Often referred to simply as "The Show" by golf professionals, the PGA Merchandise Show is a must see if you are a golf nut. For three days, it assembles the greatest collection of golf swag in the world. With the presence of roughly 1,000 vendors around the globe, the show occupies the entire 22 acres of exhibition space of the Orange County Exhibition Center in Orlando.
How big is that? According to the convention center's website:
If Chicago’s Sears Tower, 1,454 feet in height, was placed on its side, it would fit lengthwise inside the Orange County Convention Center’s exhibition space, including the antenna atop the Sears tower. The OCCC exhibition hall level is 2,500 feet in length and all eight halls are contiguous.
That's lot of golf stuff. Golf clubs, golf balls, golf tees, golf mats, golf training aids, golf medals, golf travel companies, golf carts, etc. You name it. If it can be found anywhere around a golf course or a golfer, it can be found at The Show.
In addition to the merchandise, many golf industry stars make appearances: Davis Love, Natalie Gulbis, Alexis Thompson, Hank Haney, David Leadbetter and others were present this year. Of course, the PGA tour's biggest stars were off playing, creating the excitement that is often needed to help drum up interest in a game that generates $68.8 billion dollars every year in the U.S. alone.
But no matter. I prefer running into the unexpected participants. This year, for example, I met Doug Sanders walking around in bright green and yellow argyle pants and matching sweater. Now 80 years old, Sanders was a tour professional most known for his outrageous attire (Ian Poulter dresses like a choir boy compared to Sanders), and for a terribly unfortunate two-foot putt that he missed on the 72nd hole of The Open at St. Andrews, a tournament that he would lose the next day in a playoff against Jack Nicklaus.
There's also a program of educational seminars, speeches, luncheons and dinners at the event. The Show is launched by the product demo day at the Orange County National Golf Course, which has hosted the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour Qualifying Schools in the past. It also has the largest driving range in the world. Demo Day wraps around the entire 360 degree driving range, on which even the longest hitters could not hit all the way across to the other side. This is where all the manufacturers showcase their products.
As far as equipment, The Show's star of the week was the Nike "Covert" driver. It has the most unique hosel configuration that creates up to 15 different club configurations. Its perimeter weighting promises to help straighten shots struck on the toe or heel. The "Covert" also had the coolest booth. Inspired by its name, the booth was like a top-secret lab adorned with red and black lights.
Although attendance to the PGA Show is theoretically reserved for professionals of the golf industry, it is not impossible for the average golfer to get a ticket. The dates for next year's show are already set for Jan. 21-24. If you are a golf fanatic, you owe it to yourself to take your next golf vacation to Orlando.
Stephen Moskal is currently the Director of Instruction for Golf Swing Exchange, an innovative on-line coaching platform whose goal is to revolutionize the ability for people to learn golf. A former professional golfer in Europe, Moskal turned pro in 1993 as a member of the French National Circuit and also spent time on the United Kingdom Mastercard Tour and the European Challenge Tour. Following a seven-year professional career, Moskal turned to teaching full-time in 1999. A 1990 graduate of Furman University with a degree in philosophy, Moskal was a four year letter winner with the Paladins and was a member of the academic honor roll. Most recently, Stephen studied under Top 100 instructor Mitchell Spearman, best known for working with major champions Nick Faldo and Ian Baker Finch. Stephen is also the Head Golf Coach at Marymount University in Arlington, VA.
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