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Friday, January 20, 2017

10 Top Tips to Survive (and Thrive) at the PGA Merchandise Show

The PGA Merchandise Show is imminent and everyone in the golf business is frantically printing, packing and making meetings for O Town. It is the time to meet old friends, make new ones and take a look at the 2017 lines of the major hard and soft goods manufacturers as well as the up and comers. This year there will be no Nike Golf hard goods, no PXG and we'll observe a changing golf media landscape. So here we go with my Top 10 Tips to Survive (and Thrive) at the PGA Merchandise Show.
1. Wear comfortable shoes...this is no time to break in your FootJoy teaching shoes
2. Don't sell on other people's booths. They have spent thousands on the space and months preparing for the show - it's just not cool. 
3. Drink plenty of water. Monster Energy drinks are not going to help your hydration! There are water fountains and it may well be the only free thing in the cavernous Orange County Convention Center (OCCC).
4. If you want to do business, dress appropriately. Smart casual is perfect and don't pretend you are Ricky Fowler.
5. 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. I did find Chick-fil-A last year, so that's a step up from previous years. The queues were monstrous, so eat early or late!
6. Be very specific about where to meet your appointment. Pick a booth (and a specific location on the big booths) so you maximize the chance to actually find the person you are meeting.
7. Be prepared to stand and talk. There is nowhere to sit down in the OCCC. My annual note to the organizers; people are here to meet, so you may want to invest in some chairs.
8. 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 get from uptown to downtown in Manhattan at 4:00 p.m.
9. Be patient. Everyone is busy and often running a few minutes behind. Whether you are buying or selling they will come.
10. Take some time to wander the floor. Go see the New Products section and marvel at the entrepreneurial spirit in our business.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Custom Club Candles - Perfect for Your Club

We have been having fun with Links Candles, the project my 12 year old daughter, Lily and I started. Our latest iteration, Custom Club Candles is specifically for clubs looking for gift items or for their member guest tournaments. Here's all you need to know - you can download the PDF here.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The 2017 Majors Venues

As the snow descends on the ground here in DC, it's time to think about the golf season ahead and in particular the four major championships. There are a couple of new venues in the mix with Erin Hills in Wisconsin and Quail Hollow in North Carolina.

April 6-9
The Masters, Augusta National, GA
There really is nothing left to say about ANGC that hasn't been said, although the press will try hard as they do each year - it's their job after all! The traditional golf season opener is always magical on one of the greatest venues on the world's stage.
June 15-18
U.S. Open, Erin Hills, WI
I played Erin Hills when it was new a few years ago and at the time if you had told me it was going to host a U.S. Open in future, I would have asked you for a drug test! In the ensuing years, it has undergone a renovation and looks ready for its big test. 
July 20-23
The Open Championship, Royal Birkdale, Southport, England
One of the great links golf courses in the world and the site of Padraig Harrington's 2008 victory. Birkdale is in an area of outstanding golf in the north west of the UK. It's neighbors include Southport and Ainsdale, Hoylake, Formby, Royal Lytham, Wallesey and more.
August 17-20
USPGA, Quail Hollow Club, NC
Built in 1961 by George Cobb, but somehow it looks more modern, due to modifications by Arnold Palmer and then Tom Fazio's redesign in 1997. You'll be familiar with the club from the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Christmas is Coming - Here's our Top Six Golf Gifts

This year is destined to set yet another record for online purchasing. It remains a mystery to me why anyone would want to visit a physical shopping mall when all you need to buy is online. I'll leave that to the sociology students and talk about what I know - namely, great golf gifts. All the products listed here are made in America by small(ish) companies. Here are my six favorites:

Holderness & Bourne

The two young guys who founded H & B are making great strides in the golf business. They are doing so by creating fashionable, well made clothing and accessories. I have the Maxwell shirt below and it still looks perfect after at least 20 outings (and washes!).
www.holdernessandbourne.com

Lamb Crafted

Based in Texas, Tyson Lamb is creating gorgeous putters and hand crafted accessories. His website is brand new and there is a limited selection available, but more is on the way. Who needs a ball marker shaped like a donut, complete with sprinkles - me, that's who!
www.lambcrafted.com


