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Monday, January 29, 2018

MacDuff's Nine Favorites from the PGA Show

As is customary after three days of walking and talking around the giant, soulless space of the Orange County Convention Center here are my favorites from the show. As much as I love technology, you won’t find any here. Golf balls with microchips, range finders, GPS all leave me cold. They will never be in or on my golf bag. I have enough going on without additional data and many of these devices are contributing to slow play. When I play, I hit it, find it and hit it again! Here are nine great companies and their beautifully crafted products.
MacDuff Candles
Okay, I am slightly biased here. This is my 13-year-old daughter’s company (I’m the unpaid intern!) and this was her first show. We were on the booth courtesy of our U.S. distributor, Signs by the Sea and it was busy from Wednesday morning until closing time on Friday afternoon. Lily (with a little help from me) has created scented custom candles for clubs and resorts. They are made in the USA and 100% soy. I have been going to the show for more than two decades, but this one was more fun than ever! Seeing her engage with existing and potential customers and write orders was a thrill. Email her on lily@macduffcandles.com to learn more. www.macduffcandles.com
Holderness and Bourne
This fine young company was started by two friends, Alex Holderness and John Bourne. They entered the ultra-competitive golf clothing world a couple of years ago with a small number of elegant shirts and bags. As their business has grown, so has their range, with new shirts, sweaters and belts. I particularly like the low-key branding and emphasis on detailing.  www.holdernessandbourne.com

Jack Grace
A classic story of the owners creating something they wanted and finding out others wanted it too. The company is named for the owners two young children, yes, Jack and Grace. As we have a young Jack in our house the name appealed to me! Their well-made saddle style shoes have a unique feature that allows for the saddle to be changed out in a matter of seconds. This gives you the option of matching your shoes to your outfit without the need for two pairs of shoes….brilliant idea! www.jackgraceusa.com
Lie + Loft
Lie + Loft create timeless art featuring renderings of classic golf courses as seen from on high. The production qualities, elegance and simplicity of their work may even predicate the move from man cave to living room. I also loved their new addition of old school wool pennants. www.lieandloft.com
Seamus Golf
It’s always exciting to see what owners, Megan and Akbar Chisti come up with for the show. With their roots in Oregon, I love their laid-back philosophy of hand crafted, beautifully made products. They work with local craftspeople to create one offs, as well as the gorgeous plaid and leather products they are well known for. I’m drafting this blog in one such product – a leather notebook made from one piece of supple brown leather that holds a notebook and folds in two and has two holes in the cover that holds a pencil – simple, ingenious and it will last a lifetime. www.seamusgolf.com
Signs by the Sea
Signs by the Sea is owned by husband and wife, Mike and Kathy Yevchak. They also have a wonderful team who were on site and it’s a good job, because their booth was undoubtedly one of the busiest on the show floor. The company makes unique wood signage and wood and glass gifts, both large and small for pro shops and resorts. They are also our U.S. distributors for MacDuff Candles. www.signsbythesea.com
Sik Putters
This is the putter currently being used by PGA Tour player and resident Tour scientist, Bryson DeChambeau. The owner of this business also happens to be Bryson’s putting coach. The putters are beautifully made and feature a highly technical milled face that features different lofts that promote ball roll however the golfer strikes the ball. www.sikgolf.com
Smathers and Branson
Just like MacDuff, this cool company is based in Bethesda, MD. Owned by two good friends, Austin Smathers and Peter Branson, they are market leaders in all things needlepoint. Their range includes belts, wallets, headwear and they are always innovating, yet remain true to their core specialization. I was particularly struck this year by a range of needlepoint golf course layouts – above you see the great Fishers Island Club. www.smathersandbranson.com
Stitch Golf
Wow, was I in for a surprise when I visited Stitch Golf. Their booth was huge and they have come a long way in only a few years. What started as a head cover business is now a company with a full range of products including a host of head covers, weekend bags, and accessories. I really loved their new one strap golf bag (two straps are banned in our foursome!) with its cool material and logo detailing. www.stitchgolf.com

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The 2018 PGA Merchandise Show - Do This - Don’t Do That!

The PGA Merchandise Show is a week or so away and everyone in the golf business is frantically printing, packing boxes and making meetings for golf’s annual trade show. It is the best time in our world to meet old friends, make new ones and take a look into the crazy world of golf merchandise and see what’s new! That’s all everyone wants – new, new, new!

This year will be a very special show. My 13 year old daughter, Lily, will be with me as we show our custom golf candle business, MacDuff Candles. We will be on Booth 4645 courtesy of our friends and U.S. distributor, Signs by the Sea. We started the business last year and are in many great clubs and resorts with our candles featuring club logos, clubhouses and golf course pictures. The candles are a great member guest gift too! Ok, the ad endeth!

