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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    No indication when Trump Turnberry will next host an Open

    By Jay CoffinJuly 18, 2018, 12:25 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Turnberry last hosted The Open in 2009, during that magical week where Tom Watson, at age 59, nearly won his sixth claret jug. Ultimately, Stewart Cink won in a playoff.

    While Turnberry remains on The Open rota, according to the R&A, there is no clear understanding of when the club, purchased by Donald Trump in 2014 before he became President of the United States, will next host the championship. The next open date is 2022

    “With respect to 2022, I’ve already said, ’21 we’re going to be celebrating the 150th playing of The Open at St. Andrews,” R&A chief executive Marin Slumbers said Wednesday on the annual news conference on the eve of The Open. “And in ’22, we’ll be going south of the border.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    South of the border means the 2022 Open will be at one of the three venues in England. Since the 2020 Open is at Royal St. George’s, that leaves Royal Lytham & St. Annes and Royal Liverpool as the two remaining options. Since Lytham (2012, Ernie Els) last hosted the Open before Liverpool (2014, Rory McIlroy), that’s the likely choice.

    Trump was at Turnberry for two days last weekend, 150 miles southwest of Carnoustie. The R&A said it did not receive any communication from the U.S. president while he was in the country.

    Turnberry hosted the Women’s British Open in 2015. Inbee Park beat Jin-young Park by three shots.

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    Slumbers explains driver test; Rory weighs in

    By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2018, 12:18 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Players and manufacturers were informed about three weeks ago that the R&A intended to test individual drivers at this week’s Open Championship, marking the first time the rule makers have taken the current standards to players.

    Although the R&A and USGA have been COR (coefficient of restitution) tests on drivers for some time, they have been pulling the tested clubs from manufacturers, not players.

    “We take our governance role very seriously, not just on the Rules of Golf and amateur status, but also equipment standards, and we felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players' drivers straight out of the bag,” said Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive.

    Thirty players were notified their drivers would be tested this week - including Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson - from a list that roughly mirrored the breakdown of various brands based on current equipment counts.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    The R&A test center was set up on the Carnoustie practice range, and according to Slumbers there were no violations of the testing limits, which essentially measure the spring-like effect of the driver clubface.

    Although none of the drivers failed the testing, Rory McIlroy did say that TaylorMade was “singled out a bit more than anyone else.”

    “A manufacturer is always going to try and find ways to get around what the regulations are. It's a bit of an arms race,” said McIlroy, who plays TaylorMade equipment but said his driver was not tested. “If there is some drivers out there that have went a little bit over the limit, then obviously guys shouldn't be playing them. I think the manufacturers are smart enough to know not to try to push it too much.”

    There was no individual driver testing at last month’s U.S. Open, and it’s not expected to become the norm on the PGA Tour, but Slumbers did say the R&A tested drivers at an event earlier this year on the Japan Golf Tour.

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    Carnoustie open to any number of scenarios

    By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2018, 12:07 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Carnoustie holds a distinct position within the Open Championship’s rotation of storied venues. It’s come by its nickname, Car-Nasty, honestly as the undisputed rough-and-tumble heavyweight of all the championship links.

    Historically, Carnoustie is a beast. A punch in the mouth compared to the other stops on The Open dance card. If the likes of the Old Course and Muirfield are the fair ladies of the rotation, the Angus Coast brute would be the unfriendly bouncer.

    As personas go, Carnoustie wears its reputation well, but the 147th edition of the game’s oldest championship has taken on a new look this week. It’s not so much the softer side of Carnoustie as it is a testament to the set up philosophy of the R&A.

    Unlike its sister association in the United States, the R&A allows Mother Nature to decide what kind of test a championship will present and this Open is shaping up to be something far different than what the golf world is accustomed.

    Instead of the thick, lush rough that ringed the fairways in 1999 and 2007, the last two stops at the par-71 layout, this year has a dust bowl feel to it. The stories have already become legend: Padraig Harrington hit a 457-yard drive on the 18th hole during a practice round that bounced and bounded into Barry Burn and on Monday Tiger Woods slashed a 333-yard 3-iron down the same power alley.

    “It’s so fast. It’s nothing like ’99 – that was like a jungle. It was wet, rough was up, there was wind. In 2007, it was cold and green,” said Ernie Els, who has played two championships at Carnoustie. “But this is very, very dry. Very different.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Anywhere else these divergent conditions would simply be the nature of the game’s most hands-off major, but at Carnoustie it’s created an information vacuum and wild uncertainty.

