The Guru has to been to more than 20 PGA Merchandise Shows so I've seen just about every new golf product imaginable. "The Show", staged annually in Orlando, Florida is the greatest display of golf products and services on the planet.
I spent three days wandering the miles of aisles at the Orange County Convention Center at this year's show in late January. With more than 1,000 companies represented there's a great mix of new and old product offerings.
Here are some of the booths and products I liked:
Premier Golf Travel--I heard lots of buzz at "The Show" about the 2016 Ryder Cup. Excitement abounds that Jordan Spieth and other young guns can help U.S.A. get the Cup back. Hazeltine National Golf Club near Minneapolis will be the venue for the 2016 Ryder Cup matches. If you want to go, Premier Golf is the official distributor of Ryder Cup travel packages. I spoke with a couple of their travel experts, Premier Golf President Jim Ward, and international golf travel specialist Ann Mabry. Premier has a great selection of accommodations in their various packages and they can provide you with all sorts of great information on attractions, places to play and dining in the area. C'mon, all together now: "U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A..."
Puerto Rico-I spoke with Waleska Lugo, the director of sales/luxury market for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. We talked about the great golf options in areas like San Juan, Dorado Beach, Rio Mar, Bahia Beach and Ponce. There are more than 20 championship golf courses in Puerto Rico. My favorite course in Puerto Rico is Royal Isabela in the northwest corner of the country about 70 minutes from San Juan International Airport. Some of the things I like about Puerto Rico as a golf destination, include: No money exchange. No passport needed. Great airline deals and easy access. Excellent selection of golf courses by top notch designers. Superb cuisine and exceptional restaurant selection in San Juan. Friendly people. Bacardi rum. Rum Punch. Medalla Light Beer. Pina Coladas. El Yunque tropical rain forest...
Sligo Wear--The Guru likes to add a little pizzaz to his wardrobe on the golf course, but I definitely can't go for the in-your-face Loudmouth John Daly look or that over-the-top, orange pumpkin Rickie Fowler fashion statement. Luckily, there's a Montreal, Canada company, Sligo Wear, that makes some great looking, tasteful, colorful golf clothing. "What sets us apart are our bright colors, patterns and design detail," Bernadette Ray, Sligo's Florida sales rep told me at "The Show". "The colors and patterns are dynamic and fun." Sligo offers shirts, shorts, pants, sweaters, wind shirts, wind jackets, belts, hats and other accessories.
Sundog Eyewear--I ran into my long-time friend Hal Quinn (we teed it up in China a few years ago) at the Sundog booth. He introduced me to the company's TrueBlue line of sunglasses. I absolutely love the TrueBlue Laser sunglasses I wear from their Performance Collection. One of its advantages is they reduce short term eye fatigue by decreasing veiled glare. The TrueBlue lens is the only non-prescription sunglass lens in the world to incorporate both synthesized Melanin and OLP (Ocular Lens Pigment) to provide ultimate eye protection and vision performance. Quinn and I had a great conversation about the damaging impact of blue light on the front and back of the eye. Sundog Eyewear has been at the forefront of lens technology to combat the negative effects of blue light. For golfers, Sundog also has some great selections in its Athleisure and Athleisure/Polarized collections.
Topgolf--I'm a huge fan of these golf entertainment/nightclub style complexes that feature point-scoring golf games with micro-chipped golf balls, great drinks and fab food like Asian Sesame wings and cinnamon-sugar dusted donut holes. I'm not the only one who loves Topgolf, either. Last year more than 8 million people visited the 24 Topgolfs around the world. At "The Show" Topgolf made two big announcements: They'll soon break ground on Topgolfs in Orlando and Nashville with scheduled openings for early 2017 and they acquired the World Golf Tour, the leading web and mobile golf game.
Voice Caddie--My friend Tommy Glasgow of the Buffalo Brand Invigoration Group introduced me to this great company, which has a slew of high-tech products like a portable launch monitor, Hybrid Golf GPS Watch and Golf GPS Band. One of their reps showed me the VC300 Voice Output Golf GPS, an amazing device that you clip to the bill on your hat or visor. There are 30,000 courses preloaded and it has automatic course and hole recognition. With a simple click, it provides distances from the front, center and back of the green. Better still, it only costs $129.99.
VPAR--I first used the VPAR golf app at Salish Cliffs Golf Club, an excellent resort course near Tacoma, Washington. Hey, now you can use your paper scorecard as a beer coaster because this special piece of technology keeps your score and a lot more. VPAR allows you to set up your own golf tournaments with friends and follow their scores in real time leaderboards on your phone or to share online. It also has a GPS course planner and tracks performance (or, in my case, lack of performance).