Annual industry showcase rebounds
ORLANDO, Fla. – When the slimmer, trimmer version of the annual PGA Merchandise Show closed shop in 2022, there were musings among industry insiders about whether it would return for 2023 and if so, what it might look like going forward.
Would it be the 2022 version where most major manufacturers skipped attending? Would crowds remain diminished?
It turns out that the rumor of the demise of PGA Merchandise Show were premature.
The 2023 version mostly resembled the pre-Covid-19 extravaganza. The bulk of the major manufacturers were at the Orange County Convention Center and the Wednesday-Thursday crowds appeared robust.
If you aren’t familiar with “the show,” as it is known in the industry, the PGA Merchandise Show brings together everything imaginable related to golf.
Because it is an industry show, it’s not open to the public. But it is the place to be if you needed a new range picker, tee gifts, signage, cart fleet, swing aid, event or trip planning, or just about any type of tech gear.
Technology dominated the show. Just about everywhere a person looked – except for the apparel portion of the show – there were simulators. Big ones. Small ones. Mid-size ones. There were launch monitors galore. Putting technology has exploded. And it was all on display.
As usual, there were some interesting items to be seen and tried. There also was some good information dispensed. In the end, though, it seems as if the PGA Merchandise Show isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And that’s a good thing for golf geeks.
Here are a few items that caught the attention of Alabama Golf News:
Caliber Golf putting grip and shaft
It’s where hockey and golf collide in the form of a hockey stick shaft with a putter head. Think Happy Gilmore to a certain extent, or maybe Sam Snead with his side-saddle putting stroke.
Who would have thought that a carbon-fiber hockey stick shaft might help your putting stroke? Chip Wright and his brother Tim, that’s who.
“My brother literally cut a putter off and jammed it into a hockey stick shaft. He said, ‘You guys need to try this.” I took it to my club and the pro said we needed to talk to the USGA.”
Two and a half years later, Caliber Golf was at the PGA Merchandise Show.
The hockey-stick putter is USGA conforming, but until now most putters featured either a conventional grip at the top of the shaft or split-grip for long putters.
It takes only a few practice strokes to become comfortable with the wider, horizontal grip that is designed to take the wrist out of the putting stroke, particularly if you slide your bottom hand further down the shaft. It also seems to aid with alignment.
Wright said the initial reaction to Caliber is, ‘What is this?’
“But once somebody holds it, the lights go on and it’s a different conversation,” he said.
Caliber Golf is partnered with Sub70, Meridian and Bettinardi, or the company can take your putter and turn it into a Caliber model. Wright said he hopes to get Caliber in retail stores this year.
The hockey stick shaft retails for $199. With an Odyssey White Hot head, the cost is $365. To be sure, Caliber Golf is not a gimmick – and what price will a person pay to improve their putting?
For more information, go to CaliberGolf.com.
Everybody would like to hole more putts, right? Just like Caliber Golf might help, so will Puttview X, an innovative putting aid.
The premise is simple: The science behind it not so much. But, suffice to say, Puttview X is cutting-edge augmented reality technology.
PuttView X instantly “reads” greens, calculating distance, break, slope and speed. The glasses can map out any green in the world and there are no additional tools or preloading of data necessary.
The glasses instantly transform the green into an interactive learning platform. With its see-through displays, PuttView X overlays putt information such as start line, ball path, speed animations and contours onto the green, and provides a holographic view of any putt.
Voice commands and hand gestures enable users to control the system and move around the green freely, set any hole or ball location, and adjust green speed depending on current conditions.
PuttView X then accurately calculates the putt path and makes it visible to the user.
“When you are outside on the green, everything that is happening is plain physics,” said Puttview’s Ann-Kathrin Nahl.
“It’s calculable. We know what’s happening but you can’t see it – up until now. It’s crazy that nobody has been able to do this up until now, but the reason is that it is really hard.”
PuttView, based in Hamburg, Germany and founded in 2015, said advances in technology finally made the concept a reality.
The glasses work on any green.
“You just put them on and it scans the green and tells you every aspect of the putt,” Nahl said. “You see the ideal line, you see the aiming line, you can have a speed corridor.”
The glasses are voice-activated.
“You might think you know everything about (green reading), and then you put them on and it’s like, ‘oh, wow.’”
At a retail price of $14,480, PuttView X is primarily a training aid, Nahl said. The company is targeting three main groups – tech-nerdy individuals, golf professionals and golf coaches/teachers.
Nahl said Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ian Poulter and Bryson DeChambeau are already using PuttView X.
“PuttView X’s ability to instantly read any green, anywhere in the world, has the potential to change the way we practice putting,” said PuttView co-founder Christoph Pregizer.
For more information, go to at puttview.com .
Mach One golf balls
Golf is supposed to be fun, right? Mach One golf balls can provide at least a little bit of fun to the game. After all, they are billed as the world’s loudest golf ball.
But first, a disclaimer. Mach One balls aren’t on the USGA conforming list. And, it’s suggested that you use them only one time. They are, however, guaranteed to make your playing partners cringe, duck and laugh.
“My dad (Dwaine) was the guy who made his own golf clubs,” said Brett Esslinger of Mach One Golf Balls. “He was an inventive person and he came up with this to shock his buddies and make people jump and duck and everything else. It’s been around a long time for us, but it is new to everyone else in the world.”
Mach One bills itself as a ‘single use novelty golf ball.’ Esslinger said a promotional video for the product has logged more than 14 million views. That’s what triggered the interest in setting up shop at the PGA Merchandise Show for the first time.
“When the video went to 14 million, we knew we had something we could get serious about,” Esslinger said. “It made sense to come here and see if there is any room for it in retail stores. People have been really excited about it.”
Esslinger said his father was a world-famous race car engineer who loved golf but also liked to have fun.
“You just line it up and hit it on the red dot,” Esslinger said.
How loud is the Mach One? Esslinger said they couldn’t demonstrate the balls at the indoor hitting bays on the PGA Show’s main floor.
“They are much too loud for that,” he said. “We don’t want to start a riot.
To view the video or get more information, go to machonegolfballs.com.
Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News
Featured image courtesy of the PGA Merchandise Show