The PGA Show: Then vs. Now

The PGA Show: Then vs. Now

Post image for The PGA Show: Then vs. Now

Written By: Jay Baker

Last week I made my annual trek to Orlando to attend the PGA Show. Many golfers would consider the event the Mecca of golf retail.

I have attended every PGA Show over the last 20 years, some good and some bad. I have experienced it from both sides, as a buyer and as an exhibitor. As you might guess, the show has changed significantly since the mid 1990s when I began attending.

Depending on your age and perspective, this article will either come across as nostalgic or as though it was written by a bitter old curmudgeon.

Things inside the walls of the Orlando Convention Center’s West Concourse aren’t what they used to be. The good old days, right? Regardless, life goes on and so does the PGA Show.

Here’s a look at how the annual PGA Show has changed over the last 20 years.

1996pgashow

The Show has become a good barometer of the golf industry

Back when I first began attending the PGA Show in the mid-1990s, everybody appeared to be successful. The floor was so crowded it looked like every company was writing more orders than they could possibly handle.

If you had asked a random attendee about the golf business, he would have told you that golf’s future was brighter than the oil industry’s. There was always plenty of posturing, despite the fact that you wouldn’t see the same companies from one year to the next (that still happens today). Business always looked good, even when it wasn’t.

Back then it was difficult to get a good read on how the industry or any given company was doing. The show is different now. There is an overall attitude on the floor that permeates throughout the show. You can practically sense the health of the industry.

srixon-cleveland-xxio-booth

Last year’s show didn’t have a positive vibe, and lo and behold, it wasn’t a very good year for the golf industry. This year, the vibe was much more positive for just about every facet of the industry, except hard goods (anything with a grip).

Equipment companies seemed almost indifferent. Nothing exciting is happening, but the sky isn’t falling either. One very large equipment booth did remind me a bit of the Titanic. The ship might be sinking, but the band played on. Despite being humbled by the economic realities surrounding the game, posturing never suffers.

The reason I think the PGA Show has become a good barometer of the golf industry is because there is more truth and transparency in the golf business as a whole.

Sounds crazy, right?

20 years ago we didn’t have the widespread availability of information that we have today. You also had a lot more people attending the show, which made it tough to gauge business. The industry was better able to shield some of its struggles from the consumer. This is not the case today.

1982pgashow

Not many orders are written

There is an element of subjectivity to this. The truth is that tons of orders are written at the PGA Show. It’s a convention for crying out loud! Social media…and media coverage in general make it easy to forget that the actual purpose of the PGA Show is to showcase product and write orders.

That said, companies don’t write orders like they did 20 years ago. Release cycles have changed dramatically…from big box retail to smaller green grass accounts, nearly everyone has already pre-booked their spring orders. It’s the end of January. Who hasn’t already ordered his Pro V1s?

Practically nobody. That’s who.

Retailers have better access to brand reps today (both corporate and independent). Those reps don’t drive nearly as many miles as they used to because there are fewer courses, and they can just as easily leverage the Internet and email to do the bulk of their business. Heck, some golf companies do the majority of business through online portals and have all but eliminated the need for local reps. Obviously not all companies can do this.

1972pgashow

20 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to have buyers that did 100% of their buying at the PGA Show. Today, I doubt you could find one buyer who still does anywhere close to 100% of their ordering at the show.

In the 1990s I remember being pitched anything and everything. John Solheim condemned insert putters like the Odyssey Dual Force. An engineer from Titleist told me that his company would never make a solid core tour performance golf ball.

Memories…

Companies did whatever it took to sell and write orders. My fondest memory is of a man, so inebriated he could barely speak, telling me how he could fix Tiger Woods’ putting stroke with his educational putting videos and gadgets. That was in 1998. Maybe Tiger found him the next year, but I doubt it.

Booth reps are not as pushy as they once were. Most of the big guys are not looking to write orders. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the bigger OEMs didn’t write a single equipment order at the show. Sure, there might be some fill-ins or change orders but the main stuff is long since done. The cost of the booth is no longer paid for by the orders placed at the show.

I know of one medium-sized company who was already at full manufacturing capacity prior to the start of the show. Why come to the show when you can’t take on additional orders?

The Show is A Marketing Frenzy

callaway-booth

In some cases the booths matter more than the products. The PGA Show has become all about marketing and networking. It barely qualifies as a sales convention anymore. Titleist, Ping, Mizuno and others don’t come to write orders. They come to shake hands and kiss babies. Titleist, for example, organizes workshops for pros looking to learn and network.

I’m not saying that zero orders are taken. With their shorter lifecycles, Taylormade and Callaway are likely booking some business at the show. The same is true for apparel lines – although by late January most are already booking fall orders.

The after show booth parties of yesterday have migrated to Howl at the Moon and Señor Frog’s. Some companies will even rent out entire spaces for private parties. The Peabody, errr… Hyatt Regency, or whatever they are going to call it next year is packed more than ever and it’s not the only hot spot. Today you have networking events that make it all the way to places like Rocco’s Taco and Seasons 52. Current trends suggest we’re only a year or two away from a meet and greet at the World’s Largest Entertainment McDonald’s on West Sand Lake Rd.

1954pgashow

There’s no time to go back to your hotel and process orders at today’s PGA Show. You have to get out on I-Drive and network, but make sure to watch your back because…

People come to steal

Back in the 1990s and even in the early 2000s, the people who attended the show were there to do business. Somewhere along the line, stealing became a business. I’m not just talking about guys stealing products from the booth, although that happens quite a bit more than you’d probably think.

When I used to work the show as an exhibitor, we’d inevitably have a golf club, shirt, or accessory that went missing by the end of the show.

Reed Exhibitions would provide neon stickers with the PGA Merchandise logo to the exhibitors to help identify which products were sold and which ones were stolen. Stickers be damned though, there were always plenty of people walking around with undocumented merchandise. Security did little or nothing about it. Frankly, this has been a problem for as long as I can remember.

In recent years a new type of theft has emerged.

At the show this year, it was as if Alibaba sent a crew of spies to take pictures of literally everything. While I’m guessing many of the exhibitors didn’t even notice, I’m fairly certainly that counterfeit versions of their products will be available by the end of the week.

cameron-covers

What can anybody do? A patent doesn’t mean much when Asian countries enforce their laws with the same fervor as a DMV receptionist.

As MyGolfSpy has covered before, theft in this industry isn’t above anyone’s pay grade. The big boys don’t have to be as concerned at the show because most of their stuff gets copied at the factory or at the back door anyway. What a relief!

The modern counterfeiter tends to gravitate towards tech items and accessories; items that are easily cloned.

Another trend is suppliers stealing business. Technically, solicitation is not allowed at the show, but that doesn’t stop several manufacturing and supply companies from trying to drum up a little business. Most of the larger companies shoo these guys away like the mosquitoes they are, so most will focus their efforts on small to medium-sized companies.

While these are the current trends, at one time or another every company has had a PGA Merchandise mole roaming the floor. The action used to be a lot more clandestine. Modern day James Bond, these guys are not.

The Show is BIGGER, or is it?

UST-Booth

I could provide links to several articles that prove the PGA Show is bigger now than it was in the late 1990s, and I’m sure that Reed Exhibitions would love to quote me some statistics that show their success since they partnered with the PGA in 1998.

The Orange County West Convention Center has been the same size since it expanded to 1.1 million square feet in 1996. Growth clearly isn’t measured by the square foot. So how exactly is that growth measured? Attendance? Auxiliary events? Or is it the most important factor, dollar bills?

The PGA Show has an $81 million impact on the Orange County area for the week. 40,000+ people from over 80 countries attend each day to see products from more than a 1,000 different companies.

But let’s not focus totally on those numbers. As Sam Clemens once said, “facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable”, and we all know that can certainly be the case in the golf industry. So let’s have a look at where the numbers bend.

