Bermuda Sands for This Spring

For years when visiting a new course I purchased a logoed shirt both as a memento of the round and because like all frequent players, I go through golf shirts at a pretty steady clip. At one course there was a nice looking shirt in kind of a peach color and I bought it. (I know—real men don’t wear peach but you had to see the shirt to appreciate it. It was a masculine peach shade.)

This was my first exposure to the Bermuda Sands brand and while I don’t remember the course and the shirt is long gone into the rag bag the Bermuda Sands apparel line has become one of my favorites.

They have a wide variety of men’s short and long sleeve shirts plus outerwear and for ladies there are tops, skorts and outerwear.

This spring they’ve done it again with several items for men that are standouts and with pricing that’s friendly to any wallet.

Action Polo

The Men’s Action shirt is an authentic plaid print with both a pop of color and a measure of style that goes with any wardrobe. It’s made of the G2 Tech polyester/spandex performance fabric, a fine gauge jersey, with a UV Protection of 25+…comfort and sun protection wherever you wear it. It has a three button placket and available in Peri Blue or Amethyst for $77.

Griffin Shirt

The Griffin shirt is made of the same G2 Tech performance fabric with a twist on the tried and true striped design, featuring wider and alternating color stripes, along with an accent striped collar to keep the look fresh all season long. Also with a three button placket there are six color options each priced at $72.

Steam Polo

The Steam Polo is one of my favorites offering a choice of five colors all with a striated look. Bermuda Sands says, and I agree, “This shirt feels like wearing a cloud.” Both lightweight and soft it retails for $60.

Strata Shirt

The Strata is a perfect layering piece when spring is less spring maybe a little winter. Lightweight, long sleeve and quarter zip it’s made from polyester jersey and built for active wear with a relaxed drop shoulder. Priced at $65 there are four color options from which to choose.

All these and the entire Bermuda Sands apparel line may be seen at bermudasandsapparel.com.

Ten Rounds with EX10 Fairway Woods & Hybrids

Tour Edge Golf doesn’t spend millions on television advertising campaigns nor do they dole out money for toursters to play their clubs.

They aren’t a huge equipment company but they are though an OEM who has successfully created a reputation for high quality clubs using the latest manufacturing techniques, design and materials. Their clubs give golfers top notch performance day in and day out, often at what could be called, “very competitive prices.”

This season’s Exotics EX10 Fairway Woods ($250) and Hybrids ($180) are perfect examples.

The fairway woods use high density steel for the cup face which is combo-brazed (rather than welded) to the steel clubhead body producing a face that is both responsive and strong. Due to its strength the face can be thinner so more of the impact energy is transferred to the ball. Plus since the face is a variable thickness design hits not quite on the center, say towards the heel or toe, can still result in a “good” shot.

It’s obvious during testing, from the nice high ball launch, the work Tour Edge did to push the center of gravity lower and deeper in the head (including the use of a 9-gram sole weight), was a success. And there’s an added benefit with this weighting, it gave the EX10 fairway wood lots of forgiveness. The slim-looking aerodynamic shape is easy to like and the updated wave pattern on the sole (longer rails and deeper channels in between) helps the club pass smoothly through even fairly heavy grass.

EX10 Fairway Woods have a choice of lofts with heads becoming progressively smaller as the loft increases: 13-degree (173 cc), 15-degree (165 cc), 16.5-degree (165 cc), 18-degree (158 cc) and 21-degree (150 cc).

EX10 Hybrids are a similar construction to the fairway woods with the same high density, steel cup face–HT 980 high-tensile strength steel—and again, since it can be made very thin, it produces the trampoline effect, the key to added distance. The face and body are also combo-brazed and the wave pattern on the sole is improved.

In the hybrids a 2-hybrid (17 degrees), 3-hybrid (19 degrees), 4-hybrid (22 degrees), 5-hybrid (25 degrees) and 6-hybrid (28 degrees) are available.

On the course testing was done for ten rounds with a 13-degree 3-wood and two hybrids, a 3-hybrid and 4-hybrid. It should pointed out after a couple of rounds it was plain these newbies weren’t just squatters in the bag slots. They quickly earned permanent occupancy.

