The 2016 PGA Show
The 63rd edition of the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando had a bit of everything. The annual get together of 42,000 golf industry professionals from around the globe converging into central Florida for Demo Day, new product launches, filling orders, charitable causes, and even and some time on the golf course is a week that I always look forward to. It’s a celebration of the game unlike any other in the world. Over 1000 companies (284 new) were on hand to show their wares.
Truthfully, there are some really nice clubs coming out in 2016, most notably from Cobra, Exotics, TaylorMade, Nike (who wasn’t present at this years show) and Sentio Putters, but the biggest leap in the industry continues to be the Tech sector. Companies like VPAR, GAMEgolf, GolfBuddy, SkyGolf, Zepp and Blast are advancing the ways you can analyze and improve your game in every way. Great, we’ll finally have all of the latest gadgets…now all we need is to find the time to put them to good use. Because the show has become so large in terms of product launches, we’ve decided that in order to give you comprehensive coverage of everything – we will break the feature into two parts. In part 1 of our “Best New Products” we’ll focus on clubs, balls and GPS/Tech devices. Part 2, (coming soon) will feature apparel, belts, shoes and accessories such as grips, gloves, eyewear ect.
TaylorMade kicked off their own event days before the show by introducing their new M2 line, essentially a max distance oriented product line that will sit beside the M1 (essentially replacing the AeroBurner).
Tour Edge/Exotics annually hosts their own Media pre-show event, and did so this year at the Golden Bear Club at Keene’s Pointe in Windermere (just a stones throw or so from Isleworth and Bayhill). This is Perhaps the best pre-show media event each year. They gather a group of other OEMs to present their new product lines – this year on hand were Bridgestone, GolfBuddy, Golf Pride, Kentwool, Sketchers, Chase 54 Apparel, Sun Mountain and more.
Tuesday at Dubsdread Golf Course we were introduced to an innovative app called VPAR by two of the company’s finest – Charlie Cooke and Rowan Northcott, both brilliant lads from the UK. VPAR is a live scoring system that keeps tabs on the group or groups that you are competing against in any type of format. In our two foursome competition, our team was behind the entire match as we kept track hole by hole on the VPar mobile app. By the time we reached the 18th tee (a reachable par 5), we checked the VPAR app and saw that we trailed by just a stroke. What followed was tons of excitement and energy in our group knowing that we still had a chance. I was fortunate enough to hit my best two of the day to reach the green in two. The tap in birdie tied the match, and now we had two other putts in our group for the win. Neither dropped, leaving us in a tie, but the real story was the buzz that the VPAR app created down the stretch – by simply giving us the knowledge of our position. The tournament like excitement for us on the 18th was a feeling that amateurs rarely get to experience. It’s not only a real time leaderboard, there’s also GPS, a course planner and performance tracking. Check out VPAR, it’s available on Apple or Android devices. https://www.vpar.com/home.
In the equipment/ball category these products were our picks as the best at the show at the PGA Show:
Vokey’s SM6 wedges available in vitually every loft, bounce, grind and finish. The fine tradition of the master wedge creator keeps rolling on. http://www.vokey.com/nav/wedge-selection.aspx
Scotty Cameron’s new M2 Select Newport. There are new sole plates and different face millings, but the quality craftmanship still remains. Flatstick eye candy is how they roll at Scotty. http://www.scottycameron.com/putters/
Taylormade M2 – Naming the new line M2 creates the perception that it replaces M1, it doesn’t. M2 was created with less adjust- ability and max HP. Think of the M1 as the 4 door touring sedan with 320 hp and all of the bells and whistles . . . M2 as the roadster with 400 hp and with no AC or power accessories. One gives you best of everything, the other just goes fast, real fast. The M2 fairway is a club that I’m eagerly looking forward to testing in 2016.
M2 irons, say hello to crazy trampoline like trajectory and distance. Check the fluted hosel (engineers will do anything to save a gram or two, they salivate anytime they can move weight for performance gain). Also available in a leaner Tour version.
TaylorMade’s new OS CB Daytona Putter is an oversized anser style blade that features a red anodized aluminum site line and trailing edge that also acts as a sealer for the foam filled cavity. The face insert is milled vertically to create a pure roll. Designed by the famed clubmaker – Clay Long (who created the McGregor Response putter that helped the Golden Bear win his sixth Green Jacket 30 yrs ago this spring). The OS series comes in two sizes and three styles. http://taylormadegolf.com/
Exotics, Long known by serious golfers for their fairway woods and hybrids, the EX9 hybrid (shown below) features a maraging steel cup face and slipstream sole. The EX9 hybrid comes stock with a UST recoil graphite shaft. The EX9 driver and fairways will make noise this year, David Glod’s standard of innovation and performance can’t stay underrated for much longer. http://www.touredge.com/
For Callaway loyalists, the new XR16 Driver driver features aerodynamics in a joint venture with Boeing Aerospace engineers. http://cmp.callawaygolf.com/
If you haven’t noticed recently, Brandt Snedeker is “En Fuego” at start of 2016 and his new driver certainly has to get a bit of the credit. After playing his old trusty 2007 Burner TP for the last decade, Bridgestone finally was able to get him into one of their own – JGR Driver. The JGR features F.A.S.T (Flex Action Speed Technology) Crown design for increased ball speed & higher launch angles and a power milled face design. Available in 9.5, 10.5, & 12 degrees. Aldila NV 2KXV Orange is the stock shaft. http://www.bridgestonegolf.com/
The Hogan company has been reborn and is starting to get noticed in the premium forged iron marketplace. The PTx (shown to the right) gives a bit more forgivness than the typical Hogan blade in a moderately sized cavityback forging. The Hawk might have played blades throughout his career but he would be proud of these AlsoLook for the new sleek VKTR hybrids, they come in every loft – so you get the exact club gapping for your set. http://www.benhogangolf.com/
As far as innovation goes, it’s been forever since we’ve seen anything significant since the face insert was created eons ago – until now. Enter the guys at Sentio. This two piece flatstick design features a third element that is the game changer – a polymer core between each component of stainless. There are three variances of polymer, which dictates feel. Each is color coded and delivers a significant change in the feel. If you know what a hard cast iron feels like at impact, as opposed to soft premium forging – this is just as big a difference in feel. Green is buttery soft for players who prefer the feel of an insert and/or usually putt on superfast greens, Red is medium feel and is the most versatile of the three models, the Blue polymer model is firm and has the feel of your typical milled putter.
I was so impressed with the feel and performance (just rolling 10 footers in the booth), that Sentio President Jim Varney had to issue me a citation for loitering. Just kidding, but quite honestly this was our favorite new product of the entire PGA Show. The only question is do I want the 33″ Green or Red model? Look for a Full review Putters coming soon. http://www.sentiogolf.com/
Many industry folks walked past the L2 display all week at the show probably because it’s way outside the box. Yes it’s way too big. Yes it’s way too heavy. Yes it doesn’t look like a Scotty, a Bettinardi, or even an Odyssey for that matter, but for those who are searching for an answer to the new USGA anchoring ban, or are just struggling to make a consistent stroke, John Ambrose might have created your solution – L2. The 600 gram head and 200 gram 16″ elongated grip creates incredible stability. The enormous sweetspot is enhanced by a 4″ acrylic face insert that provides soft feel. http://www.l2traditionalputter.com/
Ping celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original Anser putter. Today it’s still the most played and copied putter style in the world. Today there are hundreds of different versions of the Anser style. Ping put up this Ode to their founder Karsten, and the design that changed golf forever. http://www.ping.com/
Best in Show Tech Items at the PGA Show
GAMEGolf the original shot tracking device and data system for consumers that launched two years ago, now raises the bar with their collaboration with Golf Pride. Game tags will soon be incorporated into your tour velvet grips. A really cool feature will be a sensor within the tag that will alert the golfer to when his or her grips are due to be changed. An “oil change” like reminder for your clubs . . . you say who needs to be told when they need new grips? Believe it or not, this could benefit many golfers who discount the significance of a fresh set of grips. The new Golf Pride grips will be available to GAME users this spring. https://www.gamegolf.com/home/en-us/
GolfBuddy’s compact LR5 laser with its 1 click scan feature and 6x magnification got our attention. Although it’s been on the market for months now, it’s our first glimpse. At only 4″ in total length and less than 8oz, ($249) this unit will fit in the hands and budgets of all. http://www.golfbuddyglobal.com/
SkyGolf’s SkyCaddie LINX GT GPS watch features Bluetooth with their mobile interactive HoleVue tech – in conjunction with SkyGolf Smart Tags you can track all of your shots. The LINX GT also functions as a watch and fitness device. https://www.skygolf.com/
Blast Motion Golf Swing analyzer was created by golf professionals for players of all ability levels, focusing on the mechanics and performance of your full swing all the way thru your bag to the putting stroke. The device easily attaches to the end of the grip and instantly sends data to your device on the last shot played. After witnessing the live putting demo We’re excited to review Blast Motion, look for our feature this Spring $149. https://blastmotion.com/products/golf/
The best teachers all agree that a proper setup is essential to any level of consistency. Ojee Golf was created by Matt Hulbert from the Uk, as a device that monitors all of your set up poitions – including face angle, address lie angle and posture angle . . . and gives that data to you instantly via the Talon digital display at the end of the grip. The more often you can get setup with the proper angles, the more consistent your swing will be.
The Ojee system includes clubface angle sensors , grip caps and the digital Talon read out screen. The adjustable belt is designed to fit comfortably and securely around the waist to accurately measure spine angle. Many great instructors agree that most golf swings go wrong before the club ever moves, if this is true than Probably every teaching professional should have an Ojee system for their students. http://ojeegolf.com/
When it comes to new golf balls, the industry leader (Titlist PoV1) is in the middle of a two year cycle, so we’ll have to wait till next year . . . but there are three other brands whose premium urethane ball gained our attention, and the first of those is Bridgestone who introduced their new B-Series ball with SlipRes cover at the show. According to Adam Rehberg with Bridgestone, the new balls were over 4 years in the making, and are so different that the company considered changing the name, but after some research they found that brand loyalty was strong and identifiable with the “B330” nameplate. The new RX versions which are for players who swing under 105 mph (Testing has shown that 75% of all players fit into this category) have a 28% softer core. The new SlipRes cover reduces driver spin, and increases spin around the greens – all while providing superior durabilty. Bridgestone is calling this ball “The Best Ball Ever”. Sounds like somebody wants to challenge the script over there in Fairhaven, Mass. http://www.bridgestonegolf.com/
The original Kick X Tour Z ball has been a huge success for Medicus Golf. The new version called A.i.1 ball is softer and features the SmartMap putting system sidestamp. SmartMap is a group of calculated lines to aide golfers on where they should aim after accounting for the slope of that particular green . . . interesting idea. Also keep an eye out for the new Kick X Blackout wedge, also available this spring. http://www.medicuskickx.com/index.php
The other brand mentioned is Nike, (who wasn’t at the PGA Show – but they were nice enough to send us the new RZN Tour Platinum & Black before we even left for Orlando)