Cut Line: PGA Merchandise Show buzz and busts


ORLANDO, Fla. – The annual visit to golf’s ultimate toy store wraps up today at the Orange County Convention Center and this year’s PGA Merchandise Show didn’t disappoint. Here are the buzz and busts from the Show floor in a special “Three days in Utopia” edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

Always an honor. Full disclosure here, after serving on a U.S. Marine airbase in the late 1980s Cut Line has a soft spot for military aviators, but beyond our obvious bias, getting to spend any amount of time with U.S. Air Force Major Dan Rooney is worth the price of admission.

That’s even more relevant at the Folds of Honor annual sponsor’s party during show week. Rooney is the founder of the Folds of Honor foundation, which gives scholarships and other assistance to families whose spouses have been killed or disabled while serving in the U.S. military.

The highlight of Thursday’s celebration was the testimonials from a few college students who had been given scholarships, followed closely by news that Budweiser, one of the foundation’s supporters, planned to air an ad during next week’s Super Bowl to support the Folds of Honor.

Now Rooney has given the better part of America a reason not to fast-forward through a commercial.

Like a glove. Just when you thought it was time to stop trying to reinvent the wheel, Club Glove founder and CEO Jeff Herold flashes a bright smile and a knowing wink.

If Club Glove’s iconic golf bags and rolling duffel bags haven’t changed through the years, that’s by design.

“They’ve changed very little,” Herold told Cut Line. “It’s like the 737 (jet) - it hasn’t changed because they built it so well there’s not much they can do to improve on it.”

Herold, however, has plenty of room to expand. In 2006, Club Glove introduced the waffle-textured golf towels that have become a staple on the PGA Tour and beyond. According to Herold, in 2006 the company sold about 2,000 of the high-end towels, but that number jumped to more than 400,000 last year.

The next addition to the company’s lineup is the “Stiff Arm,” an adjustable aluminum pole that travelers can put in their golf bags to protect their clubs during transit (retail $29.95). It’s a must-have for anyone who has ever arrived at their destination with a two-piece driver.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Taking a hack. OK, so maybe it’s not the best name to woo golfers and grow-the-game initiatives have not exactly created the windfall of new players that organizers had hoped for, but Hack Golf may be poised to succeed where the other initiatives have largely failed.

Hack Golf, unveiled on the eve of this week’s show and the brainchild of TalyorMade adidas Golf CEO Mark King, is an attempt to use new-millennia thinking to solve an old problem.

King plans to use crowd sourcing – or, as Gary Hamel explains, extended online brainstorming sessions – to solve golf’s dwindling-participation problems.

“We need hundreds of mind-flipping ideas, not dozens,” Hamel explained.

King plans to take the best ideas and put them in practice and has committed up to $5 million in funding for the initiative.

Every year at the PGA show there seems to be a new grow-the-game initiative with few results and golf has not historically been open to sweeping innovation, but at least King & Co. are trying.

Skating by. Among the new items that were creating a buzz on the show floor this week was the Golf Skate Caddy, an electronic skateboard designed to move golfers around the course.

The Golf Skate Caddy, which retails for $3,500 and, according to company officials, holds a charge for up to three 18-hole rounds, has room for a full staff bag of clubs, a built-in umbrella and plenty of storage for golf balls and drinks.

It’s also capable of zipping along at 14 mph, which is why it lands in the MDF section of Cut Line. We took the Golf Skate Caddy for a spin around the show floor and were a little concerned with the device’s pick-up and top speed.

Love the concept, but may we suggest a restrictor plate.

Missed Cut

The innovation ceiling. While the vast majority of golfers long ago embraced new technology, and it’s worth pointing out that nearly every major equipment manufacturer unveiled new drivers at the show, innovation seems to dry up among consumers after the clubs go in the bag.

Ecco’s new BIOM Zero golf shoe, for example, is a cutting-edge take on footwear. The BIOM weighs in at a feathery 9.7 ounces and utilizes a minimalist design with zero drop from heel to toe for maximum flexibility. The concept has become popular among runners, but industry sources say it may be too revolutionary to gain traction among average golf fans.

Similarly, Stephen Boccieri’s Secret Grip is the next step in back-weighting technology but received little attention at the show.

Boccieri, who created the Heavy Putter, added extra weight to his grips, about 30 to 40 extra grams, and said the average player picks up 3 to 4 mph in ball velocity by altering the balance point of each club.

“It creates more lag and allows a more consistent, solid strike,” he said.

If show week teaches us anything it’s that technology goes well beyond the latest driver.