In 1996 (my first year at the show), my father and I arrived in Orlando late Wednesday night after the 6 hour drive from Atlanta. Banking on availability close to the convention center, Dad had neglected to book a hotel in advance.

Some of you old-timers will remember 1996 as a time before things like Google Maps, Hotwire, or Expedia. To find a hotel room you either used the yellow pages, or you drove from one hotel to the next looking for a vacancy.

We stopped at every hotel or motel starting at the convention center moving south towards Kissimmee. We didn’t find anything until we were inside the Kissimmee city limits; 30 minutes away from the convention center.

Granted, Orlando and Kissimmee have grown since then. There are certainly more hotels today than in 1996. However, getting a last minute room close to the convention center is much easier. The need for lodging is not as not as great as it once was.

The show floor used to be packed, so much so that the aisles weren’t nearly big enough to accommodate all of the attendees. The public wasn’t allowed into the PGA Show, not even on the last day. Booth owners were free to do business without John Q. Public looking over their shoulders.

Want to hit some clubs in the indoor range? Forget it, there wasn’t one in the 90s, the space was too valuable. In fact, the indoor range was created to fill the empty floor space that Titleist and Ping (among others) left behind when, from 2003 to 2008, they stopped exhibiting.

It’s Not the Same Show

adams-tailgate

Today, the big boys are back, but the show isn’t what it was in the late 1990s. As we all know, there are fewer rounds being played and fewer courses to play on. Ultimately this leads to few buyers and fewer exhibitors. And while allowing the public to attend the show does help boost the attendance numbers but it doesn’t bring back that business buzz that used to fill the convention center.

The demo day on Tuesday has been a good addition, especially with regards to the public. It gives people the chance to look, touch, feel, and hit the new products. To the benefit of exhibitors, a lot of buzz gets generated on the range. Demo day also makes the show a day longer, which makes the show feel bigger.

demo-day

While the PGA Show is still more meaningful than an Ian Poulter tweet, it has shuffled out of step with the cadence of the industry – at least where the big manufacturers are concerned. For up-and-comers or the inventor betting his life savings on the next great invention (his), however; the show remains as relevant as ever.

In the big picture, the modern PGA Show is no better or worse than it was in the past. It’s just different.

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

Brian Manzella, One of Golf Digest’s “Innvoators” Set For West Michigan Golf Show

Brian Manzella, One of Golf Digest’s “Innvoators” Set For West Michigan Golf Show
Brian Manzella, who recently was named by Golf Digest as one of golf’s “Disruptors, Innovators and Risk Takers”  ill be a headliner at the 27th…

Golf Blogger

Company Profile: Bputters

Company Profile: Bputters

Post image for Company Profile: Bputters

By Dave Wolfe

Half A World Away

Almost sixteen hours. That’s what Google Maps tells me it will take to get from my house in Sacramento, CA to the Bputters shop in Italy. I’m not opposed to putting in some time and mileage to get the things that I want, but the amount of the Earth that was covered to get one of Bputter’s putters may be a personal record.

While it would have been amazing to go to the shop in person, we all know that in this day and age such a trip is not necessary. Thanks Mr. Internet. We hear the term global economy casually tossed around all of the time, but I’m still amazed at how small the world really is these days. I can live in California, and have a custom putter built to my specs in Italy.

I may be showing the length of my tooth, but the modern world still amazes me sometimes.

Bputter Map

But let’s get back to that putter shop in Italy, Bputters.

Hold on a minute. I can’t quite drop the amazing nature of the global economy just yet. How would I even know about Bputters if not for the net? If we didn’t have Twitter, or sites like MyGolfSpy, our knowledge of what is going on in the golf world would be so much smaller. Sure, maybe we live in an age of information overload, but some of that information really does enhance our lives.

OK, now we will really away from me marveling at the world and back to Bputters.

