The 63rd PGA Merchandise Show welcomed more than 42,000 golf industry professionals from 91 countries around the world. The Orange County Convention Center in Orlando—with its 1 million square feet of exhibit, demonstration, and meeting space—housed ten miles of aisles with more than 1000 exhibiting golf companies and brands.

I needed my Precision Pro Nexus Laser Rangefinder just to wend my way through all the booths and traffic as I attempted to uncover the latest equipment, technology, apparel, training aids, accessories, new products, trends, and those “whatever elses” that lay in my path.

Here are some of my most memorable discoveries.

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Knuth Turns Up the High Heat

Dean Knuth, Senior Director at the USGA for 16 years and primary inventor of the USGA’s Course Rating and Slope Rating Systems, is still inventing and still has the best interests of the amateur at heart. Once known as the “Pope of the Slope,” Knuth should now be recognized for his “Feat with the High Heat,” the inspired creations last year of a driver and this year of fairway woods and hybrids.

All have a unique face—Knuth’s “Fire Zone Face Technology”—with a combination of seven different zones of variable thickness, including patented “parabolic” lobes at the top of the toe and heel of the face. This configuration increases the spring-like effect across the entire face and increases the accuracy of the High Heat clubs while still conforming to USGA specs.

The new High Heat fairway woods and hybrids also come with Knuth’s “Optimal Center of Gravity (CG) Game Changer” that has enabled the High Heat driver to provide amateur golfers with a 25% deeper and 18% lower CG compared to major brands’ average CG location. This technology resulted in the High Heat Driver being longer, straighter and more forgiving according to Golf Laboratories, which is the world’s recognized leading robot testing company. This year’s offerings promise the same distance and accuracy boost.

The fairway offerings are 3-, 5-, and 7-wood models, and the hybrid choices are #3 (18 degrees), #4 (21 degrees), #5 (24 degrees), and #6 (27 degrees).

The golf media (including me) and industry members of the non-profit International Network of Golf voted the High Heat driver as the winner of the prestigious 23rd Annual ING Industry Honors award in the “Product Ingenuity” category for emerging companies. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if Knuth’s new fairway woods and hybrids deliver again as “best in show” at next year’s ING Industry Honors at the PGA Merchandise Show. www.knuthgolf.com

Youth Movement and Technology Emphasize Cobra Puma’s Success

With Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson, both ranked #4 in their tour’s world rankings, headlining the Cobra Puma lines, the company has, rightfully so, become a major player in the equipment game. Rickie and Lexi have ample help in this tour youth movement—not to take anything away from seniors Greg Norman and Jesper Parnevik who have been associated with Cobra Puma for years—with Jonas Blixt (PGA), Sophia Popov (LPGA), and Blair O’Neal (Symetra). Cobra Puma ambassadors Holly Sonders (Fox Sports) and Joey D (golf fitness expert) add increased product visibility as well.

At Demo Day, I had the chance to talk with Mike Yagley, Director of R&D, and he wanted to stress, “We have the consumer covered.” With many options for each club, from driver to fairway wood to hybrid to iron to wedge, Yagley explained that amateurs of all abilities would have no trouble finding clubs that would fit their games.

For 2016, Cobra Puma has revolutionized its King Cobra driver series—its “New Reign of Power.” Yagley emphasized that the King is the most adjustable driver Cobra has ever created. It optimizes launch, spin and ball flight through five different ultra-low CG settings. A front CG position delivers a penetrating ball flight with more roll, while a back CG position offers a higher, more towering ball flight with greater forgiveness. The result is optimum distance, and eight easily adjustable loft settings help manage trajectory and fine tune launch conditions to maximize distance on any course and with any swing. www.cobragolf.com

Johnny Miller Effortlessly Slips into the Zero Friction Motion Fit Glove

Zero Friction founder John Iacono very smoothly introduced the “Johnny Miller Motion Fit Glove” and easily attracted a great amount of attention at The Show. Zero Friction’s popular and wide variety of performance tees started the company and is still a mainstay on the PGA Tour, but last year the company created a top-quality line of gloves for men, women, and children that, believe it or not, guarantee one size fits all. His “compression-fit” technology molds the glove to your hand and eliminates finding the one of seven traditional sizes that fits you. Also, this patented technology delivers the same outstanding precision, flexibility, and comfort that you want and expect.

