Going to the PGA Merchandise Show has become an annual pilgrimage to a golfing mecca. As a perfect way to kick start the golfing year both professionally and personally, I’m always taken aback by the volume and variety of golf product on display.
With an 8 hour flight in the bag, we made a detour on the way to the show, to take on the challenges of the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. What a way to dust off the golfing cobwebs! Unfortunately, the UK weather came with us, with rain and despite being sunny, it was freezing. Do you need to know we parred the iconic 17th? No. But we all did.
Demo day is always interesting, it’s often the first time that we get to see all the new products in the flesh. The show organisers have relaxed their rules on exhibitors being able to be at the demo day while not exhibiting on the show floor, with HONMA having a noticeable presence on the range. The new TR20 range of equipment is the first designed with an eye to the western consumer, and the driver, in particular, is arguably the best looking on the market this season. Product is only half the battle though, it was the experiential touches we enjoyed. The HONMA Mobile Experience was kitted out beautifully and highlighted the Bond Street-esque retail experience which should prove to be their real point of difference going forward. It was also the coldest day in Florida for years, so it wasn’t the ideal conditions to test product.
The show itself had over 1,000 vendors this year. And while some of those are totally irrelevant there were a couple of areas that really stood out. CBD based pain relief, topical cream, and gum are a massive growth area, and there was stall after stall promoting theirs as the best option. Medterra was by far the most prominent and they have got a huge number of PGA Tour players using their products. Golfers, with all their aches and pains, are willing to try anything, CBD based treatment looks be a huge revenue stream going forward for your stores.
Early feedback on the Mavrik driver has been really good, and the Callaway booth was always busy. The Odyssey putting green was rammed with people clamouring to try the new Triple Track putters for the first time. The biggest hardware booth, if you combine that with their TravisMathew stand and Cuater, their new accessories and footwear brand, Callaway easily had the biggest presence at the show. While TravisMathew is still in its initial stages across Europe, they are an absolute juggernaut in the states.
It feels like a great year for golf footwear, and I’ve called out three models in my best products of the show. However, the adidas CODECHAOS interactive AR experience meant there was a permanent queue at their substantial booth. I saw an early prototype of CODECHAOS in April last year, and with its great price point, ridiculous comfort, and modern styling I expect it to be a big hit this year.
Flying the flag for the UK, PRG had a phenomenally busy booth, and were the most scanned booth at the show. “2019 was great year globally for PRG” explained PRG Founder and PGA Professional, Stephen Riley. “As well as launching our unique PRG Originals collection, we created a range of accessories for a number of major events including the PGA Championship, U.S. Open, Tour Championship, and for The Open at Royal Portrush. “Our presence at the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show provides us with a great platform to build on this success and to connect with our network of international clients. We’re already looking forward to another big year in 2020.” Elsewhere Lynx has made a long term commitment to the PGA Merchandise Show as they look to grow the brand’s global reach. Reception to their junior equipment has been strong, while their conforming Prowler V.T. Driver with Switch Face Technolgy has garnered a lot of attention.
While there was a lot of new products and innovations at the show, it didn’t feel like a show packed with blockbuster launches. But after chatting to people at industry get-togethers put on by YGT, PowaKaddy, and Motocaddy, there is a generally positive attitude amongst industry heads.
While my poor golf at the beginning of the week had been a cause for frustration, Top Golf seemed a great way to finish the week after the show. At demo day I’d listened to Ben Sharpe of Top Tracer talk about how improving the range experience brings more people into the game. Visiting Top Golf Orlando was proof of this, packed with golfers and non-golfers alike, having a great time. By attracting non-golfers, and converting them into range rats, there is still a huge potential for growth in this sport and industry we all love. GR