ORLANDO, Fla. – If you can’t be at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show, don’t fret – we’ve got a team of experts that will bring you the latest and greatest from the floor of the Orange County Convention Center all day on Thursday.
You’ll get short blogs, photos, videos, social media – the whole nine yards.
Senior writers David Dusek and James Achenbach will be filing updates all day long, as well as other digital and senior staffers on the ground in central Florida. Follow Dusek on Twitter here.
Also, keep scrolling down to see more coverage this week from the equipment world and beyond:
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U.S. Kids Golf
From sizing clubs to sizing up putts, U.S. Kids Golf tries to take the practical route when it comes to teaching children and growing the game.
U.S. Kids Golf produces children’s golf clubs, fitting them to each boy and girl by their size rather than their age.
“The idea was at every size, starting with a child at 4 years old, how do you give them something that will help them learn golf? So as they get bigger, the club should scale to get bigger with them,” said Dan Van Horn, founder of U.S. Kids Golf. “I have children. I’ve been involved in team sports, so it’s easy to see that not all 8-year-olds are the same.
“People make the mistake of thinking my kid’s 8 and my kid’s 9. There’s this whole realm of size. At 8, you could have 12 inches of height difference, so how could you ever fit the clubs by age?”
The clubs are offered in nine sizes, are lighter than adult clubs and are designed to feature appropriate shaft flex and weight. They start for kids 39 inches tall and go up to 63 inches. The sets range in price from $99.99 (three clubs) to $489.99 (10 clubs with bag).
But the company does more than make clubs. It takes a different approach to teaching and put on more than 800 tournaments last year. The tournaments are set up by age, so 7-year-olds play against other 7-year-olds, for example.
“We set up their yardage based on their age group. We have so many statistics on how far an 8-year-old hits it so we set up the course to make it more enjoyable,” said Chris Vonderkall, vice president of tournaments. “What makes it different than other events is that we let parents caddie. We think parents are the biggest influences on getting them into the game, so we let them caddie. In a lot of ways, the parents are learning along the way.”
– Andy Zunz
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SKLZ offers a wide range of training and fitness equipment, including golf. From swing-training devices to practice mats and nets, SKLZ products can work for many players regardless of swing theory, public relations specialist Nicole Roberts said.
One versatile golf training aid offered is the Gold Flex, a strength and tempo trainer that fits in a golf bag and is legal to carry on the course. About the length of a driver, it features a heavy ball at the end of a very flexible shaft and is useful for warm-up or stretching at the start of a round, as well as strength training, tempo feedback or swing-plane work. MSRP is $69.99.
Roberts said several SKLZ products are intended not only to improve a player’s swing but overall physical ability as well; weights, stretching bands and mats are among its offerings for golfers.
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Most golfers have a routine as they approach a missed green: carry a putter and wedge, set the putter down to chip, pick up the putter and set the wedge down to putt, then collect the wedge as the player leaves the green.
The MagneCaddy is designed to make that process a little smoother. It is a small magnet that can be screwed into the grip of a putter. It allows golfers to pick their clubs off the ground through magnetism.
The MagneCaddy also comes with a ball marker attached to the end of the device. It’s priced at $19.99.
– Andy Zunz
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Golf Traction Aid
The Golf Traction Aid allows you to use any pair of shoes as golf shoes.
The removable golf spikes attach to the bottom of regular shoes and come in two sizes: small-medium, which fits women’s shoes 5-9.5, and large-extra large, which fits men’s shoes 8-14.
The aids are sold online (www.gta-golftraction.com) at $24.99. They are designed to last 100-200 rounds.
– Andy Zunz
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Rapid Pro Sports
Rapid Pro Sports makes it safe to take a divot at home with the Divot Disc Golf Mat.
The mat, which has a 2-foot diameter and is made of synthetic microfiber material, allows golfers to see their divots without tearing up grass. The material of the disc leaves an impression where the club head strikes. The mark can be wiped away with a swipe of the hand in the opposite direction.
