Takeaways and Top Products
After a whirlwind 48 hours in Orlando, I’m back in Chicago at my computer to let you know what went down at the golf industry’s biggest gathering. I’ll start with a few trends and industry notes, and then I’ll give you a list of my eight most exciting products of 2020.
Opting Out of the Show
One of the biggest trends was brands opting out of the show. TaylorMade had no presence at all and several other brands chose to do events away from the convention center rather than having a booth or a room. Also, I know a number of smaller brands that chose to roam the floor and show their product on the DL.
As someone who loves going to the show, this free rider problem worries me. At some point, so many companies may opt out that there is no show. I’m hopeful that steps can be taken to make the cost of presenting more reasonable and thus encourage everyone to get on the floor.
Big OEMs Subdued
On a similar note, the big OEMs that did attend were a bit more subdued than in the past. Callaway had a really good booth full of excellent product, but there wasn’t a three-story driver in it. Cobra-Puma had a stylish booth, but the loud music and manic energy were absent.
As someone who might very well have “subdued” etched on his tombstone, I’m certainly not throwing shade, just noting a trend. I’d be curious to know if this was an attempt to keep costs down or if, as Elder Millenials like me approach 40, brands are just marketing differently.
Bridgestone’s New Tour B Steals the Show
If there was one major winner at the show, it was Bridgestone. Everyone was talking about the new Tour B golf ball. That might have a little something to do with the fact that it’s Tiger Woods’s ball of choice and he’s said to have played a major role in developing it.
What got less notoriety, but is equally intriguing to me, is Bridgestone’s new VFit system. The leader in golf ball fitting has taken their knowledge and combined it with your smartphone to bring ball fitting to every golfer. We’ll be bringing you much more on this in the coming weeks.
The green movement in golf seems to finally be getting its legs. We saw a lot of really positive signs of smart, environmentally conscious changes happening at the show.
One of the leaders in sustainability is Evolve Golf. We’re going to have them on the podcast soon to discuss all their work in depth, but I wanted to highlight how impressed I was with them. This is a company that’s extremely thoughtful about the products they’re putting out and their affect on the planet.
Additionally, we saw everything from golf bags to shoes to apparel being made out of recycled materials. Two of my favorites are the Sun Mountain Eco-Lite and the TRUE Linkswear EcoKnit, both made from recycled plastic bottles.
It didn’t feel like the shoe category had a singular, massively hyped product, but Meeker and I saw a ton of great new options for 2020. TRUE Linkswear is releasing more shoes in 2020 than they ever have, and each one looks amazing. FootJoy has redesigned their industry-leading ProSL, and the results are very exciting. Adidas and Puma each have a signature shoe for 2020 that will get their fans excited. And we can’t forget Skechers, a company that continues to gobble up market share by making shoes that are just plain comfortable.
I lost count of how many companies were selling CBD oils and gums. If you combine them with the number of booths selling Theragun knockoffs, I think you’d have an entire show onto itself.
Most Exciting New Products
This list is scientifically based on my opinion and listed in no particular order. Also, there are at least two items I saw that would be at the very top of the list if they weren’t under embargo. #teaser
This was single most asked-about product on our social media channels. It’s going to cost $2,000 which makes it a direct competitor to SkyTrak. I watched a couple demos, and it looks like it’s going to spit out every number you could ever want. If it’s accurate and easy to use, this device could be a game changer.
TRUE Linkswear Eco Knit
I could have picked any of the new TRUE offerings, but I’ll stick with the one you can get the soonest. The Eco Knit is dropping in February, will be the first TRUE to retail for under $100, and it’s made out of recycled water bottles. And it’s a TRUE, so I don’t need to tell you that it’s insanely light and comfortable and will render all your other shoes obsolete. Full review coming soon.
Garmin Approach S62 GPS Watch
Though I doubt I’ll ever fully quit my laser rangefinders, I’ve come to love the speed of playing with a golf GPS watch. This new watch from Garmin replaces the current best-seller, and it is loaded with features. Loaded. Really loaded. As in, my review may have to be written in multiple parts to cover them all. I’m eager to see if that makes for a better on-course experience or if it’s just more for the sake of more.
Bushnell Wingman Speaker
Audio GPS has been around for years in the form of little hat or belt clips. Bushnell is taking a new approach with the Wingman, a full sized music speaker that will also pair with the Bushnell app to deliver distances on the course. If this works as promised, it should be awesome.
Bridgestone Tour B Golf Balls
I love a specific performance promise, and Bridgestone has delivered that with the Tour B golf balls. Across the four models and across all types of golfers, they’re claiming +1.5 MPH ball speed off the driver and +350 RPM of spin in the short game. I can’t wait to get some to see if that’s true, because there is nothing I want more than more ball speed.
MNML Golf Bag
I’m not sure if it’s fair to call a bag minimal when it’s loaded with a solar panel, phone charger, and speaker, but we can call it cool. This slim walking bag is packed with smart design, and they’re already selling well purely on Instagram-built buzz.
This is my one wildcard pick for this year. These sunglasses black out your vision at impact to make you more in tunes with your other senses. I hit a few putts with them, and I loved how they kept me from jerking my head up to see if the ball went in. I’m hopeful that this product makes it to market this spring so I can give them a full test.
Golf Pride MCC Teams
Fun fact: if Golf Pride made MCC its own brand, it would be one of the biggest grip companies in existence. And that’s only going to get bigger thanks to MCC Teams. With 13 new colorways, you can get the perfect combination to support your Florida Gators, FSU Seminoles, Iowa State Cyclones, Purdue Boilermakers, Boston Celtics…you get the picture.