I became aware of Bputters through their Twitter account (@Bputters), and what I saw there was intriguing. If you take a few minutes and tour the Bputters feed, you will see an amazingly diverse collection of putter photos.

To find out a bit more about the brand, we went right to the Bputters source, Antonio. Here is what he said about Bputters.

Five Questions with Antonio from Bputters

 

1. How did Bputters come into being?

Bputters is Antonio and vice versa. I think there’s always been the idea to turn my golf devotion into something really tangible, but it has become a real project only after several years of reasoning and experiencing  on mechanical field. I’m not Engineer but I had the chance to follow closely many reman process. During the last three years I tried to “merge” my golf passion with the metalworking techniques  both from a technical and process point of view.

billet

2. What separates Bputters putters from off the rack putters? From other small-shop putters?

Each Bputters is milled using the finest materials available using  modern techniques and finished by hand one by one. Bputters are customized according to the client specifications, both during the milling and the fitting process. The attention to details, the design and the pursuit of excellent performance, make them one of a kind.  Plus they’re Italian :)  lol

cnc the shop

3. What is the process for ordering a Bputters putter?

The process of ordering a Bputters is very simple: you can easily access the product pages on the web site (www.bputters.com). A preset form with the ideal fitting specs is ready to be submitted, although each customer could  modify any parameter according to its characteristics (loft, lie, weight, length, offset), up to the choice of finishes and accessories or engravings. You submit the request and a details quote will be sent immediately. After the order confirmation the customer is updated with pics over each phase until the final shipping is complete.

phase 2

4. What can a golfer expect when he or she games a Bputters putter?

Each player trying a Bputters should expect to be surprised by the attention to details, accessories options, by the finishes choice, the balance and the weight of the head. The roll gives immediate positive feedback and a quick habit on distance control.

hand polishing

5. Can you give us a glimpse of things to come at Bputters?

Bputters is now prototyping a new model and further finishes both for 303SS and carbon steel. We’re planning to include neck options on the hammer and panther model (plumbers and slant hosel primarily), as well as new materials for all the models available.

cnc view

Putter Profile: Bputters

  • Models Available: 4 (Hammer, Coyote, Space, & Panther)
  • Metals Available: Carbon Steel and 303 Stainless Steel
  • Finishes Available: 9 (Polished, Black Pearl, Satin, Black Oxide, Black PVD, Grey PVD, Brushed Black Oxide, Blue PVD, and High Polish)
  • Shafts Available: 3 different possible shaft bends
  • Grips Available: Bputter logo PURE grips, SuperStroke grips, or pistol leather grips.
  • Dexterity: All four models available in both RH and LH

Finishes Collage

Diversity Abounds at Bputters

Four different models and nine different finishes. Carbon and stainless options. Something for the spoiled right handers and the too often neglected lefties. None of us are likely very close to Bputters right now physically, but when you look at the diverse stable of putters that they can produce, there is probably something there that makes us feel right at home.

Remember, Italy is now only a keyboard away.

Come back soon. We’re going to take a closer look at the putter that Bputters put together for me. If you are looking for some beautiful metal, you won’t want to miss this because…

You Can Enter To Win a Custom Bputter of Your Choice

That’s right, you pick the head, you pick the finish, and have it customized to your specs. So come on back tomorrow!

 

Until then, check out more Italian metal goodness at the Bputters site HERE

Follow Bputters on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

The Club Report: Bputters Hammer

The Club Report: Bputters Hammer

Post image for The Club Report: Bputters Hammer

By Dave Wolfe

•   Win a Custom Bputter of Your Choice   •

See the instructions at the end of this article about how you can win a Bputter of your very own!

Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ’em

You’ve probably read enough of my stuff to know that there was no chance that we were going to make it through an article about a putter named Hammer without at least one MC Hammer reference. Prepare yourself for a none too subtle Zolex reference somewhere as well.