Links Candles

Okay, full disclosure here - I own this one! My 12 year old daughter wanted to go on Shark Tank and I told her we needed a product or Mr. Wonderful would not see us! So, we researched and then sourced American made 100% soy candles. They are themed around the smells of golf and include beach (below), dirt, fescue, magnolia and more.
www.linkscandles.com


MacKenzie Walker 

The Mackenzie Walker is my golf bag of choice. Hand crafted in Oregon with real care and attention to detail, this is a golf bag that looks better with each year of use. It is unashamedly at the top end of the market, but you get what you pay for in life. (and yes, that is my bag below)
www.mackenziegolfbags.com


Seamus Golf

Our friends at this other Oregon company continue to astound us with their versatile and diverse range of products. They started five years ago as a head cover company and have come along way. Their new range of luggage looks outstanding and is made with the same precision as their other beautiful products. Here are just a few of the cool covers that will give your bag a lift.
www.seamusgolf.com


Tin Cup

The best ball marker in golf, bar none! And their custom program allows customers to create a unique mark guaranteed not to be used by anyone else on the first tee! Tin Cup has recently signed a sponsorship deal with PGA Tour player, Bryson DeChambeau and had fun creating a cool caddyshack video which you can see here.
www.tin-cup.com

Friday, September 16, 2016

Five Days of Golf in and around North Berwick

An invitation came out of the blue to play golf in Scotland. Would I and a couple of friends like to come to North Berwick for six days of golf? mmmm, let me think about that! YES!
So, flights were booked from DC to Edinburgh and I volunteered to help with the golf bookings. I love an excel spreadsheet! My friend provided the extraordinary accommodations in North Berwick. There are many great golf options that exist in the East Lothian area and you have the ease of travel to and from Edinburgh. We didn't want to travel too far from our home base and The Old Course at St Andrews was out of the question as it was the RandA Autumn Meeting. Most golf is easily bookable online and I found all of the Club Secretaries very responsive through email. Several of the group were golf magazine raters and some clubs very generously gave us a break on the rates, which was kind of them. Contrary to popular belief, the weather in Scotland is actually quite good and we were blessed with a week of incredible days with rain and wind on only one day. I spent two years at University in Glasgow and recall some wet days, but it was always better than dealing with 105 degrees and 95% percent humidity which is DC in the summer! And so our journey began, with only 18 holes and teeing off around midday each day. There would be no 36-hole route marches for us - we are too old and wise for that - ok, just too old!

Our Merry Band
Day 1 - North Berwick

The West Links at North Berwick was heaving with people on Monday morning. Many were Americans, as North Berwick has quite rightly become a "must play". I have played it many times and am never disappointed. The finishing four holes are as much fun as anywhere on the planet and are built for matchplay drama. The 15th is the original Redan hole, the short par four 16th hole with its crazy double green, the 17th and it's blind approach to a punchbowl green and then 18. Wow! The cars that line the drivable 18th were in imminent danger with our group and how Chip missed a car and ended up behind the green we will never know!
The 13th hole - The Pit - They don't build 'em like this anymore, which is a shame!

Green Fee -  £105
Pro Shop - 8/10 - the NB logo is way too complicated to work with - They should call Lee Wybranski who would do a killer rebranding!
Condition - 9/10 - firm and fast, except for rather oddly, the depression in front of 18 which was overwatered
Fun Factor - 10/10 - North Berwick will make you smile all the way around! And then want to go back to the first tee!

Day 2 - Longniddry

A lovely golf course, that with some tree removal could be even better. It is truly hiding it's light under a bushel of trees! Many of the sea views are lost and strategy on a couple of holes has been compromised by trees that need a chainsaw or a storm in the middle of the night! One of the best holes on the golf course is the short par four 5th with its infamous sloping green. Four and even five putts are common here - add my name to the list! Don't look at the scorecard yardage, presume it's too short and make the (wrong) decision not to go - it's a gem!
Green Fee -  £55
Pro Shop - 7/10 - solid selection
Condition - 8/10 - in good shape, but they need to cut down dozens of trees that are killing the views to the sea and adding nothing strategically
Fun Factor - 7/10  - great views and some terrific holes

