Impressive Sights Abound at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show

If the Masters heralds the arrival of spring and the “real” golf season to the golf-playing and –watching public, then the PGA Merchandise Show is the American golf season’s official teaser. It comprises four days where thousands of golf industry employees—club professionals, manufacturers, educators and media alike—gather in and around Orlando, Florida’s Orange County Convention Center to reconnect, compare ideas and business strategies and survey the latest and greatest golf equipment available. All manner of clubs, shoes, clothing and assorted accessories cover an area of about a million square feet. If Disney World is “The Happiest Place On Earth,” then the PGA Merchandise Show is The Happiest Place In The Golf World.

Here are a few highlights of the many intriguing products on display:

Isaac Newton and a Combat Tank
What do these two non-golf items have in common? The backing of Callaway Golf, which is perhaps the game’s most surprising major club manufacturer of late. Callaway has shed the somewhat musty image it developed through the 90s and early 2000s and has taken up a fun and casual ethos in recent years. A Tour stable that includes some up-and-coming young players alongside the likes of Phil Mickelson buoys Callaway’s made-over reputation. This year, the company has revived the Big Bertha driver name, 25-foot tall Sir Isaac Newton cartoon cutout and all. And Odyssey, the putter-making Callaway subsidiary, has a new model in 2014 called the Tank. So, Callaway brought in a real, 106,000-pond tank to stand sentry over their booth.

MOAD, MOAI and the Golf Clubs of Tomorrow
TaylorMade always makes a big impression at the Show and this year was no different. The introduction to its huge, nightclub-like booth was an 11-minute video about its R&D team trying to create absurdly effective (though illegal according to the Rules of Golf) clubs. It was an exercise similar to the “concept cars” that auto manufacturers often show off at car shows. The MOAD—Mother Of All Drivers—has pop-out wings that guide the swing down the proper path, while the MOAI—Mother Of All Irons—has a spring-activated face that ensures straight shots no matter how far contact is made from the center of the face. The video also mused about using 15-inch cups for alternative rounds of golf. More kooky ideas are sure to come from TaylorMade.

Gadgets Galore
It is hard to find a place to begin here, so these are listed in no particular order. Zero Friction is making water-soluble golf tees. Stitch makes classy driver, fairway wood and hybrid headcovers. The PutterWheel is a great little putting aid. If you have your own golf cart, Wheel Mate is your go-to source for custom rims. Well-regarded shoe company New Balance now makes golf shoes.
And if you like five-toed shoes, Vibram now makes golf shoes.

This is not even a thumbnail sketch of all of the items on display at this year’s PGA Merchandise Show. It is always encouraging to see so much love for the game worn on people’s sleeves. If you have an idea for a useful golf gadget, chances are you’ll be able to get some feedback on it at the Show.

(posted 1/28/14)

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