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2013 PGA Merchandise Show – The story so far…

2013 PGA Merchandise Show – The story so far…

It’s been a whirlwind of a week at the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando for 2nd Swing’s rather large (and, after Wednesday’s Demo Day in the Florida sun, very sunburnt) contingent. 2nd Swing had exclusive access to some of the best engineering and product development minds in the game: Mizuno engineer Chris Voshall, Callaway club designer Roger Cleveland, Ping engineer Marty Jertson, and Dr. Benoit Vincent, Chief Technical Officer of TaylorMade-adidas Golf, all gave lengthy rundowns of their product lines to our team of fitters. We’ll be posting these insider videos sometime soon, and they go way beyond the typical marketing info you’ll see in the media and on other sites. These guys know the ins and outs of club design and they don’t hold anything back, whether criticizing the competition or even explaining the performance tradeoffs they had to think about when crafting their own equipment.

As for the convention itself, it’s kind of funny: with TaylorMade’s booth – which is gigantic, cavernous, a show unto itself, really – a solid 200-yard carry over the apparel section, you could almost forget the big dog was there. In TMaG’s relative absence, some of the other OEMs seem to be taking their best shots at trying to be someone else.

Callaway thinks it can be TaylorMade (hey, is that a smoke machine?). It can’t. Reheating TaylorMade’s marketing strategy from last year – right down to the claims of insane distance gains – isn’t, to our minds, the best strategy for leapfrogging the elephant in the room. Whether or not Callaway has come up with the best products of the year remains to be seen. We’ll find out soon. But they better be really good, because beating TMaG at its own game, well… good luck with that.

Nike Golf is trying to disappear into the landscape. Oh wait, this is Nike’s biggest product launch ever, the year they’re planning to take the industry by storm and make a serious run at being the No. 1 company in golf? Could’ve fooled us. With black tents and dimly lit interior displays (it’s the Covert launch, get it?), Nike golf clubs have a very minimal, practically invisible presence at the show. It’s a big contrast with the bright, splashy apparel they’re featuring in other areas of the show. So wait, now Nike wants to be Puma? We’d suggest rethinking that one after seeing some truly goofy-looking Ricky Fowler wannabes strolling around the convention center all week.

Cobra-Puma just wants to party. They’re the cool kids, the ones who coast through class but look damn good doing it. And they’re not above glancing at the desk next to them for the test answers. Adjustability is popular? Decoupling loft and face angle adjustability? Sure thing. (For the record, we’re not quite sold on Cobra-Puma’s claim to have separated the two using only a hosel sleeve.) Uniquely colored crown paint? How’s about an electric rainbow of color choices. Thing is, it’s hard to help wondering, after absorbing the breathtaking superficiality of it all, are these guys trying to hide something? Cool hats, though.

Titleist and PING didn’t fall for the trap. They’re still just being themselves, with straightforward product displays and swarms of staffers who emphasize the importance of custom fitting to anyone who will listen. This approach is more than just OK; it works for them, and with some really well executed presentations – particularly the Scotty Cameron area at the Titleist booth – they’ve got the classy, reputable, professional image down to a tee (no pun intended).

OK, on to TaylorMade. Its booth at the show exemplifies what sets the company head-and-shoulders above the rest of the competition. Calling it a booth is an understatement; these guys have their own wing of the convention set up, with tunnel-like entrance that leads to a veritable Bat Cave of golf clubs, apparel and advertising. The R1 driver, RocketBallZ Stage 2 fairways, RocketBladez irons and Lethal golf balls each command more floor space than most exhibitors have for their entire lineup. Most of the advertising campaign has been unfurled here, too (check out the images below), but be on the lookout for another media blitz on Tour along the lines of last years “Driver Love” campaign.

For every OEM at the show, there’s dozens of small-time clubmakers, apparel companies, infomercial-esque swing-training devices, and good-looking women and ridiculously clad salespeople hawking all manner of accessories. Head to our Facebook page for the full gallery of each day’s highlights.

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