The PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando is always one of the highlights of my year, which is saying something for an event where relatively few actual golf shots are hit.
I've been to the last eight of them and have the aching feet to prove it. Either I haven't taken the maxim of "Wear comfortable shoes" enough to heart or Man has yet to invent comfortable enough shoes for the task of wandering through acres of golf product and service booths.
I don't mind the ache, though, because it's a reminder that I put in a lot of steps and got to see a whole lot of interesting equipment, tech, apparel and accessories companies.
From the great to the goofy, the beautiful to the bizarre, here's what caught my eye during the 2019 PGA Show:
The PGA Show technically starts on Wednesday, but Demo Day - a massive gathering of many big club, shaft and ball manufacturers - provides some outdoor exploration possibilities on Tuesday. My Show week actually began on Monday this year, with an event put on by Swedish outerwear company Galvin Green at Isleworth Country Club.
Galvin Green's wares cost a pretty penny, but their massive market share in Europe and the British Isles, where crummy weather conditions are a fact of life for avid golfers, speaks to the high quality of their garments, driven by a thirst for innovation. Stakes are high when golfers venture out into the rain, and the fervor of their clientele speaks to how well Galvin Green delivers dry comfort in bad weather.
Their most-hyped 2019 offering is a new material called ShakeDry that is completely waterproof and almost impossibly thin. An entire jacket ($400) weighs just 174 grams, about the same as a plus-sized iPhone.
Demo Day benefited from spectacular weather this year: low 70s and sunny with relatively light winds. In other words, perfect for an early full orbit of the massive circular driving range at Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge.
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#pgashow2019 Tuesday, part 1: Demo Day Always fun to peruse and sample the newest toys. The main revelation of the day came early: @mizunogolfnorthamerica comin’ in hot with golf balls this year, and they look and feel really nice. Other good stuff from @callawaygolf, @miuragolf and more.
Hitting a few clubs at Demo Day just whetted the appetite for golf, and luckily, I was able to participate in a fun outing hosted by Portland, Ore.-based headcover and accessory workshop Seamus Golf. A few score golfers teed it up in eightsomes (four alternate-shot pairs per group) at the quaint, splendid Winter Park 9, which has become emblematic of the recent return to Golden Age golf design in several communities.
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On Tuesday we had almost 100 for the @SeamusGolf outing at the WP9 raising money for a short course and putting facility for kids in Portland, OR. On Friday it’s back to the weekly skins game. Call the shop to reserve a spot: 407-599-3419. All are welcome. Tee times start at 3:20. #mandatorygolffriday
The Show proper
Two giant exhibition rooms at the Orange County Convention Center comprise the main site of the PGA Show, and more than 1,000 exhibitors, from household-name brands like Titleist, PING and Callaway to upstart inventors, showcase their wares for perusal by the more than 40,000 industry types who drift in and out.
Footwear seems to grow as a category every year, with plenty of quality, choice and value at a variety of price points:
At what point is golf being marketed more as an aesthetic than a game?
Maybe I'm a curmudgeon, but I just can't get behind - or on - the single-rider golf cart movement. Too many able-bodied golfers ride already, denying themselves life-extending exercise and the opportunity to take in golf courses at a pace that makes more sense than the start-zigzag-stop cadence carts force on us.
At what point is golf being marketed more as an aesthetic than a game? I question the motives of golfers who are combating dweeby-golfer stereotypes by looking like they're on motorcycles on the course.
About half of the exhibition space at the PGA Show each year is devoted to apparel and accessory companies (stylish wool, leather and canvas headcovers continue to be hot). There are so many of them.
One trend that continues is the integration of "hip" fashion aesthetics into golf clothing. No golf company has the cultural cachet of, say, Supreme, or rapper Tyler The Creator's Golf brand, but there is a definite effort to push the boundaries of golf fashion. At the same time, technology continues to push into the space as well.
As is the case every year, some PGA Merchandise Show sights defy classification: