PGA Show 2018 – The Major of Golf Business

Just back from the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando last week.  “The Show” as it’s referred to by most in the golf industry has certainly become much more than golf equipment and apparel.  While much fun for the golf fanatic in me, the show is also a time to conduct meetings with clients, network and meet new friends and find out what’s going on in the golf business.  All that I observe impacts the golf course business, the value of golf courses and how we advise and market properties for our clients.

My first order of business was to attend the 2018 meeting of the Golf 20/20 Advisory Board, of which I am privileged to be a member.  Much focus was on “matters pertaining to increasing participation in the sport.” Among the topics were promoting caddies and walking, diversity of the golfing population, millennials and women, what many of you have seen me refer to as the “3-M’s”.  There are task forces in each of these areas and more and ideas and initiatives on how to broaden golf’s reach were discussed with considerable enthusiasm.  To learn more, go to the GOLF 20/20 website.

When considering participation, I can’t hep but think of my son’s answer as to why his friends don’t play golf (“the suits”) and the perplexing fact that people in the golf industry not only don’t play that much (and brag about it) but that they don’t personally invite non-golfer friends to join them for a round.  Will TopGolf help solve this problem.  Many believe so.  Time will tell.  For sure, non-traditional ways to enjoy the game are plentiful and being aggressively promoted.  These include everything from the aforementioned TopGolf to 6, 9 & 12-hole rounds to various methods of transporting clubs and golfers around the course.

Among the most intriguing new things I saw was the USGA’s new “Resource Management Tool”, which when finished and available will allow golf courses to more efficiently plan and monitor their use of resources for maintenance.  The program utilizes GPS, continuous data input, maintenance standards and local considerations, including price of materials and labor to meteorological conditions, trends and soils/topography. This provides the ability to measure and compare the elements of golf course maintenance on a much more detailed platform than ever before, which should create more cost effective golf course maintenance and result in added property value and profitability. Stay tuned for more on this, as I plan to visit the USGA and learn more about how we can help our clients create  more value in their golf properties.

On the golf equipment side of things, I can’t say I really had lots of time to play “kid in a candy store” but it seemed like many companies (especially Taylor-Made) were promoting hitting the ball STRAIGHTER,  rather than just longer.  The new “Twist Face” technology claims to straighten out mishits to keep you in the fairway more often.  Callaway is promoting their new version of the Chrome Soft golf ball very aggressively which is made with something called “graphene” and Titleist has now introduced its own “soft” ball.

Other products that caught my eye were the seeming preponderance of push and battery powered trolleys and a few I looked at were incredibly lightweight.  Always intrigued by the multitude of golf training aids, those that caught my eye included the various putting analysis options (my putting needs something), putting trainers of all sorts and the Super Speed Golf training package, which seemed to be quite popular as I saw many, many people carrying their boxes around, having apparently just purchased one.

Most importantly, the show (especially Day 1) seemed busier than in recent years, and it appeared as though several of the bigger companies took more space and had bigger exhibits.  Is this a good forecast for golf?  Let’s hope so.  Only time will tell.

Next week, it’s on to San Antonio and more focus on golf courses and maintenance at the Golf Industry Show (GIS).