The 71st PGA Show had its four-day run at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center Jan. 23 through 26 and by all accounts it was a raging success. 

Tagged the “Major of the Golf Business” the PGA Show was formerly the PGA Merchandise Show but in 2022 the name was changed to reflect added emphasis on PGA Professionals continuing education and the wider variety of products and services exhibiting.

The key question though is what is the importance of the PGA Show to golf and golfers? Is it as some have said a “Disneyland for golf nuts” or are there other factors that make it significant, even vital to our game?

The PGA Show is an industry-only event built around the continuing education needs of the 30,00 PGA Professionals but it is also the annual meeting of the entire golf business attracting tens of thousands from around the world.

A reasonable question is what is the PGA Show’s importance to the golf industry in general and particularly recreational players? 

The educational aspect for club professionals is a primary theme of the Show with 53 sessions on topics such as club marketing and finances, teaching and instruction, building junior and women’s programs, the use of technology in coaching…well, you get the idea. There is anything and everything to help those running our golf facilities to better serve players, employees, and their local communities. 

It is reasonable to say that if this were the show’s only purpose and accomplishment it would be justification for the time and money club pros and the industry invest. Bottom line, the better educated and motivated club pros are the better it is for recreational golf and golfers plus the other critical point, the more the game will grow and attract new participants.

Also, not to be overlooked, the unparalleled opportunity for networking and effective job searches the Show provides. This is a service to club pros that is generally not available anywhere else, certainly on a national and international level. 

The Show’s 1954 beginning was in a Dunedin, Fla. parking lot where sales reps displayed clubs and shirts from car trunks and after several location moves in the intervening years settled in to the 1 million square feet of Orange County Florida’s Convention Center near Orlando. Growth had been steady until the Covid pandemic of 2021 resulted in cancellation and a “virtual Show” substituted which met with no one’s satisfaction. 

The 2022 Show returned to the OCC, but the number of exhibitors was down 40% to around 600 and attendance was a bare 15,000 or less than half of a “normal year” and most of the industry’s major companies did not exhibit. 

Last year was brighter with 800 exhibitors and 30,000 attendees and this year the Show was back to pre-pandemic levels with 1000 exhibitors and approximately 40,000 industry people.

The number of new exhibitors is always a good measure of the Show’s relevancy and this year had 380 new companies, which would seem to be a sign that both soft and hard goods can look ahead to continued positive growth.

For apparel and travel companies the Show is a must-attend and almost every brand you can name with the exception of Peter Millar and Nike was on display as were an overwhelming number of training aids, software for clubs, high tech swing analyzers and simulators, etc.

Certainly, a lot to cover and from the standpoint of someone who has been attending for more than 25 years mindboggling is an apt description.

On the equipment side most of the manufacturers, major and minor, had space on the exhibit floor. Callaway Golf, the largest company in the industry, was showing the new Paradym Ai Smoke club line featuring four drivers all designed with the extensive use of artificial intelligence which analyzed data from more than 250,000 swings. Titleist exhibited three new ball models the premium AVX, the entry level TruFeel and mid-range Tour Soft.

Cobra Golf’s premium Darkspeed drivers have reshaped aerodynamics and an Ai face with the LS model for better players, the game-improvement X model and super game-improvement Max. Ping had crowds looking at the G430 MAX 10K driver, an extension of that popular family, with extremely high MOI making it more forgiving and maybe best of all straighter for average players.

Those makers missing included Wilson Golf, PXG who has never exhibited, Tour Edge Golf a former stalwart not there last year either, and TaylorMade Golf who have not participated since 2018. 

Therefore, the other vital role the Show fulfills is making information about products and services available to club pros, industry members plus of course the media who have their own job of spreading the word to golfers.

The cutting-edge technology involved with golf from swing analyzers to GPS rangefinders to the topology of the interior of a club face to the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence all needs to be understood and the Show is the perfect platform for this process.

The four days in Florida sunshine are packed with things to do and see already but attendees are also able to learn about new products from new companies giving these newbies the opportunity to create sales and enhance their visibility and image. It’s entirely possible the next hot club or golf bag or training aid was on display in the New Product Pavilion. 

Special aspects of the industry can also be highlighted at the Show and as in the last four years a large area for racquet sports specifically pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the U.S., with two courts with vendors offering a total of 54 products, everything from racquets and balls to shoes and pickleball specific fashion. NBA Hall of Fame member Rick Barry and LPGA pro Sherri Steinhauer played an exhibition match that had crowds lining the court. 

Pickleball has become an integral part of the golf club experience with tennis courts being converted and new courts being built to accommodate the increase in players and maybe best of all, pickleball is a family-friendly sport for juniors and seniors. This is a good example of how the PGA Show is serving the industry, club professionals, and the golfer.

So, to address the initial query as to the importance of the golf industry’s annual get-together the answer is clear, the PGA Show plays an irreplaceable role.

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