Road Noise from the PGA Merchandise Show

By Casey BiererJanuary 16, 2008, 5:00 pm
Editors Note: GOLF CHANNEL business reporter Casey Bierer hits the practice ranges, putting greens and tour trailers of professional golf to speak with company owners, tour reps and players in this series, Road Noise.
 
This week, Casey reports from the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida.
 
This will be the 55th PGA Merchandise Show. And to think, it started in a parking lot with pros exhibiting merchandise out of the trunks of their cars. Can you imagine if we went back to those days? No, I cant either. And its just as well. I mean, it would have to be one heck of a big parking lot to accommodate 10 square miles of space1 million square feetover 1,200 of golfs leading companies and more than 45,000 of golfs most dedicated professional participants. Probably more SUVs in one place at one time than ever before. Yeah, forget the parking lot thing.
 
Show buzz is always the big thing. Last year it was largely shape geometry in drivers that led to higher MOI; in short, longer, straighter drivers. I dont believe for a minute that that story is going away this show or any time in the near or even distant future. I mean, who doesnt want to hit it longer and straighter? We all do. And as such, the manufacturers will continue to mine advances in technology that allow us to do that.
 
There is semi-official show buzz this year that is louder than all the other bits of buzz. Its the prospect of adjustability through head and shaft interchangeability. And lets be clear; this is adjustability on the consumer use level not just adjustability for fitting on the range. And its not just adjustability as in moving weights; although, that was and still is considered a major evolution and revolution in the advancement of golf club design.
 
On March 30, 2005, the USGA indicated an interest in considering allowing more types of adjustable features on woods and irons. As stated at the time:
 
'The Rulebook currently states that wood and irons must not be designed to be adjustable except for weight. The USGA is considering allowing more types of adjustable features to be used in woods and irons. It is possible that a proposal to allow more types of adjustable features on woods and irons could be made in the future. An important consideration of any such proposal would be to continue to disallow any adjustments being made during a stipulated round.'
 
The USGA is now proposing to amend the current rule to permit some additional forms of adjustability of woods and irons. The USGA believes that permitting this type of technology is a change that can serve to help many golfers obtain clubs that are well suited to their needs without causing any harm to the game.
 
On February 27, 2007, the USGA followed the 2005 letter with the following information:
 
From (current rule):
 
Woods and irons must not be designed to be adjustable except for weight. Putters may be designed to be adjustable for weight and some other forms of adjustability are also permitted. All methods of adjustment permitted by the Rules require that:
 
  • the adjustment cannot be readily made;
     
  • all adjustable parts are firmly fixed and there is no reasonable likelihood of them working loose during a round; and
     
  • all configurations of adjustment conform with the Rules.
     
    The disqualification penalty for purposely changing the playing characteristics of a club during a stipulated round (Rule 4-2a) applies to all clubs including a putter.
     
    To: (proposed rule)
     
    All clubs may incorporate mechanisms for weight adjustment. Other forms of adjustability may also be permitted upon evaluation by the USGA.
     
    The following requirements apply to all permissible methods of adjustment:
     
  • the adjustment cannot be readily made;
     
  • all adjustable parts are firmly fixed and there is no reasonable likelihood of them working loose during a round; and
     
  • all configurations of adjustment conform with the Rules.
     
    The disqualification penalty for purposely changing the playing characteristics of a club during a stipulated round (Rule 4-2a) applies to all clubs including a putter.
     
    The primary buzz experienced at this years PGA Merchandise Show will go to the heart of adjustability technology. Specifically, interchangeable shaft technology.
     
    Interchangeable shaft technology has been approved by the USGA, says Jon Claffey, director of marketing for Nickent Golf. Early on, Jon continued, Nickent recognized the significance of this and what it means to our business - the commerce of golf - as well as what it means to golfers looking for ways to improve their game. We are launching the 4DX Evolver interchangeable driver shaft technology. Aside from the hybrid technology we pioneered that really put Nickent on the map, this is the biggest technology and innovation story we have had. Jon says, Nickent is a big part of the symposium at the show that is being put on by Reed Exhibitions and the PGA of America. Our chief designer, John Hoeflich, will be a featured speaker. So, considering that the theme of the show this year is shaft interchangeability and adjustability, were pretty excited to be right in the epicenter of this new technology revolution.
     
    Bill Bryant, a golf industry pubic relations veteran, has attended 11 PGA Merchandise shows. This will be his 12th. I think the show is a great time and place to recharge your batteries, says Bill. We can remind ourselves, Bill continues, of what a cool business we work in. We could be in banking or the mortgage business. But, we work in golf. And thats not bad, is it?
     
