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.
By John Strege
The top of the pyramid of influence in golf equipment is occupied by PGA Tour players, a preponderance of whom cite fishing as an interest away from golf. That being the case, it will be interesting to see whether a new putter grip material gains traction among them.
Salty Grips are putter grips made from cork, same as handles on fishing rods. "We love to fish and we love to golf," Mark Button said, speaking on behalf of partner Whitfield Flowers and himself, the founders of the company. "It started off as an esthetic thing. A fishing rod is really cool. But it evolved because it makes more sense from a technical standpoint when you realize how light it is and that it seems to provide a lot more feedback. You know when you mis-hit a putt. Rubber can have such a strong dampening effect."
Button said the cork comes from a specific oak grove in Portugal. The grips are sealed with a water-resistant polymer.
"If you are looking for something light where you can feel the weight of the putter head when you make the stroke and get a lot of feedback, ours is 40 grams for the mid-plus and 70 grams for the oversize or jumbo grips," Button said. "Compared to similar-sized grips, these are 25 to 40 percent lighter.
Several putter manufacturers are experimenting with them. Bettinardi Golf, which has a Kuchar model putter designed specifically for Matt Kuchar, offers Salty Grips as an option. Salty, incidentally, is in the process of making an 18-inch prototype grip for Kuchar to try, Button said.
Another feature is that the grips are easily customizable by using laser engraving, in any number, "one, five, 10, 100," Button said. The cost is a $10 up-charge. The grips themselves sell for $34.95 for the mid-plus and $39.95 for the oversize.
By John Strege
Have those in search of game improvement through better equipment been looking in the wrong place? A retired oral surgeon from Richmond, Va., thinks so.
"I long had an idea that there was something wrong with the wide butt-tapered grips," Dr. Richard Ferris said. They were designed, he said, to counter "the outward club movement resulting from the centrifugal force created during a golf swing," or "the opposite of the ergonomic form required for the consistently efficient wrist/hand/finger actions of the grasping human hands in a golf swing."
Ferris, president of Macro Golf, Inc., consulted with a friend, Dr. Robert Dombrowski, an orthopedic surgeon in Fairfax, Va., who "enlightened me about the way fingers of the hands closed," Ferris said, "and it went from there."
The result is the PowerStroke grip, which features a mid-grip ergonomic reverse taper that promotes "a complete straight wrist with no tension or wrist bowing," he said. The PowerStroke grip "is an ergonomic physiological design element essential to comfort, natural hand control, wrist flex and full hand/arm extension [see below]."
But does it work? "You could be Moe Norman without having to grip it in your palms," Ferris said. "If Tiger Woods had this grip I don't think he'd ever lose.
"Nick Aquilino has them. He was a patent attorney who spent whole life doing patents on golf, for Adams Golf, Dave Pelz, Guerin Rife and me. He said that this is probably the best patent he ever worked on as far as making a difference. He used to be a scratch player when he was younger. About a year ago, he had fallen to a 10 handicap. I talked to him yesterday. He says he's now playing to about a three. He's almost back."
The grips sell for $10 each, or $8 when four or more are purchased. They are available through the Macro Golf website.
By John Strege
Have you ever given much thought to what a putter grip might do to improve your putting stroke? Probably not, but Bernerd Garsen has, and he has taken what he learned and started a putter grip company.
Garsen Golf will soon introduce the G-Pro Edge grip that Garsen says can help. The difference in his grip is that the top is an inverted V shape, putting the hands in a neutral position by placing one thumb on each side of the grip. This in turn, he said, pulls the elbows in closer to the body, pushes the shoulders back and removes tension.
"I was an assistant golf pro, and just by working with people and being around golf, I saw that people had a lot of wrist breakdown," Garsen said, explaining why he set out to reinvent the putter grip. "The putter grip hasn't been changed in ages except for size and material. This is a new shape, a new design."
He has been introducing the grips to tour players recently and said two on the Champions Tour put the grips into play last week at the Principal Charity Classic. Moreover, two prominent teaching pros, Mike Bender and Mike Shannon, "are both promoting it," Garsen said.
The grips will come in eight colors and retail for $22.95. Over-sized grips also will become available. "Received the sample of the G-Pro MAX semi jumbo grip. Watch out Super Stroke were going to take over," Garsen Golf's Twitter feed stated. SuperStroke produces the over-sized putter grips that has gained wide acceptance on the PGA Tour.
Admittedly, I've gone ape over Gorilla Gold, a $5 towel that adds tackiness to your grips. At the national golf writers' tournament, it poured so hard that by the second tee, my rain gloves were too saturated to be effective. In desperation, I dug into my bag for this USGA-approved towel. It's coated with a nontoxic sticky substance -- like pine tar but without the mess, as the company says. Just rub it on your grips and gloves as needed.
The three-pars, one-birdie start at Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club had me in contention, and I could swing as if it were a regular day. Though the tournament director called play, I kept going. Unlike everyone else, I could still hold onto a club. No question, this accessory is better than an umbrella.
