The Masters is still weeks away, but the golf industry’s first major is already in the bag.
The 2014 PGA Merchandise Show took place in January, drawing the attendance of more than 41,000 PGA professionals, buyers, and industry leaders from 81 countries around the world. Backspin publisher Chris Duff was among those numbers in Orlando, Fl., which show just how much energy and momentum the game has heading into the New Year.
“The PGA Merchandise Show has become a global gathering place for every component of the golf industry. For one week each January it is the epicenter of the golf universe,” said PGA of America President Ted Bishop.
The show has come a long way since its 1954 debut, when products were shown from the trunks of cars. Sixty years later, the show covered 1 million square feet of the Orange County Convention Center. The game’s biggest brands — Titleist, PING, Callaway Golf, TaylorMade-adidas Golf, Cobra Puma Golf, Nike, FootJoy, and Bridgestone – were there, and attendance among PGA Professionals increased five percent.
“We are very pleased with the rise in PGA Professional attendance as they are important influencers to the business of our exhibiting companies,” said PGA Worldwide Golf Exhibitions Senior Vice President and General Manager Ed Several. “Beginning last year, we worked hand-in-hand with the PGA of America to engage more PGA Professional participation, often on a grassroots level attending PGA Section and Chapter events, and the results have further strengthened the PGA Merchandise Show as the world’s largest gathering of PGA Professionals. In addition to non-PGA buyer qualification being more stringent in 2014, we also experienced some travel challenges for attendees with the snow storm in the Northeast. Overall though, the PGA Merchandise Show delivered more PGA Professionals and buyers who could influence retail and move forward business and participation in the game.”
The week began with the PGA Youth and Family Golf Summit on Jan. 20, while the Outdoor Demo Day fell on the next day. Attendees navigated more than 10 miles of aisles with some of the most innovative and popular golf gadgets and products, including the three winners in the New Product Zone.
One of those winners was the Golfboard, a single-person golf transport vehicle that acts like the surfboard of the golf course.
“It definitely presents the opportunity to experience the terrains from a whole new perspective,” said Laird Hamilton, Golfboard Design Consultant and internationally renowned big wave surfing legend. “It allows you to ‘Surf the Turf’ and experience the land in a way you wouldn’t normally, being able to use the topography and get into a rhythm with the course.”
Other winners in the New Product category included the Groove Caddy, a hand-held powered tool that cleans golf club grooves and cavity backs, and Catherine Wingate Apparrel, a high-end lady’s golf line of clothing.
Also generating plenty of buzz were Tru-Roll putters, which won a Buyers Choice Award. The round-faced putter claims to “change the face of putting – literally!” Tru-Roll says its putters provide more consistent loft, roll, and forgiveness on miss-hits than flat-faced putters.
Other putters drawing major attention were Veritas Golf’s Cure RX2, Argolf’s Merlin, Morgane, and Lancelot offerings, and RadiusRoll’s PureStrike. On the design team for the Cure RX2 was Deane Beman, former PGA Tour commissioner. The RX2 is customizable to every golfer, center-shafted with customizable heel and toe that can be fitted with weights. Among those at the booth were multimillionaire Donald Trump.
The show saw a large increase in revenue because of a small adjustment to the ticket offerings. Rather than sell full-day passes, organizers sold tickets by the session, allowing attendees to customize their own schedules at a price of their choosing.
“As we began to add more and more activities, [attendees] still want to catch a couple of sessions, but they didn’t have the time to dedicate the entire day,“ said Several, “You’re not going to buy a full-day pass if you can only attend one or two sessions.”
It worked, and the show was a hit. Next year’s event is set to take place from Jan. 21-23 in Orlando, and until then, things are looking good for the game of golf.
“In terms of business, I think the industry is in a good place right now, the best place we’ve been in for several years,” said Bishop. “The 2014 PGA Show has given us a sense of optimism and enthusiasm as we move ahead.”