Yesterday, we got to know a little more about Bputters as a company, hearing from it’s owner Antonio, and checking out some of the amazingly diverse putters that they build. When you consider the variations with the metal, model, finish, and other options, you get possible combinations somewhere in the hundreds.

Today, we are going to take a closer look at the Bputters Hammer that Antonio customized to my playing specs and preferences. You’ll get to see how Bputters customized the Hammer for me, and at the same time likely visualize what options you would select for your custom Hammer.

The form of this model resembles a hammer, a tool that can be used with great force but that can also be wielded with delicacy and precision. This model boasts a rugged yet lineal design.
-Bputters

 

Bputters Hammer-15

Specifications: Bputters Hammer

  • Material: 1-piece CNC Milled 303 Stainless
  • Head weight: 330g
  • Loft: 4°
  • Lie: 71° (2° Flat)
  • Toe Hang: 4:30
  • Length: 34.5 inches
  • Dexterity: Right
  • Offset: Full-shaft
  • Grip: Italian Leather Pistol Grip
  • Shaft: Chrome True Temper
  • Price: Starting at 339 € (about $390 US)

Impressions: Looks

Bputters Hammer-01

This Hammer was finished with Bputters’ Black Pearl finish. You should be able to get a pretty good vibe for the finish from the photos, but the photos don’t completely do justice to the subtle hues found within. It’s stunning. There is some real depth in the darkness. It’s a darkness that is punctuated by color.

When you look at the putter from different angles, you pick up all kinds of reds, greens, yellows, and more. It is, again, stunning. The polish is mirror-like. Just look at the cavity lettering reflecting on the flange.

Glare is not the issue that you might think when you look at the glossy finish. The Black Pearl isn’t distractingly bright or reflective, even in full sun. Check out the gallery below to see shots taken in direct light. In the photos, as well as in person, the putter actually appears darker in sunslight. Perhaps the finish should be renamed Black Hole, as not even light can escape it. Of course, you can get a sun reflection off it, if you hit it at the right angle. It’s just tougher to get that reflection than one might think.

Bputters Hammer-16
Bputters Hammer-18
Bputters Hammer-19
Bputters Hammer-20

Outside of the finish, the geometry of the Hammer is unique. The Hammer sweeps up from the bumper and the heel to the shaft, while being more rounded at the toe. The top edge is thick and quite blocky when compared to the sweeping edges at the edge of the cavity. It still has the Anser pedigree common to most of today’s heel/toe weighted putters, but the Hammer takes that classic design in a new direction.

Bputters Hammer-14

Feel

Bputters Hammer-04

The Hammer has the classic 303 Stainless Steel feel. It’s not as soft as carbon, giving a bit more pop when you roll the ball. What I found much more interesting about the Hammer was the feedback that the Hammer provides. You get a bit of that forged-iron feedback with the Hammer. Strike the sweet spot and it is as buttery smooth as any other putter I’ve rolled. Miss that spot, and you know it immediately. After you putt with the Hammer for a while you can fine tune this awareness. It’s almost like it has a built in training aide. You know if you were even slightly heel or toe with the strike.

Yep, I said it. I sometimes miss the sweet spot when I putt. Maybe some of you do too. The Hammer lets me know, and that knowledge should lead to improvement.

Alignment

Bputters Hammer-07

Oh no! Someone forgot to put at sight line on the putter!

That’s right, this Hammer is naked. No dot, no line. Nothing to distract from the nice thick top, the square line of the face, and the edges of the bumpers. As one who prefers all things naked, I was very excited to see that no alignment aides was an option with the Hammer. (Someone really needs to make “I Putt Naked” t-shirts…)

Should you be one that likes a line, or a dot, Bputters can take care of you as well.

Though it doesn’t really fall under the heading of alignment, that address photo above shows how the heel and toe sections visually blend together, even though the bumpers are quite different. Overall, you get a nice rectangular shape at address.

Performance

Bputters Hammer-02

I’ve already mentioned the feedback that one feels when putting with the Hammer. Though I made it sound like I was hitting the ball all over the face in that section, I actually found it quite easy to put repeatable strokes on the ball with the Hammer.

