By Steve Harmon
ORLANDO, Fla. – Walking the sprawling floor of the PGA Merchandise Show on Wednesday at the Orange County Convention Center, I felt a bit like my 9-month-old grandson.
Charlie gravitates toward shiny objects: jewelry, glasses or any tchotchke. He sees it, wants it and, like the tyke that he is, reaches for it.
The annual three-day golf fest can tug at any visitor’s inner kid. Here are some of those bright and shiny objects that caught my eye:
A SHARP GIFT: Steven Mould dispensed with the puns early, with “cure your slice” and “make the cut” among the most groan-inducing. Rhineland Cutlery serves up an attractive – and functional – alternative to traditional tournament gifts: personalized knives. “Golf managers are always struggling to find that new gift,” said Mould, the co-founder and international sales director of Flint & Flame. “This is probably the most memorable and useful gift they will be given.” The blades (high carbon forged German steel), handles (pakkawood fused with resin) and images (lasered onto the metal) combine for a high-quality feel. Just don’t run them through the dishwasher (rhinelandcutlery.com).
THE REAL DEAL: Golfzon delivers another level of reality to its new line of golf simulators. On a surface that shifts to mimic the contour of the course, the so-called screen golfers can enjoy a real-world experience, including a sidehill lie. “It’s not a true simulation if the surface is flat,” said Bill Choung, Golfzon’s exclusive distributor. “Golf is not played on a truly flat surface.” You’ll need a minimum space of 10 feet wide by 18 feet deep by 9½ feet high to make it fit, plus some room in your budget: Choung said the units go for $23,000-$75,000 (golfzonsimulator.com).
VISIONARY: It’s so small – not much larger than a ballmarker – and functional. With a magnetic eyewear gadget that clasps onto a golfer’s clothing, Readerest solves a vexing problem: where to stash eyeglasses while playing golf. The company, after an initial round of funding five years ago from an appearance on “Shark Tank,” is breaking into golf. As sales manager Vinnie Vaccher explained, golf is one of the few sports that allows for such a product. Retail: $9.99 (readerest.com).
THAT NORTH-SIDE LOOK: Loudmouth Golf, maker of colorful apparel and outfitter of such fashionistas as John Daly, hit a home run with its introduction of a Chicago Cubs line of golf clothing. “It’s a top seller,” said Loudmouth’s Cassie Colgan, noting that, like the Cubs themselves, the line has risen to No. 1 among the Major League Baseball team-logoed shorts. Men’s shorts retail: $85 (loudmouthgolf.com).
A NEW WHIP: Orange Whip, maker of the eponymous training aid, introduced a tool this year to help golfers groove their wedge games. The Orange Whip Wedge, a 56-degree club, helps golfers ingrain a repeating move with the scoring club. “If you load it and unload it, it swings just like a regular golf club,” said Jim Hackenberg, the company’s chief executive, while demonstrating the weighty, whippy swing aid to a customer. To counterbalance the club, it comes equipped with a steel ball on the end of the grip. Retail: $119 (orangewhiptrainer.com).
Steve Harmon is the editor of Morning Read.