The product is not yet available at retail, but is expected to be priced at $79.95.
– Andy Zunz
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Game Golf shot tracker
Game Golf is a digital shot-tracking system that has gained the backing of the PGA of America, Golf Channel and major winner Graeme McDowell. Wednesday, the product was introduced on the PGA Forum Stage at the PGA Merchandise Show.
A wearable device, Game Golf features an integrated software platform that tracks and displays rounds of golf in a socially driven interface. The tracking device, which is approved by the USGA, clips onto a player’s belt or pants waistline, while radio transmitters with individual signatures attach to the end of the golf-club grips.
In other words, no manual data entry during a round.
“It’s an unobtrusive way of recording data,” said McDowell, who has been involved with Game Golf since mid-2010. “It’s something that is going to fit in seamlessly to your preshot routine.”
The way it works: Before a shot, the player touches the transmitter to the tracking device, and continues to do the same for each shot. At the end of the round, the player can log onto a computer and see a statistical review of the round (score, yardages, fairways hit, number of putts, etc.). Edits also can be made after the round.
With Game Golf, golfers can track their stats and compare them with golfers around the world, including pros like McDowell and Lee Westwood, who also has used the product.
Game Golf is available at gamegolf.com for a retail price of $249.
– Brentley Romine
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First-timer’s blog on Day 2
Trading the Florida sunlight for a showroom’s bright lights, the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show unveiled its floor show Wednesday.
It also cast a heightened sense of drama, somehow, at least for someone who never had been there before. Maybe it was the long and confusing trek to find parking (difficult even for a local who’d gotten advice on timing); maybe it was the abundance of wool blazers and silk ties (rather than polyester pullovers and mesh caps). Or maybe, myopically, it was the strategically timed launch of Golfweek.com’s new hub for its equipment coverage, months in the making (but not to dislocate a shoulder patting one’s own back).
No, likely it was the sheer sensory overload from bright colors and loud sounds. All for golf. And a desire to take it all in before lunch, knowing how impossible that task truly is, stirred in the soul.
Booths volleyed for attention like brand new homes with zero lot lines – and these were no cookie-cutter floor plans either. From simulators to sweaters and clubs to coolers, every piece of gear looked worthy of one-on-one time with just a glance. How the designers do it is a mystery.
Cobra/Puma built a skywalk for visitors to pass beneath. Nike suspended a globe amid larger-than-life faces of the game. TaylorMade/Adams/adidas also had a globe of sorts: a virtual hemisphere to greet showgoers.
Titleist boasted bright white simplicity, garnering attention by providing visual relief and a focus on the product. Oh, and Callaway brought a tank. Really.
It’s enough to turn nearly any member of the media into an equal-opportunity fanboy of all the brands. That’s saying something for a profession that boasts the mantra, “if your mother tells you she loves you, make a few calls and check it out.”
On the show’s second day of flaunting what you’ve got, you’d think moving indoors would make visions of hitting the course a little more distant, would shift the focus to technology and science and know-how. Not really. The jonesing remained high even as temperatures in Central Florida had fallen and the atmosphere had taken on a more businesslike feel.
That’s the power of this game and those who keep it moving forward.
– Bill Zimmerman
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PGA Show interviews
Blair O’Neal was among the big names on hand for the PGA Merchandise Show on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. The Cobra/Puma staffer and LPGA Symetra Tour player took some time to sit down with Golfweek before helping demonstrate the Gears System’s 3D golf-swing analyzer at the Equipment Test Center.
When Graeme McDowell makes his 2014 debut in a couple weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, it will mark the first time he has competed at Pebble Beach since 2010. Of course, that was the year that McDowell became the first European in 40 years to win the U.S. Open.
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While FootJoy’s new D.N.A. Footwear category is grabbing most of the attention currently, come April, the City golf shoe might take center stage. The shoe is a dressier golf shoe, and trendier for off-course events. It is 100 percent full grain leather.
