Highlights, Lowlights from energetic PGA Merchandise Show!

The 71st PGA Merchandise Show at Orange County Convention Center January 25-27 is the Super Bowl for the golf industry and attracted pros and manufacturers from 84 countries and 1000 exhibitors.

ORLANDO, Florida – You never know what you’re going to run into at the annual PGA Merchandise Show.

Here are just a few of my highlights, lowlights and Miller Lites of the recent not-as-epic-as-it-used-to-be Merchandise Show…

The secret of putting?: I may have just learned it from former PGA Tour player Skip Kendall. Milwaukee radio host Chuck Garbedian and I bumped into Kendall at the Demo Day putting green and learned his counterintuitive approach. Kendall lived off his putter during his tour career so as far as I’m concerned, anything he says is golf. The secret—long backstroke, short follow-through. Yeah, I know, that’s the opposite of what most of us struggling putters do. Garbedian worked hard on that change for 15 minutes and saw a difference. The ball started hugging the ground sooner and rolling more true when he got the hang of it. Seeing is believing. Skip runs the Skip Kendall Putting School at the Orlando Golf Academy and is available for hire. Guess what I’ll be working on the rest of this winter? (Building a sailboat in my basement? Wrong. Building a fem-bot? Wrong again. Sheesh.) https://www.orlandogolfacademy.com/instructors

Former PGA Tour player Skip Kendall runs a popular Putting School at Orlando Golf Academy.

Describe Congress in two words: Never Compromise. That’s also the name of golf’s Comeback Story of the Year. The black and silver Never Compromise, born in 1998 and shelved around 2012, is back. I’ve still got one of the originals in my basement. It’s No. 5 in my putter rankings based on which club I’ll turn to next when the putter I’m currently using gets benched. The new Never Compromise comes in five models and two finishes and, unlike the original, is stainless steel all the way across the head. Only the paint job looks the same.

The reimagined putter, done superbly by designer Todd Sones, has a fitting component now. You get fitted by an expert at the location of purchase, get a grip added and you walk out with what amounts to a custom-fit putter. And that’s why, ahem, the suggested retail price is $449. But just seeing that silver-and-black head will give you flashbacks. (Not the Vietnam ones, the good kind.) https://us.dunlopsports.com/never-compromise/putters

Never Compromise is one of golf’s leading putting manufacturers and is back in a big way with a new line of ultra-premium putters for 2024.

Are you the Gatekeeper? I am the LagMaster: Sure, who wouldn’t get a reference to a 40-year-old movie (“Ghostbusters”)? Never mind. The LagMaster is one of those rare training aids that looks like it really works.

It’s a simple design. Picture a small piece of plastic pipe shaped sort of like a gun. At one end, the barrel end, is a round surface shaped like a microphone. At the other end, there’s a clamp attached with a vise that holds the shaft of your golf club. The idea is to attach your club, swing it until the microphone-shaped part touches your right shoulder (assuming you golf righty) and the keep that microphone-shaped piece in contact with your shoulder as long as you can as you make a forward swing.

What does this do? It gets your club on-plane and in the right position, for once, on the backswing. More important, maybe, is that the contact forces you to use your hips and lower body to rotate on the forward swing instead of just wildly casting your hands. The aid is the brainchild of Top 100 Golf Instructor Mike Dickson. From LagMasterSports.com: “LagMaster imprints motor memory for the proper downswing sequence, producing more lag in the downswing. Every great player created and sustained lag in the downstroke. The result is a swing that creates more speed, greater consistency and better contact.” The LM, as insiders at my writing desk know it (because they don’t want to spell out the whole word one more time), is $199 from the aforementioned website. Run it up the lagpole and see what you think… https://lagmastersports.com/products/lagmaster-golf-training-aid

Mike Dickson, a top 100 Golf Instructor, created a training aid called LagMaster that he calls the “King of Training Aids” helping players create more lag in their backswing which every great player has.

The Good Book: I was walking into the OCC at the PGA Show and a gent there asked me where the Media Center was. Lucky him, I was headed there. We walked together. He was Jerry Austry, a long-time Ben Hogan Golf Company worker who was there when Ben Hogan was running things. Austry has written a book, “The Hogan Edge,” about “How the Hogan Company found and lost their Edge.” I could nit-pick and point out that the book’s sub-headline should say “its Edge,” not “their Edge.”

If you’re looking for a collection of Hogan anecdotes, this is not your book. There are some but it’s mainly a business book about the company’s rise and eventual fall. But Hogan is in the book so that means you’ll want to read it. Available at Amazon, $31.95. https://www.amazon.com/Hogan-Edge-Company-Found-Their/dp/B0B2WQ8LMD

he book is about the inception and creation of an iconic golf company and the success that was achieved by the Ben Hogan Company for over twenty-five years.

Driving Miss Daisy: As a senior player, I’m starting to feel like Miss Daisy (from that movie) could probably outdrive me now. But I’m not bitter. (Yes, I am.) Three drivers caught my attention at the PGA Show. Cobra’s Darkspeed driver ($599) is only slightly changed from Cobra’s Aerojet driver, which was one of the best drivers I’ve had in my hands. And it’s only available in Darth Vader’s favorite color, black. Which I like. (The color, not Vader even though he is Luke’s father.) Callaway has been producing good technology for a while now and despite its odd look, the Paradym Ai Smoke driver ($599) has got serious muscle. Don’t worry about the sole plate that looks like a dirty mirror—you won’t see that when you’re teeing it up. Ping’s G430 Max 10K ($599) driver is a game-improvement model that knocks down spin, produces a straighter and slightly lower and longer tee shot for the, shall we say, straightness-impaired player.


