The Local Knowlege

Gear & Equipment

This new app tells you how far your clubs will actually travel

By Stephen Hennessey

ORLANDO -- Playing a course in different conditions always presents a challenge to golfers in terms of club selection. Certainly having a local caddie helps, but is there a scientific way to approach club selection away from your home course? The FlagHi app aims to solve this question.

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A former software developer with IBM, Nate Regimbal partnered with low-handicap golfer Mark Stratz to develop an app that calculates new carry distances for a user based on temperature, humidity and elevation changes in a new location you're playing in.

After inputting your carry distances for each club in your bag, and the baseline conditions on your home course, the app ($4.99/one time fee) will calculate your adjusted carry distances once you input three data points at the new course--temperature, humidity and elevation.

A difference between your 6-iron normally traveling 178 yards or 191 yards can be the difference between hitting the green or being short, Stratz points out.

The Pro version of the app ($9.99) has an added "Plays As" feature, which allows the user to use a scrubbable yardage scale to tell you which club you should hit. If you have a160-yard shot, you drag the yardage mark over to 160 yards, and the app tells you which club to hit.

Stratz and Regimbal said they've worked with college teams to help them prepare for tournaments at courses they'd never played.


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Gear & Equipment

Compression socks: help your muscles, help your style

By Keely Levins

ORLANDO -- A fair number of golfers have been spotted wearing compression sleeves on their arms and, occasionally, compression socks on their feet. The theory behind wearing compression gear is to help stabilize muscles, keep swelling down and increase oxygen flow. This is all good stuff since it will help general reduce muscle soreness that usually follows athletic activity. 

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The one downside to compression sleeves and socks is that they can look a little ... dorky. Zensah combats this problem by offering 20 colors (a lot of them are pretty bright) and an argyle option for socks. 

The material will protect you from getting sunburnt and is wicking so it works to pull sweat away from your body. This is important because walking around in knee high socks kind of defeats the purpose of shorts. 

The socks have padded heels, arches and toe supports. They retail for $50, and the sleeves go for $30. 

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Gear & Equipment

Surprises for golfers is an innovative gift idea

By Stephen Hennessey

ORLANDO -- Who doesn't like receiving surprise gifts?

That's the idea behind the Birdie Box, a monthly delivery-subscription box that is filled with products from premium golf, lifestyle and nutritional brands.

When you sign up, you answer a set of 13 questions about your personal preferences -- hobbies, sports-team affiliations and other interests. Your monthly Birdie Box will then be personalized for you based on your answers, and built differently each month. 

Some cool higher-end items potentially included in your box could be a Mophie phone charger (retail prices start at $79) or a Jambox portable speaker ($150). A BirdieBox subscription is typically $44.95 per month, depending on how many months you purchase. Also included (warning: shameless plug) is an issue of Golf Digest magazine every month.

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Birdie Box also plans to do specialty boxes in 2014, starting with the "first major" box, which is priced at $99.99. What's in it? That's a surprise, too. Co-founder Keith Bolognese wouldn't spill the beans, but he says to expect all Augusta-themed items based around the Masters. Similar boxes will be available around the other three majors, Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Plans are in the works to offer Birdie Boxes at charity or club events, too, Bolognese says. Place a logo on the box and you have a giveaway at the event of your choice.

Bolognese also made the case that his product is a good marketing vehicle for companies offering an upcoming product. The Birdie Box is a way to get a product in front of a known consumer, he claimed.

What type of products are on the horizon? Those are all surprises. For more: birdiebox.com.

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Gear & Equipment

How a towel endorsed by Serena Williams can help you play golf

By Brendan Mohler

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ORLANDO -- Staying cool on the golf course in the heat of summer has never been easy. Sure, you can soak your dirt-stained towel and put it around your neck, but not without some unwanted stains on your shirt and excess water dripping everywhere. That's not a good look.

Related: More photos of new products at the PGA Show

Mission Athlete Care, a company based out of midtown Manhattan with a presence at the PGA Merchandise Show for the first time, makes a cooling towel called Enduracool. The product is endorsed by Sergio Garcia, Dwight Howard and Serena Williams, but that's enough name-dropping.

The towel's texture feels like a cloth you might use to wipe down an expensive pair of sunglasses. To activate it, simply wet it with any type of liquid, wring it out and pull on each end quickly in a snapping motion. The snapping motion is necessary because air flow helps activate the cooling. Within minutes, the chemical-free and machine-washable towel becomes cool and will stay that way for at least two hours. Even when the towel starts to warm up, snapping it again will help cool it down.

The towel regulates the rate at which water can evaporate, causing a prolonged cooling effect. When activated, the towel's temperature will be about 30 degrees below your body temperature. The towel comes in two sizes: large ($15) and extra large ($20). Along with an array of available colors, Enduracool towels are available this year with 22 MLB logos and 10 NCAA logos.

