It's a little disheartening to compare your swing to Rickie Fowler's, but it's really cool that you can
ORLANDO -- Today marks the start of golf's version of shopping in a huge, outdoor toy store.
Equipment, grips, shafts and other products are on display from dozens of manufacturers at Outdoor Demo Day at Orange County National, the one-day prelude to the 61st PGA Merchandise Show, which runs Jan. 22-25.
Of course, you have traditional the equipment rollouts with every major manufacturer having its latest line of clubs to try out.
Yet in this first hour of the Demo Day, it's hard to miss the enormous
social-media push from many of the major equipment companies hoping to get attendees not only to try their products but help promote them.
Some quick examples:
-- Ping is introducing a new glove, the Sensor Cool, which Bubba Watson will wear on the PGA Tour. There's a cardboard cut-out of Watson at Ping's Demo Day setup, where you can take a photo and use the hashtag #FeelTheGlove to get a Ping T-shirt. It's a great cause, too. Ping will donate a portion of all sales it generates from its three models of the Sensor Glove to the Bubba Watson Foundation, Ping spokesperson Pete Samuels said.
-- Cobra/Puma, like it did last year, has an enormous station with a DJ blasting loud music and drinks started being served at 10 a.m. (You know, because it can.) Jesper Parnevik and Blair O'Neal are slated to mingle with fans, too. By using the #GoLong hashtag on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook you're entered into a contest to win a Bio Cell driver.
-- Fujikura has one of the most innovative promotions at Demo Day. Taby and Christine, two Florida natives, are dressed as police officers--complete with handcuffs and Aviator shades. If you take a photo with these girls, and tag it with #Fujikura on Instagram, you're entered to win tickets to all four majors this year. The 10 posts with the most likes are eligible to win, and the Fujikura folks with pick the best photo. You win a free hat by participating.
Other events going on:
-- Peter Jacobson and Dave Pelz are giving a show at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Srixon/Cleveland setup.
-- Former Re/Max World Long-Drive champion Jamie Sadlowski is demonstrating his driving abilities with the new Callaway line of drivers at 11 and 2.
-- TaylorMade's "Loft Up+" campaign features a gigantic leader board onsite. The highest differences in driving distance--from your old loft to a new, higher loft--are featured in an electronic leader board. It's all in an effort to educate golfers on the benefits of playing a high launch, low spin driver like TaylorMade's SLDR line, spokesman Dave Cordero said.
The hardest-working folks on the expansive 360-degree range at Orange County National have to be the team of 20 who are sorting and distributing golf balls from the range. There are 15 volunteers helping a team of five employees from Orange County National. They have an assembly line of loading, sorting and shipping out balls via large garbage cans.
"We'll go through 80,000 golf balls, and that's probably low," said Brian, one of the employees from OCN who deserves a golf clap from everyone demoing the new clubs here.
Here is the dilemma for the golfer in search of new equipment and unsure where to turn: A typical clubfitter that appears on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Best Clubfitters might have fitting carts from 14 different manufacturers, maybe more.
"You walk in there and there are 14 carts. It's overload," said Mark DiMare, vice president business development for SkyGolf, the company tht makes the SkyCaddie rangefinder. "How do you choose? You could spend days hitting very club, using the trial-and-error system, the way it's always been done."
SkyGolf believes it has developed a better idea: Swing Lab and its dynamic fitting software that matches a golfer's swing characteristics (ball speed, spin rate, launch angle, et al.) with clubs and shafts (and even balls) best suited for them. In a driver fitting, for instance, Swing Labs' software, in a matter of minutes, can cut through the clutter and narrow the field to a predetermined number of clubs, say three. The golfer can then test three drivers instead of 14 or more and Swing Labs' software will winnow it down to a single recommendation. The software works with all of golf's leading launch monitors.
A benefit for the consumer beyond simply cutting down the time involved in the fitting process is that Swing Labs' software produces an unbiased result that isn't influenced by a clubfitter pushing a specific manufacturer's products.
Swing Labs has developed its algorithms from testing the equipment with robots and golfers. Its web-based software is updated regularly as new equipment is introduced.
GolfTEC, which is included among America's 100 Best Clubfitters, has been employing Swing Labs in its beta format for about two years, DiMare said. SkyGolf is now in the process of introducing the system nationally.
-- John Strege