For companies big and small, it's critical to be seen at the PGA Show

"More than ever, branding and networking with existing customers is the reason we need to be at the PGA Merchandise Show," said Chris Nolan, the General Manager and EVP of Global Operations for Matrix Shafts.

For companies big and small, it's critical to be seen at the PGA Show

With more than 41,000 of the most important people in golf from all 50 U.S. states and 74 countries milling about the Orange County Convention Center, the PGA Merchandise Show is for some companies a critical component to their success.

The 2013 PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., is set to take place Jan. 24-26.

The 60th anniversary of the world's largest golf business exhibition will feature more than 1,100 interactive exhibits by leading golf companies and brands, more than 41,000 of the most important people in golf with representation from all 50 U.S. states and 74 countries. the PGA Merchandise Show serves as a global platform for PGA Professionals, industry leaders, top manufacturers, and golf organizations to grow the business, participation and interest in golf and set the stage for 2013.

Many companies, like NewSpin Golf, which has a product called "SwingSmart," say that the PGA Merchandise Show is the best place to gauge interest in a product amongst consumers.

"As a manufacturer of a golf training product, it is extremely beneficial to connect with an audience consisting of the largest gathering of PGA professionals in the country," said NewSpin CEO Angelo Papadourakis, who will make his second appearance at the PGA Merchandise Show. "No other venue provides the opportunity to meet with and receive feedback from this influential group. We're looking to introduce SwingSmart to those not familiar and reacquaint with those folks we met at last year's show. the PGA Merchandise Show, and Demo Day, is so great because we can demonstrate why SwingSmart is the perfect fit for teachers and how it supports the instruction PGA Professionals provide."

Papadourakis's idea for the SwingSmart product, a smart-phone/tablet application, was born at Medinah Country Club during the 2006 PGA Championship.

"I was watching players practice after a round," said Papadourakis, who sees SwingSmart as the perfect fit for PGA Professionals to support the instruction they provide. "It was very interesting to see one very well-known Tour star receiving instruction from his coach as if it were the first time he had ever played the game. The coach was literally grabbing the club and moving it to each position in the swing and telling him, 'It needs to go HERE.' I thought, 'If a professional still needs basic instruction on his club positions, how can amateurs go to the range, hit some golf balls with no feedback and somehow think we are going to get better?' From there I did some research on micro electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) and their use in measuring motion, surrounded myself with a great team and the first prototypes of the SwingSmart were born."

Sarah Schultz is making her first trip to the PGA Merchandise Show with her line of women's apparel, called "GolfHER Girl," after the company made a splash at the PGA Expo in Las Vegas last fall.

"Growing up, I played on the Waterford Mott High School golf team (Michigan) along with the Powerbilt Junior Tour," Schultz explained. "As much as I loved the game, one of my biggest struggles was not my opening drive nerves but what to wear on the first tee! Retailers did not stock junior golf apparel. I tried sporting junior shorts but the nature of the 'short' shorts typically led me back into the clubhouse for a wardrobe change into ... unflattering khakis. My apparel was appalling. It was around that time that I promised myself that I would create a fashion-friendly golf clothing line."

Fast forward to 2011, when GolfHER was created. GolfHER Girl received acclaim as an "On the rise" company by a publication called "Women's Wear Daily," and 12 states will be carrying GolfHER's Spring 2013 collection.  

"Since I am a one-woman operation it is difficult to meet with every buyer in every state," Schultz said. "The PGA Merchandise Show allows me the opportunity to meet buyers from all over the country. I speak to many over the phone, but it's that personal connection you get at the PGA Merchandise Shows that help build my brand."

"I'm looking forward to showcasing my 2013 collections to current customers while developing relationships with new buyers," Schultz added. "I would also like to create more brand awareness. Since I am new on the market, I would love to meet new contacts. I want consumer feedback. At shows, I like for people to comment on what their customers are looking for. My LBD, little black dress, is a true example of this. Buyers mentioned wanting a dress so I created one that fulfilled their needs. It has a collar, pockets and comfortable under shorts. GolfHER is built with the customer in mind so if they are requesting a certain color, design, or trend I will do my absolute best to make it come to life."

Jesse Koenig is taking a different approach to the PGA Merchandise Show. The CEO of K&S, a co-inventor of a product called "The Club Catcher," will be attending the PGA Merchandise Show for the first time, but doesn't have a booth. He's hoping to walk the floor and demonstrate how to use his unique product, which any weekend hacker could find to be extremely helpful.

"Playing golf together in San Diego where I used to live, my business partner Matt Smiley and I often experienced the frustration of leaving clubs behind on the course," Koenig said. "Meanwhile, we also constantly saw others driving their carts around asking if anybody had seen their wedge. One day we were playing with a guy who heard we were engineers and asked us why we didn't invent something to solve this. That day we decided to do it."

So what exactly is Club Catcher?

The company's website explains that "It's a base unit that clips onto your golf bag, and club units that screw into your existing club grips. It won't interfere with normal play, but will quickly alert you with an audible alarm when you leave a club behind. Using a combination of motion sensing and radio frequency (RF) communication, Club Catcher keeps track of your clubs so you don't have to."

"It's important to be at the PGA Show because we need to get to know the golf industry," Koenig said. "When I've spoken with industry insiders about Club Catcher, they have often asked 'So, you'll be at the PGA Show, right?' It's obviously the premier event for anyone who has a product to sell golfers. At the PGA Merchandise Show, I'll be looking to establish and strengthen industry relationships, and explore options for bringing Club Catcher to market. I'll be talking with various potential partners: retailers, distributors, manufacturers, and marketers.  I'll also be open to discussions on licensing and/or investment deals."

Ultimately, Koenig is hopeful that he can increase visibility and awareness for Club Catcher and its crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo, where people can pre-order Club Catcher and make a donation to see it come to fruition. Here's a look at the Club Catcher fund-raising page.

Then there's Matrix Shafts, maker of some of the best golf club shafts in the world, which has been a staple at the PGA Merchandise Show since 1995.

"More than ever, branding and networking with existing customers is the reason we need to be at the PGA Merchandise Show," said Chris Nolan, the General Manager and EVP of Global Operations for Matrix. "Lead generation and overseas distribution connections are also very important for us.

"We started as a Professional Clubmaker's Society sponsor years ago and designed our entire production facility around the lessons learned," Nolan added. "Our strength in developing specific need shafts for that market has become confusing with the general public with the many iterations. While we have in actuality increased the number of SKUs, we have made the line much easier to understand and from a branding perspective we are focusing on the core of the flight model with our Matrix Flight System. We believe that advanced shaft-fitting and re-tooling of clubs is a major (and largely untapped) area to increase PGA member income while helping members and students."