The course I often play, depending on the wind, requires a 3-wood from the tee on three or sometimes four holes and the performance of the EX10 can best be described as a “mini-driver.” On more than one occasion the ball actually went too far and since its Florida that usually means one of two things. Either the ball is in the water or blocked out by palms or oaks. Heck of a problem to have.

From tight Bermuda grass fairway lies the EX10 gets the ball in the air every time, the first 3-wood from any manufacturer I can say that about. Granted not every strike is dead solid perfect, my swing sometimes seems to go on hiatus, but my poor contacts are usually towards the toe and the EX10 still gets the ball in the air with credible distance.

The EX10 hybrids are a little longer from the tee than the previous model EX9s which were tested last year and more readily work the ball to tucked pins. Realizing anecdotal evidence for what it is, the second round with them from a par-5 fairway bunker, the 4-hybrid not only got the ball out but laser measurement of the carry and rollout was 186 yards. At my skill level I can’t ask for more than that.

However, where the hybrids really come into their own is from the rough. They get the ball up and out. Period. They feel solid everytime and the shot is almost always online. Long par-3s are even fun since with just a driving range swing, not trying to do anything special, both the 3- and 4- hit the ball high and it lands softly…sometimes even near the pin.

Negatives: Did not spend a lot of time hitting the EX10 3-wood from the rough since Florida rough is Bermuda and even in the winter time a hybrid is a better choice. If you are someone who takes a little divot with a fairway wood—à la Tom Watson—the “Slipstream Sole” of both the wood and hybrids may take some getting used to. Plus, and I know this sounds picky, the head covers on the hybrids are a pain to put back on.

Recommendation: These are in my bag to stay. The best recommendation I can give them.

Proper Threads–Devereux

My first impression three years ago meeting the Devereux brothers, Will (left) and Robert (right), was here were two guys who were passionate about life and golf. And they were frank about their goal of translating that passion into being leaders in golf-lifestyle apparel. Since then they have created the Devereux brand and each piece uses high quality fabrics constructed with the distinctive looks a sophisticated well-dressed man wants to wear on and off the course.

In other words, they created Proper Threads.

As the Devereux brother’s point out this is more than a tagline. It reflects their approach to dressing well without the commonness of other lines in color and cut.

The Devereux collection has shirts, shorts, slacks and sweaters in distinctive colors with lots of style and modern cut. All are made with attention to detail plus there’s a hat line in the modern flat bill design with some that have the more traditional look of “Dad hats.”

For spring we were attracted to one of their lightweight sweaters, the Naples Crewneck made from long staple Pima cotton in a camo knit pattern. Seams have a raw finish and the side vents are ribbed for better stretch. Priced at $145 it comes in two good-looking shades of blue.

The Cruiser Hybrid Shorts ($85) are made with Stretch Hybrid Woven fabric (71% Polyester/25%Cotton/4% Spandex) that is quick drying and the mesh pocketing means they are at home on land or on the water.

Also take a look at the Cameron Polo (also $85) made from breathable and moisture wicking fabric called Airflow Knit that’s 96% Polyester/4%Spandex. It helps to regulate body temperature for warm day activities such as golf.

You can see their entire line for spring at Devereux – Proper Threads.

Ten Rounds with the Cobra King F7+ Driver

In 2013 Tom Olsavsky joined Cobra Puma Golf as Vice President of Research and Development after a long stint with TaylorMade Golf as Senior Director of Product Creation. Industry observers expected this well respected designer would make his mark on the entire Cobra product line and he has.

Last year we told you we liked the KING F6 Baffler with the iconic rails on the sole and the KING LTD driver with the center of gravity on the neutral axis of the clubhead plus a “Spaceport” in the sole to help create lots of forgiveness. In fact, Olsavskly’s team did such a good job, the KING LTD quickly took the number one slot in my bag.

We also commented on the KING F6 driver which had a font-to-back weighting system and in revamping the F6 for this season the result is the KING F7 (460cc $350) and the slightly smaller profile KING F7+ (452cc $400). Both have three weights (1-12 gram and 2-2 gram) in the sole. One is positioned in the front just behind the face, the second towards the heel and the last in the very rear of the head. By switching the weights around gives in essence three much different drivers.

Trying out the various weight positons in the KING F7+ did produce noticeable changes in trajectory and curvature bias. Our 10 rounds of testing included one with the 12-gram weight in the heel and two with it in the rear position. Since my tendency is a hook (truth be told it deteriorates often to a pull hook) having the heavier weight in the heel didn’t produce a lot of fairways and with it in the rear position trajectory was too high.

Settling on the heavier weight in the front position, which obviously was correct for my swing, produced and mid-trajectory basically straight shot and allowed for a fade for those holes requiring a dogleg tee shot.

The stock Fujikura PRO XLR8 shaft is slightly stiffer in the tip and butt and gives lots of mid-point kick for mid-launch complimenting the 12-gram weight being in the front position.

The crown is carbon fiber which, being 20% lighter than titanium, weight could be shifted lower and deeper in the head making the KING F7+ above average in forgiveness.

Then there’s what they are calling COBRA CONNECT, a partnership with Arccos to track every drive. The Arccos sensor is preinstalled in the butt end of the grip so once it’s paired with the free smartphone app not only drive data is recorded but there’s a GPS rangefinder. It works, is automatic to use and the data may be reviewed after the round including distance and the number of fairways hit. They tell me the sensor battery is good for at least two years.

Distance however, is the thing everyone wants to know about and the KING F7+ is as long as the KING LTD I was carrying and with the same dead-solid sound. The trajectory (with the 12-gram weight in the front positon) is mid-launch and the lack of ballooning in the wind indicates low ball spin even on slight mishits.

Finally, the blue KING F7+ has a really great look at address. The shape is pleasing and the blue—with red and white accents on the sole–stands out in a world of mostly black clubheads.

The Cobra KING F7+ also has what is sometimes called Tour validation. Fan favorite Rickie Fowler won the Honda Classic with the F7+ and it’s played by Lexi Thompson, Jonas Blixt, Jesper Parnevik and World Golf Hall of Fame member Greg Norman. While it’s tough to make a comparison between their swings and that of the average golfer plus of course they are paid by Cobra, it is a vote of confidence since they could be using any of the other Cobra models.

Negatives: the F7+ is billed as being for better players and comes with an adjustable hosel from 8 to 11 degrees so if you need help with trajectory the F7, which adjusts from 9 to 12 degrees (and with the 12-gram weight in the rear), would be a better choice.

Recommendation: Get on a launch monitor and test (with the help of a PGA Professional) the KING F7+ against any of the other new drivers and I think you will find it will hold its own in terms of feel, accuracy, forgiveness and distance. The $400 price is at the low end of the range for Tour level drivers and with comparable features making it attractive for a lot of budgets.

Come Back Tiger


For a lot of reasons besides the thrill of watching him play this madding game we need a healthy Tiger Woods back on Tour.

He draws attention regardless of his score. TV ratings take a big bump whenever he tees it up not to mention how much they increase when he is in contention. Companies get more “eyeballs” on their advertisements resulting in more sales and more return on their investment. In the case of the golf equipment OEMs such as TaylorMade Golf and Bridgestone Golf who pay Woods to endorse their products that can be significant.

Then, let’s not forget tournament ticket sales, merchandise sales, refreshments and pro-am fees. The more money raised the more can go to charity. Plus, though his turning professional in 1996 may not have resulted in a permanent increase in the number of golfers, there’s no denying a healthy Tiger attracts attention and bolsters the sport’s image which doesn’t hurt participation.

Whether Woods is the greatest player of all time or not, the truth is he still brings an interest and excitement to any event he enters. Insiders would say, “He moves the needle.” Is his career over? Who knows and it seems that even he doesn’t know.

Maligned, sometimes unfairly, and praised, sometimes undeservedly, but whatever the circumstances he has been the face of professional golf and for the past two decades has been the most talked about and written about golfer on Tour.

Dealing with just the facts, rather than what sometimes passes for news and is actually opinion, Woods is a forty-something athlete who has a bad back and there’s always a big question mark with that type of injury. Three surgeries put him on the sidelines beginning in August 2015. The layoff ended with his ballyhooed return in early December 2016 at a 17-player charity exhibition and no cut. He finished 15th.

