Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Week That Was: The 2018 PGA Merchandise Show (Part 1)

It was good to go to the PGA Merchandise Show this year after taking last year off. Even if the show is underwhelming, the time spent meeting old friends for once a year and meeting new people and people you have talked to over the internet, but not face to face is what will always make going to the PGA Merchandise Show worth it.

Tuesday is Demo Day. However, I got to play golf at Reunion Resort as the guest of Howard Glover along with his instructor and my Atlanta instructor, Ted Fort ( We also played with one of Ted’s students Dan McMurrian.

This was the first time I have ever played Reunion. I’ve played almost every quality course open to the public in the Orlando area, but Reunion has remained elusive because you either need to be the guest of somebody or be staying at Reunion. Mr. Fort beat us all shooting 71 while I shot 74 and Ted continues his dominance over me in the Official World Golf Rankings. I was fairly pleased with my ball striking outside of my short irons. My putting is a glorified dumpster fire at this point. Mr. Glover was kind enough to spend some time with me on Wednesday at the show to explain some putting mechanics and how to allow gravity to take over in the thru stroke as he once struggled with that as well and is now a really great putter with a superb putting stroke. Honestly, if I had his putting I probably would have shot 67.

Ted showed me his custom putter from It was a thing of beauty. Black Lab Golf allows full customization of their putters and made him a Saber Tooth model that is face balanced, but has no shaft offset. Tough to find that combination from putting OEM’s.

The Palmer course was very nice. I always felt that as popular as Mr. Palmer was, he was a very underrated course designer. I think he was one of the best course designers in the world in the past 30 years. He made this design fairly easy, but it was far from boring and it featured the typical Palmer features of greens that sit down below and penalizing golfers that are above the cup.

I have only played the Palmer course at Reunion, but I have been to the two practice ranges a bunch of times and have eaten at Reunion. It’s really a fun, comfortable place to hang out and I would advise anybody looking to take a trip to Orlando to take a look at Reunion as a place to stay.

Afterward, I went to Orange County National for the Demo Day. I arrived there at about 2pm. The range was packed as it always is. However, there was not as much in the putting department on the putting greens as there has been in the past.

Wilson Staff had a big tent. Their new driver looks awesome and they are returning the popular show Driver vs. Driver:

I was glad to see this come back. While Wilson Golf is a large corporation, I admire their willingness to take a risk with this concept because it could mean not only making a breakthrough product, but it also is a great way to give back to the golfing community. Having worked in corporations and crunching the numbers on proposed projects…most companies never take that risk as they have shareholders to answer to if the project fails. But, that type of mindset will never advance a company if they are too afraid of ever taking a loss in hopes of creating a better product.

I don’t think the Wilson Triton driver sales did all that well. Although the golfers that have one that I have talked to swear by it. But what Driver vs. Driver did was create more brand awareness for Wilson and that is the biggest issue for Wilson. This survey results on brand perception from MyGolfSpy is a great example:

That’s why I scoff at the excuses I hear from ESPN apologists about ESPN’s ratings going down due to online streaming, etc. While I don’t quite buy into those excuses…the bigger issue is ESPN’s brand image is horrible right now and in order to improve revenues and ratings…it requires the company to restore their brand image and eventually the revenues and ratings will come along. That’s the main job for most CEO’s…it’s not the financial aspects…it’s really about the brand and its image with consumers. Kudos to Wilson Golf for understanding that and being willing to take the risk to try and improve their brand’s image and contribute to the golf community.

I also think it’s great that they are having Rick Shiels on as a panelist. I’m not a big fan of how club reviewers review clubs on YouTube. But, Shiels has nearly 270,000 subscribers on YouTube. And he is closer to being on the same wavelength in terms of knowing what serious and semi-serious gear heads want in a driver.

The problem with Demo Day was that:

1) It was windy and dusty. Wind and dust makes 3Jack’s sinuses go bad

2) The products you wanted to see this year, everybody wanted to see. That meant long lines to wait to hit.

3) The clubs are not going to be fitted for you and you would have a better chance of being struck by lightning while winning the lottery than you would finding an X-Stiff shaft.

So I got to see the new M3 and M4 drivers from TaylorMade, but didn’t get to hit them at Demo Day. I also got to see the new High Toe wedge from TaylorMade, which looks like they aped it off Edel:

It also has a channel on the sole like the Edel Digger Grind. The channel is not as deep. It essentially has 12* of bounce as I was told by a TaylorMade rep.

We are starting to see an influx of Japanese OEM’s coming over to the US market, so we had Yonex, Honma, Epon and PRGR at Demo Day. I really like their new RS driver

The feel is very similar to the old Wishon 919THI driver.

I also tried out the Miura 52* K-Grind.

I used to own a 56* K-Grind and I really loved it. However, I switched to a 52*/60* setup and at the time Miura didn’t have a 52* K-Grind. The 52* wedge is a bit of a difficult find for me because it’s mostly intended to maintain a proper yardage gap from the PW. But, I also will need it occasionally from the sand, around the green and to hit half swings from 60-90 yards out. Thus, it has to have some of the grind features to be able to hit short game shots with it while not losing any yardage of full swing approach shots.

I was a little leery when they came out with the K-Grind in 52* because it only has 7* of bounce. But those channels on the back of the sole really smooth out the interaction with the turf. The only thing is that I was really impressed with Titleist’s SM7 designs.

The SM7 feels great. The turf interaction is good and I could hit a variety of different shots with their wedges. Generally, the SM7 was well received.

After that I went to a few other tents and tried things out. My golfer’s elbow was starting to act up and so many of the shafts…between being too short, too light and too soft, didn’t really fit me. And my feet were tired and I wanted to get prepped for Wednesday at the Convention Center.


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