    As the man behind the name of Bryant Marketing Communications, Bill has a number of key clients at this years show. U.S. Kids Golf has a new golf ball, says Bill Bryant. It is designed for kids and as we know most kids have a slower swing speed. So it makes sense that as the golf industry gets more and more serious about fitting golfers, young golfers shouldnt get left out of that equation. So these golf balls take in to account ranges of swing speed. 90 mph down to 70 mph and then another ball for swing speeds 70 mph and less. This is an indication of the commitment that U.S. Kids golf is making to help kids learn golf with a proper swing rather than having to learn to swing by making forced compensations because the equipment isnt right.
     
    Another of Bills clients, Club Car, is launching what is essentially a new golf car. In 2004 the company came out with the Precedent; a platform that represented an extreme makeover for the company. From the outside, says Bill Bryant, the golf car doesnt look that much different. But from what we call under the hood it is dramatically different with a new charging system and a new electronic drive system. So it represents a major step forward for Club Car in creating efficiencies in golf car design and operation.
     
    Another rules change by the USGA, this one regarding distance measuring devices used on the golf course during tournament play, was adopted in the beginning of 2006. It has benefited companies like Bushnell. A world wide leader in laser guided optics, Bushnell has leveraged its brand and advanced engineering to carve out a big chunk of the golf industrys distance measuring product category. If there has been a knock on Bushnell devices in the past, its that they can be a bit cumbersome to use because of the size.
     
    Jen Messelt, public relations specialist for Bushnell Outdoor Products, tells me that downsizing the newest unit while building in more features than ever is giving golfers just what theyve been asking for. Were debuting the TOUR V2, Jen says. It is a single hand, vertical configuration laser range finder with PinSeeker technology. Its the first model we have offered that has all of the features and benefits of our larger units, but, it is vertical in nature. Golfers have been asking for this model for quite some time and we are very pleased to be able to offer it to them now. This is also the first unit that we are going to offer in other than the graphite color. We are also going to offer it in orange and in blue in limited quantities.
     
    Wowhappy color laser range finders. Now youll be able to think happy thoughts as your learn you are 195 yards from the pin with 6-yards of elevation on a treacherous par-4.
     
    What about thoughts on the economy as they relate to the golf industry and the 2008 PGA Merchandise Show? Bill Bryant believes it could potentially be a factor. I think the economy is the wildcard in this years show, says Bill. Certainly, more so than it has been in the last several years. If the economy continues to tighten up the question will be what the effect it is going to have on discretionary spending. After all, were talking about a game that people dont necessarily have to play. They can choose to use their money for golf or for other more necessary things. This has to be on the minds of people in the golf industry; attendees, exhibitors, manufacturers and the like. So, Ill be interested to see if the economy has an impact, directly or indirectly, on the show this year.
     
    Jon Claffey, at least from Nickents point of view, is bullish on their position in the golf industry regardless of the state of the economy. Golf as a sport is stagnant, says Jon. We gain two million golfers a year and we lose two million golfers a year. Thats what the experts say. Yet, Nickent has grown 30 percent every year since weve been in business. Weve been doing our thing which is kind of off the charts compared to what other companies have been doing as far as growth. So, I dont know if I subscribe to the accepted theorem of golf is down, business is down. Our business is up sharply. You know, we view golf as a way people have to go out and forget about their money troubles, or business or life problems. We know that there are a lot of people out there with money and these people are hooked on golf and we just make it our business at Nickent to reach as many of these people with our exciting message as possible.
     
    So, another PGA Merchandise Show is upon us. Number 55 as I stated at the beginning of this column. Last year at the show I spoke with a man and his wife who were attending their 44th PGA Merchandise Show. They were all smiles; like kids in a candy store. This will be my fifth PGA Merchandise Show. Im a newcomer by many standards. Personally, I really enjoy the show. Im a kid in the candy store as well; an equipment junkie. So, whats not to like? Its more than just the equipment, however. I agree with Bill Bryant. I enjoy the people; people I dont get to see very often and people I am just meeting for the first time. Golf folk on the whole, I think youll agree, are a classy bunch; interesting if nothing else. Some people get rich in golf. Thats only normal. But many if not most people are involved in the golf business because they love the game of golf. And getting rich or not, they probably wouldnt have it any other way.
     
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    Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

    John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

    The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

    That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

    He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.