Hireko’s 2011 PGA Show Recap

My day started out at 3 AM to catch a flight. The destination was Orlando FL to attend the annual PGA Merchandise Show. It is the major trade show for the entire golf club industry as over 1,000 vendors and 40,000 attendees converge over 10 miles of golf club products from equipment, apparel, soft goods, teaching and training aids, and then some things you wonder how it is golf related. But for golf junkies, everything is all under one roof! For those unable to attend, as it is not open to the general public, I would like to give you my synopsis.

There are two things are for sure that will happen as with the previous 20 or so PGA Merchandise Shows I have attended. First it is a great chance to see old faces (customers and vendors alike) as well as gain new contacts that may eventually last for many years to come. Second, my dawgs (feet) are going to hurting by Saturday night.

The 2011 PGA Merchandise Show started out in omnibus conditions. Severe storms and tornado warnings on Tuesday night encroached upon the Orlando area. To make matters worse, a snow storm shut down the East Coast when many vendors and attendees were trying to arrive.

I guess to show I have gotten much older I was a good boy and in bed by 10 so I would be bright-eyed and bushy tailed to start the next day.

Officially kicking things off at the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show was the 9th annual Demo Day. The event occurred at the Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge. However, the start was delayed by an hour because of the storms the night before. We were located between shaft maker Fujikura and Fiberbuilt; a maker of synthetic long fiber grass practice mats.

After setting up the tent and clubs, Thamara, one of our members of our sales team, and I waited for the golfers to come and demo our products while the others from our staff went back to the convention center to set up the booth. The wind was howling that morning and well into the afternoon. If it howled any harder our tent might have went sailing into the middle of the massive 42-acre range. But luckily we were pseudo down wind which is a bonus when players are hitting your product.

Most people at demo days concentrate on the drivers – after all it is a ‘driving’ range. And yes, drivers were the first to be snatched as customers wanted to hit come of our newest models like the plasma welded, aerodynamically designed Power Play Adrenaline, sexy new Acer XF series and a prototype of the Dynacraft Avatar Evolution driver. They still wanted to hit the venerable Caiman driver too which is almost as popular now as when we launched it nearly 4 years ago.

One thing I noticed though was the interest in the fairway woods and hybrids which was far more than last year. I felt sleeper clubs were the Power Play Adrenaline fairway and hybrid with the unique Unirail sole. Even with the close cropped grassy area to hit from, golfer commented on just how easy those were to hit.

All-in-all, Day One went well aside from the wind. We were able to showcase new products to current customers and more importantly those who had never heard of our company or how our products are sold. Even with the stock shafts and not exotic upgrades, it was interesting to see how well the participants hit and commented on the performance of our clubs. This is why it is helpful for customers going to any demo day to go in with an open mind.

Day One of the trade show started out at 7:30 in the morning to take a few of the products and materials from the Demo Day and help set up and finalize the booth before the crowds were to arrive an hour later. My job as technical director was to man the booth and talk turkey about our products and services.

Our booth was located next to Callaway Golf who literally put walls around their area making it a slight obstacle to get to our booth from the main isle. But it didn’t take long for our long-time customers to make

Dynacraft Prophet Tour Forged CNC Iron
$44.95 each Custom Assembled


Hireko’s booth their first destination. One thing about the attendees of this show -they tend to be better golfers and look for products for themselves. Needless to say the biggest draw perhaps came from an iron designed for a smaller segment of the golfing population. They came to see the Dynacraft Prophet Tour CNC forged iron and in droves. This was evident by the media stopping by to take pictures as well.

They also came to see the other products too. When all said and done, by the end of the year our best sellers will be the Acer XF line as it is our most comprehensive line. The sexy looking drivers with the black PVD finish definitely had the shelf appeal and they come in three different versions; standard, a draw (or offset) plus the model that had the most interest. What we are talking about is the lighter weight Leggera with the white crown designed for longer, ultra-light drivers for those seeking maximum distance. That same finish on the fairways and hybrids also were well received based on the pre-book orders.

New Acer XF Drivers Arriving February 19th!

