By John Holmes, PGA.com Interactive Producer
ORLANDO, Fla. -- More than 1,000 companies have set up shop on the floor of the PGA Merchandise Show, and it’s impossible to even come close to doing justice to everything and everyone who deserves some attention this week. So instead, we’re walking the miles of aisles and focusing on the people and products generating the most buzz on the Show floor. Here's what caught our attention on Friday:
RocketBallz. Last year, TaylorMade made a big splash with its R11 driver, an excellent club whose marketing value was maximized because its distinctive white head stood out so easily on TV. The big buzz from TaylorMade this year is coming from its new RocketBallz (abbreviated as RBZ) line of clubs and balls, whose funny, controversial name is the promotional equivalent of the R11’s white head. The line to test the RocketBallz drivers, woods and irons on Demo Day was by far the longest as everyone wanted to see what kind of clubs deserved to be blessed – or cursed – with such an unusual moniker.
Obviously, the RocketBallz clubs are all about distance, and one TaylorMade rep told me that he wouldn’t be surprised to see people who normally struggle to hit a driver use the RBZ 3-wood off the tee because it’s easier to control than their old driver and produces just as much distance. As someone who occasionally needs a GPS tracker to locate my wayard tee shots, I can see the validity in that thinking. The RBZ models also are outfitted with the type of adjustability for which the R11 line has become known, but carry a more affordable price. The driver, for example, retails for $299, while the street price of the R11S drivers is at least $100 higher. Click here for more.
IJP Design. No golfer is more closely associated with fashion these days than England’s Ian Poulter, a hardscrabble guy who worked in the golf shop at a public course before hitting it big as a player. Poulter – who still irons his own clothes before every round -- launched his own apparel company in 2007, and it’s now making a big push in the United States. Unlike most golf apparel lines, the IJP collection is built around the trousers – most notably the four-color tartans that Poulter so often wears in competition. Many of the garments feature bold patterns, but IJP is adding more traditional solid colors to both the trousers and shirts for golfers who prefer a little more classic look. Click here for more.
Belly putters. A year ago, belly putters were merely a sideline for most puttermakers. Six months ago, Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship with one. And now, long putters have taken over the display racks as virtually every putter company has either adapted some existing models or unveiled new ones. The most prominent is probably Odyssey's White Hot HG Sabertooth belly putter, which Bradley used in his victory in Atlanta, but TaylorMade’s Ghost Manta white-headed mallet, Bettinardi’s half-moon BB53, the Cleveland Classic Black Pearl and the SeeMore m1 belly models looked good and felt good in my hands. I’m generally not a fan of high-MOI putters, but big-headed models like the Ping Scottsdale Wolverine or the Odyssey White Ice DART seem like a perfect fit on the longer shafts.
Winning Edge Design headcovers. Anybody remember when headcovers were basically just socks with tassles? Now, every self-respecting driver is topped off with a distinctive cover, and the bigger the better. I’m not positive, but I believe the current trend began with Frank, Tiger Woods’ tiger headcover, and I love that his mom gives his a new one each year with a message of support sewn into the fabric. Frank has plenty of company in the form of furry critters, but I’m partial to the models from Winning Edge Design that are just like those that certain players use on tour – Retief Goosen’s goose, Paula Creamer’s pink panther, Stuart Appleby’s apple and Jason Gore’s gorilla, just to name a few. If they made one for me, it’d have to be a duck, in honor of my favorite hooked tee shot. Click here for more.
Hello Kitty Golf. The challenge of getting young girls interested in golf got a whole lot easier this week. Why? Because of the debut of Hello Kitty Golf – a new company offering a complete line of, you guessed it, Hello Kitty-branded clubs, bags, headcovers, ball markers, divot tools and other accessories. There are complete sets for three different age groups – three to five years old, six to eight years old and nine to 12 years old, with none retailing for more than $199.99. The concept is cute, but the clubs are the real deal – they’re created by the folks who created Nickent Golf. Oh, and mom, there are full-sized Hello Kitty clubs just for you, too.
Ping Golf i20 clubs. Ping clubs have always had a distinctive look, and the new i20 line pushes that trend even further. The appeal of these clubs begins with their look – the driver, fairway woods and hybrids all feature a light-absorbing matte-black finish, while the irons come with a low-glare satin chrome finish, all to make it easier to focus on the ball. The 460cc driver is highly aerodynamic, while the stainless steel fairway woods have compact heads to help get the ball off a tight lie or out of tall grass. The hybrids feature more surface low on the clubface to optimize their ability to get the ball up into the air, while the irons use stabilizing bars and a thicker face to help ensure precise distance control. The end result is a set that provides a solid feel and forgiveness but also a degree of workability. Click here for more.