Category Archives: Golf

Technology Highlights Golf’s Super Bowl, the PGA Merchandise Show!

By GolfPRGuy

It seems like yesterday that I was a young PGA golf professional coming for the first time to buy merchandise and check out the latest buzz at the Super Bowl of the golf industry – the PGA Merchandise Show.

This year marks my 23rd consecutive show.

After walking the millions of square feet of space containing golf equipment, clothing, gadgets and more over the years, I have finally become numb to all of the hype relating to golf equipment, drivers, balls, and irons, which dominated the scene in the 90’s and 2000’s.

Golf equipment doesn’t seem to carry the buzz it once did, mainly because I think we have all figured out the pitch of the marketing machines that are Titleist, TaylorMade, Callaway and Ping. While they all make great equipment, we know we are not going to keep hitting it farther and farther every year with new clubs. Maybe that is why TaylorMade decided to skip the show for the first time in years.

This decade has become the technology era of golf beyond the clubs. GPS systems, swing analyzers and tracking stats seem to be the buzz the past few years. Most of the technology companies even had their own section on the show floor this year to showcase the latest products. GPS rangefinders like Bushnell or SkyGolf and Golf Buddy with their new watches have become the hot product stops.

My time spent on the show floor these days is not as long as it once was, but I do always try to make the rounds and check out what is new and what I might be picking up in 2015.

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Get Smart on the links

When I head to the golf course today I feel like Maxwell Smart armed with a shoe phone, watch gadget and other necessary technology to gain the advantage against KAOS. Today, KAOS is any modern golf course with its expanded tees, tight fairways, unrealistic length and overcooked green complexes.

I have become a former traditionalist, at least in that I used to not believe in using GPS technology. I have found though that these new GPS devices help speed up play to battle golf’s KAOS and I find I’m all for it now.

Whether it is one of the new watches from Skygolf or Golf Buddy, or the upgraded handheld units, it’s clear the gadgets help golfers make quicker decisions in club selection. My favorite is the simple Bushnell Pro X7 Jolt Slope (www.bushnellgolf.com). I always want the yardage to the flag, and the combination of factoring in elevation and the vibrating burst when you hit the pin adds that much more confidence to your club selection.

Become a stat geek on the links

When Trackman technology hit the golf scene, it changed the entire dynamics of teaching and custom club fitting. Today, golfers can bring that same technology right to their smart phones and tablets with Arccos (www.arccosgolf.com). Arccos has created sensors that attach to the end of each club.

The sensors are then paired to your device, which allows you to keep track of all your swing stats with no need to tap, touch or interfere with your game during your pre-swing or between shots. Every shot you take is now club to cloudtracked through GPS and Bluetooth technology. Find out exactly how far you’re hitting your driver, woods, and irons, as well as shot patterns. It allows you to react and make the proper changes right away. I believe this is also a perfect product for golf coaches in high school or college. It can help them track players’ shots and performance and help determine what needs to be worked on immediately.

Travel and play in 21st century style

If you are one that travels often and have to deal with airport security, getting clubs in and out of a travel bag, broken zippers and busted wheels, not to mention damaged clubs, make sure to check out the GolfPod by Aeroe Limited (www.aeroegolf.com). The GolfPod is the world’s first hard-shell golf travel case and golf cart bag combination.

bagIf Captain Kirk had brought golf clubs on the Enterprise, this is exactly what he would have used. Its sleek futuristic patented design allows golfers to carry 14 clubs, shoes, balls, tees, gloves, rain suit, water bottles and more in accessible and visible compartments. Fully loaded it also comes in less than 50 pounds, which is critical when traveling. The locking system is also approved by TSA and its compact size does not require it being checked in the oversize luggage area or baggage return counter.

If you are a traditionalist and like traveling to places that encourage or only allow walking, the GolfPod does fit nicely on a pull cart or trolley. If you have a caddie, most places now provide carry bags for the caddies where they can just take the clubs out and put them in their bag. The point – the GolfPod provides a strong sense of security when traveling, so much so that I am not going to let the few times I might walk when traveling sway me from this product.

