For the folks at Golfballs.com, the PGA Merchandise Show is annually a good barometer for the upcoming year in the golf business and the golf industry. If that’s the case, 2011 stands to be an excellent year for the game.
“The Show usually tells you the pulse of what the golf industry is going to be like this year,” said Tom Cox, president and CEO of Golfballs.com, which had a five-person delegation on hand. “This year, it was much better attended, and those that were there were more engaged. There was an excitement I hadn’t seen in five years.”
More than 42,000 PGA club and teaching pros and industry professionals took part in the week-long event that billed itself as “bigger, busier, more optimism and more buzz.” Representatives from every U.S. state and 88 countries filled nearly 10 miles of aisle space at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
And the best part for Golfballs.com customers? The benefits of the PGA Merchandise Show will continue throughout the spring as manufacturers begin rolling out their new products for the coming golf season — many of which were on display for the first time at the Show.
Both TaylorMade and Callaway had brand-new drivers available for testing, with the TaylorMade R11 probably generating more buzz than any other club at the entire show. The rollout of new balls for the coming year was led by Titleist debuting its retooled Pro V1 and Pro V1X balls in an upgrade to the world’s top-selling ball – one that Bubba Watson used to win the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open over the weekend.
“You’ve got the number one ball brand launching a new flagship product,” Cox said, “and the number one driver brand launching a new driver. You can tell the industry’s optimistic.”
Many of those new products will begin appearing on the Golfballs.com web site and in the Retail Center located on Johnston Street in Lafayette in the near future. That followed a week where the Golfballs.com staff got a first-hand look at the products before the general public and other outlets — a by-product of years of work in the industry, Cox said.
“From a business standpoint, it’s taken us 15 years to reach the point where we can meet face-to-face with top-level executives from the major manufacturers and brands,” he said. “That seat at the table helps us gain insight, as well as provide insight, for the future direction of the golf industry. And that helps us service our customers even better.”
With those major equipment, apparel and accessory companies on site, early attendance figures showed an approximate 3.5 percent increase in overall attendance and a seven percent increase in PGA pro attendance.
“It’s really different from the last couple of years,” said Jamie McNamara, director of purchasing and retail operations for Golfballs.com of the Merchandise Show. “You can see some optimism from all the manufacturers and the sales representatives, and we can take that same optimism and create a good experience for our customers. Having that kind of positive feedback from the show is good for all of us.”