Jeff Summitt Discusses The Granddaddy Of All Golf Shows, The 2008 PGA Show

I always enjoy going to Orlando for the annual PGA Merchandise show for several reasons. First, it is my job to stay atop of equipment sector, so in most cases I am well aware of the product(s) before it is introduced at the show, but of course it is nice to see the new models up close and in person. I also have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the foundry representatives to go over upcoming models and share ideas on new technologies. (I have a long list of items we are working on for later this year that I extremely excited about!) Lastly, I enjoy speaking and sharing ideas with vendors, customers and long-time industry people that I been fortunate to know.

To recap some of the things I saw, let’s start out with clubheads. Geometry of woods and even hybrids, whether it be square, triangular or bullet shaped, is alive and well and not a fad as some suggested. Nearly everyone is trying to push the envelope on achieving a higher moment of inertia to further enhance the forgiveness of off-center shots. While there are caps or limits on the spring like-effect of drivers, manufacturers are concentrating now on fairways and hybrids, by utilizing specialty face materials, to increase performance. The same could be said of irons as well, but also it was surprising to seem so many manufacturers introducing what I would consider to be more traditional designs targeted for the better golfers.

It didn’t seem as there were as many club manufacturers as there has been in the past, but that wasn’t necessarily indicative of the putter category where there we numerous new entries, several of which were marketing unique mallet style designs. Lastly, in wedges, with the anticipated ruling by the USGA on groove dimensions, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot that was new.

The biggest news on the head front was the interchangeability of heads and shafts using different locking devices. This allows the clubfitter to install different shafts in the same clubhead to find out what combination works best for the customer after allowing them to hit it into a net or out on the range. Callaway’s OptiFit and Nikent’s 4DX Evolver lines were a couple of examples you will see. The best part about it is the golfer can actually end up purchasing and then playing with that exact combination once a tool is used to secure the two together. In an even bigger surprise was Callaway is getting into the component business with their I-Mix Technology. These will be available at select golf retail outlets with a MSRP for just the FT-5 or FT-i clubheads alone at $435 and $500 respectively, plus prices for the shafts ranging from $185 to $435 that can be screwed together for form the assembled driver.

This very well might have been a year about grips. Yes, I said grips! The thing we take for granted on that other end of the club. This year was no exception as there were more colorful models to choose from, but what was innovative was the technology going into them. There was a significant focus on shock or vibration dampening, such as Lamkin’s Stingfree Crossline, new entry Energy, to go along with the popular Dual Durometer series from Golf Pride. In addition was the number of extra large putter grips made popular by PGA pro KJ Choi, such as those from SuperStroke, Two Thumbs, Tiger Shark and Winn. The idea is to take the wrists out of the stroke and create more of a pendulum motion.

In the composite shaft category, it is a continuation of offering more premium, high-performance models. Aldila unveiled their DVS shaft line, a higher launching version of the VS Proto utilizing carbon nanotubes. While Grafalloy’s ProLaunch Platinum and Graphite Design’s Tour AD YS-Q were examples of manufacturers orienting the high modulus materials now in four different axes for better energy transfer.

Interactive technology could be seen everywhere, from sophisticated lab analysis tools, indoor simulators, launch monitors to devises you place on the club or body to obtain information about the swing. I would not say this was a year of the “must have” item like years in the past, but more of a change of ideology. While custom fitting is not a new concept, there is a dramatic emphasis on obtaining real-time data about the player’s swing and instantaneously and more importantly scientifically suggesting products / specifications that will improve the golfer’s results.

What I won’t miss are the $8 hot dogs or $10 overpriced hamburgers at the convention center. But in a year where the PGA Show was earlier than I have ever recalled (normally it is same weekend as the Super Bowl), let’s see if the 2008 golf season gets an equally quick start.

3 Comments on 2008 PGA Show Update

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  2. Peter Langan says:

    Jef knows whereof he speaks. If you read his research in golf shafts you realize he has spent a great deal of time learning about a key ingredient in golf clubs, if not the KEY ingredient in a golf club. His expertise is without question.
    When he writes an article like the one above and doesn’t subtly insert a ad for Hireko at the same time, what he has to say, and report, is even more valid.

  3. Gene Wines says:

    Jeff: I also fainted at the prices of Hot Dogs and Burgers…the Columbian Coffee was great and good price, Golf Stuff…Putters were really big true. I thought the one that you pickup and place the marker cool. Also the Zen one that has the big hole to use a teaching tool was cool. Shafts, you pointed out a few. I was really impressed with ACCRA and e21 Element Shafts. Interchageable Drivers are hot. Keep up the good work on your reports sir.Gene

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