I personally have never been to a PGA Merchandise show. I know a lot of business happens at this show so I wanted to get an inside look at the show and find out more about what happens that we dont see from the pictures alone. I decided to ask some questions to mygolfspy.com’s John Barba. John just came back from his third PGA Show. Lets get a new perspective on the Merchandise Show from someone who has been before!
What do you expect from PGA Merchandise Show?
This is only my third show, so I’m still a little wide-eyed about it all. The major companies have already released their new stuff – so there are no major new product released from the big companies anymore – so I love looking for new companies or lesser know companies and see what they have to offer. There are always some hidden gems out there, and there are always some interesting human interest stories to uncover.
Who was the vendor you were most excited to visit and why?
I’m a Srixon and Wilson Staff fan, so I very much enjoyed visiting with them. I have to say both companies had the busiest and most energetic booths on demo day – lots of music and a ton of people hanging around, having fun and trying their equipment.
What is your favorite day of the show?
The Tuesday Demo Day is crazy fun – pretty much everyone you can think of has a tent or booth at the Orange County Golf Club driving range — it’s a HUGE circulator range and you can spend all day there walking the circle and visiting the tents. The majors have really large areas, but again, there are plenty of hidden gems to find. As I said earlier, I really enjoyed the Srixon and Wilson Staff booths, as well as the Callaway booth – enjoyed trying some of the new Toulon Design putters and hitting the Epic driver.
Yonex was a hidden gem – I had never tried their clubs but I absolutely fell in love with their CB and MB irons. Among the nicest feeling irons I’ve ever tried – it’s too bad their equipment is next to impossible to find, but if you can find a Yonex fitter give these a whirl. You won’t be disappointed.
What is your favorite part of the show?
Demo Day, obviously, and during the actual show you can go to one end of the building and try some of the different products. That’s where I was able to try Edel’s Single Length irons – those, along with Yonex, were the highlights of the show. I fully expected to hate them but Edel has done it properly – the heads are unique and the Paderson graphite shafts are designed specifically for Single Length. Finding the unexpected gem is really fun.
Who usually has your favorite booth?
There are many that stand out — this year Srixon was particularly high energy – there’s a lot going on with that company this year, and their product line is outstanding. Callaway is always busy and visually impressive, as is Cobra. I also liked the Volvik booth – it was well laid out and Volvik has such a unique offering.
How might the show be different this year with Nike being out of the hard goods business?
Well, Nike was not at last year’s show, either – so they really weren’t missed, in my opinion. In my three years at the show, Mizuno has never had a presence, either. In previous years, Bridgestone had always gone all out and had an impressive booth, but they were not in attendance this year, which I found interesting. Of course, Hogan wasn’t there either – and the last two years they had a pretty impressive booth (which was symptomatic of that company’s problems, but that’s a different story). There was some open space at the show, which was unusual – and show veterans said it seemed as though the foot traffic was lighter than in years past.
What are somethings you see but we as people who only look at pictures and write ups may not see or experience?
Interaction with folks from different companies, as well as press conferences and events. I got to meet Dean Snell for the first time – he’s really interesting to talk with and isn’t afraid to share some strong opinions about golf balls. That’s refreshing. I was happy to finally meet in person several of the people I work with over the phone from various PR agencies and OEM’s – getting to hang with Eli and Noelle from Srixon was a treat – and you just know it when you put faces and personalities to voices that it’s a person you can work with and ultimately be friends with. Like any other, it’s a relationship business and even though we’re officially “press” and need to keep a measure of objectivity, it’s good to get an in person sense of people so that you know you can trust them and they won’t try to BS you.
Who usually busts out a good surprise?
Edel – every show I’ve been to something interesting has come out of the Edel booth. Last year I got to meet a legend. I was chatting with David Edel when he got a phone call. After he hung up he asked me if I wanted to meet Robbie Krieger, as in the lead guitar player for The Doors Robbie Krieger. That was a treat. This year Edel floored me with their Single Length Irons and the fitting process for them. That was a real surprise.
Did you find any of those surprises this year?
Edel was totally unexpected – as I said, I was a little skeptical of single length irons for an experienced player, but the irons, along with the fitting process, blew me away.
Again big shout out to John Barba at mygolfspy.com for taking time out of his day to sit and answer these questions for me. Its always nice to get an insiders perspective on things. Im sure the show looks different to John than it does to me and you.