The 57th annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando January 28-30 attracted more than 1,000 vendors to the floor of the Orange County Convention Center. Here are the top products that caught my eye:
1) Odyssey Backstryke: This idea is so simple yet so innovative (isn’t that always the case?) that you wonder why no one else has tried this before. Benefits of the shaft entering the back of the head include a clearer view of the face and ball and an automatic forward press. The deep CG gives it a really nice pendulum feel, too. $199, in stores April 15.
2) My Personal Golf Trainer: This software for the Nintendo Wii is the first product to analyze the full swing in 3D and give personal feedback. You stand on a Wii Balance Board, grip the gyroscopic MotionPlus controller as you would a club and make a swing. The computer traces the path compared to the ideal swing, while also analyzing weight shift, tempo, clubface rotation and other aspects. Using video from his “7 Steps to a Better Golf Swing,” David Leadbetter appears on screen to offer instruction and drills. You can also play a practice round, with video Lead offering tips after each shot. $99, mypersonalgolftrainer.com
3) Pure Grips: There’s nothing like the feel of new grips, but most golfers don’t change them nearly enough either because of the expense or the hassle. The Pure Grips system doesn’t use tapes or solvents, however, so anyone can install and remove them quickly and easily. With the aid of a small air compressor and gun, you can regrip a club in a quarter of the time it takes with the other method, and it's every bit as secure. The grips come in five premium styles. $70 for 13 grips and gun, puregrips.com
4) Heavy Wedge: Jack Nicklaus first popularized “back-weighting” in his grips in the ‘60s because he felt it kept his hands stable. Tests have shown that players using counter-weights (about 65 grams in the butt) have a better swing path, better tempo and hit the ball farther. Strangely, the only manufacturer to backweight its clubs is Heavy Putter, which has finally expanded its line beyond putters. The 37 percent higher balance point in the Heavy Wedge helps golfers set their hands earlier and retain the angle on the downswing longer for better shots. $110, four different lofts and bounce combinations; theheavywedge.com
5) Visage: To help grow the game golf courses need to provide better customer service and this system from Club Car does that. Visage is more than a GPS; it’s a golf information system. Courses can track and manage their fleet better—identifying slowpokes holding up play, for instance—but the feature I liked best (other than the ability to order lunch right on screen) was the tournament leaderboard screen that allows golfers to see how they stand in an event compared to the others on the course. visagegolf.com
6) Mantys: Golf courses also need to make the game a little more fun if they’re going to attract new players and the Mantys (as in “praying mantis”) definitely does that. Players control the electric-powered vehicle by shifting their weight with skiing-like movements. And since the Mantys only weighs 75 lbs., you can take it on the course even on the wettest of days. $3,250, mantys.com
7) VectorX: This the first all-in-one launch monitor and is designed for the avid golfer who really wants to improve his or her swing whether at home or on the range. The very portable device, which has a two-hour battery life, uses state-of-the-art micro-lens technology to capture each hit. The on-board computer then calculates the ball speed, launch angle, backspin, side-spin and side angle and displays it on a screen on the back of the unit. $3,195, accusport.com