“That’s a Wrap!”
The 2020 PGA Merchandise Show is in the can. Orlando, Florida did it again! I’ve been told it was as big and as good as ever. I wouldn’t know: this was my first year. The Golden Ferret’s maiden voyage into the trades landed with quite a bang (Mix your metaphors as you see fit…). It was a whirlwind four days of amazing presentations and promotions of all that was new and much of what endures year-over-year in the world of golf paraphernalia.
Demo Day at the Orange County National Golf Center on Tuesday, January 24th, could have been the highlight of the week. Unfortunately, a chill wind blew all day. Sunny skies couldn’t overcome the cold blustery conditions, so while it was wonderful to see so many great exhibitors with so much fantastic equipment available for use on a wonderful range, the wind and cold definitely won the day. In spite of that, there was a great crowd out fighting the elements and making the best of the adverse conditions to see, feel and hit all the new equipment coming soon or already here for 2020. Florida winters are a golfer’s paradise — nearly the entire season. I write this over the weekend after the show, on a beautiful, sunny, Florida winter morning — ideal golfing weather back from its couple day hiatus. Unfortunately, we drew the worst weather so far this winter for the big day outside. At least we weren’t shoveling snow like a lot of the country.
One thing you couldn’t miss was the abundance of mobility solutions on offer: two wheels, three wheels, four wheels; sitting, standing, straddling, riding. Autonomous robots wheeling your clubs at a respectable servant-distance behind you. Manual and powered hand carts of every imaginable design. There have never been so many choices for getting yourself and your equipment around the course.
The first day in the Orange County Convention Center opened up the indoor exhibits. Over nine hundred exhibitors competed for our attention, covering a reported (cue Dr. Evil’s pinky finger) one MILLION square feet of exhibit space. No one person could take it all in even if they stretched it out to a week, not the three days we had.
The appareal area of the show, which was only a small part of the total exhibiting area.
Most attendees are wholesale buyers, club professionals and the like, so their focus naturally narrows to what they are planning to offer at retail or add to their programs: but media, especially tiny media like The Golden Ferret, had to pick and choose who to cover and what to see. We asked our Redditor friends over at /r/golf for input on what they wanted to hear about and that informed some of our decisions on where to focus. It was not easy to choose — an embarrassment of riches, as the saying goes. So many great vendors with so many great products had to be overlooked because there was just too much to take in. We’ll be pushing out our reports over the coming days as we get them press-ready. There were first-time inventor-entrepreneurs manning booths hardly bigger than their chair, all the way to Callaway’s footprint that rivaled department stores in how many square feet were dedicated to their incredibly diverse line of golf equipment.
Days Three and Four
The last two days gave us a chance to keep meeting new companies and take in the entirety of the spectacle. But to be honest, the grueling pace of trying to gather as much good copy as we could, literally wore us down to a nub. Posting reports as we went would have eaten precious minutes we chose to devote to seeing as many booths as we could, so our reports will start popping up over the days to come.
To close, there has never been so much fantastic equipment and apparel to support your game at whatever level you play and whatever your budget. I’d say the top three takeaways from the show were:
- First, as already mentioned, you can now choose from a nearly infinite range of ways to get yourself and your clubs around the course (some more practical than others).
- Second, the number of entrants in the affordable launch monitor space is dizzying. You are getting closer to having tour-pro-level game analysis — at the range, at home and on the course — at your fingertips for the price of the latest driver or high-end putter.
- Third, course/game management has never been so supported as it is — with more range finders and GPS-enabled devices to tell you where you are, where you are trying to go and how you did getting there — than today. And I can guarantee there will be even more tomorrow.
- And for a bonus fourth observation, the number of golf simulator bays and solutions for commercial, educational and home installation has exploded. Designing new homes to include media rooms is so last decade. Now it’s the indoor driving range that architects will be including in the ever-expanding world of custom home design. What a time to be alive!
I’m a retired Boomer and lifetime golfer. I never got particularly good but have always loved the game. I’ll be an occasional contributor of mostly ‘adjacent’ content. I make observations about life from the perspective of the rear-view mirror. A voice of experience more than of expertise. Decidedly the junior staff. More color commentary than product expert. I’m amazed how far the game has come while still being essentially unchanged in a hundred years: a vehicle for challenging yourself to excel, improve and practice honorable behavior. In other words, build character. Brian’s dad — Donald Burt.