Great Article from the GOLF WRX
The GolfWRX team was in Orlando for the 2015 PGA Merchandise Show to bring you live coverage of the event. Now that we’re back in Detroit, it’s time to make sense of it all.
It’s always fun to see the latest golf equipment, apparel and gadgets, but it’s even more fun to predict what products have the potential to change the way golfers play the game.
Goofy training aids and novelty items will always have their place at the PGA Merchandise show — it’s actually part of the charm — but they aren’t likely to revolutionize golf or the industry.
On the other hand, there were products that were truly innovative, and will help golfers improve their games, have more fun, or both. Here are five top trends we think will have a positive impact on golf for years to come.
Launch Monitors and Indoor Golf
Like the introduction of video analysis, launch monitors and swing tracking devices have transformed golf instruction and how the game is understood — and they were everywhere at the Orange County Convention Center.
Doppler Radar launch monitors FlightScope and Trackman have earned their keep as the premier club/ball tracking devices, but we also saw a slew of other options — especially those that are designed to work indoors. Some products cost as much as luxury cars, while others were cheaper than a nice steak dinner for two.
One of our favorite simulators was from Full Swing Golf, which uses a combination of infrared and camera technologies to give users accurate ball and club data. With the addition of Swing Catalyst, golfers can also see how their weight moves during their swing simultaneously with high-speed video.
“We’re a launch monitor first and a simulator second,” said Chad Coleman, vice president of marketing and sales for the company — but that doesn’t mean that the simulator part was a second priority. Golf shots hit on Full Swing Golf systems appear on the screen in real time, and course displays are digital, not photographs, which makes course play more realistic.
After announcing partnerships with Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, Full Swing was arguably the hottest simulator at the Show. Units start at $45,900.
Looking for a more affordable fix? Portable devices such as those from Epson and SwingByte, which work with smart devices through Bluetooth, attach to any golf club to offer data on swing speed, path, tempo and a lot more. They also display swings in 3D through their respective apps.
Epson’s M-Tracer will sell for $299 when it is released, while the SwingByte 2 currently sells for $169.
Science and Motion (SAM) PuttLab 5 brings launch and swing analysis into the putter realm. It uses ultrasound and algorithms to track your putting stroke and provides feedback on launch, path, face angle, tempo, impact and more. You can even watch a graphic replay of your swing on TV if you have it connected to a monitor.
As this technology evolves, the most coveted tee times could become those slotted after the sun goes down.
Putter Adjustability and Counterbalancing
Adjustability in golf clubs is hot in the equipment industry and for very good reason. With a few clicks of a wrench, golfers can dial in the loft, lie angle face angle and head weight of their clubs.
Putters, for the most part, have been neglected by the mainstream — but that’s beginning to change.
Happy Putter, invented by Vikash Sanyal, the founder of Never Compromise putters, allows golfers to adjust lie angle, loft, head weight and offset.
“TOUR PLAYERS HAVE HAD ACCESS TO ADJUSTABLE PUTTERS FOR YEARS ON TOUR VANS,” SAYS SANYAL. “HAPPY PUTTER LET’S ALL GOLFERS ADJUST THEIR PUTTERS NOW, TOO.”
The smiley-faced putter has 484 total configurations — making it more adjustable than any club on the market.
Counterbalanced putter grips have caught the attention of golfers — especially with the looming ban on anchored putters in 2016 — because they add more stability to the stroke. But not all new counterbalanced grips are created equal.
Nike’s new CounterFlex putter grips allow golfers to adjust where the counterbalancing weight is located with a sliding 70-gram weight that is secured inside the grip. In our testing, there was a noticeable difference in feel when the weight was located in the bottom of the grip versus the top of the grip. Golfers will get more counterbalancing effect if they locate the weight at the top of the grip, but like all things in golf equipment, results vary.
SuperStroke introduced it’s +Plus Series grips at the show, which allow golfers to turn any putter into a counterbalanced putter.
With SuperStroke’s “CounterCore,” golfers can add a 50-gram weight plug inside the butt end of the grip without removing the grip or adding adhesive, allowing them to switch from a counterbalanced putter to a non-counterbalanced putter with the turn of a wrench.
The +Plus Series grips come in three sizes: 2.0XL (big), 3.0XL (bigger) and Flatso 2.0XL, which has a wide, flat front that offers a different feel.
