My voice is completely shot.
The PGA Merchandise Show, at its core, is a week-long golf industry schmooze. Yes, plenty of business still gets done, but for thousands of industry professionals, brands and aspiring merchants, it's a massive hangout where new connections are forged, old ones are renewed and copious drinks (preferably paid for by some party host) are consumed up and down Orlando's International Drive.
2024 marked my 12th PGA Show - every one staged since 2012 - as a member of this great industry. I have been at it long enough to have gone from an overeager, fresh-faced kid to a still-eager, middle-aged dad who is encouraged and, frankly, sometimes slightly intimidated by the rush of younger folks into the business.
But experience is great, too. There are people I look forward to seeing every year at the Orange County Convention Center, and each PGA Merchandise Show still fills me with hope for the future of the game and the business that supports it.
This year was another fun one for meandering the Show's miles of exhibition aisles after a pleasant Demo Day out at Orange County National Golf Center. A few interesting trends stood out. Everyone who's not Club Car, E-Z-GO or Yamaha is trying to make tricked-out golf carts. I saw about a dozen different putter brands with comprehensive fitting kits. Seemingly every state or region of the U.S. has a startup golf apparel brand representing it. And after a few years' relative lull, 2024 supplied a bumper crop of bizarre golf gadget inventions (see below).
There must have been 15 or more distinct golf simulator brands at this year's Show. In the absence of easy differentiation between most of them, it seems inevitable that there will be some market consolidation. I would not want to spend $50,000 on an in-home sim only to find my supplier out of business a year later, no longer offering maintenance support or software updates.
As always, my main Show project was to suss out some hidden-gem products, while also noting some bizarre head-scratchers.
Who knows - maybe one of the products I declare goofy will resonate with you and will earn a place in your golf life. And maybe one of my favorite products will leave you puzzled. Either way, I hope you'll share your thoughts in the comments.
My top 11 golf product and brand finds at the 2024 PGA Merchandise Show
I was able to get a bit of a jump on this category at the PGA Tour Superstore Summit earlier in January, where I was seriously impressed by PING's new S159 line of wedges. I'm due for a new set and look forward to getting my hands on a 52- and 58-degree in 2024.
As for the 2024 PGA Merchandise Show, here's what I found that appealed to me:
MINDSET-marked Bridgestone golf balls
Millions of golfers are leaving strokes on the table because they don't have a reliable pre-shot routine. In 2024, Bridgestone's four Tour B golf ball models are available with MindSet, a three-part logo that is meant to help golfers focus, especially on their putts. It's inspired by staffer Jason Day's own pre-shot routine. It's optional, it's unobtrusive and it's a genuine attempt to help golfers improve while using Bridgestone's already excellent golf balls. $49.99/dozen
The return of cult-favorite putter brand Never Compromise
The revival of several 1990s/2000s golf brands to turn nostalgia into commerce was a trend of the 2024 PGA Merchandise Show. The clean black-and-grey look of the original Never Compromise putter line gained a cult following in the 2000s before falling by the wayside. Now, it's back as the high-end putter line of Cleveland/Srixon/XXIO. The black-grey-black look is back, too, with premium materials and a clever system that enables fitters to fabricate a golfer's putter on-demand. $449
An expanded line of increasingly competitive Mizuno drivers
Mizuno is (rightly) known first and foremost for its handsome irons, beloved by traditionalist players. But their woods have historically been solid, too, and getting better with their new ST-MAX driver. Carbon in the crown and new-formula titanium in the face and a roomy shape gives it an expanded sweet zone and plenty of forgiveness, all for $100 less than the competition. Keep in mind that Keith Mitchell, who finished #2 last year in Total Driving on the PGA Tour (14th in Distance, 48th in Accuracy), games a Mizuno driver. $499
A special-edition 'Kintsugi' golf bag from VESSEL
VESSEL's golf bags make regular appearances as PGA and LPGA Tour players' staff bags, and their stand bags tend to be striking for their minimalist look. This limited-edition design is inspired by a Japanese philosophy of finding beauty in imperfect or broken things. It features wispy gold lines on a black background and will be available starting February 21. $415 (Lux Cart) / $435 (Player IV Pro).
Retro-cool persimmon drivers and fairway woods
Much like Never Compromise, Powerbilt is a long-dormant golf brand looking to recaptrue some market share. They exhibited a new set of distance irons at the Show, as well as a collaboration with golfer Todd Demsey, who nearly qualified for the PGA Tour Champions while gaming persimmon fairway woods. Demsey crafted some specifically for Powerbilt. Here's Todd's website. | Here's Powerbilt's website.