Day 3 - Dunbar

Dunbar Golf Club opened in 1856 and was recently used as an Open qualifying course. If the wind is up, watch out because the wall that runs around the golf course from the fourth hole onwards will be watching you and your ball! If you are a slicer, bring some golf balls! The course starts with two gentle par 5s, both birdie chances, and following the delightful downhill par 3rd the real fun starts. You feel like a gladiator entering the ring walking through hole in the wall to get to the fourth tee and the fun never lets up. Great views, a great walk and a really solid course that should be on every visitors must play list. On 18, below, I got close and personal as my second shot hit the wall. I couldn't resist the "wally" and salvaged bogey.
Green Fee -  £75 - good value for a classic links golf course
Pro Shop - 6/10 - opportunity missed with small range of merchandise, like the logo though
Condition - 8/10 - in great shape
Fun Factor - 9/10 - the old sea wall provides plenty of drama, especially for slicers!

Day 3 - Musselburgh Links - with hickories

It is billed as the oldest golf course in the world and no one seems to dispute that. So that's cool! However, the experience, although fun, was not quite up to par. Musselburgh Links (not to be confused with Royal Musselburgh) is a 9-hole golf course located in the middle of the Musselburgh race course in a decidedly dodgy part of town. There is no pro shop, just a guy taking money who seemed more interested in closing than having two more groups pay to walk around the shabby golf course. We opted to play with hickories, which were real but in poor shape. It's all a bit sad, because this place should be treasured and promoted. The commercial possibilities could be huge, but it's clearly run by a local council who have no interest in its upkeep or knowledge of what they have. There was no merchandise available, not even a shirt with "I played the Oldest Course in the World and all I got was this shirt!" So, it was fun, but could have been so much more.
Green Fee -  £50 - including the use of 5 basic hickories, golf balls and a bag
Pro Shop - 2/10 - basically a counter at the race track. Huge opportunity missed by the owners
Condition - 5/10 - it's likely the way it was 400+ years ago, but could be better
Fun Factor - 6/10 - wow, what an opportunity missed, though making a two on a 240 yard par 3 with a hickory shafted wood was fun!

Day 4 - Gullane No.2

Dating back to 1898 and course architect, Willie Park Junior, No. 2 is a joy! The first seven holes are close to No.1 before the courses diverge. The views from the top of the hill are stunning overlooking Aberlady Bay. The course is relatively short, but none the worse for that and birdies were few and far between in our groups!
Green Fee -  £53
Pro Shop - 6/10 - should be so much better and they make a big deal about being the shop for Muirfield as there is no pro shop down the road at The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. But, the lack of merchandise and the rather ordinary Muirfield logo don't make for good shopping. Maybe it was the end of the season and I do them a disservice, but with pretty much every American golfer going through this shop they are missing a trick and oodles of revenue.
Condition - 9/10 - firm and fast, great shape, perfect greens
Fun Factor - 7/10 - it's short, but that doesn't detract from a great walk, views and playability

Day 5 - Gullane No.1
A truly outstanding golf course built in 1884 and the host of the 2015 Scottish Open won by Rickie Fowler. We played it in a three club wind and a smattering of showers, but it never stopped being fun. The views across to Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth and Muirfield (or Gullane No.4 as one member called it!) are breathtaking. The top photo is of my favorite hole on the golf course, the par 3 13th - a world class golf hole with a demanding tee shot.
Green Fee -  £110
Pro Shop - 6/10 - The three courses at Gullane all share the same shop located across the road from the first tee on No.1. See my comments from No. 2 about how it could be so much better.
Condition - 9/10 - great shape, perfect green speeds for the conditions
Fun Factor - 9/10 - with the drivable 17th and 18th it's a course that makes you want to hurry back

And one final gorgeous view of North Berwick Beach to sign off - a magical place!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

MacDuff's 2016 Father's Day Gift Guide

It's a tradition for the final Sunday of the U.S. Open to be played on Father's Day, and as a father it is one that is much appreciated. My main gift each year is to get to watch the golf with few distractions and it doesn't get much better than Oakmont Country Club. It's in my personal Top 10 in the world and with the recent tree removal the course looks better than ever. As well as the gift of golf on television here are five great gift options you can forward on, leave on the printer or tweet out to children, wives and anyone else you may think could buy you a gift!