Next in late January this year he teed it up at Torrey Pines Golf Club less than an hour from where he grew up. His rounds of 76 and 72 missed the cut by four strokes. Then he flew commercially to Dubai (Really? It’s hard to believe he would go commercial) where, after smoothing it around for a 77, Woods was hit by back spasms forcing his withdrawal.

Though had planned to, he did not play at Riviera (his charity is a primary beneficiary) nor the Honda near his home in South Florida revealing on TigerWoods.com his doctors had ordered no activity to let his “back calm down.”

And those are the facts. With the Masters five weeks away and his often voiced determination to win more major championships it will be interesting to see if he is able to play. Or even if his back is OK Woods may feel his game isn’t ready for prime time, that he can’t be competitive and decide against going to Augusta.

It’s important to not get carried away with speculation, guessing and wishful thinking. Woods doesn’t need the money but does, from all reports, still want to win more majors, i.e., continue chasing Jack Nicklaus’ record.

Besides, there’s one other salient fact about the former world number one who held that spot for a total of over 13 years. In less than nine years Woods will be eligible for the Champions Tour.

Looking Good on the Course

If you dress with style and comfort it may not cut strokes off your handicap but you’ll look good whatever your score. Performance fabrics are a big part of staying warm or dry or both and we found some great examples by Carnoustie Sportswear for spring starting with their performance outerwear.

Great workmanship and high quality micro-poly fabrics combined with distinctive styling such as a chest stripe vest and shoulder stripe ¼-zip pullover make Carnoustie outerwear just right for challenging weather conditions.

Carnoustie points out their waterproof garments are ideal for the gale force winds and rain such as happens sometimes at the Open Championship. They are made from fabric woven specifically to keep out the rain and all have colorful taped seams to make them standout in a world of drab colors made of heavier material. Since all Carnoustie waterproof pieces are lightweight and colorful they are ideal pairings for their line of knit shirts, stylish slacks or when layered over other outerwear pieces.

We especially like the Vardon collection of cotton interlock outerwear. They “play” year round because they are the right weight with knit detailing and are offered in a long sleeve, a quarter-zip vest or regular vest in a variety of colors.

Also new for this spring is color block style of a combination of mélange fabric with an awning stripe fabric giving both a great look and one that stands out from the crowd. The new performance collection has a mini floral print that trendy, smart and colorful for wear the entire season.

Finally, a beautifully simple jacquard pattern introduces a classic look seldom seen a performance line while giving all of the performance feature a golfers wants. Carnoustie tells me that in fact, all of their performance styles include moisture management properties, stretchable comfort, odor management and UV protection.

Of course, Carnoustie’s Spring ’17 collection also still includes the cotton knits, cotton woven sport shirts, worsted trousers, cotton and performance shorts all of which are typical of the items on which they have built their reputation over the past 20 years.

Review: “Back On Course-A Return on Investment”

The new book “Back On Course” has the subtitle “Drive Business Performance Through Golf” and it discusses some interesting points beginning with the natural matchup between the social and competitive aspects of golf and business.

Authors Connie Charles and Dave Bisbee do a masterful job of explaining the why and how any business can achieve a positive return on investment by using golf the game and golf the experience to further relationships with customers, vendors and employees.

Formerly golf was recognized as a tool for business. It was played by top and would-be top executives and viewed as an integral part of business relationship building. However, times change. Activist investor scrutiny of corporations followed by the economic downturn of the past ten years gave business golf a negative connotation. “Elitist” being one of the common descriptions and corporate leaders came to no longer look at the game as an opportunity for advancing the interests of their companies.

It was something that could be ditched to offset increasing expenses and as a sop to those characterizing golf as something only rich white-guys did.

The concept of return on investment seemingly took a back seat to being politically correct or at least seeming to be sensitive to public opinion as represented by commentators and corporate critics.

Charles and Bisbee recognized the decline of golf as a tool in the corporate arena often makes relationship building more difficult and puts up barriers to communication between companies, their customers and prospects. In addition, today golf can certainly use increased corporate participation at several levels including charitable giving and additional revenue for golf courses.