Mission Athlete Care offers more than 20 products -- including a liquid chalk popular among golfers in hot climates -- aimed at keeping athletes cool and dry under pressure. Check out missionathletecare.com for more offerings.

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Gear & Equipment

Exactly where do you want me to stick my toes?

By Ryan Herrington

ORLANDO -- At the risk of you not reading past this first sentence, I have a confession to make: I have average-looking feet. Indeed, if my feet had a handicap index, I think they'd be about a 14.5, which (sadly) mirrors my actual handicap index.

Vibram V classic (350).jpgWhat does that have to do with anything, you might ask? Well, I was walking past the Vibram Golf booth at the PGA Merchandise Show and noticed the unusual looking footwear the Italian-based company with its U.S. headquarters in Concord, Mass., sells.

Rather than the traditional rounded toe of an ordinary shoe, what you have with Vibram's assorted offerings are five actual toes that you stick your own little piggies in. (They refer to them as "five fingers," which seems to suggest somebody missed anatomy class, but I digress.) The shoe looks like an actual foot, and if you have average looking feet, well ... you see where I'm going with this.

Vibram V Classic LR (350).jpgThe unusual design stopped me long enough to learn that this is the second year Vibram has offered a spikeless golf line. The V-Classic ($130, with a washable polyester mesh upper) and the V-Classic LR ($190, with a kangaroo leather upper) are the new models the company is showing off here. And there seems to be some honest-to-goodness science to support the unorthodox look. 

The "Five Fingers" design, according to the company, lets your feet and toes curl and flex as they would if you were walking barefoot. In turn your balance and stability are honed in a natural way, allowing you to strengthen your lower leg and foot, and, in theory, reduce injuries. 

The shoes have found a niche among runners. Logically, given the amount of walking done on a golf course, there would seem to be a market here as well. Maybe you recall old photos of Sam Snead hitting balls while barefoot? By being connected directly to the ground, he said it allowed him to make a more proficient swing. In theory, the Vibram shoes would do the same thing. 

Plus, by wearing them you wouldn't have to see my average feet.

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That's me in the Vibram Speed XC Lite.


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Gear & Equipment

Three reasons the Swing Caddie SC100 is a launch monitor worth looking at

By Keely Levins

ORLANDO -- Voice Caddie, like many other companies, is making a launch monitor. The Swing Caddie SC100 will be on sale starting in March. Here's why it matters:

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1. The SC100 doesn't cost a billion dollars. When I'm looking at techy products such as simulators and launch monitors, I'm always wary of the price. There's a ton of very cool stuff out there that is very much out of the average person's price range. Swing Caddie SC100 is not one of those products: It's going to retail at a manufacturer approved price of $269.

2. It looks cool. There's nothing boxy or boring about this piece of equipment. It's simple, sleek, and kind of looks like a big iPhone. You can hold it in your hand without a problem, making it easy to pick up and look at your stats, and easy to carry in your bag on the way to a range session. 

3. You're given stats you understand. As minimalist as it is in looks, it's equally minimalist in the stats it gives you - and that's a good thing. Too much information can be overwhelming and end up being more of a hindrance than a help. Set the SC100 up four to five feet directly behind your ball (it has a built in stand) and hit your shot. The SC100 gives you carry distance, swing speed, ball speed, and smash factor. These are all stats the average golfer can understand and use; nothing extra, nothing unnecessary. As with any company new to launch monitors, we're going to have to wait and see if they'll earn their place by being accurate. 

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Gear & Equipment

It's a little disheartening to compare your swing to Rickie Fowler's, but it's really cool that you can

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

ORLANDO -- In a TrackMan-fueled era of golf, some of the game's fastest adaptors have been equipment companies. They figured out quickly that measuring every feasible aspect of the golf swing actually comes in pretty handy for clubfitting (and, ultimately, club selling).


I took a spin on GEARS, Cobra-Puma's latest addition to this fast-growing space, and it was pretty astonishing. Retailing for about $39,500, it's more geared towards high-end facilities and Cobra's custom clubfitters. All of Cobra's tour pros -- Rickie Fowler and Ian Poulter among them -- have their swings stored on GEARS.

The way GEARS works is pretty simple: the user puts on a suit which features tiny, white sensors all over them. After standing still and facing the camera so it can recognize all the points it needs to, all you have to do is swing. GEARS will do everything from telling you your clubhead speed, to showing where you hit the ball on the face, to sketching a 3D simulation of your entire golf swing. It has a margin of error of about .2 of a millimeter, and it even allows you to overlay your swing onto one of Cobra-Puma's staffer's.