Acer XF Titanium Driver
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Acer XF Titanium Draw Driver
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Acer XF Titanium Leggera Driver
$104.95 Custom Assembled

Really all the new products got attention. I wasn’t gabbing about one particular product the whole time, sounding like a broken record. I also spent a lot of time explaining aerodynamics of the Adrenaline line and how the plasma welding allowed for additional weighting to make this a very special driver.

After the show ended at 6 PM, the day really hadn’t ended yet as our staff went to dinner with key customers and contacts. This would be the first time I would get to sit down since early morning.

Hireko was one of only a couple of component head distributors who exhibited at this year’s show. So the bulk of our core customers also stopped by the shaft and grip vendors all who are featured in our catalog. This helped save use us space as we showcased our heads and a few of our new house brand Karma grips. One thing that was new in our booth this year was our Tour Gear accessories allowing us to be a one-stop shop for our customers. They could offer their customer more products without amassing large inventories. These were smaller items from cabretta leather gloves, practice balls, cleaning brushes to larger items such as our 3-wheel push cart.

One item that I spoke to customers a lot about was our new QuikFit system. You will see a lot more about this later in this spring, but it is a very simple, functional fitting system available in all our new drivers and 6-iron models. The heads are specially bored and threaded to accept an anodized aluminum adapter to be attached to a gripped shaft. Once threaded a customer can hit actual balls and see instantly how the combination works. This allows club fitters a reliable and inexpensive fitting system. Several of those I spoke to saw how it could immediately increase sales and proficiency in their shops and couldn’t wait to get them in.

The only time in the entire show I got out of the booth for any amount of time was to do a quick spiel to the International Clubmaker’s Guild (ICG) that we are a proud sponsor of. For those not familiar, the ICG is an independent organization designed to promote the growth of custom clubmaking, club fitting and repair and I would encourage those of you to join. After waiting for normally verbose Robin Arthur to talk about his line of shafts, I spoke briefly about and demonstrated our new QuikFit system. I stayed long enough to hear a presentation from the main man at Balanced Certified Golf (former NASA engineer) talk about a new stabilizer system that they are working jointly with SK Fiber on a golf shaft that you will see in the future.

After standing on my feet for 10.5 hours, the show ended for the day. I headed off to dinner with some of the fine folks at UST talk about shafts, their new grips as well as many other things.

Final day of the show and it was going to be a long one. You would think it would be the slowest day, but for us it was busier than Friday. Perhaps it was tear down day and customers wanted first chance to purchase some of the products on display so they can be first to show their customers.

In the 3 days I had the pleasure to speak with customers from all corners of the world. I saw some professional golfers like Greg Norman who walked past the booth and there was Brian Gay signing autographs at the Bettinardi booth across the aisle from us. I even finally met face-to-face the person from the USGA I consult with on equipment rules and occasionally gives me bad news about a product or idea we want to bring to market.

Unfortunately I had the old ball and chain on my legs so I didn’t have an opportunity to walk the show other than to and from the car at the beginning and end of the day. But I thought it was comical that Cleveland Golf, touting super lightweight drivers, was located right next to Boccieri Golf (better known as Heavy Putter) who is offering heavy everything from heavy wedges, irons and drivers too. Talk about a dichotomy. It just proves there is not one product that will work for everyone.

Located way down on the other side of the floor in the apparel section, TaylorMade had their super-mega sized booth requiring its own area code. They perhaps had the biggest buzz at the show with their new white drivers. While I thought the attendance was down from last year, there was more optimism of those who I spoke to. The show ended at 5 PM at least for the attendees. We still had to tear down and wait for the crate to arrive to pack up. This allowed us time to go to dinner with one of our key distributors in Florida. After which we headed back to the Convention Center to finish packing up. About a quarter to midnight we have left to go back to the hotel only to get up early to catch our flights home.

As I predicted, my dawgs are aching but I want to throw out a bone to those I saw and say thank you for coming. And for those that did not attend, 2011 should be another great year for Hireko equipment based on the feedback we received from our customers, both new and old.