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Monday, January 30, 2012

Thoughts from "The Show"

I have just returned from Orlando, where the weather was predictable, the food at International Drive restaurants better than ever (no, really) and the food inside the cavernous hall impossibly bad and expensive. And quite why Reed Exhibitions and the Convention Center still seem incapable of providing more than 16 chairs for the 42,000 visitors to sit down is still a mystery. Okay, enough of the rant - It was a great show!

There was a real buzz around the hall this year and that augers well for the forthcoming golf season. There were really 2 shows this year. Nine hundred and ninety nine exhibitors were in the aircraft hanger know as Orange County Convention Center and TaylorMade Adidas Golf were in a "booth" that was big enough to have its own zip code. Once inside the TMaG extravaganza, having been scanned (actually Compuserv did a first class job of misprinting 90% of the badges, so I doubt anyone was scanned correctly!) visitors were treated to a veritable feast of fun golf activities and shopping opportunities. Mark King, the CEO of TMaG was clearly making a statement about the company's intentions for the year and he is continuing to build off the stellar year of the white R11 driver. Although I don't like the Rocketballz name (I do like RBZ) the 3 wood, hybrid and driver are great looking and at a $100-$150 cheaper price point than the R11 they are going to shift container loads of them.

On the cool products side I saw a hosts of good things including the TRUE Linkswear shoes, Callaway copper finish wedges, G-Fore golf gloves, Smathers and Branson belts and hatsSeamus Golf headcovers and new designs of Tin Cups.

Of course I also saw the usual array of products worthy of a spot on "the ridiculist"- a piece of cloth you stick on your head to stop sweat getting onto your golf cap, a golf tee that you stick in the ground and then unscrew to the correct height, a rubber mat with a logo that you jump up and down on to make a logo in the bunker. It will be surprising if any of these will be at the 2013 show and yet one has to admire the spirit and passion with which these inventors enter the golf business.

Let's hope the buzz at this years show continues through the sell in to the trade and to the season's real opener in April!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The PGA Merchandise Show - 3 Trends for 2012

Here we go again, another PGA Merchandise Show or simply "The Show" as it is called in the business. As product launch cycles have been completely turned on their heads by TaylorMade, we already know what to expect to see at the show, which is a shame. However, that's the commercial reality we live in and with the advent of social media and sites like GolfWRX and Golfspy posting pro range pictures (all supported and even paid for by the major manufacturers) there is very little at the show that we haven't seen. Hopefully some of the lesser known manufacturers with smaller budgets will give us a few cool surprises. I'll keep my iPhone close at hand and will post the best I can find.
Here's what we expect to see at the show and three trends we expect going into the season.

1. Long Putters. We are not a fan of the long and belly putters and the R&A and USGA have dropped the ball once again on equipment and the pros are taking advantage and so can you. In February all the major manufacturers will roll out the new long shafted versions of the old standbys - Mr. Solheim must be spinning in his grave at the prospect of a long shafted Anser!

2. Color in the golf bag. TMaG's hugely successful White driver, the R11 now has an "S" stuck on the end, but really the only change is it is 20cc bigger. It will continue to dominate the pro ranks and I'm sure many amateurs will also trade up this year, now that the gimmick factor has dissippated. Look also for colored grips from mainstream manufacturers like Lamkin and the continuing pimping of golf clubs, started by Scotty Cameron. This will continue across the brands and already Cleveland has stepped in with their Never Compromise putter line and also are extending this into their wedge program. I have green initials on my Callaway wedges, so I am all for a little pimp!

3. Long 3 woods. The unfortunately named TMaG Rocketballz (read my earlier blog here) got the ball rolling claiming extra yardage and Callaway followed suit with their 3 wood. It's not too hard to get more distance if you change the launch angle by making a 3 wood 13 degrees instead of 15 degrees - it's practically a driver! The TMaG groove (obviously not patented by Adams when they brought it out a couple years ago) is cool looking and  I look forward to hitting it, but I suspect these are going to be easier to hit for the long ball pros than your average amateur - less loft for amateurs is not generally a good thing as many struggle to get the ball in the air. Time will tell.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What NOT to ask at The PGA Merchandise Show - Redux!

The PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando is just around the corner and we are in final planning for clients and meeting schedules. Last year I wrote about "What not to ask at the show" and it's worth revisiting with a couple of updates. Some have remained the same - No's 1-4 - please, please avoid asking these!,  No. 5 is still in play, No. 6 - there have been some improvements, notably the "moving ball at address" rule, No. 7, the answer was millions and this year people will be buying a white 3 wood and No. 8  - substitute the name Titleist with Adams.

1. Are you having a good show? The answer is always, yes
2. When did you get here? The show starts on Thursday, so as always everyone gets into town on Wednesday!
3. When are you leaving? Always a strange one that one - didn't I just get here!?
4. Where are you staying? Your chance for oneupmanship...just say The Peabody and move on.
5. When will Tiger regain his Number One spot in the much maligned World Rankings?
6. When will the R & A and USGA meet and finally change the 18th century rules that govern a 21st century game?
7. Just how many people will buy a white driver?
8. Who is buying Titleist?

See you there! Bring comfortable shoes!