The Big Show

Independent/Bob Bubka

Most definitely there is some buzz in the world of golf this week with Tiger launching his 2019 campaign in the Farmers Insurance Open on the west coast. However, on the east coast, in Orlando, the world’s largest golf trade show has been underway.

I wish the PGA Merchandise Show was open to the public, because anyone who has ever played this wacky sport would be blown away by it all. Unfortunately, it’s not.

To understand the magnitude of this PGA Merchandise Show, just imagine nearly 50,000 golf club professionals and buyers from around the world came to Orlando just to see all the latest and greatest products the golf world has to offer, and it’s all under one roof. Over 1000 vendors put their wares on display hoping to attract the club professionals’ and buyers’ attention.

It’s interesting to look back at the origins of the show. Many, many years ago golf manufacturers would hire ex-pros to represent their products hoping for distribution directly into the clubs’ pro shops. It all got underway in the late 1940s and early ’50s and it was far from glamorous. It was definitely a humble beginning, to say the least. These reps would set up shop in the parking lot of a pro tournament next to where the players would park. There were no flashy booths, no over-the-top signage. Just some product in the trunk. Humble beginnings, to say the very least.

However, it has definitely progressed and grown over the years. Now it is a full-fledged mega-production that is even covered by the Golf Channel and around 1000 other forms of media. To see every booth would require a walk of 13 miles. At the risk of stating the obvious, I did not see every booth, but I did manage to have a brief conversation with the great people from the East Hampton Golf Club, which was a lot of fun.

There were a couple of products that caught my attention. For example, an ingenious new method of getting yourself around the course and a driver that brings some new technology to the table. Lynx Golf has a great new addition to its brand called the Prowler VT Switch Face Driver. After 10 years in production, it is now introducing the option to switch the face of the Prowler VT, which gives you loft options at your fingertips. Can you imagine a driver that allows you to change the face to the loft you might want to play on a different course or different wind conditions? It’s amazing.

Lynx Golf, based in England, has also made a commitment to do its part to save the planet . . . it has eliminated any single-use plastic from its packaging. 

The second newly developed product to capture my attention is a replacement for your golf cart called a “Finn.” What is a Finn? Great question. That’s certainly what I wanted to know too. Well, a Finn is basically an on-course golf transporter that looks like and rides like a motorcycle but with an electric motor. The average time to play nine holes using a Finn is 30 minutes, and you will have a blast doing so.

I also had a chance to spend some time with the hosts of all four majors in 2019, so here’s an update on the Masters, the PGA, the U.S. Open Championship, and the Open Championship. There is nothing new for the Masters. Everyone feels that, barring any further injuries, Tiger will be a huge factor. It is hard to believe the last time Tiger won at Augusta was in 2005.

The PGA Championship has been moved to May and will be contested at Bethpage Black, often referred to as the most difficult public course in America. The U.S. Open Championship heads to Pebble Beach, and the big question here is whether Phil Mickelson will finally win a U.S. Open and complete his career Grand Slam. Phil could have an edge; his grandfather was one of the original caddies at Pebble Beach. And finally, the Open Championship will be held at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951. The excitement level for this year’s site, Royal Portrush, is already off the charts. Tickets are already sold out, and it promises to conclude the 2019 Majors season with a ton of glee and joy as only the Irish can provide.

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