Greetings from a decidedly wet Orlando, Florida, where the rain is trying its best to dampen down enthusiasm for the launch of a vast array of new products on to the golf market in 2009.
This is the 56th renewal of the PGA Merchandise Show, an annual golf-fest-style jamboree that has grown from a couple of guys meeting in a car park back in 1953, to the leviathan of a commercial beast that now sees over 40,000 golf industry professionals from around the world gather together under one enormous roof to try and sell golf gear to each other – and ultimately to us, the humble golfer.
To give you an idea of the size of the show, it takes a full 15 minutes to walk from one end of the exhibition hall to the other (driver, 3-wood, five-wood, hybrid, wedge is another way of looking at it). Everyone, and even those dressed in smart suits, wears trainers or ‘comfortable’ footwear, as smart school shoes and killer heels is a quick route to the medical centre for blister treatment.
Judging from the thousands of polo shirt-clad punters and the hundreds of thronging stands, you’d be hard pressed to realise that outside the bubble of the Orange County Convention Centre that the world in financial meltdown. Still, the world hasn’t stopped turning, and people are still playing golf, which means that new and shiny equipment still needs to be made.
Nike Golf and TaylorMade Golf are conspicuous by their absence, although Titleist has returned to the fold with a stand that is bigger than most second division football team’s grounds. Of the big-name brands that are here, there are new launches from many of the major brands, including new drivers, fairway woods and irons from Mizuno (MP700 Series), Callaway (new Diablo driver, FTiQ fairway woods, 22 irons) Cobra (S9 drivers and irons), Cleveland (Monster driver) and Wilson’s new Smooth driver, which Padraig Harrington has put into play. The relaunch of Titleist’s Pro V1 ball range, brought about by some somewhat controversial copyright infringements that we needn’t go into here, is also the talk of the show, although not perhaps for all the right reasons, although the Pro V1 juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down with the brand leading the tour wins category by a country mile.