By John Strege
Those who watched the Northern Trust Open on Sunday might have noticed the white over-sized grips that Charlie Beljan and Fredrik Jacobson had on their putters. Beljan finished second (losing in a playoff to John Merrick) and Jacobson tied for third, each with a SuperStroke Mid Slim grip, shown above.
SuperStroke continues to make headway in professional golf with its over-sized, non-tapering grips that help take the hands out of the stroke.
The movement generally began when Jason Dufner put a SuperStroke Slim grip on his putter for the 2011 PGA Championship and reached a playoff with Keegan Bradley.
"It was kind of like a springboard," Jon Luna of SuperStroke said. "He was a great ball striker, but was regarded as shaky at best at putting. [The grip] steadied him for shorter putts and in 2012 he won twice. It definitely took a negative in his game and made it into a positive. Once they see that, people want to try it."
SuperStroke recently added two grips to its line. One is the Claw, a longer grip for those who grip the club unconventionally, a la the claw that Phil Mickelson, among others, currently uses. The other is the Flatso, which features a pentagonal design along with the non-taper technology.
The Claw sells for $14.99 and the Flatso for $24.99 to $29.99, depending on the size.
By John Strege
It is a given that too little attention is paid to grips (have you re-gripped your clubs lately?), but the least we ought to do is keep them clean. There is a reason tour players or their caddies are frequently seen wiping a grip before the shot is played.
Grip manufacturer Lamkin has addressed the issue with its introduction of Gripes, grip cleaning wipes that come 15 to a package, each wipe capable of cleaning up to five grips. Gripes work on all rubber and synthetic rubber grips and cost $5.99.
"I've been talking about the benefits of proper grip cleaning and maintenance for years, but the subject became much more relevant with the widespread acceptance and use of white and color golf grips," Bob Lamkin, president and CEO of Lamkin, said in a news release. "Other than keeping your grips looking great, regular cleaning actually reactivates surface tack and enhances the overall durability of the grip."
The days when grips virtually were exclusively black are over. Lamkin's own 3GEN grip comes in 10 colors.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- When Boccieri Golf developed its Secret Grip it did so principally to provide golfers an easier way to back weight a club. What it discovered, company president and CEO Stephen Boccieri said, was that it actually improved performance.
"From a performance standpoint, I never thought there could be a grip that would enhance the capabilities of a golfer," Boccieri said. "What we found was that players were picking up four miles an hour on ball speed by using this grip."
The Secret Grip was officially introduced at the PGA Merchandise Show here and is the latest offering from the company that has the Heavy Putter in its line of clubs.
The grip weighs in at 92 grams, 40 grams more than a traditional grip. A tungsten button on the butt end of the grip accounts for the additional weight.
"We have a full line of back-weighted golf clubs," Boccieri said. "What a lot of customers said to me last year is that they like the driver, they like the irons, but if they buy any one of my components they have to buy a complete set. The economy is saying I don't want to spend $300."
The grips, which will retail for $18.99, can be installed on any brand of club.
Back-weighting clubs is not knew. Jack Nicklaus back-weighted clubs, as do a number of tour players. The process of back-weighting clubs has been somewhat cumbersome, requiring drilling through the end of the grip. The Secret Grip accomplishes the same thing simply by changing the grip.
"None of the average golfers know anything about back-weighting," Boccieri said. "Jack Nicklaus used it in his day and people throughout the tour do it, but it's kind of behind closed doors, basically. We think the Secret Grip is going to enhance the back-weighting technology that Boccieri Golf has developed with its putters and now its swing clubs."
What is Boccieri's theory as to why the Secret Grip increases ball speed?
"At the top of the swing, when you have more mass in your hands, you have a better transition with that momentary pause at the top," he said. "The first move that the average golfer makes with a high swing weight, they cast from the top. With more mass in the left hand, like everybody says, it's like dropping into the slot. So what's happening is they're creating more lag and holding onto the angle of retention longer into impact."
-- John Strege
One would think that grips have reached their evolutionary conclusion. One would be wrong, to with Lamkin Grips' 2012 line that includes a new grip specifically for adjustable clubs, the REL 3GEN 360.
Adjustability in clubs has become de rigueur, Callaway Golf the latest to join the adjustable fray with its new RAZR Fit driver. The new Lamkin grip is orientation-free, with no logos or alignment marks. Whatever position the clubhead is set in (open, square or closed), the symmetrical grip is in the proper position. It's a small thing, perhaps, but useful for today's equipment. It sells for $6.49 a grip.
Lamkin also has released a new wedge grip, the Performance Plus 3GEN, that is an inch longer than standard, to accommodate choking down on the wedge without having to grip steel. It also features two of what the company calls buttons, down toward the end of the grip, to guide you in placing your hands in the exact same position every time. The cost is $9.99 per grip.
Finally, Lamkin introduced grips for a weak economy, the X10, $4.99 each to facilitate changing your grips at a more affordable price.
-- John Strege