The 63rd PGA show in Orlando, Florida, is the biggest trade event in the golfing calendar. Andy Brown attended for the first time and explains why he thinks it is something that all pros should experience at least once.
s I prepared for the PGA Merchandise show in Orlando I didn’t know what to expect – everyone had told me how big an event it was but surely they were exaggerating? Not a bit of it. I’ve worked in several different industries and attended lots of events, but this was the biggest one that I have ever attended.
The event starts with demo day on the Tuesday, which was held at Orange County National Golf Centre. Our flight landed on Monday night so come the morning I was slightly groggy and jet lagged but the sparkling Florida sunshine (don’t be too jealous – the next two days gave us torrential rain) soon woke me up, as did the size of the venue. Located a 25 minute drive from the convention centre, the demo day features equipment companies in a circle around what amounts to the biggest driving range I have ever seen. All of the big hardware manufacturers were there and the day provides the chance to try out all of the new products that you could wish to lay your hands on. Many of the structures had hitting bays, and some even ran competitions where you could win prizes. The star power was provided in the form of Bubba Watson who launched some balls from the PING structure.
The show itself starts on the Wednesday in Orange County Convention centre and the size of the hall is absolutely gigantic. It is – as I found out more than once – easy to get lost there. Apparel is located on one side of the hall with hardware on the other end and it’s no exaggeration to say it can be a twenty minute walk at a good pace from one end to the other, something to have in mind if you are organising meetings. The apparel side of the hall was noticeably more spacious and a slightly less manic than the hardware section and it was interesting to see so many brands that I had never heard of, that we don’t see in the UK. The juxtaposition in apparel was also striking: there were some very trendy and fashionable brands next to brands that looked like they catered for older Americans.
The event was packed on both Wednesday and Thursday with Friday a lot quieter, but that’s to be expected as it was a half day and the last day of shows is always more relaxed. I was impressed though by just how busy the show was on its first two days. As mentioned, the area of the show is huge, so to make it feel busy and bustling with people is a great achievement.
The hall was packed with stands and the differences between small companies and the ‘big players’ was marked; the stands at Titleist, Callaway and TaylorMade and others were gigantic. That was one of the things I liked though – the variety of products and companies that were there. There were a whole host of small companies on small stands who I had never heard of who had some kind of putting aid or a new concept for apparel. Some of these were of no interest but a handful had interesting looking products, and there seemed to be some gold there for anyone who had time to wade their way through the smaller stands.
For any PGA Pro who hasn’t been to the show I would strongly advise them to check it out. Admittedly, it is a long way to travel from England and the cost of flights have to be taken into account of course, but you also have to consider the benefits that going to an event like this could have on your career. If you have never been before and you attend next year and don’t find it useful then you don’t have to go again, and what’s the worst that has happened? You’ve shown yourself in the eyes of your club and members to be the kind of forward-thinking pro who will travel to America to visit a golf trade show. That’s not a bad thing. I would also suggest that, if possible, you give yourself more time out there than less; we flew out on the Monday morning and were back on Friday which in hindsight was a bit rushed. Due to the time difference jet lag is a factor on both legs of the journey and, with so many great golf courses out there, it would make sense to give yourself a bit more time in Orlando to play them.
The event is where new products are launched and it is also a chance for PGA Pros from the UK to see hardware and apparel that perhaps wouldn’t necessarily be coming into the country and so get their hands on something for their shop that isn’t widely available. If you have a couple of customers that are golf crazy could you take them out next year and also get in some rounds of golf with them? It is also, like trade shows in all industries, a great opportunity to meet people and to network. There are lots of events taking place where you can meet people and, if you stop and talk to people, it could take you all day to get from one side of the hall to the other. The convention is full of people that are crazy about golf but are also trying to make money from it, so it is a place filled with potential opportunities.