Having known Bisbee and Charles for a number of years, it is evident they are serious business people, knowledgeable in what it takes to advance a company’s interests and receive a commensurate return on invest.

“Back On Course” stresses return on investment for both corporations and individuals.

Charles is CEO of Strategic Solutions International in Newark, Del. and an expert in corporate team building. Bisbee is the general manager and director of golf at Seven Canyons Golf Club in Sedona, Ariz. and a well-respected instructor. They have an online portal, imapGolf.co, for individuals to improve their performance on and off the course using the same tools Charles has on her corporate site imapMyTeam.

One of the most intriguing ideas in “Back On Course” is that of the five hour meeting or interview, i.e., taking a prospective customer or employee to play golf which with a bit of the 19th hole neatly takes up half a day. From personal experience I know of no way to learn about the true character of someone more quickly than playing a round of golf. Insights into personality, character and attitude are evident and easily observable. They also get to know you, the basis of building a mutually beneficial relationship.

If you are in a corporate decision-making position or simply want to improve your interpersonal skills to further your career using golf, buy this book. In fact, you’ll probably buy copies for colleagues.

“Back On Course—Drive Business Performance Through Golf” by Connie Charles and Dave Bisbee is available on Amazon for $24.99.

The Significance of the DJ Rule

The “DJ Rule.” The modification of the Rules of Golf by the United States Golf Association that took effect January 1 is important. In fact, it could be said as being very significant and not just as a simplification of the Rules we play by.

If you remember, in the final round of the U.S. Open last June, Dustin Johnson lined up a par putt on the fifth green and before he addressed the ball it rolled backwards, i.e. away from the hole, a tiny distance. Johnson immediately told a referee walking with him and fellow competitor Lee Westwood and the official simply asked if he had soled his putter behind the ball.

Johnson answered, “No,” which was quickly confirmed by Westwood. The official was satisfied and told Johnson to play on with no penalty.

Everyone thought that ended the incident until later as the duo walked on to the twelfth tee. Senior rules directors informed DJ there was a problem, namely there might be a penalty stroke added to his score for the incident seven holes previously.

According to the version of Rule 18-2 in effect at the time, on the putting green if a player caused a ball to move whether he meant to or not, he must put the ball back and add a stroke to his score. To complicate it further the rule contained the wording “more likely than not” as the standard the committee should apply in making their judgement.

The situation went from bad to worse since neither the average fan nor Johnson’s fellow competitors felt it neither sensible nor fair to overturn an on-the-spot referee’s judgement hours later. However, the Rules of Golf do specifically give the Committee the right to change a referee’s decision after a round based on their evaluation of the circumstances which often comes from studying videotape of the telecast.

A wait of seven holes to tell DJ he was in the crosshairs was beyond reasonable. The possibility of a penalty stroke left Johnson and the entire field in limbo as to where he and they stood in the most important championship of the year. To put it simply, the USGA wasn’t showing its best.

The incident proved again the myriad complications of the Rules of Golf cannot be passed off simply as the way to maintain the integrity of the game when it is a sport played out of doors with constantly changing conditions. Common sense should be factored in and thankfully Johnson, the phlegmatic South Carolinian, was able to overcome the uncertainty to win by four strokes though the record book shows the final margin was three.

Effective January 1 the USGA changed the language of Rule 18-2 so if the ball on the green is moved accidentally, whatever the cause, the player puts it back without a penalty…what I’m calling the “DJ Rule.” It fixes the previous inequity properly and is more realistic, more sensible and fairer.

Which brings us to the reasons why the DJ Rule is so significant.

First, the USGA was responsive to the howls of protest by everyone from golf fans to PGA Tour players. The Rule 18-02 change is eminently more realistic and perhaps best of all accomplished without waiting for the usual molasses-in-January quadrennial rules review. Quite properly the words “more likely than not,” used as justification in accessing the penalty on Johnson were dropped. No longer will Johnson or any player be convicted by inference and extrapolation rather than facts.

Secondly congratulations to the USGA who, without compromising the spirit of the game, are “significantly” reworking the Rules of Golf to make them more user-friendly with a preview of the changes next month.

Hopefully the redo will be along the lines of, “You start here and hit it until it goes in over there.”

