Every year, we head to the PGA Merchandise Show in search of the latest and greatest golf gear.
This year, we spent three days scouring Demo Day at Orange County National and the inside of the Orange County Convention Center to find products that were innovative, easy to use and will help golfers shoot lower scores. While there were tons of great products by countless manufacturers, certain companies stood out from the crowd this year with shafts, accessories, equipment and training aids that will be “must haves” for serious golfers in 2013
Enjoy our list of this year’s winners from the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show. We want to congratulate UST Mamiya, CamCaddy, FlightScope, Faldo by Edel, Nike Golf, Callaway, The Golf Swing Shirt and TaylorMade-Adidas Golf for pushing themselves to create gear that we can’t wait to put in our bags in 2013.
Best of PGA Merchandise Show Winners
UST Mamiya Recoil Graphite Iron Shafts
Graphite shafts get better every year. Through better construction and materials, companies find ways to create shafts that feel and perform better for a wider range of players. At this year’s Show, UST Mamiya didn’t just bring a better shaft — the company brought one that could revolutionize the shafts golfers use in their irons.
The company’s new Recoil iron shafts use fibers that allow the walls of the shafts to be constructed thinner than graphite iron shafts of the past. This makes the shafts oval more on the downswing, which increases energy transfer. Because the fibers are denser than previous materials, Recoil shafts can also be made in weights that mimic steel — 95 grams, 110 grams and 125 grams.
According to UST, the increased energy transfer makes the Recoils fly 5 to 10 yards further than steel for many players. They’re also higher torque than most steel shafts, which gives them a better feel. And because of graphite’s ability to dampen vibrations, the Recoils will have less ouch factor during range sessions.
The shafts cost around $110 each, which will keep most golfers playing steel, but we’re betting that UST’s big push with graphite is the beginning of a change for iron shafts. When they start to hit the Tour, they’ll start to find their place in the bags of dedicated golfers.
Getting better at golf is hard. It costs time and money to go see an instructor, and working on your game by yourself is clumsy, especially when you want to see what your swing looks like.
That’s where CamCaddy comes in. CamCaddy is a simple device that helps golfers easily shoot video of their swings without the need of someone to hold the camera.
The device works by attaching to an alignment stick. All that a golfer has to do from there is bury the alignment stick in the ground and attach a smart phone to the adjustable clip, which secures the device to make shooting solo video a breeze.
Because the CamCaddy is small and lightweight, it can go everywhere golfers go. And thanks to the power of today’s smart phones, the video it shoots can be texted or emailed to a golfer’s instructor, making on-the-range feedback possible. CamCaddy will also satisfy those who prefer to dig their swings out of the dirt, giving them an up-to-the-minute progress report on their swings.
The device is already being used on Tour by players like Charles Howell III, Kevin Na and Kyle Thompson. For $30, it’s just a matter of time before you get yours.
FlightScope has made its X2 launch monitor even more powerful with its new VX2 App, which will allow golfers to view video comparison of their swings within a mobile device and see the related 3D FlightScope results in real time with the use of an Apple iOS or Android device.
FlightScope Founder Henri Johnson says that his X2 Dopplar Radar System is the most accurate in golf, an impressive claim when one considers it’s about a third of the price of similar TrackMan unit. According to Johnson, FlightScope tracks the entire flight of the golf ball from launch to landing, giving golfers real data that can help them find the right equipment and improve their technique alone or with their instructor.
FlightScope’s new Skills App makes the X2 even more desirable, allowing users to create custom games, combinations of targets and challenges that give golfers the ability to analyze their consistency under pressure.
The VX2 and Skills apps work in conjunction with FlightScope’s website, myflightscope.com, which allows Skills app users to track their progress, compete with friends and compare their data with users across the globe.
Dave Edel knew what would happen when he partnered with six-time major champion Nick Faldo for a line of customizable irons and putters — golfers would flock to his booth to see the clubs that Faldo helped design.
That’s why he tried to get a bigger booth at the 2013 PGA Merchandise show, but it was too late — all the bigger ones were already reserved.
Looking back, it might not have been so bad to be in the smaller space. Golfers who walked by the Faldo by Edel booth had to wonder what was going on.
Those who wandered through the pack, which spilled over into neighboring booths, saw some of the most beautiful irons, wedges and putters in golf — clubs that were made by Edel himself to exacting standards, just like the fly fishing reels and fine watches the PGA Professional makes by hand.