The $599 price tag might be a bit steep, but when you figure that is what it costs to purchase a decent golf travel bag and a traditional golf bag, it is well worth it for the security of knowing your clubs are going to be secure and safe when traveling.

Tony Hawk would love this product

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One of my favorite products this year has to be the Golf Board (www.golfboard.com). Laird Hamilton, the surfing legend, helped to develop this concept of bringing the surf or skate boarding style to the golf course, but I was always partial to Tony Hawk and skate boarding as a kid. Either way this is a cool product and something that can make golf cool and attract the younger generation Y demographic to the game.

GolfBoarding, as it is referred to, allows you to play the game and move around on the course on this unique 4-wheel transporter. The tires are specifically made to be used on turf with less pressure and weight than traditional golf carts. The board is also driven by gearboxes and very smooth to operate with its steering throttle or hand-held remote.

The GolfBoard features a front-end bag mount, which can hold up to a tour bag in size. You can ride the board in three ways; the bag-mount and handle, which is the most conservative; the classic carry and handle, which is what I prefer; or for the more experienced boarders – the free ride with no handle or bag using a remote. I am looking forward to playing my first round with the golf board this summer.

And I will also look forward to a 24th consecutive super show next year.

The Ryder Cup is due for a major overhaul and Phil Mickelson is the man to do it!

By GolfPRGuy

After a few days of digesting yet another Ryder Cup loss for the U.S. it is very apparent that the time for major change has come, and Phil Mickelson just might be the person to make it happen.

I was one of the Tom Watson supporters when he was first announced as captain two years ago, and felt he would bring firm leadership and figure out a model to take the cup back home. But after a series of mishaps beginning with picking Webb Simpson, then not putting the rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed back out on Friday afternoon after they whipped a set of Euros in best-ball and finally climaxing when he benched one of the teams best players, its leader, and one of the greatest players in history for the entire day on Saturday, I quickly realized that Watson was way out of his league and not ready for the Ryder Cup in the 21st century.

The bottom line – I’m not sure even if Watson had made the proper decisions that the U.S. could have beaten this European team, which was a combined 110-under-par for the three days compared to just 78-under for the U.S. team. It could have been closer though.

The question remains: What does the PGA of America do moving forward to developing the model to compete with the Europeans? Phil Mickelson made it clear that Paul Azinger’s Pod formula was a successful model to get the job done, which he expressed in the post round news conference by basically tossing his captain under the bus. While I did not agree with the platform Phil used to express his displeasure, he wasn’t wrong. I also can’t say Watson did not deserve Phil’s criticism after he benched him on Saturday. I know Phil is aging, but would Phil Jackson sit Koby Bryant or Michael Jordan out for the first half of an NBA finals game because they might be tired or their shot was off? I think not.

The days of the PGA of America selecting a captain as an honorary entitled position is long over. We need a consistent and successful model moving forward. The U.S. is never going to win every Ryder Cup. The Europeans are great players, but so are we and winning the Ryder Cup more than twice since 1999 needs to change.

I think the formula moving forward is simple, and I think Phil might have been putting himself out there to take over the reigns. The PGA of America needs to have a meeting with Phil, Paul Azinger and Tiger Woods and make Phil the captain for the next five Ryder Cups, along with having Paul Azinger as the co-captain in 2016 and Tiger Woods a vice-captain. Phil and Paul could further develop the pod system that can be carried on for the next twenty years and also implement that Pod system for the Walker Cup and the Junior Ryder Cup.

Tiger Woods would serve as a Vice-Captain, who would still be playing. But he could take the reigns in 2026 after Bethpage and other Vice Captains could include Fred Couples, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley and David Toms. They are all players who can relate to the current players.

Phil could still play in the Ryder Cup, possibly through 2020 at Whistling Straits, but his presence, along with Azinger’s pod system, would develop a Ryder Cup culture for the U.S. that is much needed when competing against the Europeans. Adding in Tiger Woods to that captaincy team for the next ten years and then having him transition into the captain position for another five Ryder Cups beyond that would put the Ryder Cup in great hands and certainly bring the cup back to the U.S. on a more consistent basis.

When I Become USGA President I am Changing the Rules of Golf

GolfPRGuy

Over the past 100 years the United State Golf Association (USGA) has claimed to be the guardian of golf and with that to be looking out for the best interest of the players and making sure the rules of the game are enforced.

