2018 PGA Merchandise Show Recap
This is my 22nd show in a row…phew! It is always great to see old friends and look for the next hot products for our fitting studios. After four solid days of “meet and greet” I am ready to catch my flight home.
I am always looking for new products (club heads, shafts and grips), and fitting tools (video, launch monitors, measuring devices) that will help us become better fitters and deliver superior game improvement to our customers. Here are the highlights of the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show:
The show was as big as I have seen it in terms of number and size of exhibitors. Biggest exhibitors were the usual suspects: Callaway, Ping. TaylorMade and Titleist. Increased numbers from previous years were fitness products, launch monitors/simulators and golfer transport (scooters). Actual visitor traffic I think was down a little from previous years but that may just be my perception. Golf Channel had huge presence and did a great job of promoting their network of partners (Revolution Golf) and the Long Drive Tour that they are sponsoring with Volvik.
Drivers: The Callaway Rogue and TaylorMade M3/M4 definitely were the most popular with visitors. I was personally impressed with the Cobra F8 line and the Ping G400, both of which we have had in the shop and tested.
Fairway Metals: A lot of emphasis on forgiveness AND distance from Tour Edge, Cobra and Callaway. We will see in our testing how they stack up.
Hybrids: Nothing really new here, in my opinion, but more companies are offering higher lofts, i.e. 6 and 7 hybrids to their lines, most notably Callaway and Cobra.
Irons: It still seems to be all about distance, especially the Callway Rogue X. Hot faces, lower lofts and much lower spin. Definitely not for everyone as you may not be able to stop even your 7 iron on the green. Again, we will test these out and give you more feedback. We are also exploring new exotic brands like Itobori.
Wedges: In the traditional OEM lines, the new Titleist SM7 looks good and the new groove technology will help performance. Same with the Callaway Mack Daddy 4, Mizuno T7 and S18, and Cleveland RTX 3.0. Boutique forged wedges like Miura and EPON will always have a place with discerning players that like that soft feel.
Putters: OMG (as my grandkids would text)! I have never seen so many putters. I think the advent of the TaylorMade Spider and its popularity on the PGA Tour has prompted a lot of new mallet-style putters from the major manufacturers. I still like boutique lines like Bettinardi, Piretti, and the new Evnroll line. Watch for a major announcement this spring as we launch our putter fitting system!
Shafts: Another, OMG, as we are seeing an influx of high quality, premium priced shafts from Japan. Companies like ACCRA, Mitsubishi Chemical (think Diamana,Fubuki, Kuro Kage), OBAN, Graphite Design, and Fujikura are hitting the $500 MSRP price point. New entrants like TPT (Thin Ply Technology), Seven Dreamers, and Basileus are stretching it to $700-1,000+. Are they worth it? We will see in our testing.
And other companies are doing unique things like very light weight steel. Nippon has introduced a 65 gram steel shaft, the lightest in the market. KBS, a traditonal steel iron and hybrid shaft company, is making a big push into the graphite market with their TGI (Tour Graphite Iron).
Fitting Systems: New putter fitting systems seem to be popping up from TrackMan, FlightScope and ForeSight. A new one from Ireland called Putter Fit also caught my eye.
Also on my radar are systems that do a better job of measuring tempo, transition and release. These are necessary for our BGF Fitting System and TrueFitClubs Fitting Wizard. Still the best is the Mizuno Shaft Optimizer but Blast Motion will give you a lot of information on your tempo for putting and full swing. GEARS Golf is still one of the best in my opinion, just hard to incorporate into an everyday fitting environment. Maybe???
It’s All About Big Data
If there is one takeway a geek like me saw it was that every manufacturer is into showing and capturing as much data about your swing and golf shots as possible. There is even a new ball that has a chip in it to record a ton of information about your shots. Not sure I want to know anything about my worm burners! TopGolf has similar technology that they are marketing to driving ranges. SkyTrack, Game Golf, Garmin and others are all into big data. The more you know, the more you can make decisions about even simple things like, club selection and set makeup.
Ok, home and then back in the shop tomorrow for more fittings and testing. One thing about my passion…it never gets old!