The PGA Merchandise Show: 3 Avenues The Golf Industry Is Going
In January we had the privilege of attending the PGA merchandise show thanks to our friends at Big Summer Golf Card. Even as golfers, before we started working in the industry, we had heard a lot about this exclusive show. We heard talk of huge displays, massive convention halls, and mind-blowing technology. It sounded like an event we didn’t want to miss, and it sure didn’t disappoint.
This year the PGA Merchandise show was in Orlando. It started on January 23rd and lasted for four days. We decided to take to the floors on Thursday to see what all the hype was about. It was a long day filled; we walked up and down every aisle and logged 5.2 miles on our FitBits.
It turns out the convention was appropriately named because there was A LOT of apparel. There was aldo aisles and aisles of new equipment that my inner golf nerd couldn’t resist on taking a glance at. While we had expected a lot of equipment and apparel, we were actually quite surprised at some of the other dominating industries emerging within the golf industry.
There were simulators EVERYWHERE! Turn down the next isle, simulator. Finishing looking at one simulator and turn around, another simulator. Walk out of the bathroom, simulator. Walk into the bathroom, sim-. Alright not that last one, but seriously, there were too many simulator companies to count.
Some of them we’re more impressive than others as some we’re intended for personal use while others were intended for commercial use at places like Golfers Grail in Tampa, FLorida. At Golfers Grail you can pay to play famous courses from around the world with the comfort of air conditioning and a server that brings you beer by the pitcher.
We all have seen simulators before. You hit off astroturf into a big net with a screen right behind it that shows you your shot. In years past, the accuracy of these things has been questionable but in more recent years they are getting pretty darn close to the real thing, so they tell me. I mean Jordan Speith did just get a hole in one on his indoor simulator so it must be accurate right?
The one simulator that stood out to us was made by Full Swing Simulators. It was a putting simulator that had projectors overhead to illuminate the proper line to the cup. It even showed the speed at which you needed to move your putter in order to keep the ball on the given line. It was like combining the Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 2013 video game with real life. And to make things in even crazier, you could change the undulation of the green to an infinite amount of options in order to give you different looks at different holes.
While you could imagine the price tag is hefty, can you name a better putting tool? If that doesn’t make me a better putter then I quit the game.
This field is related to the simulators because simulators are one of the ways companies are tracking golfer data. There’s other ways the golf industry is tracking golfer data including shot tracer technology, sensors in clubs, and GPS apps.
While listening in on one of the keynote presentations, John McGuire, CEO of GAMEGOLF said they have tracked over 2 million rounds of golf, which is absolutely crazy. Lets say 85 golf shots per round, that’s 170,000,000 tracked golf shots.
Our experience with golf data has been pretty standard. If you open up the GOLFNOW app you can track your score and drop a pin everytime you hit a shot. It requires you to pull out your phone and have it on you throughout the round, which a lot of people including myself do not like to do.
What GAMEGOLF did was design tiny sensors that screw into the end of the clubs grip, one for each club. Through the sensors they are able to track which club you uses, how far you hit the ball, average distance with each club, and a whole lot more.
The cool part is what they are using this data for, and its virtually limitless. They have been working with Dave Phillips of TPI to use this data to help prevent injuries. “Of course the focus of golf the past decade is getting more golfers into the game,” said Phillips. “But we also need to slow down the pace at which we are losing golfers. If we can get people swinging right to avoid injury, we can help maintain the number of people playing the sport.”
Technology and Software
Most of the vendors at the convention were selling to golf courses. A lot of them were golf managment solutions, making it easier for courses to sell tee times, manage reservations, and run their day to day operations.
Even just 5 years ago GolfNow and a couple other companies had the stronghold on the industry but now there are dozens of smaller companies coming in to the game. As an outsider, it seems these smaller companies are offering better features and are more accommodating to golf courses than some of the bigger companies.
Heck even Club Car now has a management system where courses can track carts (which isn’t new) but they can now provide real time data on cart performance and efficiency which courses can use to help speed up pace of play. You name it, there is now software to do it.
Another company that stuck out was teesnap. They are bring golf courses into the 21st Century with sleek, simple to use management systems that provide easy to digest analytics. I would not be surprised if some of these tee time giants soon get knocked off their pedestal.
Out favorite part of the entire convention was that throughout out 8 hours and 5.2 miles of walking through the convention we did not see a single company doing we what do. We were actually quite surprised. We know we’re a little guy trying to work our way into a giant industry, but we truly expected to turn a corner and see a company doing flyovers of golf courses across the country.
There are countless golf GPS apps, dozens of shot tracking companies, an endless amount of simulators but there wasn’t one company at this convention using the power of flyover video to help market golf courses. And for that we are really, really excited.
A big thanks to Charles Varah at Big Summer Golf Card for getting us into the show!
Keep an eye on our blog for more insight into the golf industry. And while we love to talk about everything golf we also provide free flyovers of courses around the country so you can preview courses before you play them.