While I can respect some of what the USGA has done, I believe the organization has actually hindered the modern game and needs to be shaken up and re-organized. Perhaps similar to what is happening to the NCAA right now with college sports.

For example, if the USGA leaders were protecting the game why did they not create rules that set a limit as to how long a golf course could be (say 6,800 yards versus unlimited length)?

Why did they not put the limit on the ball back in the 1980’s when the research was starting to show it could be made to go unfathomable distances? Why do they keep making rules so difficult for the average player to understand?

When I become the next USGA president these are some of the things that I am going to do to protect the game for the next 100 years!

The first thing I am going to do is accept that the USGA is not the only governing body in the game any longer. We may oversee the amateur game, but when our rules cross over into the professional tours and all of the money that is involved in today’s sports world, it is time to work together with other groups in setting the rules. I am going to cross party lines and ask the PGA Tour, PGA of America, R & A, and the Masters Committee to work together and create a ruling body of golf that creates and oversees the rules of the game.

This new five-person committee will re-write the rules of golf to make the game simpler and more fun for everyone to play. When new rules are presented this committee will discuss the positives and negatives, and then vote on adopting the rule with a majority vote. There will be no more one organization making rules decisions that can negatively affect the livelihood or careers of golfers, not to mention making the game easier for everyday players.

Some of the rules that I will push to have eliminated once this committee is formed will be:

For all professional golf events we will eliminate the use of a scorecard and only rely on electronic scoring. In today’s world with the technology available at a PGA Tour event, a major championship or any other professional event everyone knows every score hole-by-hole. That someone can still get disqualified for signing a wrong scorecard and potentially lose thousands of dollars is, well, ridiculous.

For amateur events, if someone signs for a wrong score there will be no more disqualification or penalty stroke. It will simply be corrected.

If a ball comes to rest in a divot then the player will be entitled to free relief. The fact that a player can get relief from a man made obstruction, but not divots that man has been making all day is not right. Had this rule been in place in the 1998 US Open at Olympic Club, the great Payne Stewart might have three U.S. Opens.

Out-of-bounds will be eliminated from the game and the stroke and distance penalty will go away. This is one of the biggest problems with slow play and just because we have to put white stakes out to protect someone’s yard doesn’t mean we have to make the game tougher. I would suggest either allowing a free drop from the stakes, or play everything as a lateral hazard. I will let the committee argue this one!

All hazards will be only one color and players will have the option to drop two club lengths from the point of entry, or go back as far as you want keeping in line the point of entry and the hole, or replay the shot from within one-club length from your previous shot. No one should be confused over color and options anymore, especially Tiger Woods.

I will push for the new rules committee to begin rolling back the yardage on golf courses. The longest a golf course can play in any tournament format will be 6,800 yards and the future handicapping system will only be recognized from 6,800 yards or less. This will hopefully eliminate back tees. If owners across the country all eliminated their back tees tomorrow, pace of play would improve significantly overnight.

This might mean we see significantly lower scores in golf tournaments, but that is ok. Shooting 15-, 20-, or 25-under-par, in my mind, will be good for the game and show the game as being easier and hopefully get more people to try the game. Besides, when was the last time you watched something really difficult on TV and wanted to go try it.

I could probably come up with several more ideas to make the game easier and more fun with new rules, but for now this should keep the new committee busy for the near future.Gaylord Country Club

A memo to all golfers this spring: Enjoy the game regardless of course conditions!

GolfPRGuy

Finally, after one of the longest and coldest winters in history, golf courses in northern Michigan are now open and have apparently battled the elements and avoided the tough conditions many courses in the southern part of the State are enduring.

Many courses have opened later than normal and may take extra time to get their fairways and greens in shape following one of the most brutal winters ever. Golfers heading out to their local courses or making that special golf trip this spring should be prepared to accept course conditions that might not be as perfect as in previous years.

Do not be upset with your local golf courses about the conditioning. It is not their fault. Point the finger at Mother Nature. The upper Midwest experienced some of the worst ice storms and frost levels in more than 100 years. Courses are scrambling and working hard now to get their facilities up to par, but it will take time.

