The PGA Merchandise Show kicked off its five-day extravaganza Wednesday with the Golf Demo Day at Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge.
It marked the third consecutive year that the Demo Day has served as the warm-up act to the Big ' very big ' Show, which officially starts Thursday at the Orange County Convention Center.
Just like the main attraction, the Demo Day is massive in scale.
It took me over a half-hour just walking the grounds, said Ed Several, vice president and general manager of PGA of America WorldWide Golf Exhibitions. And that was without stopping by any of the exhibits.
The scene is set on the 42-acre, circular practice facility at OCN. An estimated 5,000 PGA professionals, retailers and media members were expected to be on hand, with some 80 exhibitors pitching their goods.
Its an example of the evolution of the traditional trade show to being a dynamic event enabling buyers to test products in an actual environment, Several said.
Exhibitors want to better demonstrate the performance of their products. They want people to be able to test these products first-hand.
And that they can very well do.
The thousands on hand can walk up to each and every set-up, grab the latest in technology and bash balls at will. Want to hit the newest irons from Ben Hogan? Go right ahead. Want to hit the new Cleveland Launcher 460 Comp driver that Vijay Singh has been praising? Grip it and rip it.
You can hit the base models or test ones that are custom fit to a particular shaft flex or lie angle.
This is perfect for me, to see what new equipment is out there that correlates with my teaching philosophy. Not only do I get to see what people are selling, I get to test them out, said Matt Joyner, club professional at Mystery Valley Golf Club in Lithonia, Ga.
You can test everything from putters to shafts to grips to tees ' even the latest in sun protection. They have demonstration areas to aid your swing, where you can digitally diagnosis and improve your technique. Teaching professionals are also there to lead seminars.
I think (the Demo Day) is absolutely a necessity in this type of situation, said Bob Arnold, director of marketing for Ben Hogan. You have a lot of people around the world coming in to test all the new toys that golf has to offer.
Its the perfect marketing tool, said Randy Romberg, vice president of marketing communications for Cleveland Golf.
In just three years, the Demo Day has seen its total number of exhibitors double in size, while the list of invited guests has increased by nearly 2,000.
The exchange of business cards and cell-phone numbers is non-stop.
Networking is key,' said Evolve Golf CEO B. J. Maloy.
Evolve Golf promotes a performance-enhancing tee, used by tour players like Steve Flesch and Arron Oberholser.
Maloy said his product, which hit the market in late 2004, is quickly gaining popularity in the professional ranks. But it's an event like the Demo Day that will help it go mainstream.
This is an opportunity for us to interact with PGA professionals, who are ultimately our customers and ambassadors to our customers, Maloy said.
We have to convey the education of our products to our ambassadors. If Mr. Smith comes into the pro shop and asks the head professional about the latest in technology, if (the head pro) has seen our product work, and knows why it works, then hes going to explain that to his customer.
We can tell the public how good this product is, but this allows people to actually see the difference.
As evidenced by companies like Evolve Golf, this day ' and this week ' is as much for mid-market and up-start companies as it is for the more traditional household names.
It works perfectly for us, said Paul Staudzs, sales and marketing manager for Yonex Canada Ltd. Being a smaller company, more people have a chance to hit our products and realize the benefits of our technology.
It will drive people to our booth (at the Merchandise Show), when otherwise they might not have visited. It really helps us get the word out.