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In business, good ideas are like annual flowers—planted in one season to bloom in another. In the golf business, the cycle of invention climaxes every January with the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. Last week, golf's awesome tulip festival attracted 50,000 exhibitors and buyers to the Orange County Convention Center, where, as usual, most of the buzz centered on new products and breakthrough technologies. Some of the stuff came from sophisticated R&D departments. Some, with sandpaper lines still showing, emerged from home workshops. And more than a few wacky ideas looked as if they were developed by Wile E. Coyote's favorite supplier, Acme Inc.
With no particular bias toward any of these three sources, here is our pick of the most intriguing golf products offered at this year's show. (Please handle by the stems only)
The Instant Golf Net ($140, JC International), when released, pops up like a cartoon tent. But unlike a tent, this practice net gives the bored golfer something to do on those summer jaunts through Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.
Got time to practice but not to play? The Caddy Carry-On ($39.95, Caddy Company) holds five clubs and fits in airplanes' overhead bins. The Executive model is fleece-lined with a detachable ball pouch.
No railers or airfoils mar the classic profile of Ping's ISI Tour perimeter-weighted, small-headed, laminated fairway woods ($225 each, Karsten Manufacturing), but the picture-window soleplate is an eye-catcher.
Whatever's new from Callaway is big by definition. The titanium Biggest Big Bertha ($600) is 20% larger than 1995's Great Big Bertha (middle), and 55% bigger than the original Big Bertha (top).
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Kite was first in line to order rain gear from Zero Restriction—the rain in Spain, and all that. The Tour Lite rain vest ($150) shown here is also popular with Senior tour players.