Beltology
At Beltology they believe belts should stretch! Their belts have no holes, as the prong passes smoothly through the webbing (fabric or leather) allowing for a comfortable and adjustable fit - after lunch for example! Read More Here

Holderness & Bourne
Alex Holderness and John Bourne never much cared for the exhaustive and hyper athletic styling associated with most modern golf apparel. They believe the branding should be subtle with classic styling and a tailored fit. I agree and am a H&B convert! Read More Here

Lee Wybranski
Lee is one of the leading golf artists in the world. This year he has once again created work for the major championships and the perfect gift for dad would be his Oakmont poster shown below. It features the famous church pews bunkers on the 4th and 5th holes and if you look hard you'll see the famous Oakmont squirrel. Read More Here

Links Candles
This new range of golf themed scented candles will be a big hit with dads. Full disclosure, we own this company and it's been fascinating how many dads have declared their passion for scented candles! The range based on the elements of the game includes, Dirt, Fescue, Ocean and Pine. Read More Here

Tin Cup
The only way to really make your mark on a golf ball is with a Tin Cup. They are available in over 140 designs and a new section of specially priced custom cups gives you a good chance of finding a unique cup for dad and his golf balls. How long he can keep it in play is his responsibility! Read More Here

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Links Candles - Light Up The Course

It's time for a new adventure. And there is nothing quite like launching a new product to get the creative juices flowing. So, that's what we are about to do and we are doing it with candles. Yes, candles! Who doesn't love scented candles. They look great, smell great and make the perfect year round gift. Over the course of the last few months we have sourced gorgeous 100% soy scented candles, labels, packaging, crinkle paper, shipping boxes, product cards and built a website. (Awesome job by Cary building www.linkscandles.com). I'm happy to say everything we have sourced is made in America. The majority of scented candles are made in China and the volumes required may be okay if you are Target, but not for us. We have no idea if anyone else likes the idea yet, so I didn't feel like having a garage full of 10,000 candles stacked upon each other and nowhere to put the car!
The inspiration for the candles is the great game of golf. The blue, green and yellow logo above represents the sea and sky, grass and sand. It's nature at its finest and the linked circles are the combination of the three coming together. We went through many iterations of the name and it was my father in law who really liked the simple name "Links" amongst our many possibilities. We hope you like it too! 

The scents for the candles came through many hours of testing and sniffing. Candles can smell very different when lit and the living room was our olfactory testing center for weeks until we all agreed on the ones we liked. The scents include fresh cut grass, pine tress, magnolias and more. We also had great fun naming the products to fit the golf theme. For example, we have Tall Pines, Earth and Magnolia (yes, I would have liked to have added another word to that one!)
The artwork above of the 16th at Cabot Links truly represents what Links Candles stands for and I have a couple of people to thank for allowing us to use the image on our website and packaging. Josh Smith, the incredibly talented artist who painted it and Ben Cowan-Dewar, the visionary behind the Cabot Links property in Inverness, Nova Scotia. See Josh's site here and Cabot Links here.

Well, that's a little of the background to the adventure. We will see where the journey takes us in the coming months. If you would like to order a candle or two, here's where you can do it. 
STOP PRESS - Our packaging just arrived and here it is.



Monday, February 15, 2016

Planning a Scottish Golf Trip This Year? You Need to See This Site.


One of the most interesting facets of the annual PGA Show is meeting new people. This year I had the good fortune to meet and spend time with passionate golf purist and Links Magazine Assistant Editor, Graylyn Loomis. Graylyn is a terrific young man who spent four years at the home of golf, St Andrews. Ostensibly, he was there to educate himself at the fine University, but really we all know why he was there. To play golf, caddy, drink beer and meet Scottish girls! As I was at university in Scotland too, in Glasgow, I understand the attraction of Scotland and all it has to offer.

