2011 PGA Merchandise Show Gives Hope to Industry

The annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando has proven to be one of the traditional barometers of the golf industry. If the recently concluded 2011 exposition is any indication, the business of golf in the years ahead might be experiencing an uptick in increased participation levels across all segments.

Approximately 42,000 PGA professionals and industry executives from every U.S. state and 88 countries filled nearly 10 miles of aisles while previewing the latest products and writing orders from the nearly 1,000 exhibitors. The show ran January 27-29, at the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Florida.

The annual gathering offered equipment introductions, product testing, fashion presentations, industry announcements, a series of education seminars and networking special events to set the tone for golf business in 2011 and beyond.

Early attendance figures for the 2011 show indicate a 3.5 percent increase in overall attendance and a 7 percent increase attendance by PGA professionals. Attendees included representatives from Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea and Germany. The top five U.S. states represented were Florida, California, New York, North Carolina and Georgia.

"We are pleased with the overall increased attendance and especially the 7 percent increase in PGA professional participation," said PGA Worldwide Golf Exhibitions senior vice president Ed Several. "The packed aisles, industry enthusiasm and increased order writing reported by vendors are all solid indicators of a strong business cycle for golf in 2011."

An offshoot of the event was the formation of a new partnership involving the PGA World Alliance, China Golf Association and PGA Worldwide Golf Exhibitions, with endorsement by the PGA of America and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, which will produce the PGA Merchandise Show-China Golf in Beijing and the PGA Merchandise Show-Asia in southern China with PGA Merchandise Show branding.

The new PGA Merchandise Show-China will be held March 18-20 in Beijing, while the PGA Merchandise Show-Asia will be held October 20-22 in Guangzhou. The announcement was followed by a keynote address from Greg Norman, who was then joined by television personalities Hank Haney and Michael Breed for a panel discussion on the Asian golf marketplace.

"The potential for growth in China and throughout Asia is tremendous, and the 10 most-developed PGA associations that drive an economic engine of $90 billion annually are committing their expertise and resources to teaching, promoting and helping the game move forward in that important part of the world," said Joe Steranka, CEO of the PGA of America.

"The excitement and enthusiasm for golf in China is as great as anywhere in the world, so this is a significant step toward helping develop the game in Asia," added Steranka.

Officials with the show's host organization, the PGA of America, were also pleased with the introduction of new products and equipment. "All of the new products and technology at this year's Show indicate the needle is moving in a positive direction," said Ed LaPierre of the PGA Tour Superstore in Naples, Fla. "The support of so many companies and the presence of so many celebrities have made this the best Show in many, many years."

On January 26, PGA professionals and invited golf retailers tested the latest innovations in golf equipment, training aids and accessories during the ninth annual PGA Merchandise Show Outdoor Demo Day on the 42-acre practice facility at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge in Winter Garden, Fla.

More than 90 companies used the event to showcase their new drivers, irons, putters, fairway woods, hybrids and wedges on the 200 hitting bays, five practice greens, New Product Preview area and a vendor village.

"This is my first Demo Day at the PGA Merchandise Show, and it's amazing to have all of the great golf brands together at the same facility," said Mike Owens, PGA head professional at Country Oaks Golf Course in Thomasville, Ga. "I have been able to hit every club I've ever dreamed about hitting, and I was able to compare products side by side. This has made my ordering for 2011 very easy."

Additionally, some of golf's top instructors and teaching took center stage early in Show Week at the nearby Faldo Golf Institute by Marriott. Hosted by Breed of the Golf Channel, the Summit's presenters included World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame member Bob Toski; coaching legend Lou Holtz; and PGA Teacher of the Year recipients Dr. Gary Wiren (1989), Mike Bender (2009) and Todd Anderson (2010).