PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Thousands of PGA Professionals, golf buyers and specialty retailers uncovered the newest merchandise and trends for golf enthusiasts worldwide at the 27th PGA Expo in Las Vegas, August 23-24, 2011. Business was brisk as vendor appointment calendars were full, the aisles were busy and industry executives accomplished educational and professional objectives to move forward the business of the game in 2012.
Chris Heyn, chief executive officer of Summit Brands ~ Fairway & Greene and Zero Restriction, said, "This has been the best west coast PGA event we have ever been to. There are new, active and interested buyers that are not only looking but buying."
Jared Henzlik, vice president of sales for Bobby Jones Golf, agreed with the overall success of the event saying, "We had more appointments booked than we had appointment time slots. We definitely plan to come back in 2012 and will need a larger presence to accommodate more buyers."
Buyers from 46 states and 30 countries filled the aisles to preview the latest golf products among some 200 exhibits and demonstrations at the annual golf marketplace now held in the heart of Las Vegas "fashion week" at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. In addition to traditional golf buyers, the PGA Expo also attracted hundreds of apparel and specialty retail buyers from the co-located fashion week shows.
"We had several accounts from throughout the country and were pleasantly surprised by the number of accounts from Canada and other countries," said Jason Hanna, brand merchandising director for Pukka headwear.
Tour Edge's David Drinkwater, sales manager, said, "We noticed a sharp uptick in traffic, as well as orders and business written at the PGA Expo this year."
The 2011 PGA Expo began with a well-attended new Demo Night, social golf outing and industry networking party at the Callaway Golf Center, just off the Las Vegas Strip, on Monday, August 22.
More than 40 vendors were able to place equipment directly in the hands of buyers for personal product testing at the Center's two-tiered 113-stall lighted driving range, plus the putting and chipping greens. The Center's Divine Nine, a nine-hole lighted par-3 course, was the site of a sold-out social golf outing and a Demo Night networking party was enjoyed by all throughout the facility.
"The Demo Night is always useful as far as putting the latest equipment in the hands of golf professionals and other buyers, so they can experience the performance characteristics of a variety of clubs in a single setting," noted Gene Graham, regional sales representative for PING. "For example, this is the first time many golf professionals and buyers have had the chance to hit our new G20 drivers and other clubs. They see ball flight and feel the sensation of hitting a strong, solid drive. They see the results for themselves. There is no experience like that."
Roger Cherico, PGA Head Professional of Honey Creek Golf Club in Conyers, Ga., traveled out to Las Vegas for the PGA Expo and Demo Night. "Demo Night gives us a chance to talk technology with manufacturers and learn more in depth about how the latest equipment is changing. It also allows us to get together with colleagues and exchange ideas- find out what is working and what isn't. Demo events like this and the one at PGA Merchandise Show are opportunities you really don't find anywhere else."
In addition to seeing the more than 200 golf companies and brands on the show floor, attendees were able to participate in the comprehensive education conference and sit in on numerous main stage presentations by industry leaders, golf fashion designers and PGA Professional instructors. Well-known golf instructor Butch Harmon, veteran NBC/Golf Channel broadcaster Mark Rolfing and TNT Sports Analyst/PGA.com columnist Jim Huber were among main stage presenters.
"If you attended the seminars and presentations this year, you came away with a better understanding of where the golf industry stands and where it is headed the next few years," noted Horace Evans, PGA Professional at Arroyo Secco Golf Course in South Pasadena, Calif. "With the economy the way it is, it's very important to stay in tune with trends and issues affecting golf, and that was certainly accomplished this week in Las Vegas."
The apparel hall of the PGA Expo added a new Fashion FOREward Spotlight to provide a forum to focus on new trends, styles and designs. Offering a designer showcase, fresh programming each day and an industry meeting place, the Fashion FOREward Spotlight helped buyers uncover sought-after merchandise and accessories for their market to drive soft-good sales.
Annmarie Dodd, AGM fashion consultant, veteran fashion reporter and a contributing editor to Khaki Crusader, hosted multiple sessions daily with apparel leaders and up-and-coming designers about what is influencing fashion in golf's ever-changing landscape.
"This season we have a good blend of industry leaders and innovative new brands that add some freshness to the golf landscape," said Dodd. It's not just about trends but the shift we're seeing throughout golf. The doors are wide open and I find fashion to be part of the game's conversation now more than ever."
Additionally, attendees could test equipment right at the indoor range and putting green of Golf Performance & Training Center; explore professional development opportunities in the PGA Expo Career Center; and uncover the newest merchandise at the New Product Zone. PGA Professionals and golf buyers voted CoinCaddie (www.coincaddie.com), Grip Solid (www.gripsolid.com) and Insta Golf Shoes (www.instagolfshoes.com) as a top three overall best new products among new merchandise displayed in the PGA Expo New Product Zone.
Professional networking plays an important role in any industry gathering and multiple events were held to facilitate new and deepening business relationships. The annual Elations Industry Reception at the stylish TAO Nightclub in the Venetian drew a lively crowd to the popular nightspot and many enjoy the new After Party at LAVO Nightclub in the Palazzo Hotel Resort Casino.
"This is the best Las Vegas PGA Expo I can remember," said Derek Lane, PGA Professional and buyer at The Quarry Golf Club in La Quinta, Calif. "It's a stroke of genius to book the PGA Expo at The Venetian beside the other fashion shows, so we don't have to make more than one trip to Las Vegas and we don't need to run from one end of the Strip to the other. This makes it very convenient, and I am able to bring my entire staff to Las Vegas and accomplish everything we need to."
The PGA Expo, along with the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, is organized in partnership with The PGA of America. More information on the PGA Expo is available at pgaexpo.com.