Club Fitting Made Easier
Isn’t it frustrating when you want to try a certain shaft with your favorite driver head, but their adjustable tips aren’t compatible with each other?
Club Conex’s new UniFit adapters allow golfers to try just about any shaft with any club head. It works with three pieces — one that replaces the adapter inside an adjustable club head, one that attaches to the shaft and one that sandwiches between. The adapters offer 12 unique settings and 1 degree of adjustment.
It’s idealistic to think that universal adapters could become common place in the industry — different equipment companies use different adapter technologies to further their own designs — but it’s great that gear heads (like us) who like to test multiple club heads from multiple manufacturers now have an inexpensive way to do so.
The target market for UniFit is club fitters looking to reduce shaft inventory, and we anticipate that we’ll see a lot of them make the switch to this technology.
Cool Clubs, a custom club-fitter based in Scottsdale, uses its new S3 Shaft Analyzer to measure every shaft parameter and has compiled a database of over 1,000 shafts. The app, which costs $20 for a year subscription, allows golfers to see the results from every shaft in Cool Clubs’ database.
Comparing shaft parameters has never been easier, and as golfers demand more information before they buy shafts, this trend isn’t going anywhere.
Most of the GolfWRX Staff originally found the site through their yearning to know more about the clubs tour players were using. For that reason, we’re glad to see major equipment companies releasing more tour-inspired, niche products.
Sure, more frequent releases create year-long interest in golf equipment brands and can possibly boost sales, but what we like is that it gives golfers access to clubs that they otherwise may not have been able to purchase.
Callaway’s new Mack Daddy PM-Grind wedges were designed by Phil Mickelson, and a high-toe design and extended grooves make hitting open-faced shots easier and create more spin.
TaylorMade’s AeroBurner MiniDriver further proves the point that specialty clubs can have staying power.
Its predecessor, the SLDR MiniDriver, was released in 2014 as an oversized fairway wood designed for use off the tee. It was redesigned for 2015 as part of the company’s AeroBurner line, proving that specialty clubs don’t have to be one-hit wonders.
Golf clothes that don’t look like golf clothes
To the chagrin of traditionalists, snapback hats, flat-brim hats and spikeless, sporty shoes are here to stay, and there was a wealth of apparel companies offering products that fit the trend.
We’re not saying Rickie Fowler had everything to do with this, but it’s no coincidence that his big hats and bright-colored outfits have gained traction since his arrival on Tour.
Golf clothes seem to want to look like anything other than golf clothes right now, even on the traditional side. Spikeless shoes may have just been the start.
A good first step for golf in Olympics
DUBLIN, Ohio — PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem can't think of a better scenario when the International Olympic Committee meets a year from October. Golf is added to the summer program. Chicago is announced as host city for 2016. And Tiger Woods is going strong and eager to add a gold medal to his trophy collection.
That's still a long way off, but Finchem said Tuesday that golf made a strong first impression in an informal meeting last week with IOC president Jacques Rogge.
Finchem was joined by European Tour chief George O'Grady, LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens, USGA executive director David Fay and Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson. They were told the steps leading to the IOC decision next October and what golf executives have to do to make their case.
"It was important that the IOC saw the game was united, which I think they were impressed with," Finchem said. "That got accomplished. It's a long way, and we have other sports competing for the same spots. We like to think we're what they want because we're a sport that's universal."
Woods gives a boost to any tournament, although any involvement in the Olympics would be short-lived. Woods will be 40 in 2016, the earliest golf could be part of the Olympics.
Chicago is the U.S. city under consideration for 2016, and Finchem was quick to note that Woods has a strong history in Chicago, where he has won two PGA Championships and four PGA Tour events.
"His knee aside, he's such a good athlete, you've got to believe he's going to be competitive," Finchem said. "And there's a lot of interest in whether he plays. But the bigger question is the long-term role of golf in the Olympics."
He also mentioned a long list of courses Chicago can offer.
The biggest obstacle will be scheduling Olympic golf among the last two majors and the tour's FedEx Cup finale. Finchem suggested one possibility of the men and women competing over separate weeks. The four playoff events for the FedEx Cup already are being rearranged this year for the Ryder Cup, and Finchem says they will work even into the early part of football season.
"We're not really doing it for golf in the U.S. anyway," he said. "It's for growing the game around the world and something we can all do together. The value for the players is that the more people that play around the world, the more people will be watching. They'll be paid back eventually."