Be happy about getting out and playing this wonderful game. Take time to appreciate all of the good things golf brings to us. One of the problems that the American golfer always has is often called the “Augusta National Effect,” as in expecting every course to match the lush, green landscape they see on television each spring when watching the Masters Tournament. Superintendents, who work in a different climate area and can’t possibly maintain a budget or staff to match Augusta National, deal with very high expectations when it comes to course conditions. It’s ludicrous.

Public and private golfers should take note of the history of golf’s origins overseas in Scotland. Golf is not a game of perfect conditions. Courses overseas are often brown, imperfect and have slower green speeds. Yet, the golfers love to play there, and Americans spend great amounts of money to travel there and play. So why then do we expect so much from our courses and conditioning here? If our courses were brown in a few spots and firm with slower greens, the game can still be enjoyed. It would also be easier and take less time, but that is a story for another day.

For now I suggest to golfers and course operators: Let’s start the season by rolling the ball. Yes, this former PGA golf professional said it. Let’s play “winter rules” through the green this spring, enjoy the game and not be upset about the conditions.

In this era of trying to make the game more enjoyable, easier and make it play faster, this spring would be the perfect time for “winter rules.” This would allow golfers some positive relief and allow them to enjoy the game more.

Be patient golfers. Your superintendents are the best in agronomy and they will get your course back to its prime condition. It will just take some time!

For golf junkies, nothing can top a visit to the annual PGA Merchandise Show

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For more than 20 years at the end of January, I have made the annual pilgrimage south to the PGA Show in Orlando, Fla.  For someone who resides in the middle of the polar vortex, tired of shoveling snow and annually suffers from cabin fever, the PGA Show is the first sign that golf season is not too far away.

If you are an avid golfer or equipment junkie like me, this is a trip to the equipment Mecca, and it is clearly the “Super Bowl” for golf industry professionals, PGA professionals and owners. If you ever get the opportunity to attend, perhaps with your PGA professional, do your best to make it happen. Offer to drive, even.

The show takes place in the Orlando Convention Center, which is the Superdome of convention centers. It covers more than one million square feet, which also includes over 45 hitting bays and demo areas where clubs and balls can be tested, tried and dreamed about. This happens to be my favorite part of the show.

Whether its trying the new TaylorMade driver, PING irons, Nike putters or a new brand of golf ball, the demo area allows you to try any custom combination of clubs in the business. This is where I figure out “what new piece of equipment am I getting this season.”

Another exciting part of the show is walking the hundreds of aisles, which stretch 1.5 miles from one end to the other. You can check out the more than 1,000 companies showcasing everything from clubs, balls, shoes, gadgets and anything else you can imagine that is golf related. Below are some of my favorite things from this years show:

TaylorMade SLDR Driver – The latest driver by the top manufacturer is as good as advertised. For those looking for a few more yards, the SLDR has one of the lowest spin rates in its class, which equals longer drives.

Titleist and TaylorMade Irons – For you hard-core equipment geeks and good players, I am always excited to see what Titleist and TaylorMade introduces with new irons. The new Titleist AP2 irons and Tour Preferred CB irons by TaylorMade both feature great looks and feel.

Adams Idea Adams golf had the buzz at the show with its new game-improvement irons. This hybrid set of irons with its sole slots enhances the ball speed and launch angle on shots. Overall it is one of the easiest irons to hit on the market.

Sun Mountain Combo Cart – Walking is once again becoming very popular in the game, and one of the coolest pull-cart bag combinations is the Sun Mountain Combo Cart. This light-weight pull/push cart features slots for 14 clubs, big wheels for easy maneuvering, and my favorite, a seat built into the side.

The Golf Bike – This gets my “hot” list award for 2014. Designed by former cycling professionals, The Golf Bike combines fun, fitness, and speed of play into the game. A traditional looking bike with a golf cart built into it and wider tires makes it very simple to get around the course in just around one hour for nine holes.

SwingSmart – This was the coolest technology at the PGA Show. The SwingSmart golf analyzer allows you to connect a sensor to your golf club and then provides you with key stats and a 3D swing analysis through your iPhone/iPad and Android devises.