By Tony Leodora
There is no denying that 2018 was a tough year for the golf industry – especially on the East Coast. Mother Nature did her best to limit the number of playable hours, which resulted in a drop in revenue for just about every segment of the golf industry.
All who enjoy playing the game — and working in the game of golf — are looking for some relief in 2019.
Fortunately, many of the companies who produce the products that golfers use have decided to be proactive – providing their own type of relief.
Economic relief could be seen as a common theme in many of the products that caught the attention of the almost 40,000 attendees who flocked to the mammoth Orange County Convention Center in Orlando for this year’s 66th PGA Merchandise Show. More than 1,000 exhibitors greeted visitors from all 50 states and from 90 countries around the world. While the show is put on by the professional golfers who make up the PGA of America, the latest trend seemed to be increased attention on the average golfer – the ones who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s 60 million golfers … and shell out their hard-earned money for new products every year.
A number of the products that caught the eye of our roving research team serve the specific purpose of making the game of golf a bit more affordable.
While there still were plenty of $600 drivers and $2,000 sets of irons on display, there were some manufacturers moving in the other direction. Tour Edge Golf, in particular its high-end Exotics line, introduced the EXS clubs. Most notably, the high-tech driver is priced at a very reasonable $299.
Precision Pro, a relatively new name in the competitive line of range finders, came out with its new NX9 HD range finder priced more than $100 less than other high-tech competitors.
Bridgestone Golf came out with a new e12 golf ball that combines all of the highest quality and technology, yet sells for less than $30.
These are just some of the value-priced items that attracted attention at this year’s “Super Bowl” of the golf industry.
Other noteworthy products merely attracted attention because of their amazing style. Even if your score on the golf course is not good … at least you can look good. And others provided a bit of inventive ingenuity.
Now that our team has done all of the research for you, the golfer, enjoy shopping.
4 Yards More – Players Pack
Greenkeepers, the Philadelphia-based company that specializes in manufacturing a wide variety of golf accessories, hit a home run a few years ago with its 4 Yards More performance golf tee. From the original model, the company advanced to taller tees, tees for fairway woods and tees for hybrids.
“What we tried to do with the Players Pack, and it’s been widely accepted, is give golfers the opportunity to buy a variety of our 4 Yards More tees in one larger package,” explained Frank Carroll, president of Greenkeepers. “Many of the golf retail stores carry so many different packages of our tees. Now, you can get everything in one package. It helps the golfer and it helps the retailer.”
The world of golf technology has come a long way from the days of picking up whatever golf tee was in the bowl on the golf shop counter. Now, most of the best players insist on a performance golf tee.
For those who want to try the entire line of 4 Yards More tees, the new Players Pack is the answer. It has a retail price of $23.95 and can be found in golf stores everywhere.
Antigua Getaway Outerwear
For the last 40 years (Happy Anniversary), Antigua has been an innovator in the world of golf apparel. The Phoenix area-based company has been around a longtime but the last 10 years has seen a quantum leap in their success across the board – especially in the effort of transitioning golf apparel into the casual everyday world.
The quarter-zip style for men and full-zip style for women has the rich look and feel of a sweater. However it is constructed of synthetic fabric, leading to easier care and use.
“The whole concept was to make a style that would fit into both categories of a quarter-zip and a sweater,” explained Ron McPherson, president of Antigua. “A lot of times in the golf shop it is very difficult to display sweaters because they have to put them on tables. If they hang a sweater, it stretches out of shape. Our new Getway has the tight quilted look of a sweater but they can hang it because it is a synthetic product.”
Feels and looks like a sweater; wears like a synthetic.
“It’s amazing to get that all in one product,” McPherson continued. “Our design and development team did a great job in combining those and we’ve had a terrific response to it.”
Despite the rich look, Anchorage pullovers are reasonably priced at $84.95.
Bridgestone e12 Golf Balls
A record number of professional golfers, using different models of Bridgestone golf balls, have broken into the winner’s circle over the last year. The names are quite familiar – Matt Kuchar, Lexi Thompson, Bryson DeChambeau and, yes, Tiger Woods.
