My recent retirement from a career in power generation paved the way for combining a passion for golf with a desire to stay viable in business. A relationship with eSouthernGOLF.com resulted and led to attending my first PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando last week. While there, I witnessed the bridge between the game where I so frequently struggle and the industry that I now so profoundly respect.
The first impression is unmistakable – ‘kid in a candy store!’ One crosses the boundary from everyday life into a vast cavern of clubs, clothing, training aids, and even a driving range. I want to see it all and try everything. It is more than a bit overwhelming. Undaunted, my plan to walk each aisle is set and some 18,000 steps later, I estimate about a 70% coverage result.
During the tour it becomes obvious that golf is as much and industry as a game. Panel discussions make note of annual spending and growth forecasts for the golfing industry, both in the USA and abroad. Several well attended booths are promoting ways to get golf into a broader audience, from starting kids younger to designing video games for all ages that will instill a yearn for the real thing. Numerous universities were present to promote and recruit young minds into curriculums supporting the golfing industry. I was impressed with these aspects of the show.
Another impressive aspect was the application of technology to the golf swing. GPS-based range finders, Bluetooth-activated swing video, laser alignment tools, weight distribution mats with displays that look like storm cells on the TV weather, and numerous simulators that follow the thunder of a ball hitting a projected image of your fantasy course on a curtain with data on club/ball arc, speed, angle, etc. A few minutes in one of these with a PGA professional made quite a difference during my trial session. But just as in our everyday lives, all this technology is coming faster and faster into a consumer-based application, meaning easier interfaces, easy data retention, and simple analysis tools.
I love that the golfing industry still has room, even a need, for ‘dreamers and schemers’. These are the intellectually curious that start with a bike helmet, a flashlight, duct tape and some PVC pipe and end up with a better way to correct wrist position at the top of the backswing. The show had a huge area dedicated to new technology and these products were well represented. Some will make it, others not; however, isn’t this inner desire to find ways to improve a part of the very core of our favorite game? (Editor’s note: Look for some related product reviews in future issues)
And finally, we all want to look good out on the course- or better said – on the way to the course, in the clubhouse, and after the round as well. Shirts, slacks, hats, skirts, handbags, shoes, belts, jackets, sweaters, vests, golf bags, tote bags, shoe bags, jewelry, etc. were all on display. Nearly everything could be customized with a course logo or organization name and for my uneducated eye, business looked brisk.
As I left the show tired and toting a now heavy bag of product literature and samples, my mind was still dealing with golf as a fully developed and thriving industry. But my heart was racing, like a kid’s in a candy store!