Graylyn has come up with a great idea for golfers looking to put together a memorable Scottish golf trip. For a very small fee (too small Graylyn!) he will listen to your wants and needs and make recommendations based on your group size, golf ability, timing, budget and more. Take a look at his website, Scottish Golf Trip Planner featuring wonderful reviews of golf courses you know and also Graylyn's hidden gems that will add considerably to your enjoyment of your Scottish trip. Read More Here.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

MacDuff's Top Five from The Show

The Show is over for another year. My iPhone showed I walked 33,000 steps over the 3 days in the Orange County Convention Center. My feet feel like it! I did finally find a restaurant in the Hall I had heard of! Chick-fil-A had a couple of carts serving the awesome chicken sandwich, but you had to look hard to find them!
The steps were not in vain. It was a busy show and with rainy Orlando days, many who come for the mediocre golf available in Orlando actually attended the PGA Show and checked out the 2016 ranges of hard and soft goods. And as I walked 33,000 steps, so you didn't have to, here are my
Annual Top Five from The Show.

Holderness & Bourne


It was the inaugural show year for this New York based company. Owned by two young entrepreneurs Alex Holderness and John Bourne, the company has created a terrific range of shirts, knits and accessories. With bold stripes and a color palette that will appeal to golfers on and off the course this young company are going places. Their small range of luggage and accessories in canvas and leather is also stunning.  See the range here.

Oak Locker


Oak Locker is a cool idea. You go online to their site, register and curate your own locker of clothing, clubs, courses, even your fantasy golf Tour players. Oak Locker allows you to buy products through their partner websites and has a library of current content that is engaging and informative. They have wisely been selective about their partnerships and as their tag line suggest they only promote "the best in golf." You can create your locker here.

Seamus Golf


It's no secret that I have been a Seamus fan since clapping eyes on a single headcover that co-owner Akbar Chisti was wandering the cavernous OCCC hall with several years ago. He and his wife, Megan (she's the other owner!) have taken their simple idea of plaid headcovers and created a brand built on great ideas, execution and passion. Their wool, metal and wood products crafted in Oregon are irresistible! See the Seamus Golf range here.

swingOIL


I so wanted to like swingOIL. It has a great name, packaging and marketing and their endorsement deal with Jason Day is spot on. So, I wandered by their booth and met the engaging owner, Thomas Healey and heard the story behind the company. (You can read it here) I'm pleased to report the drink supplement, available in three flavors tastes terrific and will definitely be in my bag once the season begins. With glucosamine, chondroitin and turmeric, swingOIL will unquestionably help my flexibility and concentration. Read the whole story here.

Titleist


I have played the same set of irons for nine years now - Callaway forged blades. Having now seen in person the Titleist 716 T-MB irons I may actually switch brands. Built around a large tungsten weight with a thin top line they are an incredible looking set of clubs. I need to see my friends at Club Champion and go through a fitting to see if they will work with my rusty swing. Hopefully they will perform, because I really want these! Read more here.

Bonus Find! - Callaway Mack Daddy PM


This is a matte black line extension of the successful line created by wedge genius Roger Cleveland. I bought the 56 degree version last year and am very tempted to add the 60 degree version. My only question - why didn't they call it Black Daddy? Read more here.

Friday, January 15, 2016

It's Showtime! - Do's and Don'ts at the 2016 PGA Merchandise Show





I know, I rewrite this piece every year. Hopefully honing it, improving it and making more sense with each passing year!

The PGA Merchandise Show is a few days away and everyone in the golf business is frantically printing, manufacturing samples and making meetings for O Town. 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!

So here we go again with my list of Do and Don'ts for the PGA Merchandise Show.
  • Wear comfortable shoes...this is no time to break in your FootJoy teaching shoes
  • 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. 
  • Drink plenty of water. The free Pepsi isn't going to help your hydration! There are water fountains and it may well be the only free thing in the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC)!
  • If you want to do business, dress appropriately. Smart casual is perfect and don't dress as if you are a PGA Tour player!
  • 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. There is nothing good to eat in the Convention Center – nothing!
  • 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, so 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 get 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. Go see the New Products section and marvel at the craziness of this business of ours.