Thousands of exhibitors filled the Orange County Convention Center last week in Orlando for the 2014 PGA Show. There was every possible gadget and gizmo you could imagine — and even ones you couldn’t. I’m sure we missed some hot products, but we did our best to find the latest and the greatest in the industry for you to check out.
See the above slide show for scenes from WUP’s show and without further ado, here’s our top 10:
GOLFBOARD: This was hands down my favorite product that I came across at the PGA Show. And I wasn’t alone — it won “Best New Product.” What is this contraption? Well, it’s a cross between a skateboard/snowboard/segway that also functions as a golf bag cart.
Your bag is strapped on the front of the electric board — or you can choose the option to carry it — and then there’s a wireless hand-held controller that directs the board’s acceleration and braking. To steer, you gently move your weight on your toes or heels like you do on a snowboard, except the golf board is much steadier and easier to handle.
I stepped up on the GolfBoard to test how it would feel to ride it and I immediately wanted to take it for a spin on the course and play a round with it. Why? Because imagine how fun it’d be to travel from one shot to another on the GolfBoard, rather than walking or riding/driving a regular golf cart! It adds another component to the game that only makes golf more enjoyable.
Surf the earth!
There are three ways to ride, according to the company’s website:
Bag Mount + Stability Handle
This system allows riders to use the GolfBoard just like a standard pull/push golf cart but there is a twist…… you get to ride this one! The bag mount/stability handle provides ample storage space for golf gear, snacks, and refreshments. The GolfBoard’s low center of gravity means you’ll never have to worry about your board/bag tipping over and the stability handle gives even the most inexperienced riders confidence.
Throw your golf bag over your shoulder and hop on. Conventional golf carts sacrifice exercise for convenience, but carrying your bag as you ride the GolfBoard engages your core and balance transforming golf into a full body workout. The Classic Carry method allows you to travel at the speed of a golf cart so your game isn’t slowed down.
Free Ride Using a Single Adjustable Club
A single club with an adjustable head angle is becoming a popular alternative to a traditional set of clubs. The GolfBoard supports this new movement; one hand for the wireless Bluetooth remote, the other for your trusty club.
GAME GOLF: Golf geeks, do you know how far you really hit your clubs and how well can you actually keep your stats? I mean, I *try* to track my greens, fairways and putts on my scorecard out of habit from my junior golf days, but it’s extremely rudimentary and I don’t do anything with them afterward. Well, the GAME GOLF technology can change all that.
“It’s like Shot Tracker for amateurs,” said GAME GOLF’s CEO John McGuire.
In short, it’s a thorough system that’s designed to easily capture and display your performance on an interface with stats, trends and information that can help improve and/or assist your golf game. It tracks your rounds, shot by shot, along with capturing the clubs your’e using and the distance, not to mention all your stats for you automatically.
On Demo Day at the PGA Show, GAME GOLF let me try out its new technology on the par-3 7th hole of the “Tooth” course at Orange County National. First, I clipped on a small, non-intrusive device to my shorts and then the clubs each had a small plug (with an embedded computer chip to record the information) stuck into the end of the grip. Before you hit, you tap the grip end to the unit on your hip. It vibrates briefly to let you know that it’s been “tagged,” and then you swing away.
It was extremely windy day in Orlando, but it was blowing downwind on the short hole, so I merely needed a knockdown pitching wedge. I managed to find the green and then I went on to two-putt for par. Before I stroked each putt, I had to consciously remind myself to “tag” the shot before I hit it — but that was just because it was new and it was something I wasn’t used to doing in my normal routine. This is certainly not to say it’s not a ritual I could get used to fairly quickly.
“The tagging is actually a performance trigger,” said McGuire. “This is how Graeme McDowell does it — when he’s ready to take the shot, he ‘tags’ and goes.”
McDowell is a brand ambassador, along with Lee Westwood.
There’s also a social component to GAME GOLF. You can share your stats with your friends and “follow” their rounds, and you can compare your game to another’s if you’ve both played the same course. You can also challenge your friends anywhere in the world to skills tests.
“From a social point of view, you can start comparing yourself and competing with your friends, pros and even the Tour pros that have played the same courses,” explained McGuire. “Next weekend I can play 18 holes of golf and I might set up an average drive challenge and I can compete with my brother in Ireland.
“Depending on the range of golfer you are — whether your’e a high handicap golfer or a low handicap golfer, there’s a value proposition for it.”
WOLSEY: If you were wondering which company makes the best-quality golf menswear, it’s Wolsey, a British clothing brand founded in 1755, making it one of the oldest in the world. The company is expanding its line to include golf apparel.
While it’s new in the industry, my guess is it won’t take long for it to make a massive impact on golf fashion. Wolsey has hired Johan Lindeberg, the designer extraordinaire and founder of the popular brand J. Lindeberg, as a brand ambassador and consultant.
“I’m helping the Hargreaves family that owns the Wolsey brand with creative inspiration and ideas,” said Lindeberg in an interview during the Show. “I can use my experience from 10 years and work with the repositioning of this beautiful brand.”
Lindeberg launched his brand of golf apparel and belts in 1996, revolutionizing the industry with its bright colors, slimmer cuts and large-buckled belts. Other companies eventually followed suit and Lindeberg is arguably responsible for the evolution of golf fashion as we know it today.
Well, now, he’s moving away from the flashy tones and big belts and toward a more subdued look.
The idea with Wolsey’s golf line is that the product feels natural and not too technical, but the goal is make the apparel appear sophisticated again, with details like hidden zippers.
