The Loop

Live from Day Two at the PGA Merchandise Show

__*Upgraded towels *__The towel on my bag is boring and gross. The towels made Devant Towels are not. They got involved with the caricature artist David O'Keefe to create some pretty fun towels. The one here is called the Big Three, obviously. Check out the Caddy Shack line, it's hilarious. They retail at $20.- K.L.


An app that trains your brain

ThinQ is an app that works on your desktop or smart phone and, in the words of its CEO Tim Suzor, is the "Lumosity for sports." It includes a series of games designed to prove the cognitive abilities that are most important for playing good golf. "Coaches usually just tell their students to focus better," Suzor says, "but there's nothing out there that actually trains people to focus better." The games are divided into five different categories -- Awareness, Adaptability, Attention, Intention, and Synchronicity -- and get increasingly more difficult the more you play them. The app costs $7.99 for a month's subscription, or $79.99 for a year.


*____I freely admit that i'm not the most fashionable guy around, but I decided to venture over to the fashion side of the PGA Merchandise Show anyway. Why not? Anyway, I keep my head down as I walk and I'm not really focusing on anything, but by the time I actually start engaging with my surroundings, I look up and see Marty Hackel, Golf Digest's Mr. Style, doing this. Not sure why, but in any case, go Hackel!


Despite its compact size when folded, the Reflex ($260, six colors) features the widest wheel base of any Sun Mountain push cart.

-- M.S.

__*Companies continue to pursue more affordable launch monitors ____

*__SkyGolf has a new launch monitor that's geared towards people that don't want to spend an overwhelming amount of money, but still want all the stats. The SkyTrak is small, standing at just 7.5" tall. It records ball speed, launch angle, back spin, side spin, and side angle. It pairs wirelessly with your iPad, so you view all of the stats whether you're hitting balls in your garage or out on the range. They're working on adding a gaming component soon, so you can set up matches against your buddies. Retail is at $1995.



__*Two reasons the golf industry should be looking up


*__The golf industry has been searching for specks of bright news after what initially was a tough year in its retail data, and it got two bright signs in reports released by Golf Datatech and PGA PerformanceTrak during the PGA Merchandise Show.

Golf Datatech announced that its first-ever study of the size of the global golf market revealed annual sales of equipment to be some $9 billion. The report is a cooperative effort with Yano Research Institute, which studies the golf market in Japan, and its full details will be reviewed early next month. Of that $9 billion, the U.S. accounts for 41 percent, Japan 24 percent and Korea 7 percent, while the U.K. and Canada each share 5 percent. Said Tom Stine, co-founder of Golf Datatech with Jon Krzynowek, "The report is valuable first because it's never been done before. The industry needs this. If you don't keep score, how do you know if you're winning or losing?"

Krzynowek noted that while 2014 had been a down year for the U.S. golf market, it wasn't as bad as others might have you believe. Overall, he said the golf-retail business was down 3.5 percent, but that some categories, such as irons, the highest purchase price equipment item, were up in 2014.

Perhaps even more positive was the report released by PGA PerformanceTrak, which analyzes rounds played in the U.S. According to its data, rounds played per day courses were open were up 1 percent in 2014. While total rounds played were down 1.4 percent compared to 2013, the number of days courses in the U.S. were open was the lowest in nine years.

Golf-fee revenue per day open and golf-merchandise revenue per day open also were up in 2014 compared to 2013, and 36 of the 70 major metropolitan areas saw growth in rounds played per day open in 2014.

-- Mike Stachura



Is this the start of hipster golf?____

*__Golf's critics always say that the game is too slow, doesn't provide enough exercise, and that it's not environmentally sustainable. Well, on the surface, The Golf Bike seems to take a step towards solving all three. The Golf Bike retails for $995.00 and the idea is pretty simple. You ride it to the golf course and during your round, and because it has specified slots for your clubs, you don't have to worry about balancing them on your back as your ride. Problem solved, right?

[#image: /photos/55ad7b9db01eefe207f706cc]|||golfbikepgashow-560.jpg|||The ultimate hybrid golf bag?____

*__In past years we've seen a handful of manufacturers introduce all-in-one golf bag/push carts combos that try to scratch a niche in the market. This year in Orlando, there's a different hybrid golf bag that's got our attention.

Pat Maguire, a New Zealand native and founder of Aeroe Limited, has unveiled the GolfPod, which he's dubbing "the world's first hardshell golf travel case and cart-bag combo."


Additionaly, Aeroe has also developed "The Link," a patented rack system* that allows the GolfPod to snap in to the top of a car's roof rack without the need for straps and bungee cords.


* *

Maguire had three GolfPods at the show, saying that the company is now entering the production stage and hopes to have products ready for retail in the fall of  2015. Retail prices is set $600.

-- Ryan Herrington