A Refreshingly Cold Take
If this is the only PGA Show recap that you read (kudos for your good taste), let me tell you what you’re missing: a bunch of hot takes about how the show stunk. I won’t try to give you alternative facts that say the attendance was great (it wasn’t) or that they show floor was buzzing with energy (it wasn’t), but I will tell you this: there were a lot of good and interesting new products, and the industry stalwarts delivered solid performances.
Best New Products
A handful of new or improved non-club products stood out to me as being particularly good. Here’s the list:
Arccos Course Analyzer – The single best thing I saw at the show. I read the press release prior to going to Orlando and, despite my love of Arccos, shrugged. When I saw the app in person, however, my jaw hit the floor. Arccos and Microsoft have figured out how to take your personal data, combine it with the data of all Arccos users, and create optimal strategies for you for any course in the world. Explaining this app does it no justice, this is something you’ll need to see to understand, but take my word for it that you should be excited.
PuttOut – This simple putting trainer could be found in nearly every putter maker’s booth. They almost sold out at the show, and their Amazon site for US sales is sold out. These gents need to get home and start cranking out more product. Full review coming soon.
Blast Golf 360 – Consumer grade swing analyzers exploded a few years ago, but the category has leaked oil ever since. This year, Blast Motion reversed the trend by showing the most polished, useful analyzer yet. I just received a unit to test, and I can’t wait to bring you the results.
Edel Single Length Irons – Comparing Edel’s single length iron system to those from other makers is akin to running next to Usain Bolt: in theory you’re doing the same thing, but the reality is that you exist in two different galaxies. Edel has partnered with Paderson to create proprietary graphite shafts that address the major problems of single length iron sets. Look for an in-depth discussion of the fitting system to hit PluggedInGolf in the coming months.
Bushnell Pro X2 Laser Rangefinder – Bushnell has combined everything you could want into one laser. The Pro X2 will have black and orange displays plus slope and tournament modes. Combine that with a solid metal housing and you have the makings of the best rangefinder to date.
Pick Up Ultra Slim Golf Bag – The most interesting take on a golf bag that I’ve seen since I’ve been coming to the show. When the legs are extended, it looks fairly conventional. However, when you pick it up, it folds into a flat rectangle that holds all the clubs still and fits under your arm.
String Rods – There is no shortage of companies doing things with alignment rods, but this is the best iteration I’ve ever seen. This sturdy trainer creates perfect parallel lines, plus it has strings that can establish swing paths that are precise to one degree. While it’s not the most exciting product, it was one of the most useful ones that I saw.
The Beautiful Booths
Yes, this is the part where I tell you that for another year no one could beat Edel and Seamus for killer booths, though this year a new company entered that upper echelon.
Edel brought out an all new booth that showed off even more of their too-beautiful-to-game wedges, putters, and irons. They also displayed the aforementioned single-length iron system which could deliver on the promise of improved consistency and ease of play.
Once again, Seamus put together a booth that made me want everything in it. From the leather Sunday bags to their signature wool headcovers, these handmade gems might not make you play better, but they will certainly boost your style.
The booth itself at Itobori was nothing special, but the clubs inside it were so unique and eye-catching that it didn’t have to be. This relative newcomer has every club hand ground by the same master builder for maximum consistency. I also learned that there’s a function to the unusual look. Shaping the sole to a smooth finish requires having it on the grinder for an extended period of time. This heats up the metal and makes it harder. By taking off a little bit at a time, the metal stays soft, preserving the softest possible feel. The company also claims that this rough sole moves through the turf more easily than a smooth sole.
The Big Boys
Among the major OEMs, Callaway made the biggest impression. The Great Big Bertha Epic driver was unquestionably the talk of the show – you could hear people chatting about it in practically every booth. Callaway didn’t rest on the driver story, however. In addition to touting the Toulon Design and Odyssey O Works putters, they also quietly displayed a TP Mills staff bag with Odyssey-branded TP Mills putters. Details on this partnership were sparse, but it’s something for putter lovers to keep an eye on in the coming months.
While not as massive as previous efforts, TaylorMade’s booth was one of their best ever. Much of the focus was on new TM staffer Tiger Woods, but their hardware display was even more impressive. Packed into the booth was Dustin Johnson’s US Open trophy, Justin Rose’s Olympic gold medal, and more. They’re also releasing a torrent of new equipment: new M1 and M2 woods and irons, two forged irons, new wedges, new putters, and new golf balls. Personally, I’m as intrigued by the performance claims around the new golf ball as anything.
