LAS VEGAS -- It's opening day at the PGA Fall Expo and the crowd is large, loud and excited to see the latest in golf apparel and merchandise here at the Venetian Hotel and Convention Center. A processional of bagpipes opened the day, marching down toward a stage where PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka, PGA Professional Hank Haney and Reed Exhibitions Senior Vice President Ed Several opened the day with a welcome speech before Haney took a ceremonial "first swing," which rained down confetti on the attendees.
Then it was off to the Show Floor. What'd I see and hear? Some pretty cool things, including:
The Haney keynote. First up at the Expo was world-renowned instructor and one-time PGA National Teacher of the Year Hank Haney. His keynote address centered on effective ways of teaching and growing the game. A standing room-only crowd gave him a rousing ovation after his hourlong presentation.
Loved this new product called SwingSmart. It looks like one of those Bluetooth headsets -- but it fits onto your golf club. It actually contains Bluetooth technology, which allows you to swing a club and get feedback from an app (free download onto any i-device -- and soon androids) that measures swing speed, angle of attack, amount of lag and tempo. You can also see a 3D rendering of your swing from any angle. The module has a one-time cost of $249.99 and no subscription fees. I've got to get me one of these.
It's always good to see my friends from Kentwool Socks. It's especially good when they have a cool new product to unveil. The very popular footwear company, raved about by many tour players, including Masters champion Bubba Watson, on social media, has just come out with its 19th Hole Collection – a line of premium dress socks with many of the same great qualities as the golf socks but designed for office and formal wear.
The new Flix divot repair tool from Champ has a switchblade-type action with such great force that I had trouble hanging on to it when it opened. That said, it's a good-looking tool that shows the material and sturdiness to last forever. I'd think this would be the last such tool you'd ever need to buy (losing it notwithstanding).
Fashion is always the big story here at the PGA Fall Expo -- two apparel-only conventions are actually taking place at the same time here at the Venetian, and many vendors and buyers cross over between all the showrooms. Of course, women's apparel is always a hot topic at these expos and this year is no different. Dozens of apparel companies are lined up to show off their latest designs. Not that I know anything about women’s fashion (or fashion at all), but a number of outfits really seemed to stand out as sharp, sleek and performance-enhancing. I spent some time with the ladies at GolfHer, which boasts great golf attire designed for golfers by a golfer.
Ecco has always been a leader in natural motion footwear. Its latest golf shoe, the Ecco Biom Hybrid, combines free-motion flexibility in the upper part of the shoe with the softer, flatter bottom sole that has become all the rage in golf shoes in the last few years. If you want some, you'd better act fast -- they are having problems keeping them in stock.
Additionally, there are several meetings, announcements and seminars taking place -- all designed to prepare the industry to meet the wants and needs of golfers around the world. The activities taking place here will resonate far beyond the Venetian in the weeks and months ahead. And besides, we still have a full day to go to discover new products.