Golftown Journal

The Show Must Go On

Golf’s merchants get back to business

By Lee Pace

It was the final day of the 2020 PGA Show in Orlando when news hit American shores that the streets of the Chinese city of Wuhan had fallen silent, with some 11 million people put under tight quarantine after a mysterious illness began circulating in a wet market a month earlier. Little did the clubmakers, the apparel vendors, gadget innovators and the 40,000 visitors to the golf industry’s premier trade show realize their world would come to a screeching halt in six weeks as COVID-19 gripped the globe.

The PGA Show was canceled in 2021, ending a streak of conclaves dating to 1954, when vendors sold wares out of car trunks at a winter PGA golf tournament in Dunedin, Florida. A scaled-down version was held in 2022, with some 15,000 attendees and half the usual number of exhibitors. 

Yet the health of golf remained robust during the pandemic. A foursome in the great out-of-doors was Exhibit A for social distancing. The game has gotten even stronger — witness Pinehurst Resort saying in January that nine golf courses aren’t enough.

And the 2023 PGA Show in Orlando in late January reflected that with a remarkable rebound of its own. The Orange County Convention Center was back to near-full capacity, and the golf industry flocked en masse and sans masks to another edition of old home week. 

After two days of trekking the aisles and wagging the chin, I came away with some ideas on swinging faster, practicing more effectively and walking more comfortably.

Swing Hard: Marty Jertson is a club designer for the PING manufacturing company based in Phoenix, a PGA of America member and an occasional qualifier for PGA Tour events and major championships. He missed the cut in the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club and was frustrated by seeing other pros bomb tee shots a half-wedge shot farther than him. 

“I packed my bag that Friday feeling debilitated,” Jertson says. “My life’s goal was to play the weekend in a major. I knew then I didn’t stand a chance if I didn’t get some distance — a lot of distance.”

Through his work designing more than 100 clubs and balls for PING, Jertson was friends with Sasho MacKenzie, an authority in golf instruction and the biomechanics of speed generation. MacKenzie had been compiling data over several years on overspeed training (swinging a headless golf club as hard as possible) and overload training (swinging a headless club that weighs more than your driver).

They combined Jertson’s clubmaking acumen with MacKenzie’s science and created the prototype for a product that would be launched in February 2021 as The Stack System. Jertson did the work over 2018-19, qualified for the PGA at Bethpage Black in 2019, and made the cut with his newfound length.

“A year later at the PGA, I had tons of speed,” he says. “I was hitting it 30 yards longer. That was the key to me making the cut and having a dream week. It was borne out of personal frustration. Sasho had all the research, the algorithms, the data, the exercise science behind it.”

The device they have created features a training club and five weights that enable 30 unique weight combinations. The accompanying iPhone app sets up your program according to your needs and guides you through setting the club and workouts with the proper weights. Three times a week, you go through a training regimen swinging the club and training your body and mind to generate speed.

“We took my own frustration and passed it on to the market,” Jertson says. “We’ve literally helped thousands of golfers.”

Lean Left: Have trouble keeping your weight on your left side (for a right-handed golfer) on chip and pitch shots? The Chipping Plate from Why Golf is a foolproof antidote. You simply stand on the bright orange plate and address your shot with your weight on your left side. If you move off the ball, the base of the plate will tilt to the right. Instant feedback.

Why Golf is headquartered in Escondido, California, and pledges with its golf training aids to “make the hardest sport less hard.” The company’s display booth featured one sign saying, “Suck less at golf.”

“To stop chunking the s**t out of your chips, keep at least 2/3 of your weight on your front foot throughout the swing,” reads the descriptive passage on the company order page. “When you do that on the Chipping Plate, it’ll stay flat. If you don’t, it will tilt back. If you still aren’t getting it, you’d best consider taking up a different sport.”

The company’s Pressure Plate works on the same concept with the full swing and helps you transfer your weight to your left side early in the downswing. Why Golf also introduced at the PGA Show the Arm Alarm, which uses wristbands and an attached cord to give real-time feedback on arm structure while helping golfers keep their elbows close to each other throughout the swing.

Tread Lightly: True Linkswear is the Cadillac golf shoe for the walking golfer.

The company set out in 2009 with Ryan Moore (the PGA Tour golfer) and brother Jason to make the consummate golf shoe for walkers, with Jason saying that traditional golf shoe manufacturers built “the equivalent of dress shoes — over-engineered, techy-looking foot cages.” They have built a business around selling shoes that look and feel more like an athletic shoe with outsoles designed and built so a golfer can better feel the terrain with his feet. The shoes arrive in a brown box with the words “Enjoy the Walk” printed on the top. 

“Ever had that sensation you can read the greens under your feet?” Jason asks. “These shoes allow the player to feel the course like never before.”

I met Moore at the PGA Show in 2018 while writing Good Walks and came away with a pair of the company’s headliner Knit I shoe, an ultra-lightweight shoe that the company touted as feeling like you were wearing a sock. Now the Knit III has been introduced. An enhanced midsole keeps your feet more secure during the swing, and the reinforced heel pad makes it impossible to get a blister.

“We took everything that worked in the early shoe and made it a little better,” says company executive Brandon Wallach. “There is slightly more athletic shaping. There is a new compound midsole that gives you more stability in your swing. And we’ve eliminated the chance of a slight rubbing on the heel. Thirty-six holes — no problem with this shoe.” 

The only downside of the Knit models are they are not waterproof. So if you’re playing on a Southern summer morning with the Bermuda rough heavy with dew, True’s waterproof models are a better fit. The Lux Hybrid was introduced in Orlando and is made with the same knit material so it breathes and lets air in, but it’s waterproof so it keeps the moisture out. It features a stylish leather saddle on either side of the uppers.

It’s just a slightly better mousetrap. The Orange County Convention Center was full of those at the PGA Show. It had to be to keep up with the appetite of a hearty golf market.  PS

Lee Pace has written Golftown Journal since 2008. Contact him at leepace7@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram at @leepaceunc and on Twitter @leepacetweet.

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