Srixon and Cleveland continued to build the momentum they created off their spectacular fall club launch. Golfers lined up to test the Srixon irons and woods and Cleveland wedges, as well as to score a testing pack of the new Q STAR TOUR and Z STAR TOUR golf balls. I tested the new Z STAR TOUR XV at Streamsong and was very impressed with the performance in the wind and the short game spin.
With new clubs for players in every category, Wilson Staff had a great show. Their demo day section was packed with golfers looking to try out the new, ultralight D300 line up, the Triton DVD driver, and the FG Tour V6 irons. How good are the new Wilson Staff drivers? For the first time in years, Wilson’s PGA Tour players will have them in the bag.
While not equal to last year’s enormous G series launch, PING did have a solid show with a lot of new products. The i200 irons are going to be favorites among players who want traditional looks but still need forgiveness. The Glide 2.0 wedges promise enhanced spin, and the new Sigma G putter series offers 16 models to fit any golfer. Finally, for the ladies, the G Le series promises improvements from tee to green.
Notes, Trends, & Oddities
Random musings on the things that happened between the giant booths and the New Products area.
Shaft Makers Pump the Brakes
While there were some new shafts that generated a lot of interest – Fujikura’s ATMOS line being the most notable – overall buzz around shafts was minimal. A couple of major players skipped the show altogether, and those that were there kept announcements to a minimum. Nippon revealed new graphics for their Regio shafts but otherwise stood pat with their line. KBS showed a prototype iron shaft plus the already-announced graphite hybrid shaft. On balance, I think smaller, targeted releases is probably a good thing in an already-saturated segment.
New Players In Graphite
Two new companies are jumping into the very high end of the shaft market. Seven Dreamers and TPT Golf unveiled graphite shafts costing well over $500. The justification for the cost is technology and manufacturing techniques that claim to fix the problems currently plaguing graphite shafts – namely inconsistencies. I will be very interested to see if these two are able to get any traction in a crowded marketplace.
Ogio has been off my radar for a few years, but their 2017 gear really wowed me. Their new bags boast legitimate performance upgrades like Silencer Club Protection and Fit Disc Technology – a strap system that has the potential to be the best on the market. The Ace Collection apparel that they unveiled feels great, looks solid, and has legitimate on and off course wearability.
Fewer Apparel Companies, Stronger Showings
It seems to me that in years past, you needed a scorecard to keep track of the new apparel companies at the show. This year there were fewer apparel booths, but those that came brought strong line ups that showed a great sense of brand identity. Among our favorites were Galvin Green (shown above), newcomer Bradley Allen, and Carnoustie.
Rickie Fowler to Use CRU Headcovers
Our friends at CRU Golf used the show to make the very exciting announcement that Rickie Fowler will be sporting their Major Collection headcovers this year. You can see the four new designs above, and there are close up images in the slideshow below.
Canoos – More Than Meets the Eye
I noticed Canoos on social media recently and was intrigued by “the inventors of the boat golf shoe.” When I came across their booth at the show, I learned there is more than style at work here. Each shoe takes advantage of five patents including a featherweight insole that shapes to your foot over time. Look out for their lace up shoe (above) coming soon.
Golf Motorcycles, Golf Bikes, and Putting with Ice
Demo day brought with it three products that stood out simply for being unusual. The IceBlock Putter stands on its own thanks to its huge size and weight. It feels pretty solid, too.
I also spied a golf motorcycle (below) and a golf bicycle. I’m not sure I see the bike catching on – people who want exercise will probably just walk – but the motorcycle looked like a lot of fun.
On a Personal Note
There’s a truth that applies to golf as it does to any other pursuit: it doesn’t matter so much what you’re doing as who you’re doing it with. A round at Augusta could be miserable in bad company. A round at a local muni can be heaven in the right company.
This was the most fun I’ve ever had at a PGA Show, and it was all thanks to the great friends with whom I was able to share it. PIG’s own Matt Meeker, Ryan from IGR, and Fernando from South Florida Golf made for the best traveling party I could ask for.
Finally, huge thank yous to: Streamsong for a great round of golf on Thursday. Ryan Ballengee for being my token University of Maryland friend. Ian Gilley and the Sugarloaf Social Club for your infectious passion for the game. The Zimmerman (Karaoke) Agency for your unparalleled taste in dive bars.
I can’t wait to see you all again. I hope I don’t have to wait until next January.