“With the aesthetic, less is more,” said Lindeberg. “If we don’t need it on there, we take it off.”
Currently, Wolsey has three brand ambassadors on the European Tour: Tom Lewis, Robert Rock and James Heath. They’re currently in talks with an English player, who mainly competes on the PGA Tour, to add to their stable.
ODYSSEY TANK PUTTER: Callaway Golf made a big splash at this year’s PGA Show with its military-grade tank in the middle of their booth, which was intended to promote their new Odyssey Tank putters. What’s so special about these flatsticks? Well, they provide more steadiness to your stroke with its counterbalance stability weighting:
The counterbalance weight (30g in long options and 40g in short options) plus a heavier head (400g) quiet the hands during the stroke. The added weight raises MOI to create more stability through impact, and engages your big muscles to promote more of a pendulum stroke that keeps your wrists from breaking down.
KENTWOOL: One of the company’s tag lines is “This is one rocking sock!” I can’t disagree. Put a pair on your feet and it’ll revolutionize how you feel about socks.
After a long day of walking around the Orange County Convention Center, I changed from my regular socks (we won’t mention the brand) to a pair of KENTWOOL and it was downright rejuvenating.
These socks are engineered for blister-free performance and provide “superior comfort, unprecedented energy return and maximum support” — all of which I can vouch for.
What makes them so darn comfortable? Well, the socks are made with a blend of Super Fine Merino Wool yarn–WINDspun by Kentwool–and combined with other premium natural and high-tech fibers.
SWINGSMART: This swing trainer provides you with a 3D view of your swing and entire motion, while providing you four key feedback statistics: Tempo, Attack Angle, Swing Speed and Face Angle.
SwingSmart works with every club in your bag — from putter to driver. The small module weighs less than 3/4 of an ounce and attaches easily to the club. It lets you continuously hit shots instead of starting and stopping between swings, while providing you with accurate results for your golf swing.
Download the free app on your iPhone or iPad to see the instant feedback. Then, all you need to do is swing and SwingSmart quickly analyzes your entire motion in real time.
BIRDIE BOX: Who doesn’t love gifts and surprises? Exactly. Well, here’s a service that satisfies both for golfers. Birdie Box is a custom curated box of PREMIUM golf, lifestyle and nutritional products that is delivered to your doorstep monthly. Each Box has a retail value of $100 or more.
How does the service know what kind of things you like? It’s not just by pure dumb luck. When you sign up, you fill out a survey that includes 13 questions like, “Do you smoke cigars?” or “Do you like wine?” Not every box each month contains the same products — there’s some customization involved.
Subscriptions range from $44.95 a month to $500 a year. Boxes are also available for the majors and the Ryder Cup at $99 each, while companies and local tournaments can customize boxes with their logos and set the price point.
SHIP STICKS: Nothing can ruin a golf outing more than lost or delayed — or in rare cases as I experienced recently, stolen — golf clubs from the airlines. Ship Sticks is here to the rescue! The company eliminates such possibilities and makes golf travel much easier by offering a service that ships your clubs from your doorstep to golf destination — and back.
The price tag begins at $39 each way for ground or $69 overnight, which is cheaper than UPS and FedEx. Speak of those companies, Ship Sticks is partnered with them and you can drop your clubs off at a UPS and/or FedEx location if you opt to not have them picked up at another desired location.
Having used Ship Sticks in the past, I can vouch that it’s an incredibly seamless process, and I’d especially recommend it if you’re going on a buddies golf trip to a destination like Bandon Dunes, etc. — it’s nice and convenient to show up to a course with your sticks already waiting for you instead of lugging them around the airport.
TaylorMade SLDR/JetSpeed/SpeedBlade fitting: I had the opportunity to go through TaylorMade’s club fitting process at its PGA Show booth with custom fitter Bob VanSweden. The theme this season is “loft up,” with many pros and amateurs finding more distance when they hit a driver with higher loft, but that wasn’t the case for me.
I think I’m the one of the few where “loft up” doesn’t apply. Of course we tried to “loft up,” but I wasn’t catching the ball solid, so we went back down to a 10.5 degree — which is the same loft on a TaylorMade driver I’ve hit since I was 16 with the 320i. Some things never change.
I was also different than others when it came to the 3-wood. VanSweden said everyone else he fitted hit the JetSpeed 3-wood further than the SLDR, but not me. I hit the SLDR version at least 10 yards farther than the JetSpeed.
VanSweden also recommended something a bit unconventional for me — JetSpeed hybrids starting with a 6. Currently, I hit TaylorMade RocketBladez irons up to a 4-iron (I also have a 4-hybrid), but pretty soon the 7-iron will be the longest iron in my bag, which is weird and forces me to put away my ego a bit. After all, only women and seniors have a gazillion hybrids! (Yes, I’m fully aware that I’m female, but as a low-handicapper, I’ve never abided by the same rules when it came to golf).
VanSweden didn’t really explain to me the reasoning for this recommendation other than the fact that I was striping the JetSpeed hybrids — I was hitting the 4-hybrid 200 yards, which is the same distance I hit the JetSpeed 3-wood! And I was hitting the irons a little thin at times, which, of course, made me lose yardage.
Just promise you won’t make fun of me when you see me on the course with three hybrids in my bag. Well, perhaps I’ll be the one having the last laugh when I beat you!
WORST IN SHOW: Cyber Body Slimmer aka Butt Show. Enough said…