Day 2 Notebook: Best of Show
By Stephanie Wei under Equipment

Tony is pleased to receive some free Titleist swag

Writer Tony Dear is contributing to WUP at the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida, because there’s too much golf crap for just one person to cover. Check out his adventures at the convention center on Thursday.

After waiting 30 minutes for an I-Ride Trolley to take me the three miles down International Drive to the OCCC, I eventually arrived for Titleist’s annual presentation in the Linda Chapin Auditorium two minutes before it finished. On the way out I, and the other thousand or so people who heard how Titleist is a company committed to ‘Partnership’, was handed a box of the new Pro-V1s by one of the men in white coats. I considered this a very advantageous ball:minute ratio. The day is off to a good start.

Kellett Kills Clubs

Boccieri Golf’s Control Series of irons, fairway woods, hybrids and drivers (aka the Heavy Driver) made an impressive debut at Orange County National GC yesterday, but a story emerged today that might give readers pause before choosing their next driver.

Sometime on Wednesday afternoon, a Krank Golf employee named Tyler Kellett who competes in Long Drivers of America competitions, arrived at the Heavy Driver stand having smashed and destroyed the faces of several well-known clubs.

Hitting a Control Series driver and going at it as hard as he could, Kellett was surprised, however, to discover he couldn’t make so much as a dent. Even more remarkable were his numbers – 195mph ball speed compared with a best of 190 with the other clubs, and one shot that carried 338 yards into the breeze.  Apparently Kellett hit the club for an hour but was unable to crack the face.

Fitting Time

This afternoon, media giant Sports Illustrated Golf Group together with retail giant GolfSmith, and the Sports and Leisure Research Group revealed their findings after conducting an extensive, 18-month-long study into the potential benefits of custom-fitting.

You’ll never guess what they found. That’s right; having your clubs custom-fit helps you play better golf.

Okay, we’ve known that for ages (at least, we’ve been told that for ages), but in a 45-minute presentation Jon Last, the impossibly fast-talking President of Sports and Leisure Research Group, gave what is by far the most compelling evidence to date that those who go to the trouble of being properly fit play better golf, have more fun and actually spend significantly more cash on golf gear than those who simply buy whatever takes their fancy off the rack.

“This study is a wake-up call for every golfer who wants to get better,” said Last.’ We spoke with 6,000 golfers from coast to coast and the majority had no idea what true custom fitting is all about and how it can shave strokes off their score.”

All the lovely graphs and pie charts in the 34-page report can get a little monotonous after a while, but it’s obvious this is pretty ground-breaking stuff and that if anything is going to change amateur golfers’ perception of custom-fitting this is it. I picked out a few or the most telling stats;

– 92% of  golfers who were custom-fit on a launch monitor experienced immediate benefits.
– 69% of those who were custom-fit bought equipment immediately after the process.
– Golfers who were custom-fit spent 78% more than those that weren’t.
– 92% of golfers who were fit using a launch monitor said they were extremely satisfied with the results.
– 88% of golfers fitted using a launch monitor said it was a great value for the benefit they had received.
– 80% of those fitted using a launch monitor said being custom-fit could help any golfer get better.
– Golfers who were custom-fit spent an average of $519 on golf equipment compared with the $279 spent by those who weren’t.

Obviously if every golfer now goes and gets fitted properly not only will their games benefit, the golf economy would too which is why GolfSmith’s Matt Corey, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, called the initiative a ‘crusade’ and ‘not an SI study, nor a Golfsmith study or a Sports and Leisure Group study, but an industry study’.

“There is no industry standard for defining what custom-fitting actually is and no statistical evidence that fitting does indeed help golfers play better has ever been carried out. This study will hopefully encourage golfers to get fitted properly and, as a result, drive business.”

Curious, how many of you were fit by a qualified clubfitter using a launch monitor the last time you bought clubs?

Bumping into an Old Friend

Work in the golf industry for long and it’s inevitable you’re going to bump into a whole load of people you know at the PGA Show – a handful of genuinely good friends you’d happily stand and chat with for hours, many more acquaintances you shake hands and engage in some small talk with, and the literally hundreds of people whose faces you recognize but whose names escape you. This morning while covering some serious floor space, I spied a genuine old friend, one I hadn’t seen for about ten years.

He’d changed though; no longer a sleek and slightly dangerous-looking blade, John Letters now had a huge hole in his back and was covered in colorful graphics.

Letters clubs have been around since 1918 and have an impressive history (I played them back in the day, though that’s not part of the impressive history). Irishman Fred Daly won the 1947 Open Championship at Hoylake with Letters clubs. Eight of the ten members of the 1948 GB&IRE Ryder Cup team used Letters clubs, and in 1971 Lee Trevino had Letters clubs in the bag when winning the Open Championship and US Open. Gary Player and Bernhard Gallacher once used Letters irons, and Sam Torrance began his professional career with Letters. He returned to the St Andrews-based company last year saying “the first contract I ever signed was with Letters in 1971. 40 years later, I’m glad to be back.”

The classic old Master Model, whose head is forged from 8620 carbon steel, is once again the flagship iron. It’s a gorgeous club. And made in St Andrews – how cool is that?