Gearing Up For All That Gear


Short of making them choose between Masters tickets and a free ride to college for the kids, I find the best way to get golfers to screw up their faces in indecision is to pose this one:
Would you rather birdie a big par 5 to win a match, or get into the PGA Merchandise Show?
Quite a few hardened competitors would rather push the birdie putt and grab the ducats to the Show, which is open only to members of the golf trades. (I never ask the Masters-tix-or-PGA-Show question anymore. I feel so cruel when smoke comes out of peoples ears and they start convulsing.)
Fact is, the Show, at age 52, is still Macys, Bloomies and the North Pole (as seen in The Polar Express) all wrapped into one for golfers. A staggering amount of gear, clothing, accessories, vehicles, books, paintings, and more combines to create a Nirvana atmosphere for golfers, so much so that the old candy-store metaphor no longer cuts it.
But what can golfers who tune into TGCs first-ever live coverage of the Show (2 p.m.-4 p.m. ET January 27, 28 and 29) expect to see this year? Same-old, lame-old? Lots of titanium shine, but not much substance?
Bite the tongue of your golf shoes. Real gearheads will see delights of all kinds. Herewith, a sample of what will be on display:
Beeeeeg drivers
Now that the head-size limit is 460 cc, many companies are beginning to experiment with this cant-miss dimension. The designers lament used to be that such a big head used up all their available grams of moveable weight. But with new titanium alloys and the ability to cast thinner, stronger faces and walls, big is no longer a big problem. Cleveland Golf will have its Launcher 460 Comp at the Show (composite material combinations are another way around the weight problem), and Callaway will have its new Big Bertha 454. Theyll be in the vanguard of a sturdy trend toward offering big drivers for those who prefer them.
Hybrid heaven
Hybrid irons, no longer a novelty but in many bags a necessity, will continue to be offered as easier-to-hit replacements for 2-, 3-, and 4-irons. But now that so many companies have developed hybrids, the focus will switch to how to make a choice. Surely shaft options will increase as players at all levels make sure their new hybrids swing pretty much like the rest of the set. Hardly any company worth its salt wont have a hybrid on display. Look for Sonartec to come out strong (Todd Hamilton used one to win last year's British Open), as well as more established labels such as Hogan, Callaway, and Nike.
Hot cores
Initial velocity is all the rage in golf balls. Look for big, fat, powerful rubber cores, and not just in the modern two-piece recreational models. Callaways new HX Hot is a three-piece thats relying on a super-fast core for extra yardage, the company says. Top-Flite is so nuts about speed that it has hired NASCAR Busch Series driver Jamie McMurray to enhance the super-fast image of its new Strata TL Tour and other balls, which have what the company calls an enriched energy core. (Hank Kuehne is playing the TL Tour, and hes a well-known buster off the tee.)
Out there
And one of the best things about the Show is that its not possible to predict everything youll see. From golf shirts with zippable side vents to insect-repellent-impregnated hats to all manner of video games, instruction methods, even jewelryyou never know what you may find.
Oh, you can be sure of one thing youll findpeople trying to get tickets.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr