By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
The event’s not even open to the public yet it still draws more than 40,000 people. That event—the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla.
This year marked the 62nd year of the Professional Golf Association show that originally started out of the trunks of sales people trying to market their golf wares.
From that humble beginning, the show now occupies more than a million square feet of exhibit space in the massive Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
Nearly 1,000 exhibitors fill the massive facility, including all the top brand names in golf all the way down to the inventors who are hoping to get their product out to the market.
It draws PGA club professionals, manufacturing representatives, retailers, industry leaders, product buyers and media from literally all over the world.
And if that’s not enough, the four-day show kicks off with Demo Day at the 42-acre 360-degree driving range at the Orange County National Golf Center.
Every golf equipment company imaginable is present to introduce and show off their new equipment lines for the year.
As to be expected, the biggest booths on the range are the top equipment and ball manufacturers—Titleist, Callaway, Taylormade, Ping, Cobra, Srixon, Wilson and the list goes on.
The circular driving range is so large from one side to the other that even Bubba Watson can’t hit the golfers on the other side. And he was there representing Ping and tried to do so.
For anybody who loves the game of golf, it’s like golf heaven. For gadgets guys, it’s utopia—seeing all the latest gizmos and devices to improve one’s game and getting to try them out.
And if a person missed demo day, no problem. The equipment companies all have hitting booths inside the convention hall for people to try out their new gear.
But none of the companies could compare to Taylormade, who had one end of the hall all to themselves.
In bay after bay, Taylormade offered golfers the opportunity to try out their latest gear, complete with launch monitors and their own designated club fitter.
The sheer size of the show is nothing short of amazing, with nearly 10 miles of show aisles. The indoor show lasts three days and it would be a challenge to hit every booth in that time span.
Perhaps one of the most interesting areas of the show are the booths dedicated to new products and inventions.
Some have a real shot of making it on the market while others will become just another man’s pipe dream.
The show draws its fair share of golf celebs as well.
From famed teachers like the Golf Channel’s Michael Breed and Tiger Woods former teacher Hank Haney, to former players like Anika Sorenstam, golf fans can rub shoulders with them all.
But without a doubt, the biggest draw had to be two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson.
On demo day, he drew a huge crowd for an hour-long hitting demonstration, showing off the shots that have made him a tour favorite.
The next day, he helped open the exhibit hall at the start of the show, met with fans and even gave away a few of his pink Ping drivers.
For anyone inside the game of golf, the PGA Merchandise Show is the place to be in late January.
One can only imagine how big the show would be if it was open to the Joe Golfers of the world.