Johnny Miller has become Iacono’s new partner and promoted the distinctive Motion Fit Glove in the Zero Friction booth for two days during the PGA Merchandise Show, made a guest appearance at the International Network of Golf Media Awards, and hosted a special dinner for PGA professionals.

Miller said, “I knew the glove would be a hit among golfers as we put a lot of thought into the design. There’s nothing else quite like it on the market, and golfers are taking note.” It is available in 12 color combinations, and like all other of the company’s gloves, comes in one size only and can be purchased at PGA Superstores and green-grass shops. www.zerofriction.com

Titleist Launches New Balls, Wedges, and Putters

Titleist has never been a company to rest on its impressive laurels, and three of its most impressive laurels—balls, wedges, and putters—have undergone significant innovations.

Two new Pinnacle golf balls, the Rush and the Soft, engineered with proprietary core technologies, deliver category-leading performance with the extraordinary distance that Pinnacles are known for.
The Rush utilizes high-energy core technology to deliver high initial velocity for powerful distance and an advanced icosahedral dimple design for a penetrating, consistent ball flight. The Soft, combines a high-energy, very low compression core with an incredibly soft ionomer cover to provide an extremely soft feel with low spin for long distance.

New NXT Tour, NXT Tour S, Velocity and DT TruSoft golf balls will continue to deliver best in class performance through new core and cover innovations. The NXT Tour has been engineered for even longer distance, and the NXT Tour S offers its softest feel yet. The Velocity provides even more powerful distance with a more playable feel. Officially launched last fall, the DT TruSoft provides supremely soft feel on every shot with exceptionally consistent performance and quality.

New Vokey Design SM6 wedges feature an innovative, progressive center of gravity that is placed in the optimum position for each loft to provide players with more consistent distance, trajectory control, and better feel. Combined with five tour validated sole grinds and 100% inspected TX4 grooves with parallel face texture, SM6 wedges are Bob Vokey’s best yet.

Six new Scotty Cameron Select Newport putters have been engineered by the master craftsman. The putters feature sleek, performance-oriented models with new shapes and configurations to satisfy the variety of strokes, styles, and preferences of golfers at every level of the game. Central to the new Select Newport line are three unique multi-material constructions matched to each putter style. Each construction utilizes new face inlay technology to produce responsive feel and feedback that Scotty Cameron describes as “soft but solid.” www.titleist.com

Precision Pro Distance Devices Hits the Marketplace

Co-founded by a PGA pro, Precision Pro Golf is a new golf technology company that currently designs two distance-finding units—the Nexus Laser Rangefinder and the GPS Golf Band.

The Precision Pro Nexus Laser Rangefinder at 6X magnification offers next level accuracy, feel, and performance. It has a 400-yard range and is accurate to one yard. With a stylishly designed outer casing, soft-coat material, sleek design and green nose plate, the Nexus rangefinder fits perfectly in your hand.

The internal optics components feature the Advanced Target Lock Function (ATLF), Dynamic Scanning Technology (DST), and dual-coated lenses. The ATL scans both the background and flag (or target) to decipher the accurate distance and eliminates the background yardages and locks in on the flag (or target) to give you an accurate distance reading in less than two seconds. The DST allows you to scan multiple targets (trees, layups, hazards) and get numerous distances quickly.

The GPS Golf Band is one of the thinnest, lightest (1.2 ounces), and most comfortable GPS wearables on the market. The featherweight and glove-friendly design will not interfere with your swing. The streamlined interface with auto-hole recognition and out-of-the-box usability ensures ease of use for any golfer. 

There are 34,000 preloaded courses and the Golf Band will show up to 4 hazards (water, bunkers) per hole. It has a Shot Distance Measurement Feature that allows you to measure the distance from one point to another, making it easy to measure how far your ball traveled. The GPS Golf Band can be worn as a watch, providing the time and date. While in GPS mode, the Golf Band has 8 hours of battery life while providing 52 weeks of battery life when in watch mode.