The first three are going through the most successful stretch of their careers – while Woods capped an amazing comeback with a victory in the Tour Championship at the end of 2018.
Last year they produced high-quality golf balls for the best players. For 2019 they have turned their focus on the average golfer – the ones who buy their golf balls on a regular basis. For that segment Bridgestone has created the new e12 series of golf balls. They come in two models – the e12 Soft and the e12 Speed. And both come at a very economical price of $29.99 per dozen.
So, how did they come up with the e12 name?
“Because it’s twice as good as our old e6 golf ball,” cracked Elliott Mellow, golf ball manager for Bridgestone.
When pressed for details, he was quick to back up his claim: “We’re excited about our new active acceleration mantle layer. Historically, all the power in the golf ball came strictly from the core and the mantle just served spin reduction and ball flight optimization. We’ve now found a way to optimize velocity from the mantle as well as the core. Basically, our new ball now has two engines in it, making it faster than a traditional distance ball.”
High quality golf balls, at an affordable price. What a concept.
Cleveland RTX4 Wedges
For years Cleveland Golf has been producing the finest wedges in the golf world. The best players use them like finely crafted precision instruments – sending shots in close proximity to the flagstick … then spinning those shots even closer.
But don’t expect the research team at Cleveland Golf to rest on their laurels. They constantly keep tweaking their wedges … striving for perfection. Jeff Brunski is the Vice President of Research and Development for Cleveland Golf and he is quite proud of the new RTX 4 wedge.
“It’s a beautiful product. The play is beautiful,” said Brunski, during a very busy PGA Merchandise Show week. “It’s funny, we’re working on the next generation of product already but we don’t know what to fix. Everybody keeps telling us not to change a thing.”
Don’t look for wholesale changes in one of the most successful line of wedges in the world. Instead, Cleveland offers the most heavily tour-influenced and diverse lineup of lofts and sole grinds in the company’s history.
The subtle changes are what make the difference in the new RTX 4 line of wedges.
“The spin has been increased. We’ve got more grind offerings than ever before,” continued Brunski. “The workability and ability to control shots, get close and score, is unlike any product we’ve made before.”
Retail price on the Cleveland RTX 4 wedge is $139.99 but special prices can be found online for as low as $109.99. That is another example of a golf manufacturer offering a high-quality piece of equipment at a reasonable price.
Copper Tech Golf Gloves
And that’s before the copper-infused glove’s circulation promoting and pain reducing qualities are added to the equation. Golfers everywhere have been singing the praises of the Copper Tech glove.
Now the company is adding a dash of style to the line of gloves.
“The new look is lots of different colors,” said Lloyd Cohn, president of Copper Tech. “We have 15 new colors throughout the line of golf gloves. Men and ladies can match every possible golf outfit. Now it’s possible to be both practical and stylish, at the same time.”
In fact, the “practical” line of golf gloves have been found to be so helpful in terms of soothing pain and stiffness in the hands that other applications are now available. Copper Tech can now be found in work gloves, gardening gloves and mechanic gloves.
The golf gloves are still the backbone of the company. The one-size-fits-most model is available at a retail price of $19.95. That price becomes even more affordable when considering the fact that Copper Tech gloves last longer than almost all high-quality golf gloves on the market.
Also, Copper Tech received the Industry Honors award for Product Ingenuity-Emerging Companies from the International Network of Golf at this year’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
Golf Pride Tour Velvet Plus 4 Grips
Good golfers know the importance of keeping new and high-quality golf grips on their clubs. Tour professionals change grips a number of times each year. Even the top amateurs seldom go more than a year with the same grips.
Golf Pride has been the leader in the golf grip market for a long time. They proudly boast the claim, “Number One Grip on Tour.”
The company also takes the time to explain why you should re-grip: “New grips enhance traction for greater control and clubface awareness and promote an ideal grip pressure, allowing the hands to release at impact for more power.”