So, as you prepare for the show here is my annual round up of Do and Don'ts for the Orlando extravaganza!
  • Wear comfortable shoes...this is no time to break in fancy new loafers
  • Don't sell on other people's booths. They have spent thousands on the space and months preparing for the show - it is just not cool. 
  • Keep hydrated. There are water fountains around the hall and it may well be the only free thing in the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC)!
  • Don't dress like you are a PGA Tour player – if you were you would be at Riviera.
  • Eat a good breakfast at your hotel because the food in the OCCC is like a hot dog in a movie theater...overcooked and overpriced. Chick-fil-A was there last year – let’s pray they made the cut for 2018
  • Be very specific about where to meet your appointment. Pick a booth, preferably a small one, so you can't miss the person you are meeting.
  • Be prepared to stand and talk. There is nowhere to sit down in the OCCC - Note to the organizers, people are here to meet, so you may want to invest in some chairs.
  • It's a long way from the 1000 aisle to the 6000 aisle so don't make three appointments in 60 minutes in three locations. It's like trying to drive from uptown to downtown in Manhattan at 4 p.m.
  • Be patient. Everyone is busy and often running a few minutes behind. Whether you are buying or selling they will come.
  • Take some time to wander the floor. It’s fun to see many of the 2018 ranges of products ahead of the market. 

See you at the Show!


Friday, September 29, 2017

Sand Valley - America's Next Great Golf Resort

It's a long way from Milwaukee and even farther from Chicago....but, it's a whole lot easier to get to Sand Valley Golf Resort in Nekoosa, Wisconsin than Bandon Dunes in Oregon. And I guarantee you will have just as much fun. Granted you won't see the ocean, but that's a small price to pay, as this new resort, created by Mike Keiser and his team and managed by Kemper Sports is magnificent.
There is currently one course open, Sand Valley, with the second, Mammoth Dunes, opening next year. When we visited, nine holes of Mammoth were open and we snuck a look at the other nine too. Mammoth is bigger and bolder, but essentially it's over the same piece of property, so like Bandon Dunes the bar room debate will rage about which is the best course.

There's room for several other courses and no doubt that is in the works as the property seems to go on and on as far as the eye can see. Actually a third course, the par 3 course does have six holes open and despite playing off mats was great fun. We found the holes to be almost too short and hopefully when all 17 holes are open the tees will be a little further back and I'm assured they will stretch to more than a wedge. We enjoyed the bunker homage to the Devil's you know what at the 17th. Here I am playing out of it.
We stayed in the clubhouse rooms and these have the luxury of having the putting green right outside the door and easy access to the restaurant and bar. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, with lightning fast wi-fi and fabulous showers. After dinner we were blessed with a warm, clear evening for late night putting to LED lit holes. The opportunity to actually see the Milky Way is not something our city group often has and we did more looking up than looking at the golf holes. We were all a little surprised that the putting green didn't more accurately reflect the greens on the golf course - it's flat and nondescript. They would sell a whole lot more beer with a Himalayas style green and there is plenty of room to do it.

On arrival at the first tee of Sand Valley, guests are greeted by a delightful little rustic shack called Craig's Porch. This services the 1st and 10th holes and is staffed by delightful Wisconsinites serving good and very reasonably priced food. This includes an item that is already making noises - Nye's Ice Cream sandwiches. I managed one on the first and tenth on both rounds and my favorite was raspberry cheesecake. If I lived in Wisconsin I would be considerably larger than I am now - these people have great comfort food!

Sand Valley is designed by the magical duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and has their distinctive fingerprints all over it - large landing areas, a number of central hazards and greens designed to baffle. Miss the fairway and you will have no trouble finding your ball - our group didn't lose a ball in 36 holes - but you will be challenged with your next shot. The par 3s, in particular are wonderful and a couple are reminiscent of Pine Valley. The par 5's give you a solid opportunity to make birdie if you are sensible, act your age and play off the orange tees. We did look at the black tees, but really, we were there to have fun and despite the fact that we can all play a bit we still opted to play up and enjoy the game. A couple of the caddies mentioned that high handicaps feel like they are getting their money's worth playing all the way back, which is possibly the craziest thing I have ever heard! Move a tee forward people and enjoy hitting a wedge into the greens and not a 6 iron. That's what Coore and Crenshaw want you to do! (okay, I'm off my soapbox now)

Next year, Mammoth Dunes designed by David McLay Kidd will open in earnest. Yes, the dunes are bigger and this course does have the luxury of starting and finishing by the clubhouse. We collectively wondered why the second course had this premium position even though it was the second course and couldn't find a good answer from anyone. Rather like Sand Hills, the original Coore and Crenshaw masterpiece, a very short bus ride is required to get to the first tee at Sand Valley and also to return from the 18th.

So, there you have it, America's next great golf resort, Sand Valley. A return to firm and fast golf, classic style architecture, friendly people, good food, fun and knowledgeable caddies and gorgeous night skies.