There are no download or subscription fees. www.precisionprogolf.com

The Unique, Fashionable, and Popular Nexbelt

The Nexbelt booth was busy every time I walked by it, and I had to steal a few minutes with company founder Tom Hunsucker. He started the firm in 2010 with a vision to reinvent the way golfers buy and wear their belts. Tired of the old outdated pin/buckle system, the company set its sights on creating a belt that would be both adjustable and highly fashionable at the same time. Thus, “The Belt With No Holes” was born.

Nexbelts are known for their innovative technology and for providing golfers with the maximum comfort and minimal adjusting. The unique ratcheting system called PreciseFit allows the wearer to adjust the belt in ¼ inch increments, providing the best fit, feel, and fashion available.

The belt’s end slips through the buckle until the belt fits to the golfer’s satisfaction, and then he just takes his hands away for the buckle to lock in exactly at that spot. A tiny latch sits at the bottom of the buckle for easy release. Nexbelt offers more than 100 different color & buckle combinations.

Eddie Rowland, one of the owners, said, “We could hardly handle all of the visitors at our booth this year. We were slammed from start to finish.”

In addition to the innovative technology and eye-catching styling of the Nexbelt, the company’s success has been fueled by the endorsement of a number of popular PGA Tour professionals, including Jim Furyk, Kevin Na, Jason Bohn, and Marc Leishman, Jarrod Lyle, and LPGA Tour player Katie Burnett.

Check out the whole line, including the nine new belt and buckle designs for 2016 at www.nexbelt.com.

Blast Golf Is, Well, a Blast To Try!

Blast Golf was another new product at The Show and one certainly worth a gander. Through a quarter-sized, precision motion sensor that easily attaches to the end of the grip, Blast Golf captures full swing driving and putting metrics with Smart Video Capture Technology.

This sensor, weighing less than half an ounce, allows golfers of all skill levels to capture their swing speed, loft and lie, tempo, swing plane, and wrist release data while viewing the mechanics of their own motion in real time from an iPhone or iPad. The removable motion sensor records putts and full swings with drivers, irons, and wedges for eight hours. The data and stats and graphs and video help golfers identify trends and faults in their motion. Highlights can then be shared with friends or golf teaching professionals via Facebook, Twitter, and Email.

Champions Tour veteran Jeff Sluman uses Blast Golf to monitor his putting, allowing him to assess his timing on the backstroke and downstroke and measure face angle rotation. Sluman said, “I now feel I can make everything I look at.

Blast Golf fully charges in 1.5 hours with its included wireless charging base. Bluetooth Smart connects the sensor mounted on the driver or putter shaft to the iOS device. www.blastmotion.com

Golf Pants and Shorts Rock It with Wocket!

Pocket, meet towel. Because now there can be a towel attached to the back pocket of your golf pants or shorts that will make life on the course a little cleaner, a little easier, and probably quicker.

Golfers, meet Paul Dorn, a Dr. Seuss aficionado, who has taken the whimsy of Dr. Seuss’s book of ridiculous rhymes There’s a Wocket in My Pocket and created his Wocket apparel.

What Dorn has done is to include a built-in microfiber towel in the right rear pocket of upscale golf pants and shorts. He uses contemporary and traditional styling fabrics with “four-way stretch for all-day-walk comfort.” This patented pocket is part of the Wocket Performance Apparel and Dorn’s “Ultimate Golf Pant.”

Dorn said the idea for the Wocket came to him while he was playing on a damp day and often needed to clean his ball, his club face, his hands, and his grip. He said, “I took a wet practice swing and was without a towel, as usual. Standing there with mud on my index finger, I wondered why they didn’t have a golf pant that could solve this problem. I mean you’re already wiping everything on your pants and hem anyway.”

The double-sided microfiber towel easily pulls in wet and earth so that it cleans quickly. The microfibers dry quickly, too. The towel is stitched into the top of the pocket and comes into play with a gentle pull. After the shot, it can remain outside or can be returned to the pocket. Golfer’s choice.

Paul Dorn is introducing his Wocket “Ultimate Golf Pant” campaign through www.kickstarter.com, which is the only place where the pants and shorts can be purchased. Introductory, discounted prices are now offered. For more information about Dorn’s cool and neat product, access www.wocketapparel.com.

Well, this walk on the PGA Merchandise Floor is over. One more walk tomorrow will reveal still more “discoveries” that I gleaned from those busy aisles.