As it has for the past 15 years, the PGA Merchandise Show kicked off with Demo Day, an event featuring new products from more than 100 golf equipment companies and staged on the circular, 42-acre practice range at the Orange County National Golf Center just outside Orlando. It is always a well-attended affair, with dozens of PGA professionals wandering from booth to booth at this winter’s gathering to check out the latest in everything from irons and woods to grips and sunglasses. And when those attendees aren’t stepping to the tees to hit clubs, they are talking with sales representatives from various vendors to learn of the performance attributes of their latest offerings. Like the new Epic woods from Callaway. And the latest versions of the M1 and M2 woods and irons from TaylorMade. Some also attend workshops led by noted instructors David Leadbetter and Mike Malaska.
Titleist and True Temper are among those operating booths around the range. KBS, Wilson, Fujikura and Cleveland/Srixon, too. And the clicks of titanium and steel clubfaces against urethane-covered balls fill the air. In some places, like the one where Cobra/Puma touts its wares, those sounds are accompanied by loud music played by DJs who have been hired for the occasion. There are also appearances by tour professionals, such as Bryson DeChambeau and Jesper Parnevik at Cobra/Puma, Russell Knox at Srixon/Cleveland and Bubba Watson at Ping.
The setting has the feel of a country fair, and that sense is only enhanced by the smells of burgers and hot dogs being cooked on grills at food stations around the range and the sights of lemonade stands, some of which also featured fully stocked bars in case a customer feels like upping the octane of his beverage a bit.
It is a wonderful way to start one of the busiest and most interesting weeks in golf each year.