ORLANDO, Fla. — I had no idea what to expect as we marched around the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show’s Demo Day on Tuesday. Hundreds of equipment companies hocking their latest and greatest made a 360-degree ring around the largest driving range I’ve ever seen. It was, to put it bluntly, a circus.
But it was an entertaining circus, one I thoroughly enjoyed (even if I wasn’t sure that I would). And while the Titleist and Callaway equipment testing stations were great, it was the off-the-wall gear that really got me juiced up. These are likely products you’ve at least heard of before — I’d like to see the black market, “I build this in my uncle’s basement” demo day! — but maybe never tried.
Central to Tuesday’s festivities were all manner of vehicles with which you can traverse a golf course with your bag. Four-wheelers, two-wheelers, electric bicycles and of course, golfboards.
We tried them all, and didn’t have any wrecks (which was a win). The most alluring may have been this four-wheeler-looking cart made by a company out of Sweden called Ellwee. You could cross a desert in this thing!
We also delved into KBS shafts, Flat Cat putter grips and TopTracer technology from TopGolf. The latter was particularly fun to use, even if my tracers were flaring out all over the place. I don’t know what the patent looks like on TopTracer technology, but that might be the most important piece of property TopGolf owns (and TopGolf owns of property).
There were other fascinating contraptions. I saw the swing shirt Padraig Harrington swears by, innumerable devices that promise to improve your putting and a driver (?) that was no bigger than a golf ball (the premise: “aim small, miss small”).
The trip around Demo Day was a nice primer for the main event on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday when hundreds of other apparel and equipment companies will join the ones we saw on Tuesday. It was far more enjoyable than I imagined it would be, and it certainly opened my eyes to the size of this industry’s footprint.
Sometimes I think about how the game seems driven by four or five humans at the top of the professional golf food chain. Certainly they are important, but there is a long and seemingly unending tail to the sport that is build by people you will never meet or know. There’s a curious fascination there for me, and a part of that was sated on Tuesday in Orlando.