There were a lot of interesting contraptions on the floor of the PGA Show
The 2020 PGA Merchandise Show swept into Orlando last week, showcasing a voluminous range of brands and products, from the giants of the industry down to the one-man inventor types.
Since the days of featheries and wooden clubs, golf has been a game that, perhaps more than any other, is about a never-ending search for improvement. For the golfers, it is: how can I improve my swing, my stroke, my game? For merchandisers, it is: how can we make golfers swing better, hit it farther, hit it closer, roll it truer, shoot lower scores, and have more fun?
That spirit was alive and well in Orlando, even if some of the products on display strained the imagination. Walking around the show floor, two things became evident: (1) there is not a single facet of the game that someone isn't trying to improve with the most creative ideas possible, and (2) some people are really starting to overthink this game!
Here are the 10 most interesting products we saw at the 2020 PGA Show -- the ones that most inspired us, confused us, and amused us:
The Feedback Putter Grip:
This is an all-metal putting grip mounted by screws onto the putter shaft. Nothing could be less comfortable to putt with, right? Exactly! The theory behind the grip is that the vibration from the strike of the ball will go from putter head to shaft to grip and right into the player's hands, providing instant feedback when compared to the more conventional foam and rubber grips.
Hackmotion Wrist Sensor:
The Feedback Putter Grip is all about feel, but here is the polar opposite approach: data and analytics. This device measures the angles and movement of the wrists in the full swing, short game shots and putting. Wrist motion has been linked to control of the clubface, and teachers can use this wrist sensor to collect data, measure progress and compare results with PGA Tour pros.
The Tee Band:
This a Wonder Woman style wristband turns you into a superhero on the course, ready to deploy your tees, divot tool and ball marker. No more digging into dirt-stained pockets, and no more tees in shoelaces or ponytails. An elastic strap holds the tees and divot tool, while a sewn-in magnet holds the ball marker. Marketed more to women golfers who are more likely than men to go pocketless on the course (and more likely to look like Wonder Woman). A similar product, the Shu Caddy, that clips onto your shoe laces, also debuted this year.
Lottusse Golf Shoes:
Lottusse is a shoe company founded in Mallorca in Spain and dates back to 1877. They are entering the golf market with a line of shoes that showcases what they are known for: high-quality leather with a unique waterproofing technology. In fact, they claim that their golf shoes have complete impermeability. The shoes on display at the PGA Show were stylish and surprisingly lightweight.
Golphers Ace Everyday Carry:
This line of EDC (everyday carry) pocket knives was designed by Eric Ochs, a Pacific Northwest professional custom knife maker. For golfers, there is a titanium divot tool and a stainless steel ball marker, as well as a built-in bottle opener. Perfect for the golfer who stiffs a 7-iron and celebrates by popping open a brew and skinning a rabbit before sinking his birdie putt.
The Delta Putt:
This is a training aid for putting that involves striking a triangular "puck" down a track toward a target. Each side of the triangle has a different-sized bump corresponding to difficulty level (amateur, pro and tour), and the only way to putt the puck straight down the track is if both the stroke path and putter face are square at impact. The feedback is instantaneous and allows you to make adjustments based upon it. Of course there is way more to making putts than just a square face, but it's an interesting aid and fun to try.
ECHO Robotics RP-1200 Range Picker:
This is the "Roomba of the Range", an autonomous vehicle that picks up range balls (up to 300 at a time) and delivers them to a designated drop-off area. It is purported to work rain or shine, day or night, and it can work in tandem with another autonomous model that mows the grass. It is yet another brilliant use of technology to perform an otherwise mundane task, even if it robs golfers of one of the true pleasures of beating balls: taking aim at the guy in the range cart.
The Greenie String:
This is a pretty simple product that allows players to measure how far away a ball is from the hole. There is 60 feet of line with a clasp on the end that hooks around the flagstick, and the container is the size of a poker chip and can be used as a ball marker. Use it in case of a dispute in who might be away in a match, or who is closest to hole if playing greenies. For those who don't want to eyeball it, lay down the flagstick, or elaborately pace heel-to-toe on the line of the putt.
This is a training aid that fits over the butt end of the grip, and shoots a laser light that shows where the butt end of the club is pointing throughout the swing. Some teachers posit that the laser light should point at the ball at various points of the swing (even if many great touring pros would fail the test), and this would provide feedback toward that goal. At the PGA Show, there was a banner proudly declaring that this product is "Made in France" -- not sure how persuasive a marketing tactic that is, any more than a "Made in the USA" cricket bat would be.
Super Distance Rope:
Another international entry, this one comes from Korea where the game continues to explode in popularity. The promise is up to 20-30 meters of increased distance for those golfers who have an "armsy" swing. If the swing has proper sequencing, the guide ball at the end of the rope will hit a target zone at the top of the swing (meaning it will wrap around the shoulder in a certain way), make a sound in the impact zone as the rope straightens, and hit a target zone in the follow-through. There is cute lost-in-transition verbiage such as it helping golfers use the "leggings" more in the swing. I don't know if it works or not but I couldn't help but root for this small company, buried deep on the showroom floor, trying to break through and pursuing their dream so far from home.