    Within a 48-hour window, two of the championship’s easy favorites offered diametrically contrasting philosophies on how they might play Carnoustie.

    “There's eight or nine drivers we hit. Depending on the wind direction, we could hit more,” said Brooks Koepka, who won his second consecutive U.S. Open last month. “It's so burnt out, where there's a lot of opportunity where the rough's not quite as thick as I expected it to be.”

    That was in contrast to how Jordan Spieth, this week’s defending champion, was thinking he would play the course.

    “I talked to [caddie Michael Greller] a little bit about what he thinks, and he said, ‘You might hit a lot of 5-irons off the tee, you might wear out 5- and 4-irons off the tee instead of hitting 3- or 2-irons like you're used to,’” Spieth said.

    Unlike previous championships that were played at Carnoustie, which were won by the player best prepared to take a punch, this one might come down to which strategy, controlled and calculated or bold and brash, works best.

    In theory, the bombers seem to be on to something, primarily as a result of the dry conditions that have produced uncharacteristically thin and playable rough. The alternative is weaving irons in between the countless bunkers that pepper each fairway, which on links courses are widely considered true hazards compared to what players face at other major venues.

    “I would definitely say it is a bomber’s course,” said Gary Woodland, who counts himself among the long-hitting set. “A lot of the bunkers here are 285, 290 [yards] to cover, for us that’s nothing. You can take them out of play, which normally isn’t the case because it’s windy and rainy over here.”

    That line of thinking leads to a rather narrow list of potential contenders, from betting favorite Dustin Johnson to Rory McIlroy and Koepka. But that logic ignores the inherent unpredictability of The Open, where countless contenders have been undercut by the rub of a bad draw and the always-present danger of inclement weather.

    Although this week’s forecast calls for continued dry weather, winds are currently forecast to reach 25 mph on Sunday which could upend game plans, regardless of how aggressive or conservative one intended to play the course.

    Despite conventional thinking and the realities of a modern game that is being dominated more and more by long hitters, there are compelling arguments for the other side of the bash-or-bunt debate.

    One needs to look no further than Woods’ record on similarly dusty tracks as an example of how a conservative approach can produce championship results. In 2006 at Royal Liverpool, Woods, who is playing his first Open since 2015, famously hit just one driver all week on his way to victory, and he was just as effective in 2000 at St. Andrews when the Old Course also played to a bouncy brown.

    “It could be that way,” Woods said when asked to compare ’06 at Hoylake to this week. “Either case, I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees.”

    Adding to that uncertainty is Carnoustie’s track record in producing late drama on Sunday. This is, after all, the same slice of coast where Jean Van de Velde stepped to the 18th tee box with a three-stroke lead in 1999 only to slash his way to a closing triple-bogey 7 and the game’s most memorable, or regrettable, runner-up showing.

    In ’07, the heartbreak went extra frames for Sergio Garcia, who appeared poised to win his first major championship before he bogeyed the last hole and lost a playoff to Harrington.

    Even this week’s baked-out conditions can’t mitigate the importance and challenge of what many consider the most difficult Grand Slam finish; but the yellow hue has certainly created an added degree of uncertainty to an already unpredictable championship.

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    Slumbers: Mickelson penalty 'not good for the game'

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 11:44 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said that Phil Mickelson’s controversial penalty at the U.S. Open was not “good for the game,” but he did not say explicitly whether the ruling would have been any different at The Open.

    Speaking Wednesday at his annual address, Slumbers said that he spoke with Mickelson last week about the incident. At Shinnecock Hills, Mickelson hit a moving ball in the third round but was not disqualified for a breach of etiquette. Instead, he received a two-shot penalty under Rule 14-5.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “In the event of a similar situation this week, clearly, the first thing is you understand the facts because you never get the same situation and there will be lots of reasons,” Slumbers said. “But we have looked very carefully at the rules, and I don’t think it was good for the game and not the right way to have played this wonderful sport, and we would make a decision based on the facts of any incident that happened later in the week.”

    Rule 1-2, which includes a clause for disqualification, was not used because the infraction is covered under another rule.

    “Let’s also remember that it’s a moot point for next year,” Slumbers said, “because as of the first of January 2019, there would have been a DQ option in that equivalent rule.”