By Tony Leodora
The ballots are in. The much-anticipated results are ready for distribution.
For the 13th year a thorough sweep of the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando has resulted in a mountain of information about the new products on display at the massive exhibition. We have tested, analyzed and scrutinized. And, now, we have put together the list of the 10 products that caught our eye – a list known nationally and internationally as “Tony’s Top Ten.”
In addition, this year, a new award has been added – “Busiest Booth at the Show”.
This category is in recognition of an exhibitor whose products, some old and some new, attracted the most attention at the PGA Show. So much attention, that they had the busiest booth – per square foot – of any booth at the Show.
Busiest Booth at the Show — Nexbelt
This year, the Busiest Booth at the Show award went to Nexbelt, the company that took the golf industry by storm in 2013 with its “belt with no holes.” Nexbelt made Tony’s Top Ten at the Show in its inaugural year. This year, after introducing a few new styles (the Fast Eddie, includes a dual-purpose divot tool and bottle opener) and models (the Tactical, a rigid cord belt for use in carrying heavy objects such as tools or weapons), the company experienced another bump in interest, as well as continued success throughout the line.
“It has been an amazing ride for us,” commented Eddie Rowland, one of the owners of Nexbelt. “We could hardly handle all of the visitors at our booth this year. We were slammed from start to finish.”
In addition to the innovative technology and eye-catching styling of the Nexbelt, the company’s success has been fueled by the endorsement of a number of popular PGA Tour professionals – including Jim Furyk, Kevin Na, Jason Bohn and Marc Leishman.
Hoping to follow in the successful footsteps of Nexbelt are this year’s hottest products (in no particular order).
Tony’s Top Ten
Antigua’s Heather Shirts and Wind Shirts
Antigua has long been a leader in both style and technology, when it comes to its line of golf shirts and outerwear. This year, style took the forefront.
The new line of heather shirts and wind shirts bring a softer look to the many bright colors that have dominated the golf market in recent years. Made from a blend of 95% polyester/5% spandex knit, the shirt features irregular stripes and a self fabric collar.
Antigua also garnered a lot of attention with their new performance golf shorts made from the same 95% polyester/5% spandex blend. While they retain a dress appearance, they feature the same Desert Dry moisture-wicking fabric that has become so popular in activewear for all sports.
Tour Edge Exotics EX-9 Driver
Tour Edge Golf, based in Batavia, Illinois, has been a rising name in the golf equipment industry for more than 20 years. Its reputation took a giant leap forward with the introduction of the Exotics line of high performance golf clubs.
Insistence on excellence has been the driving force behind Dave Glod, the company’s CEO and founder. He also is the chief designer behind most Tour Edge models through the years.
This year’s winner is the new EX-9 driver, featuring the highest MOI (Moment of Inertia) in golf. It is a draw-enhancing, fully adjustable driver. Its unique nature comes from a Full-Speed Impact design that maximizes club head speed through a sloped crown and a subtle sole design that optimizes weight distribution.
Bridgestone B330RX Golf Balls
Bridgestone is a company that has attracted a lot of attention in the golf ball market in recent years due to many technological advances. The new B330RX and B330RXS golf balls, for golfers with swing speeds under 105 mph, has all of the hot engineering of the B330 and B330S Tour golf balls but they are designed specifically for the amateur golfer.
First innovation is the new Amateur Core, which is 28 percent softer than the average tour golf ball. It utilizes a steeper gradient of softness from the inner part of the core to the outer region, resulting in faster ball speed and more reduced spin off the driver than ever before.
The second improvement is the new proprietary SlipRes cover, which is the highest performing cover Bridgestone has ever produced on a golf ball. It has the highest coefficient rating possible, producing an amazing combination of results – maximum greenside spin without losing any spin from the rough and, at the same time, reduced spin off the driver for more distance.
High Heat Hybrids and Fairway Woods
In 2015 the new High Heat driver took the golf industry by storm. In fact, it won the Product Ingenuity Award for Emerging Companies, presented by the International Network of Golf. It was developed by Dean Knuth, an engineer and golf innovator who worked for many years with the USGA.
At this year’s PGA Merchandise Show, he rolled out the logical progression of last year’s success – the High Heat line of hybrids and fairway woods. Bucking the industry norm of using steel in the head of hybrids and fairway woods, Knuth used a titanium, cup-faced design that is a major improvement over the run-of-the-mill clubs.
“The big difference is forgiveness,” explained Knuth. “You can hit it anywhere on the face and still get great distance and accuracy.” The oohs and aahs coming from those hitting the new line of metal woods during Demo Day substantiated that claim.
The Survivor Tee
After three years of research, the Philadelphia-based company – Greenkeepers – came up with another in their long line of innovative golf accessories. The Survivor golf tee is the latest in the company’s line of performance golf tees, under the leadership of President and creative genius Frank Carroll.
