It began in 1954 with a few sales reps displaying products from car trunks in a Dunedin, Fla parking lot, and just as our game has undergone tremendous changes so has the PGA Show in the intervening years.
The big question for the 70th edition held Jan. 24-27 was if the Show would recover from the pandemic-induced cancellation in 2021 when a “virtual Show” was held that met with no one’s satisfaction, followed by 2022 when returning to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., the number of exhibitors was down 40%, attendance was less than half of a “normal year,” and most of the industry’s major companies did not exhibit.
Would companies again see the value of spending in some cases multiple millions of dollars to reach current and potential customers or would the computer age with a covid inspired hangover take another victim as it has with other trade shows?
Well, the question was answered this year and most assuredly in the positive.
A less enthusiastic opinion was voiced by some long-time attendees saying that with the number of golf rounds flourishing and record numbers of people taking up the game, the Show, sans Covid-induced restrictions, is, as always, simply a reflection of the state of the industry.
We agree, but there is no question the mood of the attendees was upbeat, and looking forward to the 2023 season. Many were of the opinion this could be a record year.
Show attendance figures at this writing are not available, but several media members felt the count while not at the pre-pandemic level of around 40,000 PGA Professionals and industry members, was about 30,000 with one longtime observer venturing it was even higher. Demo Day at the Orange County National driving range was very well attended, with 56 club and gear companies giving PGA Professionals time to try out their latest and greatest.
On the almost 1 million square foot Show floor, over 800 vendors (808 according to the list I saw) set up exhibits and displays while 19 vendors offered additional opportunities for test driving new clubs on the indoor driving range. Callaway was by far the largest exhibitor with space for showing off Callaway clubs and balls, Callaway apparel, and their own eight-bay driving range for Toptracer Range.
The number of new exhibitors, which is always a good measure of the Show’s importance and relevancy in the industry, hit 267, more than 25% of the total. This would seem to be a sign that both soft and hard goods can look ahead to continued positive circumstances.
Apparel companies expect to write orders placed by club professionals and shop operators during three days of exhibiting as do many accessory makers. Club and ball companies see almost no order writing but use the Show to familiarize current and potential customers with their new product lines since all rely on computer orders placed prior to the season. However, two of the largest soft goods companies, Nike and Adidas, were not at the Show.
In addition to viewing and potentially purchasing the latest the industry has to offer PGA Professionals can gain continuing education credits by going to the Show and taking professional courses. These are the men and women who along with members of the Golf Course Superintendents Association make golf possible every day and the Show is an annual focus for them.
Major equipment company no-shows, a couple somewhat surprising, continued with PXG, who has never exhibited, and TaylorMade Golf, who has not had booth space since 2018. One that was previously a stalwart on the floor, Tour Edge Golf, opted out this year though top executives were in Orlando and seen at the Show. Wilson Golf also chose not to have booth space.
There also was a rumor making the rounds that the Show will move to the Dallas, Texas area where the PGA of America’s new corporate headquarters was built in suburban Frisco. Already the fall PGA Buying & Education Summit, formerly held in Las Vegas, has moved there. However, the PGA points out the amount of display floor space for a full PGA Show, hotel rooms, restaurants, and other amenities are not presently available. Don’t you love rumors?
In summary, the four days in the Florida sun were a success especially compared to the last two years for the PGA Show or as they like to call it, “The Major of the Golf Industry.” Obviously, there is room for growth such as increasing the exhibitor count and attracting more industry professionals to attend, but the 2023 edition was a great step to recovery.