Stylish and refined kids golf apparel
Junior-specific golf apparel brands are relatively new to the industry, and it looks like they're here to stay. I featured both Garb and Marie Birdie's kid-friendly threads last year, and both were back in 2024. Three newcomers caught my eye this year. Courtside and Bear The Palm are both Carolinas-based concerns, while Featherie is the creation of 14-year-old New York junior golfer Kate Korngold, who recognized a void in the market for golf clothes for young women and seized the opportunity to start up a fashion brand. Kids these days - dressing better than us, beating us and coming up with great business ideas. Courtside | Bear The Palm | Featherie
An impressively waterproof - and stretchy - new rain jacket from Galvin Green
Sweden-based Galvin Green is one of relatively few quality-obsessed golf apparel companies I've encountered. Their wares carry high prices but their garments - particularly their outerwear - lasts a long time and does its job. A new fabric blend called DRYVR will feature in new jackets and pants debuting in August 2024, featuring Pertex, which is waterproof like GORE-TEX but is much better able to stretch and breathe. That gives you plenty of time to save up. $399 (coming soon).
Seriously classy golf shoes from Boxto
Milan, Italy is the #1 home of leather tanneries in the fashion world. Number 2: Leon, Mexico, the home of Boxto, whose solidly-built, classy-looking golf footwear is a nice counterpoint to some of the more sneaker-looking, lightweight products dominating of late. Boxto does make a sportier Exo line, but their Legacy series is what stood out to me, reminding me of the classic, handmade shoes that golfers prized as recently as the late 2000s. The luxe Heritage line, which includes materials like genuine alligator, is way out of my price range. Legacy: $239.
A sneaky-capacious travel duffel from STITCH
Travel luggage from companies other than Club Glove, TUMI or the other big brands can tend to be gimmicky. But STITCH's Ultimate Garment Bag manages to slip in some key extra features in a way that looks nice. The garment-bag portion of the piece folds around the main body of the bag, where you can store your less-fancy apparel and toiletries. The front of it zips down so you can access these items while keeping a blazer, suit and/or slacks in the garment portion preserved. $329.
Unique and striking custom trophies from Your Leaderboard
This may not be a consumer product per se, but if your home club's member-guest trophy looks like it was bought on Amazon, point your pros in Your Leaderboard's direction to get something bespoke. Or, heck, hire YL to design a trophy for your annual buddies trip that everyone will be dying to win. Your Leaderboard website.
Golf shirts Made by Real Hippies
One of the great pleasures of working in the golf industry has been seeing the game become more inclusive. While I personally am not sure I could pull off a tie-dyed golf shirt, I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Richard Wiget, proprietor of Veneta, Oregon-based Made by Real Hippies, about how he fell in love with golf relatively recently and how it inspired him to design his own line of hand-dyed apparel. $59.95-$64.95.
The 10 goofiest products and pitches I saw at the 2024 PGA Merchandise Show
Pars A Par golf ball scuff remover
Sure, it can be a bummer if your golf ball gets dinged up by a cart path or tree. But if you're too cheap to simply retire that ball, aren't you going to be too cheap to buy a $20 piece of curved plastic to rub off a little bit of the rash and keep using a damaged ball? You're better off scouring the nearest pond for a water-logged replacement Top-Flite. Plus, if you really want to, you can just rub your golf ball against the cart path it just hit (yes, I feel silly for suggesting that).
Rimac golf ball compression measurement device
Do you want to pay $1,495 for a heavy device that performs one specific task and provides data that is of limited use to you as a golfer (just read this explainer about compression from MyGolfSpy instead)? Then you should definitely buy one of these.
Roll Ready: Belt-clip ball-cleaner
In the tradition of gadgets that hook onto a golfer's belt or hat, this is little more than a half-sphere of plastic with a piece of microfiber glued into its interior. No indication of what you're supposed to do when that bit of microfiber gets dirty and starts making your ball grimier, rather than cleaner, each time you use it. Use a towel like the rest of us, I guess.
Swivel Vision golf blinders
If this is what it takes to get me to focus on the golf course, I think I'll settle for the occasional lapse in concentration.
Golf Round Pace Regulator
After two patient, full explanations of this bulky, heavy device that attaches to a golf bag, I was still unsure what problem it solves that the clock inside every golfer's pocket - i.e. a smartphone - doesn't.
Topped It golf ball sleeve
Every golf bag in circulation is built with pockets to hold several extra golf balls, should you need them. What this product pre-supposes is: what if you want to weigh your bag down with even more balls?
Subtlety putter covers
One of my grammar pet peeves is when people use the word "ironic" to describe something that is merely a coincidence. You want the definition of irony? How about huge putter headcovers with large, faux-elegant script stitching and a clip-art golf ball logo with the brand name "Subtlety."
Drop Not headcover clip
So you're supposed to attach an extra bit of hardware to your driver, fairway wood and hybrid headcovers? Just more clutter to rattle around and weigh your golf bag down. Also, if you're liable to leave headcovers behind on the course, aren't you likely to misplace your headcover clips?
The inventor of this device played golf socially with a Major League Baseball player who mused about how great it felt to stride to home plate with his own walk-up music blaring across the stadium. The Boomin Belt, with a magnetic speaker that can be toggled out for a regular metal buckle, seeks to bring that feeling to the golf course. I'm not entirely opposed to this as a concept, but the $109 price tag feels a little steep.
The Wasted Wedge
I have no problem with people enjoying a beer or two on the golf course, but I question whether a fake golf club with a couple of shot glasses glued to it is great for pace of play. It might upset your Golf Round Pace Regulator.