In addition to lecturing on the benefits of re-gripping, the company also is putting a huge amount of research into producing new and better products. While the entire line of golf grips is diverse, the new Tour Velvet Plus 4 grip is the one that is attracting the most attention.
The Tour Velvet has long been the most popular golf grip on the market, but new technology allows for less taper at the bottom of the grip. A thicker grip under the bottom hand reduces the tendency to grip hard and come over the top through the golf swing.
“We’re excited about this new Plus 4 technology within the Tour Velvet family,” explained Bruce Miller, product manager for Golf Pride. “It’s got a brand new material, more durable and also softer. It also has a re-oriented texture pattern on the grip that provides more traction.”
Plus, more Golf Pride putter grips are played on tour than any other. The new Tour SNSR putter grip, with its tour-preferred pistol shape, also has attracted a lot of attention.
High Heat 257+
It began three years ago with a new driver and technology, both named the “best” of any new club. The multiple media reviews and rave customer reviews soon followed.
In subsequent years fairway woods and hybrids were added to the line. High Heat then was named — by major media, PGA, and LPGA teaching pros — as the leading brand in properly addressing the hitting needs of the amateur golfer.
All of those exciting introductions have been followed by the new award-winning High Heat 257+ clubs and its revolutionary Three-Trampoline Face Technology. This technology takes advantage of a new USGA Rule change that permits a hotter face outside the sweet spot to provide the same distance on off-center hits as center hits, so the entire face is a “sweet spot.”
High Heat 257+ is the only brand that takes advantage of that new USGA Rule and is considered as having the most revolutionary technology for amateurs since introduction of titanium faces 25 years ago. Major media, PGA and LPGA teaching pros rave about how golfers are getting the same distance on hits across the face … and customers rave about their lower scores. High Heat 257+ is available across the entire line of High Heat clubs – drivers, 3, 5 and 7 woods and 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 hybrids.
High Heat clubs reached the pinnacle at this year’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. At the Industry Honors award program, put on by the International Network of Golf, High Heat’s 257+ line of clubs won the top award for Product Ingenuity in the Emerging Companies category.
Don’t be surprised in a few years if the High Heat 257+ has moved from the “Emerging Brand” category to the “Leading Brand” category.
One additional bonus: all High Heat clubs come with a 30-day full-refund guarantee.
Nexbelt Braided Belt
And it is a short story. Nexbelt exploded on the golf market just a few years ago – attracting a lot of attention at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
The small booth was packed with curious visitors all week, necessitating larger booths in subsequent years. The unique ratchet system, plus the stylish combination of buckles and belts, made it the most popular belt in golf. Technological improvements were introduced to make it the only buckle with stainless steel screws replacing pins for a reliable, stronger, secure hold.
The styles have increased – from the original golf belts that included a ball marker in the buckle … to the most stylish dress belts … and, now, to a new line of ultra-casual belts.
Barrett Martens, global sales manager for Nexbelt, unfurled the details on the newest style: “We’ve got a new braided style for 2019. It comes in three new colors – navy, black and grey. This is the first-ever ratchet braided belt on the market.”
The braided belt is especially popular to wear with jeans, as well as ultra-comfortable on the golf course.
In addition, a new buckle style has been introduced and can be used with many different styles and colors of belts.
“We’ve taken our ever-popular Go-In Color series and added a new beveled buckle that is very stylish,” concluded Martens.
Precision Pro NX9-HD Rangefinder
They asked the simple question, “Why can’t anyone seem to make a quality rangefinder at a reasonable price?”
They answered their own question by producing the V400 model – the first sub-$200 rangefinder.
It worked well. Was durable and performed all of the basic functions.
“The NX9-HD is our most advanced rangefinder,” explains company co-founder Mytro. “It comes with high-definition optics, some of the highest optics in the industry, and seven-times magnification. There is a wider viewfinder, so it is easier to see your target. It has an internal locking magnet, so it is easy to click it on to any cart. And it has a two-year replacement warranty – the best warranty in the industry.”