It definitely gates through the stroke, perhaps more than it’s toe hang implies. Eyeballing the Hammer, one can see that the front end of the putter is a little blockier, and likely more massive than the sweeping-edges rear. Regardless, that toe does swing. Not so much that I’d call this a strong-arc putter, but with a bit more emphasis than some of the other similar putters that I have swung.

My Hammer came gripped with the Bputters red leather pistol grip. The grip is not as tacky as a perforated leather grip, but it is not slick, even in the current cold and damp weather. It has a real interesting shape as well, with a small diamond-like feature at the lower hand position. While I’m not sure of the diamond’s design intention, I found that it was very helpful in ensuring that my hands held the grip in the same spot each time. Anything that promotes consistency with the putter should improve consistency when putting.

Fit-For-Stroke

This Bputter’s Hammer putter fits a Slight Arc Stroke, but a different shaft could fit both strong and straight strokes as well.

FIT_FOR_STROKE-1-Slight

Final Thoughts: Bputters Hammer

Bputters Hammer-08

I am very impressed with the Bputters Hammer. The finish is amazing. Communication with Antonio about my specs and customization was easy and prompt. Putter aside, I love to use gear from companies where you can feel the company’s personal investment. Bputters are special because Antonio takes the time to make them special.

With a price tag approaching $400, the Hammer is not cheap. I’m sure that some of you would be quick to let me know how you putt great with your $3 Goodwill putter, thinking that a $400 putter won’t make you play any better. To you I would say this, you could have a point, but perhaps not. Here are a couple of things to consider.

Price aside, you may actually putt better with a custom putter. If you know your ideal putter specs, and you get a putter made to match those specs, how can you not putt better? It’s like putting your size 34 waist into size 34 pants. Proper fit equals proper performance. Bputters can make a putter that fits you. Putting better with that fit putter seems logical.

In terms of price, let’s look to another Italian company, Lamborghini. When I was younger, I was in love with the Lamborghini Countach. It was my dream car, generating lots of fantasies of owning one and driving everywhere. Low and behold, I have yet to own one as they are more expensive than I can afford. Do I decry the existence of Lamborghini, going online to say that people should just drive to the store in less expensive Civics? Of course not. Instead, I daydream about the Countach.

The Hammer from Bputters is not even Lamborghini expensive. It’s got a premium price tag, that’s true. However, its price is in the ballpark with milled, off-the-rack Camerons and milled Odyssey putters. Moreover, when you buy a putter from Bputters, Antonio takes care of you personally, meaning it’s not off the rack. It was made for you. I know that these putters are out of the price range for some, but based upon what you get I don’t think that they are overpriced by any stretch.

Pre-emptive price rant aside, the Hammer from Bputters is a great looking and feeling putter, and Bputters should be part of the conversation for anyone looking to pick up that special, custom fit putter.

As I said before, Italy is only a keyboard away.

WEBSITE   //   TWITTER   //    FACEBOOK

Win a Custom Bputter

Bring a little bit of Italy to your very own golf bag. One lucky commenter below will be chosen at random in a week to win a custom Bputter. To win, all you need to do is head over to the Bputters site and check out the options available, and then leave a comment below describing how you would build your custom putter. Only one entry per person.
Tap into your inner putter designer and make something amazing!


Bputters HeadcoverB-5
Bputters HeadcoverB-3
Bputters HeadcoverB-1
Bputters HeadcoverB-2
Bputters Headcover-4
Bputters Headcover-2
Bputters Headcover-3
Bputters Headcover-1
BPutters Grip Collage
Bputters Hammer-22
Bputters Hammer-21
Bputters Hammer-17
Bputters Hammer-13
Bputters Hammer-12
Bputters Hammer-11
Bputters Hammer-10
Bputters Hammer-09
Bputters Hammer-06
Bputters Hammer-03
Bputters Hammer-05

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)