2011 PGA Merchandise Show Review

Demo Day allows golf professional and the reviewing media like me to actually test the equipment.

Attending the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando for me is akin to waking up on Christmas morning and running down stairs to discover what Santa has left me.  It is always fun and it never ceases to amaze me about how resourceful and creative people are in finding new ways to enjoy and improve your golf experience.

The 2011 PGA Merchandise Show particularly impressed me in that despite a very challenging economy and in an industry that is struggling to grow, innovative entrepreneurs still keeping coming to the forefront.  The second issue is that the constraints imposed by The Rules of Golf and the governing bodies have slowly begun to take hold with the golf club manufacturers.  With my own clubhead speed in excess of 100 miles per hour, I simply don’t buy into the distance claims made – though I would be delighted to have someone prove me wrong!

I discovered many new attractive golf club models.  Without a doubt, the new TaylorMade R11 with its white clubhead created the most buzz with continuous lines of players waiting to hit it during the Demo Day. Wilson, Cobra, Adams, and Ping also impressed me.  That said, there was not enough difference in performance with any of the equipment that if I had purchased golf clubs in the past few years would warrant me to hurry out to purchase this year’s models from any company.  Rather I would emphasize a proper clubfitting and replacing your grips if you want to keep your game in tiptop shape.

As for golf balls, some in the industry returns to its old ways of the 80s when colored golf balls were briefly the rage.  Personally I enjoyed the bright yellow balls as they were easier to spot.  Now Bridgestone and Srixon offer that color.

Golf ball fitting is perhaps more important.  While Bridgestone and Titleist have been conducting ball fittings, now TaylorMade, Nike, Srixon, and Callaway have incorporated that into their clubfitting methodologies.   This eliminates the old trial- and-error method by which we have long attempted to find the right ball.

There were some interesting contradictions.

First, it was puzzling was to witness the light versus heavy clubs issue.  While most manufacturers are moving heaven and earth to create lighter clubs to thereby increase clubhead speed and difference, you have Boccieri Golf that is not only promoting their Heavy Putter and Wedge Series, but also coming out with heavier woods and irons.  I hope to try them soon.

Another seeming contradiction was the three sizes of jumbo grips offered by JumboMax Golf Grips. Oversized grips have long been around, but no one has really explored the market often thought to be limited to those with very large hands and having arthritis.  This company feels differently.  Check out: www.JumboMax.com.

Still yet another seeming contradiction is that as more manufacturers move their weight lower in the Driver to get the ball launched, Tiger Shark with Jim Flood’s PowerPod II Driver has moved the weight higher in an effort to reduce distance reducing spin.  The shape with its extra deep face is anything but traditional, but Flood has been credited with inventing the graphite shaft and successfully launched Aldila as well as the Odyssey, so this is worth a test.  Find out more at:  www.tigersharkgolf.com.

With clothing, layering seemed to be the hottest trend and customization in golf carts is also continuing an expected trend.  Likewise, the golf simulators continue to advance. What was more unexpected for me was the continuing ingenuity with game accessories.  Here is what stood out for me:

First was the new product called “Advisor” really caught my eye It is a Voice-Activated, Voice-Response GPS yardage range finder that automatically recognizes the hole of the course you are on and then provides you with yardages to any strategic feature.  You simply ask for yardage to a bunker or water hazard or to carry such, or to the front, back or middle of a green and a voice provides you with the answer.  It is so simple!  With its one-button control, you can adjust the response to a whisper or make it loud.  Simply download the course from the Internet and you are ready.  The unit is small enough to fit on the bill of your hat, clip onto your belt or go in your pocket.  It costs only $199 and requires NO fees, and holds up to 2,000 courses.  This is a game changing “home-run” in my opinion.  Refer to: www.skykapllc.com.

If there is a “Swiss Army Knife” of golf with a plethora of utility in a small package, it’s the SwinKey. Billed as the “Golfer’s Toolbox,” the SwinKey can be used as an adjustable weighted swing trainer, a stretching and exercise pole, a travel club protector, a swing and putter plane tool, a multi-directional swing guide, a monopod camera pole in which you can video yourself swinging, and more.  Designed by Canadian Tour Professional, Brian Benedictison, he quickly sold more than 90 to his fellow professionals and while I was at the Show, you could add Paula Creamer and me to that list.  It retails for $99.99 with free shipping from www.swinkey.com.

Medicus Golf continues with its long line of innovative golf products.  One product that impressed me was the Overspin Putter.  Though not an entirely new concept, Medicus has enhanced the angled face design with grooves for this putter that is designed to get the ball rolling quicker and thus hold its line better so you can hole more putts.   They are confident that it will improve your golf and offer a 30-day trial for $19.95.   You can find out more details at www.tryoverspingolf.com.

Just for fun, there is the Tin Cup golf ball marking devise featuring a marking template that enables the golfer to personalize their ball with their own mark.  The golfer places the stencil cup over the ball and using a fine-tipped permanent marker traces their mark onto the ball.  The price ranges from $17.95 to $19.95 depending on the selection of the many unique designs offered.  Check out:  www.tin-cup.com.

And finally at the inexpensive end of the scale, you can get a really useful putting device called  “PutterCups” for about $10.  This is a yellow molded plastic devise that fits into a golf hole with four levels of difficulty with smaller openings for holing your putts.  It improves your concentration while increasing the perceived pressure, and once you remove the device, the regular cup will seem gigantic as will your confidence!  See:  www.puttercups.com.

So as usual, the PGA Merchandise Show delivers!

Author Bob Fagan being interviewed at the PGA Merchandise Show on ESPN Radio's "Views From The Rough" by Kevin Allen.

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