The 69th PGA Merchandise Show returned to an in-person event for the first time since 2020 as a much-changed experience due to the on-going Covid pandemic and the absence of some of golf’s biggest brands.
With travel still presenting issues for overseas visitors and within the United States, and with Covid rates still high, many past attendees chose to stay away, with visitor numbers down by over 60% on 2020 (from 40,000 to 15,000).
The number of exhibitors was also down, shrinking from its traditional 1,000-plus companies to 578, with many of the industry’s leading brands – including Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade, Ping, Cobra, Srixon, Cleveland, Mizuno, Wilson, Nike and Adidas – choosing not to exhibit this year due to issues surrounding the pandemic and other logistical challenges.
Wednesday’s Demo & Fitting Day at Orange County National Golf Centre suffered a double reverse when coupled with the absence of the major equipment brands, when the outdoor event was affected by bad weather, with rain and unseasonably low temperatures putting a dampener on what is traditionally a very busy day of testing and sampling of the latest launches.
Despite the relatively low turnout, the show’s hosts, the PGA of America, and its organiser, PGA Golf Exhibitions, felt that the most important element of this year’s renewal was getting back to business and engaging in face-to-face contact, albeit often through a mask.
“It’s incredible to think that we haven’t been together as an industry for two years,” said PGA President Jim Richerson. “With what is going on in the golf world, as well as the world itself, for all of us to be back together in Orlando, driving the business of golf forward, is significant. It is a pleasure to have been here promoting not just the PGA of America and PGA Golf Professionals, but also the game of golf.”
PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh added: “It was so great to be back in person at the PGA Show. The energy was great and a real platform to showcase innovative ideas and products, as well as countless learning opportunities for the many PGA Professionals who were able to be here. It made for a very collaborative, social environment and a great reminder of the importance of the golf industry getting together and connecting through an in-person Show. This was particularly important and impactful during the current boom in the game and was the perfect way to kick off 2022 toward setting up another record year.”
PGA Golf Exhibitions vice president Marc Simon, said: “There is nothing like walking down the main aisle of the show and running into that golf pro you haven’t seen in 15 years. You can’t replicate that virtually. There is a sense of excitement, optimism, and for the industry a real chance to take advantage of all the positives that are out there. If we can capitalize on these trends long-term it’s going to be really great for everybody.”
NEW CATEGORIES TO THE FORE
The fewer numbers in the exhibition halls gave a chance for some of golf’s lesser-known brands to get noticed and engage with potential new customers for longer, while there was a record number of first-time exhibitors.
In the absence of much in the way of new hardwear to see, a wide variety other golf products took centre stage, including Bridgestone’s latest golf ball range. Dan Murphy, president and CEO of Bridgestone Golf, said: “We had a really busy, successful PGA Show. We’ve built relationships with many new PGA Professionals and golf shop buyers who have never carried Bridgestone golf balls before, and we’re glad that we have this chance to tell them our story – and get feedback from them about what they’d like to see from us as a partner. We’re learning a lot about the business needs of golf facilities during this extraordinarily busy time for all of us, and that’s a big part of the value of being here at the PGA Show.”
Speaking about the show going ahead as an in-person event, Murphy added: “It’s a time where people are going to sports stadiums to watch games and kids are back in school, so we think it is appropriate to be here, and be careful about it and support the business and keep the good going,” he said. “We don’t mind zigging when everyone else zags.”
Golf simulator technology also proved popular with visitors, with Golfzon’s extensive range of simulators for teaching and game play, including its new TwoVision model, attracting plenty of attention. Carts, power trolleys and other modes of golf course transport also garnered a good deal of interest among attendees, with leading cart brands Yamaha, EZ-GO and Club Car showing off their latest models alongside a whole range of smaller companies such as Star, Pilotcar and Tomberlin, each of which had products to suit a wide range of golfers and golf club staff.
FASHION MAKES A STATEMENT
Apparel also had a chance to shine this year, with the Fashion Show stage proving a popular venue to check out the latest collections from some of golf’s biggest apparel brands. The Fashion Show and Industry Happy Hour on Wednesday featured provided an opportunity for a dozen clothing and accessory brands to showcase their latest pieces to golf industry. These included: Scales Gear, Kilo Tango, Birdies and Bows, Antigua Sportswear, Harlestons, Swannies Golf Apparel, Cravin’ Golf, Bella Bella Sports, Spectrum Golf, Katherine Way, Ibkul, and Hot Girls Pearls. Of these brands, six were first-time exhibitors at the PGA show.
The Fashion Buyer Lounge anchored the north end of the exhibit hall and popular exhibitor pavilions stretched the expanse between the ends, including the New Product Zone, Inventor’s Spotlight Pavilion, Golf Fitness, Wellness & Instruction Pavilion and Stage, Golf Travel Pavilion and Adaptive Golf Centre.
The new Equipment Test Centre, featuring a relocated putting green near the indoor driving range and anchored by the Golf Channel broadcast stage, became a popular product testing and networking location at the south end of the exhibition hall, while the new PGA Hub proved a welcome new addition to the show, with competitions held on golf simulators and many opportunities for PGA Professionals to connect with PGA of America staff.
EDUCATION & TRAINING
There was also a heightened focus on providing solutions to the current business climate through an extensive education programme, industry seminars and business conferences, many of which drew bigger audiences than in previous years.
PGA Show Week included the National Golf Course Owners Association Golf Business Conference, AGM Golf Retail Conference, PGA Education Conference, PGA Hub Industry Stage presentations, PGA Member Business Center workshops, Golf Fitness, Wellness & Instruction Stage sessions, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Forum, and the National Alliance for Accessible Golf Conference.
Access to recordings of many of these presentations will be available on-demand from mid-February via PGA Show Connects, a platform that acts as a digital extension of the PGA Show. Full Conference and All-Access badge-holders who opted into this digital platform during registration will automatically receive an email to activate their PGA Show Connects account and can access on-demand sessions at no extra charge. Those who did not have a Full Conference or All-Access Pass can register to access the on-demand content through virtual.pgashow.com.
Despite the drop in the number of attendees, many exhibitors felt that the show was a success in terms of doing business and making connections with golf industry professionals.
Richard Prosser, International Sales Manager for Lyle & Scott, which was a first-time exhibitor at the PGA Show, said: “I think coming to the PGA Show this year is the best decision we could have made. The engagement with golf professionals and buyers is truly great. It’s given us a chance to tell our story in a way that you just can’t do on the other end of the phone or a laptop. That’s integral to our success, and people really like being here together.”
Martin Wyeth, founder of Power Tee, which also exhibited at the show, added: “The 2022 PGA Show has been a very pleasant surprise. Coming out of the virtual show last year created questions for many in the industry. We have had quality contacts with existing customers and had more quality conversations with new contacts than ever before. The industry is broadening its appeal and Power Tee provides a solid foundation for driving growth at ranges, golf clubs, home use, and retailers.”
The date for next year’s 70th PGA Show in Orlando is set for January 24-27, 2023. For details, visit www.pgashow.com.