Rise of the Machines: Someday, the machines will turn on us. Until then, you and Sarah Connor (“Terminator”) can enjoy playing golf without lugging your own clubs around. Zero Friction’s Stride is a remote-control, self-propelled cart that hauls your clubs around in a top-of-the-class bag. There are reasons to love Stride. The big rear wheels pop off for travel and the front arm swings underneath the cart, making for easy stowage. The bag, which has a square-ish top, is easily removable and all of this fits in your trunk without any problem. Zero Friction probably won’t get enough credit for this bag. It has storage space to rival a staff bag. It has magnets on either side near the top, strong enough to hold a rangefinder on one side and your soundbar on the other. There are big pouches for balls and drinks—a six-pack (of Sprite, right?) fits in the cooler pocket—and a clear plastic sleeve holds your phone yet is sheer enough that you can type texts right through the plastic. Stride looks like a real warhorse even in hilly terrain. It’s $2,199. Man up. https://zerofriction.com/stride

Zero Golf’s STRIDE is a remote-control, self-propelled cart that hauls your clubs around in a top-of-the-class bag.

Sole train: Once I got the detailed explanation about how much technology went into developing Payntr golf shoes, I felt stupid for having bought anything else. Payntr was founded in 2020 in Oregon. I’ll leave out the details about the technology built into because it’s complex but just say these are as well-made as anything else on the market. They range in price from $160-$220 (PayntrGolf.com). You probably haven’t heard of them yet but you will. https://payntrgolf.com/

Payntr Golf brand is one of the fastest growing and more popular footwear companies in the industry and player to be heard from in the near future because of innovation & style.

No computer chip necessary: I love low-tech gear and there wasn’t anything so useful and yet so low tech as the Towel Tag (TowelTag.com). It’s a towel, which you might have guessed from the name, Sherlock. Brilliant deduction. It comes with a holder that resembles a thick bag tag that has a hole cut in it. The inside of that hole is lined with grabby material like your mousepad is made from. Simply loop the high-quality towel through the holer and, well, it’s not going anywhere. Your towel won’t fall out and get left behind. Company founder Craig Holub calls it “Pull-Through Technology.” And you can get the towel engraved with your name or customized however you want (stamping Taylor Swift’s name on it will not make you more popular at your golf course, I guarantee it). The holder is also customizable. It’s $22.95, towel and holder included. Towel Tag is based in Ontario, Canada.

The Towel Tag folks have the Dial ball mark ($19.95), a ballmarker with lines on it that are adjustable. You put the marker on the green, ostensibly lined up with the line you intend to putt on so you can align your ball properly. Oh, but wait, after reading the putt, you change your mind about the line. You don’t have to pick up the marker, you just turn the lines atop the marker to the position you want. Low tech again, effective again. www.toweltag.com

DIAL Ball Mark created by TOWEL TAG has invented a ball marker called “Hold The Line” that allows you to “draw and invisible, accurate line”, helping you build confidence and promising to make more putts.

Perfect pitch: Anytime Titleist comes out with new balls or wedges, it’s a big deal. So the Vokey Design SM10 wedges, as created by master wedge designer Bob Vokey, are hot tickets. Wedges haven’t really changed all that much over the last 30 years and yet Vokey must know something the other guys don’t. More than half of the wedges in play on the PGA Tour last year were his. What’s new on the SM10s is a progressive center of gravity placement through the lofts. That provides a more controlled trajectory, Titleist says, and the milling process involves each groove being individually cut based on loft and finish. Whether the SM10s ($189, Vokey.com) are really significantly different doesn’t matter. Vokey’s reputation and track record speaks for itself. If he made them, they’re good. www.vokey.com

Vokey Design has launched SM10 wedges as created by master wedge designer Bob Vokey is a noteworthy golf club as is almost anything he is involved in..

Ironsides: The Mizuno 24 Series irons are arguably the best-looking irons out there if you like clean, thin, old-fashioned looking blades. They also perform. The irons come in three lines—241, 243, 245. The 241 is a classic forged blade for elite players. The 243 is a cavity back model for the better player. The 245 looks similar to the 241 with a slightly thicker top-line but has more distance and forgiveness built in. They’re $230 per iron, MizunoGolf.com, with a steel shaft. Beauty and beast—hmm, that has the makings of a story. www.muzunogolf.com

Mizuno Golf generated interest in lots new line of Series 24 irons.

Meet the underdogs: To succeed in many businesses, you need to be first, best or cheapest. Renegade Golf isn’t technically any of those three but it is the first black-owned company to build a golf ball approved by the USGA for competition. They were featured on Golf Channel during the PGA Show.

Getting into ball-producing seems like a formidable task but his Atlanta-based outfit was started by two University of Georgia grads and they’re hoping to use their minority standing to get enough attention to build a customer base. The Renegade ball lineup features three models—the MBU, MBU Black and MBU TR3 with compressions of 85, 75 and 90, respectively, and all have three-piece covers. For a player with clubhead speed around 90 or so, the MBU (which means “first of the line” in Nigerian) is the play ($34.99 dozen, Renegade.golf). https://renegade.golf/

Renegade Golf is led by a group of dedicated individuals who are committed to seeing the company grow and make inroads in the golf space.

Leave a Reply

Notify of