Under Armour introduced the UA Fire Hunter Mahan sunglass frames for golfers on Wednesday at the PGA Show. It uses modern developments in lens and frame technology with a fashionable design for both pros and amateurs that protects against ultra-violet rays.
A year after Rory McIlroy joined the Nike Golf team – and both parties have gotten more acquainted with each other – McIlroy has officially designed his own polo.
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One day after pledging $5 million for programs designed to attract and keep new golfers, TaylorMade CEO Mark King announced the first two programs Wednesday morning. The first – and the centerpiece of initial efforts to grow the game – is a 15-inch cup.
TaylorMade Golf pledged $5 million Tuesday evening to fund the collection and examination of new ideas to foster the growth of the game of golf. This five-year effort will be conducted under the umbrella of something called Hackgolf.
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Equipment releases at PGA Show
Titleist has announced that the Scotty Cameron Select line of putters has been updated, – think refinement, not revolution. Each of the three blade-style putters and two mid-size mallets feature adjustable weights positioned in the toe and heel areas of the sole; golfers can’t adjust them, but fitters can swap out weights.
Scotty Cameron made the original GoLo putter, a mid-size mallet with a rounded shape, available to golfers about three years ago. At the PGA Merchandise Show on Wednesday, Titleist announced GoLo has become its own family of putters. Four GoLo models are going to arrive in pro shops starting April 18, and golfers who like circular shapes and simple alignment systems should find these appealing.
The Dynamic steel golf shaft was introduced in 1942. Today, 72 years later, it is still manufactured by the same company, True Temper, and remains the most popular iron shaft on the PGA Tour.
Fujikura’s MCI (Metal Composite Iron) shaft recently became widely available through the certified network of Fujikura dealers. This iron shaft is a blend of graphite and steel. The objective is better balance, feel and stability.
UST vice president and shaft designer Mike Guerrette says the company has finally mastered the ovaling process – just ask four-time major winner Ernie Els.
With new groove patterns, several sole designs and loads of bounce options, Titleist’s Vokey Design Spin Milled 5 wedges are designed for short game versatility.
Adding water to the core mixture via Hydro Core technology helped Bridgestone increase speed and decrease spin on its flagship line of B330 golf balls.
Titleist debuted new versions of its NXT Tour and NXT Tour S balls Wednesday at the PGA Merchandise Show, with a focus on feel. “Our goal with the NXT Tour was to make a softer golf ball,” said Bill Morgan, Titleist’s senior vice president of golf ball research and development.
The core material and compression have not been changed in the DT SoLo – which remains the softest, lowest-compression ball that Titleist makes, adding a spherically tiled, 376-dimple cover pattern that is comprised of eight different dimples.
As the name suggests, the two-piece Velocity is designed to deliver maximum distance on all full-swing shots. And after listening to the feedback of golfers, Titleist decided the goal for this updated version would be to maintain the length off the tee but give the updated model a softer feel and a slightly lower ball flight.
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New Golfweek Equipment Hub
• On Wednesday, Golfweek launched a new-look, completely revamped equipment site, dedicated to helping the consumer find more information while shopping or learning about clubs. All of our content over the last two years is now categorized in different ways, either by brand or category (drivers, wedges, shafts, etc.). This is called our Gearcaddie. Along with that new feature, you can find the latest and greatest equipment information in a much easier way. Check it out here!
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Demo Day 2014
The PGA Merchandise Show is an equipment writer’s Super Bowl — less about new equipment introductions, more about generating momentum — and nothing creates excitement quite like the driver.
Sun. Green grass. An easy breeze. The mood was good early in the media tent for a journalist’s first PGA Merchandise Show experience. After all, a desk editor waits for days like this.
We ran down the latest and greatest golf equipment news from Orange County National at the 2014 Demo Day in Orlando, Fla.