“Our new product is a solid polymer golf tee, a one-piece golf tee, which can be installed in the ground in a traditional manner, same as any wooden tee,” explained Carroll. “It has a center prong, on which the ball actually sits. Then the ball kisses off the inner angles of the three outer prongs, producing the least area of surface contact with the golf ball of any golf tee on the market.”
Within the first month of play, more than 20 PGA Tour players put the Survivor into play. The best players in the world are interested in performance and the Survivor tee has been proven to have the lowest ball spin rate of any golf tee that has been tested.
Cleveland TFI 2135 Putter
There were a lot of new putters at the PGA Merchandise Show, but only one putter had a truly unique feature that could be found nowhere else. The Cleveland TFI 2135 putter was so unique that the concept had to be explained by an expert.
Adam Sheldon, brand manager for Cleveland Golf, unmasked the mystery when he said. “It’s quite simple, 2135 stands for 21.35 millimeters, which is the exact radius of a golf ball.”
What makes that so key is that all other putters stamp an alignment guide on the bottom flange of the putter. Cleveland has raised that alignment guide by putting it on a small shelf, 21.35 millimeters higher … or exactly at the midpoint of the golf ball. Cleveland found that 80 percent of all golfers did not have their eye directly over the sightline, or over the golf ball. Traditional alignment guides provide a misperception. The new Cleveland TFI 2135 Putter allows for perfect alignment, and more accurate putts.
Based in Scotland with an intent to inspire golf’s next generation, Golphin designed and manufactures innovative kids’ golf clubs. In particular, the company focuses on beginners, ages 3 to 12. The award-winning GFK golf sets are intended to help young kids fall in love with golf.
So many golfers from a previous generation were introduced to the game by using a cut-down set of clubs that were almost impossible to hit properly and get the ball in the air. Golphin uses aerospace technology to produce a set of clubs specifically designed to make the game easier for the young beginning golfer.
Golphin founder Calum McPherson said, “We have a passion and inspiration to get young kids into golf. Traditional equipment is very, very difficult for kids to play with. Our mission is to give kids equipment so they can have fun and stay in the sport.”
Leupold GX2i2 Range Finder
When it comes to point-and-shoot range finders, there are three important factors to consider: size, accuracy and affordability. The new Leupold GX2i2 Range Finder combines the best of all three factors into one product.
Leupold products, made in America, have been leaders in a number of industries since 1907. Golf is the newest industry for the company but they have made an immediate impact with their complete line of range finders.
The GX2i2 is the latest in their high-quality line of range finders. Rob Morrison, the company’s vice president of global marketing, explains the attraction by saying, “We like to say that you get the advice of a caddy without paying a caddy fee.”
To explain, the GX2i2 gives golfers the exact yardage to the flagstick (or any other mark), plus the downhill or uphill factor and how to adjust the yardage. The second feature is not legal for tournament play, but it can be turned off easily on the GX2i2, making it fun to use for play or practice … but legal to use in tournament play after the slope calculation is turned off.
Best feature: the retail price is $329, well below the rest of the competition.
Cure Classic Putter
Cure Putters have been dubbed “the fastest growing putter on the Champions Tour” and for good reason. Cure Putters has led the industry in delivering the highest Moment of Inertia (MOI) in putters since launching in 2014. The new Classic Series delivers stability and forgiveness of a high MOI mallet, but in a traditional blade style putter.
The initial launch of the Classic Series includes two new models: the cx1, a square-back blade; and the cx2, a round-back blade. These 100% CNC milled aluminum putters are slightly oversized (5” in length) with tungsten weight inserts in heel and toe.
Both Cure Classic Series putters were honored with selection to the Golf Digest Hot List, published in the magazine’s March issue.
Golf Skate Caddy
One of the buzzwords whenever industry leaders talk about growing the game of golf is “fun.” And there is no item that injects more fun into playing the game of golf than the new Golf Skate Caddy.
Single-rider golf carriers have exploded on the market lately … and for good reason. There is an advantage over a sitting golf cart in that golfers keep core muscles engaged and warm throughout the round, leading to better performance. Plus, they are easy and more fun to use.
The Golf Skate Caddy proved to be the best of the bunch – in tests at golf industry conferences and at Demo Day during the PGA Merchandise Show. Well-engineered with all of the accessory features (cooler, umbrella, USB port, etc.) it also is the most stable and easiest to learn to ride.
“It’s very gratifying to see the response we are getting with our product,” said Patrick Pires, vice president of Golf Skate Caddy. “We have been taking the industry by storm as people see that it attracts the younger players and speeds up play.”
Look to see an explosion of this product everywhere on the golf scene this year.