If you dare. . .


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Gear & Equipment

A new way to keep your phone charged on the golf course

By Brendan Mohler

ORLANDO -- Let's face it: the days of leaving your cell phone in your car or locker when you're playing golf are over. A round of golf takes a while, and today, we can't afford to be disconnected from anything for more than a few minutes. With the ever-growing prominence of social media, not to mention golf apps that require lots of phone use during a round, we need our phones with us at all times, and they need to be charged.

Related: More photos of new products at the PGA Show

PlusBlue Solutions, a company based out of Ohio, sells and rents battery packs that can be used to charge just about anything. It's no secret that the battery life of an iPhone is not great, but with a PlusBlue battery pack, you'll never have to worry about losing a charge, no matter where you are.

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The company offers two different sized battery packs. The smaller of the two has 6,000 milliamps of power, a significant amount given that an iPhone 5 has only 1,500 milliamps. This battery pack sells for $75 and rents for $11 per day. It will charge your phone, tablet or portable camera in the same time it takes them to power up via your typical charger.

The larger pack has 9,000 milliamps of power and two USB ports, meaning two devices can be charged simultaneously. It costs $100 and rents for $14 a day.

When charging, about 15 percent of the power is lost, meaning you won't quite get four full charges our of the small battery pack. About 85 percent of that power is preserved. All things considered, three full charges per battery pack means you'd only have to charge the pack once every three of four days, depending on usage.

PlusBlue Solutions markets toward big events like tournaments, games, concerts and festivals, but is more than practical for a golf course. Whether you're playing or watching, the ability to charge your phone on the go is more necessary than it's ever been.

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Next time you're at a big event and want to make sure your phone stays fully charged, keep an eye out for this guy.

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Gear & Equipment

The next extreme sport to video with a GoPro: golf

By Keely Levins

GoPro's compact, waterproof cameras have enjoyed a lot of success with adrenaline seekers who strap cameras onto helmets and other gear to video everything from skydiving to surfing. GoPro isn't just an extreme sports company, though. (Even I've used one, so clearly they're not just for daredevils.) As proven by their booth at the PGA Show, GoPro is serious about making its place in the golf world.

The cameras are small and can handle being dropped and tossed around in a golf bag, so they're pretty ideal to bring along to make videos of trick shots and whatever else you do when you're messing around on the course with your friends. However, there's a pretty practical application as well. 

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The Jaws Flex Clamp is a mount for the camera that you can clip onto your golf bag. The arm of the clamp can be manipulated so you can get the camera sitting at the right angle, and then you can video your swing (you can set it to high or low resolution). I was pretty psyched about this because I've wasted a lot of time trying to balance my phone on my bag to get a video of my swing - with little success. 

You can play your swing back on just about anything: TV, computer, smartphone, tablet. Cameras range between $200 and $400, and the Jaws Flex Clamp is $50. More info at gopro.com 

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Gear & Equipment

John Daly Pizza's motto? "Grip it and eat it!"

By Stephen Hennessey

ORLANDO -- What's it like being a business partner with John Daly?

Jimmy Howell, co-founder of John Daly Pizza, says Daly couldn't be more helpful and invested.

"He loves this, man. It's all fun," says Howell, who's overseeing the launch of the new pizza program, which started Wednesday at the PGA Merchandise Show. "I shot him an email after yesterday and told him how packed we were yesterday. He was excited." 

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After playing in a charity golf tournament with the 1995 British Open champion in Bellevue, Wash., Howell become good friends with Daly. Howell, who has operated Perky's Pizza in Tampa for 26 years, convinced Long John to invest on this business idea this year.

It launched this week, with a huge and colorful kiosk on the Show floor. Howell said the idea has been in the works for two years, and they started seriously making Show plans in August.

I tried the bacon-egg-and-cheese personal pizza this morning. The texture was perfect. The bacon was tasty and cooked well. And the taste is delicious.

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Howell says the key is using egg beaters to make the pizza, which keeps the texture lighter.

"I'm not usually a pizza for breakfast guy. But this is delicious," said Joe Bock, who stopped to try the pizza as he was walking by. "This is lightweight and it tastes good.

"And to see John Daly's face on it -- that's an easy sell."

John Daly Pizza is trying to market itself to golf courses, by providing the ingredients and materials to produce pizzas at the facility. On top of a pizza box provided, there's a John Daly ball marker that comes attached.

Bock, a golf professional at Seneca Hickory Stick Resort in Lewiston, N.Y., said his shop currently sells pizza. But he'd consider adding Daly Pizza to the shop's offerings.

"Instead of a hot dog or a burger that every golf course has, this is a fun idea to give people something different," says Howell. "And everybody loves pizza."

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