With all of those added features, the price on a rangefinder like this should be well over $400. Most of the ones produced by competing companies are. But the Precision Pro NX9-HD rangefinder carries a suggested retail price of $329.
However, there is a catch. You will have to way until May 1 for the newest Precision Pro rangefinder to hit the market.
Then you will see why it has gained a reputation for being every bit as good … or better … than the high-priced brands.
Putting Arc T4 with Alignment Mat
Since that time it has gone through a number of alterations … and a number of technologically different offspring. Each innovation nudged the Putting Arc closer to its distinction as the No. 1 Training Aid in golf.
The original model was followed by the small, portable T3, the popular mid-size MSII and then with the Deluxe H/D, which has heel/toe capability. The MS-3D followed as a replacement to both the MSII and the Deluxe H/D. It is lighter, more durable and it has the extra advantage of a mirror.
Now Putting Arc has introduced the ultra-portable T4 and the new T4 with Alignment Mat.
“This new product is good for the serious golfer who wants to work on his game on the course, at home or in the hotel room,” says Hamilton, an engineer who teamed his talents with the expertise of a Top 100 teaching pro. “Working with the T4 for just five to 10 minutes every day can drastically improve anyone’s putting. It gives perfect alignment and a perfect path to the hole.
“It basically lets you practice perfectly whenever you use it,” concludes Hamilton.
Proof of the company’s claims can be seen when new World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Jan Stephenson gives one of her many putting clinics. A professional without any endorsement tie to the company, she brings out her Putting Arc first and explains that she never begins any putting session without first working with the Putting Arc.
New Srixon Z-Star Golf Balls
Srixon golf balls – especially the top-of-the-line Z-Star and Z-Star XV golf balls – have been used successfully by the best professionals and top amateur players from around the world. So why does the company keep tweaking the formula?
Easy. The quest for perfection is never-ending.
“We recently introduced a new Z-Star and Z-Star XV, our tour platform product, the same exact golf ball that has been winning tournaments around the world for the last few months,” said Jeff Brunski, vice president of research and development for Srixon. “We introduced some new technology. There is a new coating on the golf ball for more spin and a new fast-layer core for more distance. That means lots of exciting stuff, and lots of performance built into those golf balls for the better players.”
This marks the sixth generation of Srixon’s premium golf ball line. While many characteristics of previous generations remain, the main new talking point is a SeRM macromolecule material used in the golf ball for the first time. The material is blended into the surface of the ball to optimize damage resistance, impact resistance and vibration absorption.
Both the new Z-Star and Z-Star XV balls are available in white and optic yellow. Srixon has been a leader in the movement toward wider use of the optic yellow ball.
And the best news is that Srixon is following an industry-wide trend toward more economic pricing. The premium balls are priced below the suggested retail price of the leading brand. Suggested retail on both the Z-Star and the Z-Star XV is $39.99 a dozen.
Tour Edge EXS Driver
Founder Dave Glod has assembled a team of equipment industry professionals dedicated to two different missions: 1) producing a quality line of extremely affordable golf clubs for the everyday golfer and, 2) achieving the highest, cutting-edge technology in its line of Exotics golf clubs.
Apparently Tour Edge is trying the impossible – creating the highest quality driver at about half the price of other top-end drivers.
“The EXS Driver is just filled with technology, from top to bottom,” explained Dave Glod, president and CEO of Tour Edge. “We start with a carbon crown, which we haven’t done in a while, and a carbon sole in the toe area. What we’re doing is taking weight out of the crown area and the sole area in the toe, and moving a lot more weight to the heel. We have a 9-gram weight in the heel area that really helps the draw enhancement.”
High tech design … aided by high tech materials.
“Beyond that we have a VFT Beta Titanium face, which is really expensive technology,” Glod added.
But the eye-catching component of this new EXS driver – that matches any other driver on the market pound-for-pound in the technology fight – is the price.
“The crazy thing is that we have all of this technology, matching or surpassing just about everyone else in the market, but we put a retail price of $299 on this driver,” said Glod, in his closing argument.