industry, the biggest day of the new year arrived on Wednesday, January 25th with the opening of the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show. We walked around the massive Orange County Convention Center yesterday and took in all the sights and sounds. As one of my friends who was attending for the first time said as we walked into the main hall – “I’m in sensory overload right now!”
There are over 1000 exhibiting companies and over 40,000 attendees from 90 countries so it’s nearly impossible to see everything, but here are a few of the products and companies that got our attention and are making a buzz this year.
Tour Edge Exotics XJ1
Originally intended for the Japanese market, Tour Edge decided to bring their “Super metal” driver and fairways to the US market after the overwhelmingly positive feedback from testers. With a body made from lighter and more flexible 9-1-1 Titanium bonded to an amorphous Kevlar-carbon crown and paired with a 45 gram Fujikura Air Speeder shaft, the XJ1 driver is designed to perform best for golfers who swing under 100 mph, delivering higher ball speeds and more distance for slower swingers. I attended a private Tour Edge media event on Monday and the club is living up to the hype. The fairway woods may be even better. The heavy tungsten sole represents two thirds the weight of the club, placing the center of gravity very low and making them very easy to hit. Technology and performance come at a price however – The XJ1’s MSRP is $599 and the fairways retail for $449. Given Exotics’ reputation for making awesome clubs, they are going to be worth the price. Just ask anyone who has an Exotics driver or fairway wood in their bag.
Single Length Irons
If you haven’t heard about single length irons yet, you probably will this year, starting right here. The idea is simple. By making all your irons the same length (usually between 37.5 to 38.5″ long, or the length of a 6 or 7 iron) you will be more consistent because the setup position will be identical for every club. The concept was brought to national prominence by NCAA and US Amateur Champ and Bryson Dechambeau and he’s continued to use the single length irons on the PGA Tour after signing an endorsement deal with Cobra/Puma Golf. Naturally, Cobra is now marketing a set of single length irons, and so is the company Bryson’s original irons were made by – Edel Golf.
The concept is interesting and has its merits, but there are also a few drawbacks. Because the length and lie angle of every iron are identical, with only the loft changing, distance variation or gapping between clubs will shrink. If every club is the length of a six iron, that means you’ll hit your long irons shorter than normal and your short irons further than normal. I personally feel that transitioning from a 38.5″ pitching wedge to a 35″ sand wedge will prove challenging for many, but I’m hoping to have a chance to test the concept this season and report on the findings here!
Pronounced OWL, this new company produces light-weight golf bags and luggage with striking colors, patterns and designs. A particular favorite of mine is the Ouul Python Collection stand bags. They are super light weight but very sturdy, with handles around the top that make handling the bag so much easier when walking the course. The bags only weigh 2.7 pounds and come in ten different colors.
Honma is a Japanese manufacturer that has been around for over 50 years. While they’ve been well known in Japan for decades, they are just starting to make waves in North America. They made worldwide news recently when Japanese PM Shinzo Abe gave US President-elect Donald Trump a $3700 gold-colored Honma driver as a gift.
While speaking to him yesterday, Marketing, Media & Public Relations Manager Keith Patterson pointed out that Honma Golf enjoys 100% market share in the “over $50,000 golf clubs” segment. While this is funny, it’s also true. Honma makes a set that sells for $50,000 and includes graphite shafts infused with gold flakes, gold plated club heads and hand stitched golf bag.
While a $50,000 set of gold clubs makes for an interesting story, it’s important to note that Honma makes clubs for serious players also, and they are very, very good. I’ve been disappointed with Honma in the past, but the company culture has changed. With several new faces in the management team, a can-do attitude and contagious energy, they are entering the US market with a vengeance and the PGA Show floor is buzzing with excitement about their clubs. We’ll be bringing some in depth coverage to this brand in 2017, so keep an eye out!
Ecco Cage Pro SPYDR-GRIP
Ecco makes golf shoes that I think have the best combination of fit, durability, comfort and performance on the market. They continue to innovate and bring to market some of the best looking and best performing golf shoes in the world. For 2017, they have a new model called the ECCO CAGE PRO featuring a new SPYDA-GRIP sole with naturally placed pivot points for better traction and grip.
For people like me that are lazy and hate tying shoes, you’ll want to take a look at the Hickies lacing system. Replacing your laces with the memory-fit elastomer Hickies lacing system turns any shoe into a slip-on. The stretchable Hickies help customize the fit of your shoes without much effort and they look cool too. Multiple color options allow you to customize the look of your golf shoes also. Hickies burst on the golf scene in 2016 when Danny Willett won the Masters wearing shoes laced with Hickies.