Like Edel’s previous irons, the Faldo by Edel irons fit golfers for a particular grind, offset, shaft and grip that gives a golfer the best chance to hit it close. Golfers can also choose three toe shapes and leading edge styles, as well as two different top line thicknesses.
“Hogan used to talk about building a club from that ground up,” Edel said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing.”
With the putters, golfers are fit for one of three head shapes, which are available with different weights, neck styles, alignment aids, shafts and grips that will help them get the ball started on the right line with the right pace.
Nike has made it a habit of bringing famous Nike athletes to the PGA Show to showcase its new products. The problem was, the athletes were usually a bigger attraction than the new product. This year, Nike’s VR_S Covert driver was one of the stories of the show, bringing in huge crowds to Demo Day to hit the shiny red big sticks.
The fact that the VR_S Covert is being played by all five of Nike’s 2013 signings — Rory McIlroy, Kyle Stanley, Nick Watney, Thorbjorn Olesen and Seung Nul Yoh — gave the driver street cred. And the golf ball-sized chunk of mass missing from the sole of the club makes it different in a way that’s super cool.
Of all the major club manufacturers, Nike had the smallest booth at the Orange County Convention Center — a small, walled-in structure that actually functioned to keep the buzz out. But even with that hiccup, the company made a major step forward in 2013, getting golfers excited about hitting one of its clubs, which hasn’t happened in years.
Callaway is not the same company it was last year.
And it’s not just the products that are new and different — it’s the energy that surrounds the brand.
Callaway made a statement at the PGA Merchandise show with its Social Wall, a mammoth display that featured praise from various golf websites and Twitter about its new product. On the wall, Average Joes gushed about the company’s latest gear — products like the Razr Fit Extreme Driver, the X Hot and X Hot Pro fairway woods and the company’s new irons and Versa putters.
Under new CEO Chip Brewer’s leadership, Callaway is finally headed in the right direction, creating products that give golfers the total package — feel, performance, playability and good looks. The only new product where Callaway didn’t make a splash was with wedges, where it has yet to introduce a new model in 2013. We wonder what Brewer and the team have in store for us there.
If the PGA Merchandise Show was any indication, Callaway is listening closely to what golfers want. If the company can pair those lists with even better performance, expect Callaway to start gaining back some of the marketshare they lost in recent years.
The modern batch of swing trainers rely on smartphone-generated data to help golfers improve their technique.
These devices are a good thing, because numbers don’t lie. But the problem with numbers is that they don’t provide golfers with any feel, which is extremely important to a golfer who learning a new move.
At around $50, the swing shirt is much cheaper than the new high-tech swing trainings, and it provides instinctive feedback on what it feels like to stay connected during the golf swing.
At Demo Day, golfers jumped at the chance to try on The Golf Swing Shirt, which has a single sleeve hanging from slightly below chest level. To use it, all golfers had to do was insert both arms through the sleeve and start swinging. The shirt keeps a golfers hands, arms, shoulders and core moving in unison, giving golfers the connected feeling that is taught by many PGA Professionals such as endorser Jimmy Ballard.
TaylorMade-Adidas’ presence at the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show proved that the brand has no plans of leaving its current No. 1 spot. While the company’s claims of increased distance are getting old, TaylorMade continues to improve its products with more technology, more adjustability and more pizazz.
Just like in previous years, TaylorMade’s new metalwoods were one of the biggest hits of the Show. The R1 was a must hit for most golfers, as were the RocketBallz Stage 2 drivers, fairway woods and hybrids. And even though the company’s RocketBladez irons hit shelves in December, golfers were still buzzing about how high and far they could hit them.
Inside the Orange County Convention Center, TaylorMade brought the “wow” factor with its own private room — an open-concept display that showcased its other new products — the “Lethal” golf ball and Adizero golf shoe — in museum fashion.
For golfers who wanted to flex their golf muscles, TaylorMade provided an indoor range and putting green. And there were plenty of opportunities to relax with a complimentary beverage (some might say Kool Aid) on one of the room’s comfy modern-style couches and bar, where LPGA star Natalie Gulbis dropped by to chat with company executive Sean Toulon.
As much as gear heads like to hate TaylorMade for its extravagance, it had the best booth at the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show by a landslide. Even more importantly, the company brought along improved products in every category with one exceptions — wedges. Like Callaway’s wedge exclusion, we’re wondering what’s next.