The world’s largest golf equipment testing event, the PGA Merchandise Show Demo Day, attracted 5,000 PGA Professionals, media and retailers to the industry’s exclusive preview of the newest innovations and Golfmagic was there to get their hands on the clubs that will be hitting the shelves here over the next few weeks.
With more than 200 hitting bays on the circular range and short game areas of the 42-acre practice facility of Orange County National Golf Course, near Orlando, Florida, it was a chance for nearly 100 manufacturers to show the world what’s hot.
Much of it we’ve already had a sneek preview of but with celebrities and Tour stars, including Lexi Thompson and Suzann Pettersen on hand, it was a colourful opportunity to provide a curtain-raiser to the trade show which shapes the economics of the golf industry for the next 12 months at least.
Under a sun-kissed sky for a change - previous demo days have been hampered by rain and high winds - this was the ideal event to kick start the show and provide a unique opportunity literally get a grip on the latest equipment coming our way.
It allowed me, as a three-handicapper with a passion for the game, the chance to see, feel and test in real conditions the latest in technological advancements from the leading manufacturers.
It was a real treat because although I’ve attended the show several times, I’ve never before had the chance to experience the demo day - and it’s one I will look back on with fond memories.
First thing that struck me was the fun and colour generated by COBRA PUMA GOLF which has captured the signature of Rickie Fowler to play its hardware as well as to continue to set the trend in golf style.
The CPG area was awash with the buzz from its DJ entertaining the lines of media and industry insiders, keen to get their hands on the new AMP range of woods and AMP irons. It was worth the wait and a great new addition to the COBRA family.
And with orange balls to hit - I certainly felt I’d been Tango-ed!
TaylorMade’s RocketBallz (RBZ) range of woods and hybrids was also causing a stir and I patiently waited 20 minutes to test them alongside the R11 woods and irons. Distance of the RBZ fairway woods was ‘ridiculously long’.
It was my first time picking up the R11 irons and must admit to loving the controlled and consistent ball flight and the hint of offset.
Moving on to the Mizuno booth, I was similarly impressed by the JPX 800 Pro Series. As a cradle to grave Mizuno iron player, I have to commend the confidence-instilling head size of the JPX irons. Every time I looked down at address, I though ‘there’s no way I’m not hitting this out of the sweet spot.’
Note to self: Must seriously consider an upgrade from my current MP-68s!
A sniff of the latest Titleist spin-milled Vokey SM4 wedges and I was back in line anxious to see how they performed. These scoring clubs have the best finish to a wedge I have seen in some time. They are a touch heavier than my current Cleveland CG14s which encouraged maybe a slightly different feel. The only remaining challenge is the choice of finish - Tour chrome, black nickel or oil can?
The Nike stand, as expected was over-run with potential customers keen to try the VR Pro Limited Edition woods and VR Pro LE driver with improved adjustability and not nearly as bulky as its predessors.
Whether this could unseat my favoured PING G10 driver, however, is debatable.
Adams has gained fresh impetus in the market of late and its latest forged CB3 irons will be a good new entry into the market. They are a proper players club - currently in the hands of new-signing Robert Karlsson - and coupled with the IDEA A12 OS range, targeting 10-14 handicappers, Adams is a brand making giant strides.
Finally just a word for the Srixon yellow Z-Star balls, both funky on the eye (especially from bunkers) and refreshing on the green. I could almost picture the ball going into the hole more than usual.
With more than 100,000 balls hit (not all by me) and 5000 hot dogs munched (ditto) it was a great day. I can honestly say I’ve never had so much fun with my spikes on!
Had a swing with an 8-iron from new PING i20 - was always told to use 8ir when looking at potential new clubs - on Thursday- probably the best looking PING club I've ever handled. Also hit the latest Cleveland Classic driver and WHAO! Iplayed persimmon back in day and it was refreshing to see this updated version with the benefits of modern technology. A tad offset (which I love) and large but not bulky face at address. Ball flight on the 10.5degree model with what seemed liked less spin, delivered a flat yet powerful trajectory. Can't wait to see how far the 9-degree will take my ball once back in blighty.