Images courtesy of the USGA 

PGA TOUR Superstore – Bucking the Trend

In addition to a soft demand particularly for hard goods, golf retailing has had to endure some difficult times typified by the bankruptcy of Golfsmith, Sports Authority and Ben Hogan Golf plus Nike Golf’s decision to close its club and ball business.

PGA TOUR Superstores however, are bucking the trend. The Atlanta-based retailer is profitable and showing strong sales growth with an active program for adding new locations to the current 28. Three more stores are scheduled to open this year.

The company is privately-held by AMB Group, one of the family businesses of Arthur Blank that own the Atlanta Falcons football team, Atlanta United of Major League Soccer Team and the soon to be completed Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta. Blank was cofounder of Home Depot, retiring in 2001 as co-chairman.

In an interview at the PGA Merchandise Show Dick Sullivan president and CEO of PGA TOUR Superstores talked about their success and plans for the future. Sullivan joined the company in 2008 after successful stints at both Home Depot and the Atlanta Falcons.

Brand identity is a must, especially in the competitive business of selling retail golf equipment, so we began by asking about the use of perhaps the best know name in golf, PGA TOUR. Sullivan responded, “We have a 50 year license with the PGA TOUR for the name and are very happy with the association with the Tour and in fact handle the e-commerce for them off their website. We want people to feel the link between us and the Tour as being real and important.”

Sullivan continued by saying he wants his stores to be high in wow-factor so when a golf consumer walks in the first time their reaction is “WOW!” because of the large amount of floor space, the interactive and brightly lit open layouts and well-stocked shelves.

With stores averaging over 45,000 square feet a big part of the growth has been realized by maximizing revenue whether in sales of clubs, apparel or services. We questioned how the revenue per square foot compared with other retailers and though he was reluctant to share specifics Sullivan did say that, “Revenue per square foot is up to double of other golf retailers.”

Experiential is the word the company uses to describe a visit and Sullivan said sales mix in a given store depends on the local market but, “Last year (2016) we gave 45-50,000 lessons so we have a strong presence in helping golfers get better.” Also interesting and somewhat unexpected is some locations sell more ladies’ apparel than men’s.

In 2016 PGA TOUR Superstores had over seven million customers and that will presumably grow in 2017 not only from same store growth but from increasing the number of locations. Sullivan expects to have 50 stores in five years so the rate of openings will be steady but not spectacular.

Realistically the growth into new markets and opening of new locations in existing markets is driven often by the cost of real estate. “It has to make sense for us and some areas [commercial real estate] are pretty expensive and it’s hard to make the numbers work,” Sullivan told me.

The almost mystical reputation of Home Depot’s customer service is a benchmark for Sullivan and the employees of PGA TOUR Superstores and this starts with knowing golfers and what they want and need. The connection is made through store employees.

According to Sullivan, “The employees on the floor who are closest to the customers are at the top of the PGA TOUR Superstore pyramid and the CEO is at the bottom. Employees tell us what we need to do.” They are the ones dealing with the golfers so they understand what the customer wants and needs.

He followed that comment quickly with, “If you do the right thing the numbers will follow,” which certainly is a refreshing change from the bean-counter orientation of some other operations.

Anecdotally, on a recent visit to the Orlando store to purchase some golf gloves the display rack had none in my size. When I asked a store associate if they had any he ran…ran mind you, to the back and returned almost immediately with what I needed.

I don’t recall ever experiencing that level of enthusiastic service much less physical exertion ever in any golf store, big box retailer or green grass shop.

On average PGA TOUR Superstores have 14 hitting bays with the latest swing analysis software and graphics along with custom fitting of clubs, club repair, re-gripping. “We run Saturday clinics for juniors to build the interest of youngsters in the game hopefully making them lifelong participants but also to engage the parents in a meaningful way with their children, the game of golf and our stores.”

So how is it working? As noted previously PGA TOUR Superstores is bucking the trend with continued growth and profitability and for example, “Some snowbound locations have to use beepers like in restaurants to notify when a practice bay is available which have swing analysis software. Each location has PGA Professionals on staff.”

When asked for a description of their ideal target customer Sullivan responded, “The avid golfer is of course first for us. We want them to find everything they want and for them to come back.”

From my experience it would seem a lot of golfers will be doing just that.

Images courtesy PGA TOUR Superstore

Another PGA Show in the Books

After covering the PGA Merchandise Show for more than 20 years the variety of products still amazes me and particularly the new items from the latest in tech gadgets to ways to more efficiently attach things to your golf bag.

The 64th industry-only Show concluded last Friday its three day run in the Orange County Convention Center located in suburban Orlando. As always it was preceded by the Demo Day to beat all demo days for PGA Professionals and the media at the Orange County National Golf Center’s immense range.

For the week the event that grabbed the most attention was the announcement by TaylorMade-adidas Golf CEO David Abeles just after Show doors opened the first day of the signing of Tiger Woods to an endorsement contract. It created a buzz overshadowing a later announcement by Callaway Golf that Michelle Wie had become a part of their staff.

Reed Expositions, who run the Show, have not released attendance yet but many old timers felt the numbers may have been down from the last couple of years. However, with 1 million square feet of exhibit space and 10 miles of aisles not counting the dozens of off floor meeting rooms, it’s hard to tell. What is for sure is the number of exhibitors remained approximately the same as the past three years—around 1,000—with 271 first time exhibitors. Reed said the number of PGA Professional in attendance increased three percent to more than 7,500.

This is the largest meeting of the golf industry or as they say, the “Major of the Golf Business” and this is certainly true though some well-known companies were absent, in a couple of cases conspicuously absent. Nike Golf of course was not exhibiting clubs since they have closed their club and ball business to concentrate on golf apparel but Nike apparel was a no show as well. Ben Hogan Golf, after an effort to reinvigorate the iconic brand was not present and this week declared bankruptcy.

Less surprising was the absence of PXG owned by Bob Parsons who has said publicly the buyers and PGA Professionals coming to Orlando are not the target market for his ultra-expensive clubs with a set listing at over $5,000. Also among the missing were Mizuno Golf, Bridgestone, True Temper and Aldila.

Among the major items attracting attention were drivers from Wilson Golf (Triton), Callaway (Great Big Bertha Epic), TaylorMade (M1 and M2), Cobra (King F7 and F7+) and Titleist (917 D2 and D3). New golf balls included the Callaway Chrome Soft X, TaylorMade TP5 and TP5x, Volvik S4 White, Srixon Z-Star/Z-Star XV and Titleist’s latest Pro V1 and Pro V1x.

There were 423 companies in the apparel category, a number that continues to grow along with the size of their displays. Services plus accessories seem to be about the same, perhaps with slight growth, which means the club company portion of the Show is declining since the total number of exhibitors remains the same. However, the club category includes companies from the largest multi-line manufacturers to grip, shaft and ferrule makers and one-of putter producers.

Besides the Woods/TMaG announcement often heard discussed on the floor, in the media center and after hours was the non-sale of TMaG which has been on the block since last May. Parent adidas hasn’t said a word and no buyers have been forthcoming though a rumor that Woods and Michael Jordan were interested was thoroughly discredited. With business a little better and a Tiger in the stable might adidas consider keeping the top metal wood maker?

Another oft heard comment there has been no superhot-must-have product introduced and there are a couple of reasons why. Club companies all use top flight technology already so the spread in club performance has narrowed plus restrictions on allowable performance by the USGA has definitely put a damper on innovation. But probably the biggest reason, and golf club designers have known this for some time, products were reaching both the USGA limits and limits imposed by the laws of physics. Change therefore is more incremental rather than a “breakthrough.”

Individual golfers still will gain the most benefit and better performance for them by using custom fitted clubs.

In the golf business orders are often written before the Show so the purchase cycle is not as dependent on face to face meetings as once was the case with possibly the exception of soft goods. The focus of the Show has changed to placing a major emphasis on the continuing education courses for PGA Professionals.

For most attendees though it is a worldwide and industrywide meet-and-greet with a sprinkling of deal making. Costs of attending are high, booth space is expensive and even large companies must figure how to get the most return from the expense. This is not a negative but something that needs to be continually acknowledged and improved by the PGA and Reed Expositions.